Vatn Squid: Postmortem

Vatn Squid: Postmortem

Although Vatn Squid has been out for a while now, I managed to find a video playthrough of it.[1] I'd also been getting a lot of questions as to the process in creating this little game, so I'm going to do a mini-postmortem (below the video)

The Team

I wasn't going to the jam alone! I had the great musical talent of Heatex behind me, as well as his expertise in shmups that was invaluable during the tweaking and fun making stages of the game. Also present was IceWave, a great guy who contributed the underwater theme of Vatn Squid, as well as the sprite for the final boss with the same name! Both of their work was instrumental to Vatn Squid's completion, as I don't think I could've done everything by myself in the two day deadline.

The Process

We did all of our team communication through MSN Messenger. The first hour or two of our development was focused on designing the perfect game we all wanted to work on. Heatex had suggested doing a shmup. Originally, we wanted to set the game in space, where you flew a mech and had to take on several different enemies in different missions.  I had actually started some concept pixels for the player mech when IceWave showed me an outline of a really cool boss he had in mind for the space game, and I immediately fell in love with it. Everyone on the team thereafter agreed to having our game take place underwater, all thanks to that single picture!

Screenshot Timelapse

For the first day and a half, I was recording a video stream of my work via LiveStream. Unfortunately, my streamed content no longer exists [2], but was only raw, low frame rate, and unedited work footage from the jam.

The best I can really show you is a bunch of screenshots I took showing various stages of the game's development:

Short descriptions of progress (left to right, top to bottom):
(1) Player added and movable.
(2) Player can shoot. Added some background elements and bubble-jet.
(3) Added a simple, single pattern enemy
(4) Added multi-value bullet pattern support. (Bullets that create bullets)
(5) Allowed support for more than one color of bullet.
(6) Tweaked backgrounds, added missiles, and inserted UI.

As you may have noticed, the two dummies I had for boss placeholders simply didn't make the cut in the end. I thought they didn't look very cool. Also, the green bullet pattern visible in images 5 and 6 made it's way into the game as Vatn's weapon of choice.

Scrambling for the Finish

The last day was a mighty huge blur. By the time I had gotten to Screenshot 6, the game file had already landed on Heatex's end several times, and he remained in a diligent state of work on creating the perfect track.

I wanted to give the bosses a lot of character, since it was apparent that small enemies and levels were definitely out of the question for such a short work period. I've always loved getting little snippets of information on your opponents like you do in fighting games and sidescrolling brawlers (see Street Fighter and Final Fight), so I figured this would be a wonderful thing to add to Vatn.

The name of the game was Heatex's idea. We were scratching our heads on a good name, then he started looking up definitions in foreign languages. In a list of pitches he gave me, "Vatn" (Icelandic for water) stood out as the most interesting and relevant. I added 'Squid' since there were so many in the game, and it rolled off the tongue quite well.

Parting Thoughts

Overall, the jam was a really great experience. It was my shortest time-frame of development to date, and I thought a lot of good came out of it. This was also my first true (quality) collaborative project that I had done, which was also a wonderful opportunity. The only thing I wish that I would have done differently in the game would've been changing the difficulty curve a bit. In the rush, I made Squawk the Birdfish WAY too hard (for beginners anyway) for the fifth boss in the game, and the others between him and Vatn Squid weren't very hard comparatively.

Once again, however, this was a great experience, and I KNOW that I'll be jammin' in future ones for SURE.

Editor's Notes (2020)

[1]: As of 2020, the youtuber that I referenced for this video made their account private at some point, and the video is no longer available.
[2]: Again, in 2020, the original link 404's, and as a result, I'm not able to recover the livestream I recorded. But I'm really glad that I did take those screenshots.