Hi everyone, I realise that I didn't really make a point to post anything about my game on here beforehand, such as Devlogs or the like and I sort of wish I had, but figured that I could at least make a post-mortem post... So here we are..
So my game Courtyard Courtroom was first and foremost an experiment in Unity development for me. I haven't really had much experience in using it, or making games in general really. In fact the most experience I have had is that I recently completed the Block Breaker tutorial section (which is basically a recreation of Arkanoid/Breakout) of the Udemy Unity Course.
I have also recently finished playing Danganronpa 2, a visual novel puzzle game where you have to try and solve murder cases (Similar to the Ace Attorney series) and decided that it could be the inspiration behind my jam project.
I am well aware that Ren.py or something similar would probably have been better, bearing in mind it is a pre-made Visual Novel engine, in that it would have allowed me to concentrate less on coding and more on the story. However, for me this was about learning Unity.
What Went Well
So I actually feel pretty good about the game mechanically. I managed to create a relatively robust system that allowed for creating and linking between dialogue lines within the Unity Editor itself, as well as specify a variable list of actions that could take place Before text is rendered as well as After. This allowed for things such as the characters displaying a talking animation while dialogue was being rendered, and an idle animation on completion, or noise/shaking effects on the text with explicit control of speed and intensity which was nice. The dialog rendering is all controlled by a class of its own that allowed you to throw in messages of any length and it would automatically split it up into appropriate chunks to click through.
It was a slight challenge for me to not just hard-code things into properties of classes and instead make a serious effort to make sure that things were accessible by the Unity Property Inspector, (which is really awesome by the way). It was really cool towards the end to just be able create dialogue elements in the editor without actually touching the code and watching it all fall into place and just work as intended, as well as how powerful it could be at times. Such as having furiously wobbly text with an angry character sprite really helps to convey a sense of emotional instability.
My pixel-art graphics definitely had their ups and downs. I am really happy and quite surprised with how well the Evidence graphics came out. It took a little bit of experimentation to get the desired effect overall feel quite satisfied there. I am also happy with the cat Mittens who in combination with the noise-effect on the text and 'speech synthesis' seemed much more expressive than I'd initially anticipated.
However I feel that the protagonist Poppy has a notable drop in quality, which is annoying certainly as she's the first character you see in the game. I put that partially down to rushing her sprite a little. It might've helped if I'd spent some time designing the characters on paper before biting the bullet and outright trying to draw them in the pixel-art form from the start.
In hindsight, I think the decision to use such a simplistic style worked in my favor as a one-man team. It meant I didn't have to worry so much about colour and highly-detailed graphics while also giving the game a consistent style.
Also a quick mention, while the Pre/Post actions system worked really well for the game, it was EXTREMELY tedious to have to write in specific actions for each line of dialogue. I managed to work around it by duplicating dialog items in the Unity Inspector and only changing certain parts when necessary etc, but was still abominably slow. I know that there are ways to create scripts for the Editor itself, but one step at a time haha.
Early on with the project, I struggled keeping focus on the project as the coding element progressed well, leading me to completely underestimate the amount of time that would be required to develop a cohesive narrative. This is a shame as it lets down the overall game quite a lot, especially as I feel that the main mechanics are definitely in place.
I also wasn't able to dedicate all my time toward the project, I work a 9-5 Mon-Fri job, and don't get home until 7pm (I stay at work till 6pm), which didn't leave a massive amount of time in the evenings to work on the game during the week and my computer decided to die somewhere in the middle (BSOD bootloop, thank goodness for Bitbucket) so that was fun /sarcasm.
But worse than that, when I did get time at the weekend, I wasn't 100% focused on the game, which meant that some parts took longer to develop than others. If only I'd spent one more of those days working on the story, there might've been more to play.
Closure and Going Forward
With all this in mind, I'm pleased with the project in that I achieved what I set out to do, which is learn more about development in Unity and create a project that is at least mechanically complete and (from what I can tell anyway) bug free.
However, I'm left with a sour taste in my mouth with just how much I had to cut story elements to be able to fit them into the game as well as relevant art assets to meet the jam deadline.
It has been interesting to see how other people have been dealing with the various issues throughout the jam and watching the games progress in the various devlogs. Perhaps in future I will try to endeavour to participate in the social aspect more actively.
I'd also like to quickly add that I really appreciate the fact that these jams are given a specific focus, (even if it is not actually requred) having that laid out from the start really helps to steer me in what i'm going to do for my project.
I may develop the game further, adding transitions and actually getting the story in place... Who knows, perhaps it can be a little project for me to develop into a fully-fledged thing. But for now, I'm going to rest haha. It has been fun and I'll be sure to give your games a go and drop a review here and there when I get time.
Link to game: https://aetharr.itch.io/courtyard-courtroom