AAPA2: A qualified success

So, I wanted to learn the Unreal Engine and for some reason the I thought the best time to do it would be during a GameJam in which I have 7 days to write a game for people who don’t care about pretty graphics.

I knew I had to write a simple game if I was going to stand any chance of completing, given this handicap, and I had always wondered if my 7DRL from 2 years ago, Ad Astra Per Aspera, would have been better if it’d been on a hex grid instead of with free movement, so I went with that.

2 full days of coding later, my only full days of the week, and I had a hex grid with planets in it as well as a spacecraft that you could move around with mouse or keyboard. Things were not looking good, with libtcod that would have taken a couple of hours at most.

It was very easy to get bogged down looking for assets, free assets at that, getting them hooked up, authoring particle effects for the engines, and so forth.

It was after this though that things started getting better. I had 5 evenings left but one thing I did find was that once you start writing components they drop into the game very easily, and the visual scripting stuff (called Blueprint) in Unreal is very useful for rapidly prototyping things.

In the end it wasn’t enough though. I’d has in my mind several enemy types and a logistics system where you need to move goods from planet to planet in order to repair and rearm yourself. There was no time for that.

Instead I had to cut things back further, there was now only 1 enemy type, your ship had fixed systems and each friendly planet could repair and refuel you once/game. This was done by Friday evening which I spent on some last minute bug fixes and trying to balance the rate at which enemies spawn.

I had make a functional game, one that has some amount of tactics in it, so I’m saying it was a success, but as I predicted from the outset, wrestling with Unreal cut down the time I could spend actually making a decent game.

On the other hand I think going into it with a better grasp of the systems involved, and having some pre-made components (something like libtcod for Unreal) and you could probably write a game that stands up with the best 7DRLs. Maybe next year.

TL; DR: Unreal made it slow to get going, but wasn’t too bad in the long run. The result was mediocre.

The release is here: https://github.com/jkeywo/AAPA2/releases, my personal best score is 35.

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