Heart logo

Heart is finished. It is a short, bleak game that questions one particular human ideal/cliché.

Play Heart (Flash)

The game was created originally for the Ludum Dare competition, and polished during the following week. Coded in Actionscript 3, using FlashDevelop as IDE and compiled using the Flex SDK. For the graphics I used Photoshop and Illustrator, and for the audio I used LMMS and Audacity.

I was originally going to take advantage of the circumstances to force me to learn Python, but that didn’t go anywhere, and I ended up relying on the more familiar Actionscript 3, for better or worse. The theme, ‘advancing wall of doom’, wasn’t very inspiring, but I was still able to cook an idea pretty fast (the first night). I believe I had the Superbrothers in mind when I came up with the visual style, and it is still pretty apparent from the final product. I like making very low-resolution pixel art, because of the forced geometrization and simplification that it entails, and also because it’s quick to make in a computer, saving me time to devote to the coding, my main hurdle. I’m not a very fast or experienced coder, so I ended up using up most of the time on that part of the process (as it is apparent in the video). I still enjoy coding, and particularly randomizing (procedurally generating) things as part of the process, so instead of hard-scripting everything, I left most to chance. This allowed me to concentrate on the general aesthetic rather than on the strict sequence of events, the latter of which I burdened the player with stitching together in his head.

As opposed to my previous flash game, Viewpoints, this game’s different playthroughs are cumulative; that means that there is no or little contradiction between one playthrough’s events and the next’s. The more the game is played, the more a player can piece together a story out of it. At one point I thought of letting the story unfold procedurally, by me creating much more random lines of text, thus allowing more varied and incoherent interpretations; traces of this idea can still be found in the competition version, but I’ve removed those lines since then. The idea of glitching up the graphics came from this, but I liked the effect enough that I left it in, as it also contributes to the pathetic and distraught aesthetic that I tried to convey.

At first, the game was going to have a ‘proper’ ending; the character was going to face another character. At some point I even thought of having him meet a mirror of himself, but I didn’t know where to take that. The ending that I left in was chosen both due to the time constraints and to my wishing to make the message more subtle. So, it’s a non-explicit resolution that the player can interpret according to his own experience in the game.

I’m pretty happy with the audio. When thinking of what the most appropriate kind of music for this game would be, my friend Matt suggested something like Laura Palmer’s theme from Twin Peaks. I love it, but it was too sweet, too melancholy for my game. I still kept it in my head, subconsciously, when I composed the song, but I made it a bit dissonant, and a bit disjointed. Part of the original plan was to also have two other songs and switch between them at random intervals, but I didn’t have the time to make the other two. In the final game I did go through with this idea, sort of, but much more subtly, and thus, I think, it proves to be more effectively unsettling.

The resulting game is something that I’m happy about. It’s also probably the most ‘designery’ game I’ve made thus far, by which I mean the attention to style that I put into it (I really devoted a lot of time to that title screen). It’s still too early to say whether I was able to communicate what I wanted to with it, but at least with the compo version I got the kinds of responses I expected, of which I’m glad. I hope that this new version was not made in vain.

Comments.

six, on .

I think I need to play it a few more times to get a better sense of what’s going on, but this is really gorgeous.

Malcolm (link), on .

Absolutely wonderful game. I really love the fact that you aren’t able to turn back, that caught me off guard. I was reminded strongly of Every Day the Same Dream for some pretty obvious reasons. The “meaning” here, if there is any explicit meaning, is equally vague, but I think I like that; it places more emphasis on the mood. Maybe I’ll make more sense of it if I play through a few more times…