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LD48 #42: Running out of Space (18 Aug at 10:19)
After a several-year hiatus, I found another well-timed free weekend to do Ludum Dare, the 48-hour video game making competition! Here's the game I made, for the theme "Running out of Space":

SPACE GAME
SPACE GAME


Hereafter, some mild spoilers. It's a point-and-click adventure game, but the "twist" is that the interface is all in gibberish space language. If you find it too confusing or tedious, you can call up the universal translator with your browser's javascript console (e.g. ctrl-shift-i in Chrome).

Progressive hints (ROT13; you could decode these with e.g. rot13.com, which is an entirely different kind of space language):

Gur jbeqf ng gur obggbz bs gur fperra ner ireof. Gur cnegyl pbafgehpgrq npgvba nccrnef va gur gbc-yrsg.
Ab, lbh pna’g qebc guvatf! Lbh arrq gb trg gb gur hccre qrpx.
Gur genafyngvba bs gur svefg ireo vf TENO (abg r.t. GNXR). Lbh qba’g unir gb or evtug arkg gb gur guvat lbh teno, ohg vg unf gb or ovbybtvpnyyl cynhfvoyr.
Lbh pna’g qebc guvatf, ohg bar bs gur ireof nyybjf lbh gb chg n cnegvphyne xvaq bs vgrz va n cnegvphyne xvaq bs irffry. TENO (svefg ireo) gur fcnprzna guebhtu gur tengr. TENO gur fperjqevire. BIVCBFVG (guveq ireo) na rtt vagb gur obql. HFR (ynfg ireo) gur fperjqevire ba gur tengr.
Gurer’f fbzrguvat gb TENO va gur perj’f orqf.


Hereafter, plenty of spoilers: I've always loved the graphical adventure genre, and I've wanted to make one for some time. (I even spent rather a long time trying to build an adventure game editor/engine in Flash about 13 years ago, last mentioned in post #784 I think. As an example of the reason that this post took nearly a week to go up after finishing the LD entry described above, I wanted to post a final link to this game, but it had some serious breaking issues since one of the reasons I abandoned it was that I ran into some super-weird Flash bugs/quirks. So this morning I dug out that old thing and tried to repair it as much as I could; you can try the final abandoned demo if you want.) I spent a lot of the weekend on some game engine basics, to the point that I repeated the failure mode of "I'll draw spaceship graphics so deliberately crappy that I'll HAVE to come back and improve them before shipping," and then, "Oops, I'm out of time!" but also "I want every pixel in this animation that will be on screen for 100ms to be just right!" There's still so much more efficiency to be found in contests like this.

My intention was that people who know the genre could figure it out purely from conventions (but there are some twists on that), although many people opted to translate the language, which I also deliberately left as a possibility, with some clues. Several people reported having fun with that, so maybe I shouldn't have assumed it would just be annoying—in retrospect, I think I was mostly just averse to it because the idea that an alien would speak English but just with a different alphabet is annoyingly absurd to me, and I didn't want to commit that narrative sin. But there's only so much you can fit in the weekend. Speaking of which, there were several ideas I had to cut from the game on the last day (of course). For example, one of the two airlock people was supposed to be an entirely separate character with an associated puzzle; there was supposed to be a functioning door to the bridge; the airlock puzzle was supposed to make a little more sense than it does (explaining the fact that both doors start locked) and you were supposed to need to talk to that character to scare him into locking himself in the airlock, etc. There was of course supposed to be atmospheric music for the main game, and I know about all of the path-planning bugs and areas where your player can show through objects, ugh. But I ran so low on time that I only got the game even remotely winnable in like the last 30 minutes of the contest. So I initially felt kinda bad about it at submission time, but enough people have enjoyed it that I feel mostly cured of that now. I may fix some of the worst issues (path planning; misspelling "oviposit") so as usual I've archived the 48-hour compo version at the /compo URL, but the main link in this post will point at the best version.

