It’s been three weeks since Prism Indigo launched. In that time, it’s been played over 8,000 times across Newgrounds and itch.io, gotten me my first Daily Top 3, and narrowly missed out on my first Monthly Top 5. I’ve gotten dozens of new followers, some amazing reviews, and even a couple of gameplay streams! I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has played the game so far: you help give me the motivation to keep doing this.
Without further ado, I’d like to carry out a post-mortem of Prism Indigo, as I have for my previous Ludum Dare entries. I’ll be reflecting on what went well during development, what didn’t go so well, and what lessons I’ve learned for the future – as well as a little glimpse of what that future may be.
What Went Well
- Aside from a couple of show-stoppers (which I’ll get to later), Prism Indigo launched with very few bugs to speak of. This is by far the largest and most complex game I’ve ever made, my previous released have been notoriously buggy, and I didn’t conduct any beta testing, so getting it out the door with as few bugs as it had is something I consider a real achievement. I took my time to make sure every aspect of the game was working as well as I could get it, and that effort really paid off.
- While the music has received mixed reviews – some people love it, others think it’s too shrill or repetitive – I’m personally proud of the fact that I was able to compose half-an-hour of music for the game, considering I’d composed maybe two minutes of music in my entire life before that point. I’m even more proud of how (from my perspective, at least) the music manages to convey the personality and theme of each boss.
- Just the sheer amount of stuff I was able to pack into this in the time I gave myself! The DX-exclusive Prism Hunter and Hardcore game modes, the Compendium, the tutorial, and a couple of the options were all outside my initial scope, but I ended up so far ahead of schedule that I was able to fit them all in without compromising the game’s planned May release date. I’m still only using 20% of the TIC-80’s code storage, so I’m confident that future games can pack in even more content.
What Went Badly
- In the process of splitting the game into the free version and the DX version, I introduced a bug that caused the free version to softlock and prevented you from progressing past the first level. For all my previous diligence with testing, I did not test the free version, assumed it worked the same as the DX version, and uploaded it.
I have to give credit to Tom Fulp for not only alerting me to the bug within 10 minutes of me hitting “upload”, but also frontpaging the game in spite of such a serious issue. I’m glad he enjoyed the game that much, but even so, when the owner of your distribution platform has to point out to you that your game is broken, that’s a really bad look for you!
There was also a serious bug that made the tutorial unwinnable, and a bug in the game’s score calculation that I couldn’t fix because it would invalidate everyone’s existing high scores. As proud as I am of the game’s stability, I’m extremely embarrassed that I let three such obvious, show-stopping glitches make it into the initial release.
- The game’s difficulty was all over the place, with some stages being too easy, some stages being too hard, and some stages just being tedious. The V1.2.0a update eases those issues, but I’m not sure it fixes them entirely. This is something I need to gain more experience with.
- At various times, I found myself butting against the technical limitations of the TIC-80. The small sprite sizes left me struggling to think of a way to differentiate the bullets and the Cores until a reviewer gave me an idea, which I implemented in V1.2.0a. The limited number of sound channels meant I had two options – have the sound effects override the music, or have the sound effects override each other – and going for the second option meant the sound effects are constantly getting cut off and lack any punch. I love the TIC-80, and I intend to keep using it, but I need to be more aware of its limitations and find better ways to work around them.
What Comes Next
With activity on the game winding down, I currently have only one more update planned. The V1.3 update will overhaul the game’s visual effects, replacing the current sprite-based effects with particle effects similar to my Ludum Dare 50 entry, The Flower of Marasca. I avoided implementing those at first as I feared they would be too distracting, but several reviews have encouraged me to juice up the game’s visuals, so I’ll be doing just that. I may consider more updates down the line if the game turns out to have a long tail like my scene creators do.
Beyond that, I can confirm that I intend to develop a sequel to Prism Indigo, taking into account the feedback I’ve received as well as my own personal observations, in order to create an even bigger and better bullet hell experience. The sequel will enter development later this year, and should be released sometime in 2023. There will be more announcements in the future, of course, so stay tuned for those.
To help ensure that the sequel launches with no game-breaking bugs and a smoother difficulty curve, I will be conducting a closed beta test at some stage prior to its release. Again, there will be more information about this closer to the time.
Thanks once again for playing Prism Indigo, and I hope you'll look forward to seeing more of the Prism Warriors in future!