NEON STRUCT: Desperation Column gamedev postmortem

NEON STRUCT: Desperation Column is the third game in the NEON STRUCT series, and the second that I’ve released as a free game jam.

The reason I’ve been doing game jams again recently is that sometimes I need the extrinsic motivation of a theme, a competition, or a deadline. I like making games, but it’s easy to get lazy, and an extra push doesn’t hurt.

This is the first game jam I’ve done in a very long time that put gameplay first. I’ve been doing narrative-focused stuff for a while, and that’s been great too; but this is pure action gameplay, and I’m at home here.

I started from a codebase that already had a lot of the things I needed for this game. I think that’s fine for a game jam, it’s the same as starting with Unreal or Unity + your fav plugins, but I definitely didn’t make this from scratch in a week.

The 7dfps jam has generous rules (read: no rules), but I wanted to finish on time AND make something good. So I knew I’d have to be careful about scope, and baby I LIVE for being careful about scope.

My initial parameters were: 1 weapon, 1 enemy type, 1 environment. That grew to 2 enemy types, plus an NPC type, and 3 environments (sorta); but the ultra lo-fi style meant those additions didn’t explode scope.

You can search bodies and containers, but there is only 1 resource to find: ammo. You have limited ammo mostly because it gives you a reason to search containers. And it maybe creates tense moments when you run out.

There are no health pickups, no upgrades or unlocks, no skills or perks. No conversation trees, no shops, no character customization. I’ve done all those things before, I still have the code, and I chose to not do them here.

The result is a minimalist game that is now one of my favorite personal projects: a pure distillation of the action/FPS mechanics at the heart of all my work. I think it’s the closest thing to Eldritch I’ve made in a long time.

And it broke me out of a mental rut where I’d felt like doing this sort of thing was too hard, or would take too long. It wasn’t, and it didn’t. It was a sheer joy to make this game, and I hope that shows.