Millinaut is the name of a little game made by Shaun Inman, Alex Ogle, and myself for Ludum Dare's 72-hour jam competition. I had never done a weekend project of this sort before, so when Shaun and Alex invited me to the “jam” (which is open to teams, unlike the original, lone-wolf 48-hour contest) I hesitated a bit. But I couldn't really say no, could I?

We had three days to make a game from scratch. The theme was tiny world.  The game ended up far, far away from the story, mood, and mechanic we originally sketched out on Friday night. You should read Shaun’s postmortem for a breakdown of how it all went down.

I’m really happy with how it turned out, though - the setting and the mechanic are a bit less original than the dark, psychological drama I saw in my head at first, but the gameplay is much more fun than I thought we could manage in just three days.

I had never done platform-level design before, and my initial assessment of my abilities was quite poor. But, good old iteration - play, die, play, die, tweak one parameter, play, die, play, win! - lead to levels I’m quite proud of. Millinaut has understandably little variation in environments, characters, and abilities, but I think I could probably crank out another dozen respectable levels without any changes to the game code. If beating a tough level feels satisfying, designing one feels quite literally divine.

These are all the graphics we used in the game:

I made more, of course (with help from both Shaun and Alex) but as the game mutated, we either dropped or transformed a lot of ideas.

I’m not sure if I’ll participate in another game jam soon - I’d love to, but this weekend left me with a lot of guilt about ignoring my family for three days straight (combined with the guilt of being the least dedicated of the three developers since I kept running out for this reason and that.) Perhaps it’s just a matter of setting expectations and preparing a bit better. If I do this again, I’d like to:

  • Explore other art styles. Millinaut looks cute, but it’s not a huge departure from the style of The Incident.
  • Explore non-jumpy games. Jumpies will forever be what I consider prototypical computer games, but games are a rich and wide art - I should stretch out.
  • Do more level/puzzle design. I didn’t expect to be doing much of it at all, but I’m hooked on it now.
  • Focus on the contest 100%. Book a hotel room, stay in a mountain cabin, lock myself in the closet. Not because it’ll lead to better work, but because I’ll feel less torn between two worlds.

Shaun and Alex were wonderful collaborators: smart, sharp, nice, and built for this kind of pressure-work. I had absolute confidence in them before we started and I have even more today. Thanks, dudes!