I participated in the last Ludum Dare jam (#53) and made something that is not great but at least playable. And it only took me a month to finish writing the postmortem! :)
The theme delivery was published at 3 AM CEST on Saturday, I encountered it around 7 o'clock, alerted Tibor, finished booting up and biked down to Kollabor, where I usually work. We decided to work remotely, had a quick kickoff call at around 9 about ideas. The first idea was about food delivery from restaurants to homes on a kinda-3D top-down city map using trebuchets. I spent half an hour researching how much work would it take to allow the player to just input a name of a real city (at which point the game would fetch map data via Google Maps / OpenStreetMap) and use it as a base and came to the conclusion that it's out of the question due to the 3-day deadline of the jam.
After some quick scaffolding in Construct 3 and another call I floated the idea of an Overcooked + Kingdom hybrid (2D side-view food preparation frenzy) with a hint of Angry Birds (delivering the finished food to the right home using a big-ass trebuchet/sling), then quickly reduced it down to just the delivery part, but using a sort of drone that the player can actively control to navigate around obstacles like in Flappy Bird. The first build at 10:50 included the basic movement, obstacles and controls (Space to climb), the second build at 11:25 had the basic pick up and delivery stuff (I, J, K keys for the 3 different items). Some more work and a lunch break followed.
I finished the third build at 13:25; in this we experimented with a slightly different control scheme (W/A/D for movement + similar touch controls), allowing the player to turn around at any time. Tibor raised some good points regarding the control scheme and suggested that we add some angle to the drops for realism, so I first got rid of manual turning in the fourth build at 13:53 and added a special wall type that turns the player around in the fifth at 14:06.
Some more ideation followed and I've added item and target spawners and basic respawn logic in build six at 15:09. A couple of minutes later I added numpad controls in build seven, then started to prepare the project for Tibor, so he can start designing levels and alter level rules just by editing some variables. Build eight included a super small test level (which can be skipped by pressing N) and was the last export for that day at 15:46, then I fixed a few bugs and we both went to a friend's house to conclude day one and consume the things we usually consume at such events.
On Sunday it was almost 11 AM when I managed to boot up and sit down in front of my computer, get a todo list going and contact Tibor. I decided to add some juice by adding shadow light / shadow caster and sine movement behaviors to stuff which resulted in build nine at 11:39, then I added touchscreen UI and automatic respawn in build ten at 12:21 and cycled to my parents for lunch.
I was back in front of the screen at around half 3 and got crackin'. A few hours and a couple of meetings later I finished build eleven at 18:47, which included better touch UI, ammo pickups, shooting, and the first enemy type. After some testing, balancing and bug squashing, I've finished the day with build twelve at 19:40 and a quick call with Tibor about level design.
We picked up around 10 AM on Monday, I've included Tibor's work-in-progress levels in build thirteen at 10:56. In the afternoon I started replacing the placeholder assets with better looking ones (by Little Martian and Cassius) and building a tutorial to introduce the mechanics gradually for players. I sent build fourteen to Tibor for testing at 18:34, and fixed bugs in build fifteen half an hour later. Based on his feedback I finished build sixteen at 21:09, then I threw together a flimsy menu screen (yeah, I'll take the usual please!), fixed some more bugs and uploaded the final version around midnight. For some reason the HTML5 build didn't work on the LDJAM page, so the final resting place of Something Something Delivery Something (obviously named a couple of minutes before publishing) is on Itch. I haven't touched it since and based on previous experience I probably won't either.
And the conclusion? It was fun, exhausting, a great learning experience and I'll remember those three days fondly. And I'm looking forward to the next game jam I'll be able to participate in.