NAINA: A POST-MORTEM
Updated: May 5, 2021
In late 2015, my fellow fresh grads and I set out to do our own little game jam, centered around the theme "Paper". I conceptualized Naina almost right away, and spent most of the jam working on editing assets to make it "look good". In the end, though I managed to capture the vibe I wanted, I couldn't actually build something playable within the given timeframe. Nevertheless, I spent the next week or so building out the actual mechanics using the assets I'd gathered, and pieced together most of a game before abandoning it, probably because I either lost interest, found something else to work on, or didn't feel confident in what I'd made anymore.
Today, after 5 years, I decided to unearth my old project (built in Unity 5.x!!) and see if I could give it some closure. Along the way, I got to see some things I really liked, some things I would've liked to improve, and some things I was able to tune pretty easily after identifying them as problems.
I still love the mood I was able to create for the game! By using Gimp to slap filters over royalty-free images, I was able to give them a spooky, run-down vibe! Even though it took me two full jam days to edit and render out the assets, 5 years later I still think it was super worth the time spent.
Since we were all jamming in a single room, I was able to get some mechanics playtested by my friends, and I love the feel of some of the transitions that I spent a while tuning!
I was also able to track down some really wonderful audio and fonts to use in my project to match the vibe, and I also spliced some sound effects together to create cheap audio-only "cutscenes" that I'm still quite proud of. Plus my past self remembered to keep up a list of artist credits, which came in handy now that I actually had time to make a credits page to house them!
I added a ton of debug settings. In fact, I'd say that's something I'd like to incorporate into my programming style now! I'd forgotten the value of having a debug suite for quick tests, and this was a good reminder.
The game was hard. Extremely hard, probably because I was trying to compensate somehow for how short it was. But making a game harder so it can be played for a longer period of time doesn't necessarily lead to a better experience! Plus as a developer, it's important for me to remember that the game will definitely be much harder for first time players than it is for me, who has been playing it non-stop for days on end. I'm glad I was able to offer my past self that insight!
I never finished building the game. This is probably because I had the tendency to rush head-first into a project without planning it through from start to finish! I still do this, though I try to at least ballpark some themes I want to showcase along the way so I can keep myself aligned with a specific goal. Back then, I was more focused on the vibe than I was on the end result.
I decided to try to identify what it was that made my game so hard. The answer was pretty obvious, and a pretty cheap fix - the colliders were very unforgiving. I just made them larger, and all of a sudden the player experience felt a lot more bearable!
A pretty minor point, but the text on the title screen was pretty hard to read. I think I was trying to go for a certain vibe, but I shouldn't have thrown away visibility as a result! I adjusted the colours and it felt a lot more readable.
Most importantly, I added an "ending"! I've left it open-ended to create an opportunity for myself to build a sequel in the future if I want to. Most importantly though, it gives me closure on a project I've wanted to revisit several times over the past 5 years. I'm glad I finally crossed that hurdle and closed the core loop.
Naina is nowhere near the perfect game. It isn't one of the best games I've ever made either. But I'm proud of the things I was able to learn and accomplish as I built it. And if anything, I want to remember it as a game where I went all-out on polish, and was at least able to come out of it with something that I thought looked good and captured a really great vibe, even 5 years later!
If you're interested in checking it out, play it here!