Postmortem for Vocal Power (Ludum Dare 32)

Vocal Power is created in Ludum Dare 32 Compo in 48 hours. The theme is “An unconventional weapon”. The game is based on an innovative concept of speech simulation. The art of speech is the powerful weapon in daily life. Vocal Power enjoys minimized control. Gameplay uses one button. By holding and releasing SPACE at certain times, the character makes a speech with different pace and interacts with audience occasionally.

Vocal Power in Ludum Dare 32



Based on the theme, “An unconventional weapon”, I propose three weapons: money, grid-based card, passion. Since I want to try some emotional ideas. I focused more on “Passion”. Gradually, I develop an idea of using passion for handling different situations. After reviewing the proposal, I thought passion might be too board, so I change it to speech and propose different situations which require speech skills. And the core gameplay is spread your voice to public by a hold/release mechanic.

I open my first bag of lenses… The concept is good because:

  1. Speech simulation is new, rare games dabble in this.
  2. Players will curious about how to do a speech and what are the new elements in the later games.
  3. The core gameplay control is simple and engaging. With only a button, players have bunch of interactions.
  4. Situations/difficulties are in daily life. These evoke emotions when playing.
  5. Audio and visual FX to make situations realistic will be important.

Bags of Lens

I decide to try using Jesse’s Lens card (The Art of Game Design, A Deck of Lenses) during creating. Kind of randomly and intentionally, I pick 9 cards into 3 bags for three cards of each bag. Planning to open them and think about it at three different times, before developing, after gameplay, in postmortem. The lenses are: Emotion, Curiosity, Novelty; Meaningful choices, Emergence, Judgement; Pleasure, Flow, Unification.

9 Lenses in 3 Bags
9 Lenses in 3 Bags


Tools: Unity 4, Photoshop, Illustrator, sfxr, Aduacity.

I start with coding following features:

  1. Speak UI. It is the core gameplay of Vocal Power.
  2. Wave spread model. How to display the actual influence of your voice is extremely important in the game.
  3. Different scenes. Public speech, party, classroom, home… Scenes inject emotions.

It takes my whole first day and night to finish these features. Then I open my second bag of lenses… When making the game I should be aware of:

  1. Provides meaningful choices. It is provided in two different levels. In core gameplay, when you speak (HOLD SPACE), you can decide to speak as long as possible to spread it further or to stop at certain positions to interact with audiences. In the general map, players can go different place to practice different skills in speech.
  2. Provide a map for players can provide players more behaviors for emergence.
  3. Judgement is in speech and the whole game. In the speech, interact with audience on time help a lot. In whole game, a timer measures how quick the player finish the whole game.

Based on these, I need to work on the following features to make it playable:

  1. A map connects all the situations.
  2. A skill system provide more long-term strategy and options for players to choose.
  3. UI to deliver the system.
  4. Basic SFX
  5. Textures for objects (Fail to do)
  6. Adjust difficulty of levels.
  7. Hint texts and tutorials
  8. Promotion art

It is a lot of work to do. Fortunately, with a 5 hours sleep, I am very effective and finish almost all of them in the second day. Actually, I spend very limited time on art and audio, which make the whole game more like a prototype.


It is time to open the third bag of lenses! Based on them, I would say the following of Vocal Power:

  1. Contents of the game is concrete and tied together. Situations, questions, like/hate, influence waves, etc… Everything makes sense. These make sure players can understand this weird concept without a heavy tutorial.
  2. Pleasure is tied with emotions. When situations evoking emotions from players real life experience, to solve the situations in the game will be fun to them.
  3. Flow. I have to admit, I forget to be aware of it when developing the levels. Even the difficulty is gradually increased in levels. The curve is too flat.

What went right?

  1. Concrete theme and SFX help a lot on players’ understanding.
  2. Scenes and map inject emotions.
  3. Cards of lenses are great reminders and checkpoints during developing.

What went wrong?

  1. The scope might be too big.
  2. I need more unity experience to learn how to use efficient tools.
  3. A more fast prototype is required to adjust the vision in a more early phase.

3 thoughts on “Postmortem for Vocal Power (Ludum Dare 32)

  1. This is a really interesting game concept, although it took me a minute or so of watching the video before I really understood what was happening in the gameplay. Game jam games are always very interesting in that it’s an interesting look into what we as designers find the most important in our game ideas, since that’s all we really have time to make. In that sense, it was really cool that you immediately took out lenses to see how you could view your idea and what aspects of it you could focus on during your implementation.

  2. Cool game! I agree, the world of gaming and speech is still a weird area that not that many people venture into. I think the only game that actually was really interesting was a ETC project Celestia. I recommend looking at the video around 1:30
    Using the lens through your dev process is interesting as well, but I wouldve liked to see how you and if you actually changed anything with your thought process thanks to those cards.

  3. What an interesting way to make a game! Like a grab-bag of content! This must have been a really good exercise for your creativity and to just really get the idea flowing. I like that you used a speech game since they are so rare and unexplored at the moment – but part of me believes that is because they are very hard to make. I would really like to see you use this grab-bag lens technique and see all the other possibilities you can come up with!

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