Once everything is set up, it's not a hard genre to expand with content, and I like writing and animating in this style. Some day when I have a solid week to spare, I'd like to make a complete game in this style.
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Anonymous (209.6.95.188) – 08.18.18 13:03:00
There's a typo in the first link (the one below the picture). It's "runnning" (with three 'n's)
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Tom 7 (108.32.43.250) – 08.18.18 16:11:17
Thank you! Fixed it!
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jonas (176.63.24.215) – 08.20.18 11:09:39
I played through the game before this weekend, after shachaf pointed me to it. Here are some random comments.

0. The Ludum Dare prompt was very appropriate for you after you completed a running challenge.
1. Knowing the game title helped a lot in retrospectfor two reasons. The larger reason is that the opening title screen gives the game title in the alien alphabet. The smaller reason is that when I saw the Diablo-style inventory with four eggs, I immediately guessed a part of the game: (rot13: lbh gbbx gur fbsgybpx oht sebz Pbaarpgbe Jbeyq naq ghearq vg vagb n chmmyr srngher).
2. When shachaf pointed me at the game, I immediately saw the alien alphabet, mused loudly that it must be some sort of simple substitution cipher for English, which shachaf confirmed. That's a small spoiler I guess, but it didn't really help too much.
3. The second spoiler I got from shachaf was that the menu of four commands has a typo. It turns out that it has two typos. One of them you mention in your post, but that one didn't annoy me, because I didn't even realize it until post-game discussion. It seems you have fixed the first one by now: Gur frpbaq pbzznaq hfrq gb fnl "gnyr" vafgrnq bs "gnyx".
4. I wondered how come the alien doesn't speak the Standard Galactic Alphabet from the Commander Keen games, but I guess other game design perspectives overrided the need for realism this time.
5. So when shachaf pointed me to the game on Thursday, I was busy with work, and only played as much of it to get past the first obstacle, the fire that blocks your way. I put it down then. I started to play properly on Friday. I immediately decided to decode the alien alphabet, though it might have been optional. Luckily at that time I noticed the title screen. That made the decoding much easier, since it already gives most of the common letters. Without that, I would have really struggled because I started by decoding the command bar, and (rot13) sebz gur rssrpg bs gur svefg pbzznaq V nffhzrq gur svefg pbzznaq jbhyq or "gnxr", fb "teno gnyr" jbhyq unir pbhashfrq bhg gur urpx bs zr, rira xabjvat gurer'f n glcb, fvapr V qvqa'g unir "t" be "x" be "y" sebz naljurer, "hfr" qbrfa'g uryc gur erfg, naq "bibcbfvg" vf hathrffnoyr.
6. That said, with the title screen and the spoiler warning about the typo (or after fixing the typo), the alphabet puzzle was really easy. Already before solving the first obstacle the game gives you so many phrases that you can decode the whole alphabet and what the four commands do. The ones you can encounter before getting past the fire, I think: (rot13) "Ehaavat bhg bs fcnpr, teno, gnyr, bibcbfvg, hfr" (lbh pna'g "hfr" nalguvat jvgubhg fbyivat gur chmmyr, ohg gur gvgyr tvirf nyy gur yrggref), "vairagbel, ybbx ng zr, ybbx ng plyvaqre" (sver rkgvathvfure), "ybbx ng sver, ybbx ng nyvra" (pncgnva Xvex), "creuncf n jrncba" (gur qrfpevcgvba bs gur sver rkgvathvfure), "fbzr nyvra grpuabybtl" (qrfpevcgvba bs gur sver), "vg zr :-)" (qrfpevcgvba bs lbhefrys), "ybbxf jnez" (qrfpevcgvba bs pncgnva), "V pna'g tb gurer, V qba'g xabj ubj gb qb gung, V pna'g tb gurer :-(" (gnyx gb pncgnva be hfr jvgu pncgnva), "hfr rtt jvgu, bibcbfvg rtt vagb, zhfg bibcbfvg naq rtt vagb n *obql*, uv zr! :-), uv plyvaqre! :-), uv sver! :-)" (fur xabjf vg'f sver ohg ng gur fnzr gvzr pnyyf vg fbzr nyvra grpuabybtl), "V arrq gb teno vg svefg" (gel gb hfr gur sver be gur rkgvathvfure), "V pna bayl bivcbfvg na rtt" (gel gb bivcbfvg gur sver vagb gur sver).
