So. Nieuwe Aarde, that game I made for Ludum Dare in 48 hours.
This is going to be one of the toughest postmortems I've written.
Well, first of all, it's fun. I'm getting a lot of commentary saying that they enjoyed figuring it out and that they think it's an enjoyable game overall. That's cool. I seem to have done a good job with the base game mechanics and the interface, I'm having very few people tell me that they simply couldn't figure it out.
The art, while not spectacular, is servicable and nonconfusing. The game feel is consistent. The tooltips work absolutely great for explaining the concepts.
I also appear to have nailed the difficulty. I've had a few complaints that it's way too easy, and a few complaints that it's way too hard, but the bulk seems to fall into the categories of "it's tough, but I beat it" and "it's tough, and I didn't beat it, but I think I could have if I'd put more time into it."
For doing it within 48 hours, it turned out great. Compare it to my earlier games – I spent a third as much time on this one, and I think it turned out better. My tools are maturing like you wouldn't believe and I'm just getting faster and more skilled at this whole thing.
So, in summary, I made a good game.
What Didn't Work
The problem is that I didn't make the game I wanted to.
The original goal was Desktop Dungeons meets Seafarers of Catan. Desktop Dungeons is a clever small-scale dungeon crawler which is designed so that almost every single move is critically important. Sure, you can get a nice lead, but that lead can be whittled down rapidly by bad luck. Doing "as well as you can" is critical, every step of the way, and each time you click it had better be the right click.
Nieuwe Aarde doesn't succeed in that. You'll spend a large part of the game clicking "Work" over and over, for example. Clicking a few too many times? Totally okay! Building the wrong thing entirely? You can probably recover! There's very little that has to be timed exactly, and the game design itself isn't conducive to the sort of miniature puzzle where you're trying to scrape out the last little possible iota of advantage.
I still think it may be possible, but if I want to do it, I'm going to have to start from basics again.
The Bottom Line
I made a fun game, but I made the wrong game. I'm not really sure whether I want to call this a success or not.
On the other hand, I made a fun game. If this is failure, I wouldn't mind failing more often.