Prototypes: Morbid Grid

This is the first in a series of 3 game prototype posts; other games I'll be touching on are Jack Action and the Duck Assault, and an incomplete game temporarily known as Proto2[1].

What is Morbid Grid?

Morbid Grid is a game that I developed for Game Jolt's Competition Eight, with the very awesome music created by Ashely Gwinnell. The theme of the competition was "Fear," and the basic idea behind Morbid Grid's gameplay revolved around the idea of not ever truly knowing where your enemies are, creating a very manic, stressful, and foreboding play environment.

What Went Right?

Morbid Grid was the first personal game that I had completed (and have been somewhat proud of) since releasing suteF almost 2 years(!) ago. Emotionally and mentally, that was a really big deal for me. Struggling through several projects in the last two years had been exhausting and unbelievably discouraging; making something as glorious as suteF and losing so much steam afterward led me to doubt my abilities as a developer. Morbid Grid rekindled the fire.

There are also several technical issues I overcame in the process. The most important was when I questioned my fear of using surfaces in Game Maker; ever since completing Descent and Fetus, I started rigorously avoiding use of Game Maker's surfaces code, because it created LOTS of strange, unintentional graphical artifacts. The lighting effects in Morbid Grid use surfaces, an they are invaluable for conjuring the atmosphere. So far, I haven't received any notice of the effects causing issues, so in this case, experimenting with surfaces gave me a game I might not have ever known I could make.

What Went Wrong?

Budgeting my time was horrible. The competition provided a single week to create our games, but I only spent the weekend actually working on the game. The first 5 days were wasted with creating pixel art and thinking about poorly-scoped mega projects. One idea was a nightmare shmup where you needed to fight evil dream entities using rhythm inputs (I still want to revisit it some day). Another was pretty much a narrative exploration game where you needed to figure out the story of a recurrent ghost lady.[2]

Granted, they were mostly ideas and not full work, but a lot of time was wasted just sitting around brainstorming ideas instead of just streaming gameplay from my brain into the coding window. This time-sink also only gave my musician one day to work (and from a game file that was hardly fleshed out). Ash, if you're reading this, I can't thank you enough for kicking so much ass!

Morbid Grid was also supposed to have high scores, but again, I didn't budget my time well and the feature needed to be removed. Morbid Grid really suffers from a gameplay standpoint because of this; it is very reliant upon the combo-chaining and scoring system.

Closing Words

Overall, I've been really happy with the work I did on Morbid Grid; developing it inspired me to do a two-week prototype fest that produced the second game in this series, Jack Action and the Duck Assault.

Editor's Notes, 2020:

[1]: I'm... not sure what game I was referring to? The original link to it was hosted on Google's defunct image service, and as such, the link was dead upon editing. My hunch is that I never finished this mythical "3rd Game" in this series.

[2]: This "ghost lady" image is also lost to time, but it looks like it is in reference to this screenshot that I claim is from the fabled 3rd prototype.