Super Clew Land Postmortem

It’s been about three weeks since Rusty Moyher, Matt Grimm, and I created Super Clew Land for my fifth Ludum Dare (and second jam). About a week before the 24th Ludum Dare, Rusty direct messaged me on Twitter asking if I wanted to jam.

I remember being hesitant at first. I had just released Flip’s Escape. I was eager to try out Matt Rix’s Futile and create some new pixel art. Rusty is a kindred spirit, doing all the art, programming and music for his games so I wasn’t sure how we’d split the responsibilities. I needed to sleep on it. The week that followed was crazy and it wasn’t until the day of Ludum Dare that we actually confirmed our collaboration. About an hour before the theme was announced I suggested we pull in Matt who did an amazing job with the music and sound effects on Flip’s Escape and another iOS game I’ve been working on (not to mention his own past Ludum Dare game itty-8bitty).

Rusty and I spent a few hours shooting ideas back and forth (and down) based on the theme Evolution. We hit on what would become our final idea pretty early in the discussion but decided against it before coming round full circle hours later. Our first idea was a split screen platformer where a single input source controlled two characters who had to navigate a level (starting on opposite sides) to find each other and combine to complete the level. The second idea was a musical platformer. Music would evolve based on player actions. Gravity would be impacted by how on-beat the player’s input was. The most interesting idea played with the interaction between the macro (platformer) and micro (puzzle). The original design called for a Metroidvania with a Zelda-in-a-box overlay but was simplified for our (and our eventual players’) sanity.

Before going to bed around 3am that first Friday night I designed four primary forms of our protagonist and named him Clew. During the 72 hour period I drew over a hundred frames of 8-bit animation, most of them for Clew.

01 Clew Slug Idle 01 Clew Slug Walk 01 Clew Slug Recoil 01 Clew Slug Die Evolve Legs
02 Clew Legs Idle 02 Clew Legs Walk 03 Clew Legs Recoil 03 Clew Legs Die 03 Clew Legs Jump Clew Evolve Tail
04 Clew Tail Idle 04 Clew Tail Walk 04 Clew Tail Recoil 04 Clew Tail Die 05 Clew Tail Jump 06 Clew Tail Swim 06 Clew Tail Swim Up 06 Clew Tail Swim Down Clew Evolve Horn
07 Clew Horn Idle 07 Clew Horn Walk 07 Clew Horn Recoil 07 Clew Horn Die 08 Clew Horn Jump 09 Clew Horn Swim 09 Clew Horn Swim Up 09 Clew Horn Swim Down 09 Clew Horn Ram 09 Clew Horn Ram Up 09 Clew Horn Ram Down Clew Evolve Wing
10 Clew Wings Idle 10 Clew Wings Walk 10 Clew Wings Recoil 10 Clew Wings Die 11 Clew Wings Jump 12 Clew Wings Swim 12 Clew Wings Swim Up 12 Clew Wings Swim Down 09 Clew Wings Ram 09 Clew Wings Ram Up 10 Clew Wings Ram Down 13 Clew Wings Flap
Inchworm Grasshopper Seahorse Butterfly Bananas
Molehole Walker Puffer Streamer Spikes

When I woke up Saturday morning Rusty had already implemented the core puzzle mechanic. By noon, I had designed some food for Clew and the evolution bar and stomach puzzle HUD. By 3pm, most of Clew’s main gameplay animation (running, jumping, swimming, and flying across the four forms) was done. The rest of Saturday was spent on food and enemy design and animation. Clew’s death, horn dashing, additional swimming directions, and transitional evolution animations were finished up on Sunday.

At some point I spent some time updating our Tiled map loading logic to support our three main layers, foreground, background, and water (a fourth spike layer was added later). Each layer uses its own tilemap and Flixel’s autotiling saves us from having to manually input the appropriate surface or non-surface tile. We hooked up my preferred duration-based jump mechanics pretty early on too. And Matt did not disappoint on the music front.

I pulled an all-nighter Sunday and really ramped up the level design production. I had three main goals as I designed the world. Expose the player to paths they can’t immediately take (early water, gray blocks and even the final path to the left as soon as Clew reaches the surface). Airlock the player, forcing them to discover how to use their new ability without telling them explicitly. Create interesting opportunities to use each new ability as it becomes available. The “final” version of the map was done by 8pm, one hour before the deadline.

Super Clew Land Map

At some point I implemented simple enemy behaviors (enemy paths are defined by their Entity’s width or height in Tiled). In the last hour I banged out a simple ending and in the last ten minutes a title screen.

Usually at this point I tell you how fulfilling and reenergizing Ludum Dare is and this postmortem is no different. Working with Rusty and Matt was an absolute blast. Such a blast that we’ve continued working on Super Clew Land together these past three weeks, tuning the game, expanding the map, and adding save flowers and more post-game content. We even have something cooking beyond this polished directors’ cut of Super Clew Land. But…more on that later.

Interview on The Industry
Shaun Inman
September 16th, 2012 at 11:16 am