7. So I wrote everything I found in alien language with English under it, which was a subset of the above, and it was enough to decode the alphabet, except for four letters that I have never seen. The third spoiler I got from shachaf is that I will never see the other four letters, except in the game resources. (He had actually linked to the png image containing the alphabet earlier, but I closed it before I could absorb anything, so I don't count that as a spoiler.) Indeed the game is quite short, and I got very few phrases later: "pneq, tengr, aet jrncba, nveybpx, qbbe, cbeg, ohytr, gbby, ehaavat bhg bs fcnpr / gbz 7 2018".
8. The only pathfinding bug I noticed was that when I click on the right side of the screen while the alien is going around the (rot13: fcvxr cvg) obstacle, the alien will go back to the left of the obstacle and try to go around the obstacle on the other side, that is, under if if she was over and over if she was under. This can lead to the alien never progressing if you keep clicking frequently. This was easy to recognize and work around.
9. One random bug I noticed is: (rot13) gur orq jvgu gur pbire chyyrq bire nsgre lbh erzbir gur gbby vf fgvyy pnyyrq n "ohytr".
10. One more bug I noticed only in the postgame testing: (rot13) lbh pna tb bire gur punve naq trg gb gur evtug bs pncgnva Xvex. Vs lbh'er gurer, Xvex vf fgvyy snpvat evtug, ohg ur qbrfa'g abgvpr vs lbh gnyx gb uvz naq lbh pna'g fubbg uvz jvgu gur aet jrncba.
11. The puzzles that took me the most time to figure out were both totally fair puzzles: (rot13) gung lbh pna teno gur bssvpre guebhtu gur tengr (V gevrq n ybg bs bgure npgvbaf qbjafgnvef jvgu abguvat jbexvat, ohg guvf bar vf snve orpnhfr lbh pna abgvpr gung gur svefg pbzznaq vf anzrq "teno" engure guna "gnxr"); naq gur vairagbel grgevf chmmyr.
12. I also spent a lot of time decoding the alphabet, but unlike the other two puzzles, that one was fun rather than frustrating, it only took a lot of time because of a lot of careful handwriting in alien and English.
13. I also spent time (rot13) gb svther bhg jung gur pneq qbrf, rfcrpvnyyl jul V pna'g hfr vg ba jung ybbxf yvxr n pneq ubyr ng gur vafvqr bs gur vaare qbbe bs gur nveybpx. V erfgnegrq gur tnzr gb gel gur grgevf chmmyr jvgubhg cvpxvat vg hc ohg gura ernyvmrq gung vg pna'g nssrpg gur grgevf chmmyr naljnl fvapr lbh jvyy nyjnlf unir n serr fdhner gb chg vg ng nal gvzr.
14. The most annoying part of the game interface by far was how the alien messages displayed. Sometimes an important message flashed up for a very short time and disappeared, so I had to make screenshots. Other times a message instead stayed on the the top message line forever until I did something to display the next one. There didn't seem to be any logic between which one of these behaviors each message had. Sometimes multiple irrelevant error messages got buffered up when I clicked on everything on screen trying to find what I can interact with, and then I had to wait for the message queue to empty and then restart. Sometimes a message popped up partly outside of the screen boundary and you had to scroll the background to get it completely inside the screen. I didn't check how much of this you have fixed since.
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jonas (176.63.24.196) – 08.20.18 12:00:30
Addition to the above:

