I entered the Ludum Dare game jam event last weekend with Brice to create Less, a sentimental point-and-click puzzle game based on the theme of the competition: minimalism. Brice worked on the Javascript wizardry, and I did the writing and artwork.

Whereas apparently most entries to the jam and the competition have used the theme as a restriction on gameplay and artwork, Less uses the theme in a different way. In Less the protagonist-narrator is driven to remove objects from his room, making minimalism more of a story element.

While deleting items, the protagonist recalls important events from his past regarding his relationship with his wife in the form of haikus. Haikus tangentially relate to minimalism through the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi.

And in one of Less’s five endings the unnamed protagonist takes minimalism too far. He literally cuts his wife from his life.

The initial idea really was quite minimal in terms of gameplay, but Brice’s ideas helped form Less into something more substantial and enjoyable. Originally it was to be entirely linear: for each verse (memory-haiku), there would be one possible object you could choose to delete, and there would be only one ending. However in the final game you can usually choose any object at each verse, the narrative adapts to your choices, and there are a total of five endings!

We intended to add sound that would adapt to the way you were playing, but programming it took longer than we thought and we ran out of time. I’m not too disappointed by this; I think the end result was still fun!

What did I learn making Less? It was my first time focusing entirely on the non-technical side of producing a game, so I learned a lot!

  • Good artwork is hard, even if you’re mostly using pre-existing graphics. Varied art styles and camera perspectives make it a challenge to choose graphics that works well together. The background and the bed are my own work, but spending almost a full day on them was most likely a waste.

  • Writing good and adaptive narrative is especially difficult and very time-consuming. How do you make a sensible sentence that relates a perfect wedding day to a trash can?

Go ahead and read more about it, or play the game and rate your experience with it on the competition website!

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03 May 2013