A "realistic wizard" action arcade game for Idle Thumbs Wizard Jam 2015. Draw demon sigils with your mouse under a time limit for high scores. Johann's Baton delivers the spooky fun with blach magic and high tension drawing action.
Three things I like:
There are more than a few things in common with my last jam game, SMAX , here and I'm pretty happy with how both of them have come out, from 2 days to 2 weeks. And both of them pulled off their original intent, to explore some weird mechanics/design space in my head while feeling like nothing else out there. What's cooler is that now they sort of fit together, in the one-screen ring thing, but you can also see how the extra time helped me put a little more elbow grease into some areas. Yes there are still some problems with communicating these weird new play experiences but I'm still pleased with the result.
Johann's Baton has a lot of systems work beneath the surface and I'm happy with the scoring/performance stuff especially even if it isn't super visible. I lacked a strong design for it initially, but I found the right set of levers to pull to rate and score player's performance. There are several things I'd love to develop these ideas further and make them standard in future action games. Online leaderboards and quicker/better communication of performance are the next steps and should be good fun to think out and implement.
I had some hard times with the arts and sound side of things early on, in that I didn't give them much thought beyond helping me build the game's guts. But I was happy to have the extra jam time to polish up that side of things and I seemed to put that time to good use. The art could use more work, and would probably benefit from a stronger initial vision, but overall the audio-visual stuff works pretty well in concert.
Three things I don't like:
As mentioned above, Johann's Baton and SMAX both suffer from a lack of communication of the gameplay. It can sometimes be good to drop people in cold but I don't think an arcade score attack type game is the place to do it. After the jam concluded, it was clear that this was the main weakness of my design and something I definitely need to think about earlier on in the future if I want to keep making unusual mechanics. I've since added a movie showing how to complete strokes and sigils to the main screen but it's an area I could use a lot of improvement in and fast.
One of the many ancillary systems that I think would have made the biggest impact on the final game is a difficulty curve. All of the content was purely subjective so it was confusing to rate and in the end I ended up discarding difficulty entirely in favor of fine tuning the times required for each sigil (you can see how it was in there from the beginning with the choice on what sigil to play next). I think the amount of time to create, polish, and evaluate each sigil took time away from building an even better base for the experiece. Lessons for the future and all that.
Though I spent a lot of time on music, sound, and art, I think that each of them needed a lot more attention. It's probably the case that I need to get better at working with people (and remotely) but I definitely found my time stretched between all that and programming. Sound especially could have used a little more love, even from the programming side. It's mixed fairly well but better variety and clearer player indicators are on the menu for the next one.