A postmortem on my failed game THAT LIZARD STOLE MY LUNCH (TLSML).

If you are interested check out the latest changes:)

With TLSML I was trying to make something super accessible that had long strategic arcs. My theory was that if I made an extremely simple and understandable base mechanic that I could build on top of it with longer arcs and have something both simple and deep.

This didn’t really work at all.

But I learnt a lot from making this failed game so here goes on trying to explain some of that. This is all personal experience I have tried to analyze, so take everything with a pinch of salt, but hopefully you can learn something from my mistakes.

You can also read through the devlog and see the changes that I tried to make to save the game as it went on. I like the devlog its fun to see what happened.

  • Prototyping is really good, people always say this but its true. Make stuff on paper first, mess around with it, really test it out before committing to a digital version. Then make the digital version in a couple of days max. Have fun with ideas, you can always go back to previous ideas and designs. I’m not saying don’t get attached to an idea, but be aware of yourself which ideas you’re attached to.
One of the first prototypes of BUSY BEE which later became TLSML

2nd main iteration

3rd version of BUSY BEE, this was the most complete
  • Test that cheeky piece of software. I made TLSML and loved how simple it was, I was proud that I made something accessible, then two months later when people play tested it, no one understood anything. This was the best thing in a way because I learnt a lot from no one
    understanding what I thought they would. I’m thinking about making all my games with grid based player movement from now on so that people instantly have an 'in' with my game that they understand. I think with Push The Lane that Keith Burgun is making the enemies skeletons and stuff because people get that stuff. Its like color coding or something, you can trick people into understanding. My theory now is if you have enough base stuff that people get, they will have enough motivation to invest in learning the other parts. Art and ‘game feel’ really help with this too, no one would have downloaded Heathstone if it was on and had no pictures or animated card movement. And I’m not saying just make something and add game feel makes a good game, make something meaningful but help people learn it where you can. Test loads, even early on. As soon as you can.

First build with what is close to the final art. Note the deck on the top left and the CARDS at the very top. Both are features that really over complicated things

  • Building complexity on the top of a simple game isn’t easy. I’ve always dabbled with the idea of making something huge. My goal now, more than ever, is to keep making small experiences (that I think have value) and learn about different parts of strategy design. I don’t want to waste my time trying to make something beyond my scope to have no one play it and learn nothing. If I can make small things that have a specific purpose I can really test that stuff out. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t want to make X-Com, I want to make what I want to make and that I have a goal is good. Also, something I've been playing with is writing a list of exactly what I want to achieve with a project, then working toward that. It's pretty cool because you can always reference design choices against those criteria.

Attemp to bring the CARDS back by making them charge your special skill. This was also removed from over complicating things

  • Have fun with stuff. Don’t get stressed about what you’re making, towards the end of development don’t feel like it’s the end of the world. Make sure you are living a balanced lifestyle. Read books that aren’t about games. Meet friends, talk to family. Live life outside of games. Good mental and physical health are the best (work out what this means for you, don’t be put of being healthy because you haven’t recognized what works for you. Look at patterns in your life e.g when was the last time I spent all day at the computer, when was the last time I forgot to make dinner food for myself because I was busy). Varying stuff up, not just working on games, and when you do having fun is my sort of checklist but I don't know how other snakes/people like to do stuff ;)

I'm excited about making more strategy games and playing what everyone else is making.

I have like a million prototypes happening right now so keep an eye out for games from meeeee in the near future :)

I wanted to end this with something nice and positive so here is a .gif I made when testing the final game. It was a moment where an interesting decision came up and I had to think about my move for a moment. It's only a fraction of what I was trying to achieve with this game but it makes me a happy snake :)


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Nice postmortem! Really looking forward to your next project! :)


Thank you so much APiotrW! This means a lot to me! :)