The Clockwork Imperium is a real-time strategy game, with a focus on synchronizing the gameplay with the ticking of the in-game clock, and a visual style inspired by Elastic's title animation for Game of Thrones. My partner and I created it entirely within three days as part of the Ludum Dare 50 competition with the theme "Prolonging the Inevitable". My partner contributed the audio assets, and I contributed the programming, modelling, and animation.
During the review phase of the Ludum Dare 50 event, The Clockwork Imperium was well-liked. In the context of the competition, it was placed in the 84th percentile overall, in the 93rd percentile for the Innovation and Theme categories, and in the 96th percentile for the Audio and Mood categories. This represents an improvement over my previous Ludum Dare entry, Dread Knowledge, in every category.
The game seemed to stand out to players because of its unifying focus around the central motif of Time. The wood-grained and metallic textures combine with a depth-of-field camera effect that mimics tilt-shift photography to sell the idea that the game consists of clockwork miniatures on a vast game board. The free movement of the Archer tokens contrasts with the mechanical motions of the Clockwork Soldiers, lending them a cold, imperious presence. Together with a somber and menacing original soundtrack that complements the fatalistic ticking of the clock, these factors create a distinctive tone that has resonated with players.
Where the game needed improvement the most was in the difficulty tuning and user interface. Some players were able to reach a state where they had defeated all of the Archers with Time and units to spare, making for a slow endgame. This problem could have been improved by reducing the inaccuracy of the Archers' arrows, but I was concerned that making these values too low would have created a more serious problem by making the beginning of the game impossible. While players generally did seem to understand the game's mechanics from the tutorial panel, the competition's time constraint prevented us from implementing an interactive tutorial and tooltips, which would have made for a more elegant player experience.
Players seemed to particularly admire the synchronization of audio and animation. This was achieved in part by programming a modular animation system that affects each object individually, governed by a single animation profile that ensures that each object ticks forward in exactly the same way. The audio both emphasizes this movement and serves a gameplay-relevant purpose, lending the game a very cohesive design and sense of atmosphere.
In all, my partner and I were satisfied with our work. We were happy to hear how much players enjoyed the game, and we were grateful for their feedback and constructive criticism.