7. I missed one that I somehow didn't have in my notes: (rot13) "fperjqevire".
8. Bug is still there.
9. Bug is still there.
10. I can't quite reproduce the original behavior: (rot13) V pna fgvyy tb haqre gur punve naq ba gur evtug bs pncgnva Xvex, ohg vs V gel gb gnyx gb uvz be hfr jvgu uvz, gur nyvra abj gevrf gb tb yrsg naq trgf fghpx va n jnyxvat navzngvba fgnaqvat va cynpr ng gur punve hagvy lbh pyvpx gb tb fbzrjurer.
15. I found another bug: (rot13) vs V'z fgnaqvat ba gur evtug bs gur bcra vaare nveybpx qbbe naq nfx gb hfr gur gbby jvgu gur bhgre cbeg, gur nyvra trgf fghpx gelvat gb jnyx guebhtu gur gbc bs gur qbbe va n jnyxvat navzngvba hagvy V pyvpx gb tb fbzrjurer ryfr. Gur fnzr unccraf vs V gel gb teno gur aet jrncba juvyr fgnaqvat sne gb gur evtug bs vg, bayl gung gvzr gur nyvra nccneragyl trgf fghpx ba nve.
16. Another similar bug is that (rot13) vs lbh ner fgnaqvat ba gur gbc yrsg bs gur pncgnva'f punve naq gur pncgnva'f qrnq naq lbh gel gb bibcbfvg vagb uvf obql, fbzrgvzrf gur nyvra jnyxf gb gur pncgnva'f obql naq fnlf "V pna'g tb gurer :-(" fvzhygnarbhfyl. Ur qbrfa'g bibcbfvg gur rtt.
17. A completely different bug that I just noticed is that if you quickly get past the fire the intended way and then go to the left, the game gets into a state that seems to me like a softlock. Speedrunners will run into this one.
18. A minor bug is that the long description of the (rot13) obqvrf fhpxrq vagb bhgre fcnpr vf "fbzr nyvra grpuabybtl?".
19. (rot13) Bibcbfvgvat vagb gurz vf svaavpxl gbb, fbzrgvzrf gur tnzr whfg qbrfa'g ernyvmr jung V'z gelvat gb bibcbfvg vagb.
20. I see that on the other hand you fixed (rot13) Pncgnva Xvex'f ercyl, fb ur ab ybare inthryl gryyf lbh gb "znxr lbhefrys".
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jonas (176.63.24.126) – 08.20.18 15:46:57
I am completely wrong in point 3. I transcribed the version of the alien alphabet version of the second command word wrong to my paper sheet, despite that I knew that letter from an early word (rot13: ybbx), and then kept looking at my sheet and saw the typo I wanted to see after shachaf told me there'd be a typo. There's no typo in that word, it's the word it should be, you didn't make such an embarrassing mistake right in the menu that is always on the screen. I apologize.
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Tom 7 (108.32.43.184) – 09.03.18 16:53:49
Thanks for all the notes!

I haven't uploaded fixes for any of the bugs yet--I'll do this after the compo ends tomorrow. I think some of the changes you're seeing might just be finnicky behavior (for example, the captain says "Please make yourself at home" but I don't have any logic to position text so that it's right edge is on-screen, so depending on where you're standing, text can get cut off). I think many of the other bugs are due to the bad path planning--the alien gets stuck on the boundaries between zones. Still haven't figured that one out, but I should fix it. (For example, I watched some people play this and they were doing exactly the right thing, but the alien would get stuck, and then they thought that was their fault.)

Anyway, I apologize for the rough edges (many of these things I knew about and still regret) but it was a lot to cram into 48h! Thanks for playing and for suffering those. :)
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Tom 7 (108.32.43.184) – 09.04.18 18:58:59
Also: Yes, there is an extraneous item, but it was planned to be used the way you expected.

And the speedrun softlock is also something I knew about (I think there is even a comment in the code), but I discovered afterwards that it's actually not game-breaking, even though it looks like it is! You just need to be standing in the right spot.
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matus (67.173.1.238) – 09.06.18 07:26:11
tom7 can you put a mushroom in my bathroom

thanks
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calendar (176.63.25.55) – 09.29.18 20:24:19
If you count in the New York City timezone, then you still have more than a day to post an entry in September.
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