In January I participated in the Global Game Jam at the Vancouver location. I worked on a game called City Pulse with Shane Morin and Mex Hsu. Shane pitched an idea where you revive a dead city by moving pulses throughout the area using pumps. It took awhile until we were able to concretely define the gameplay but we finally settled on using energy towers that send out pulses that degrade over time. The concept was inspired by Space Chem but the final version turned out to be more action oriented than puzzle focused.
What went right
Choosing Unity – I’m fairly confident in using Unity and Shane also had worked with it before. We didn’t have much trouble getting the game running.
Creating levels – My other game jam games either had a single level or procedural levels so I was looking forward to having multiple levels in this game.
Last minute sound – Gordon McGladdery did a fantastic job creating some quick sound effects hours before the deadline. It turned out to be a great collaboration because I was accustomed to adding audio at the last minute in Unity.
What went wrong
Missing visual feedback – The directional towers didn’t have an animation to indicate they were charged. It was also hard to see which buildings were the critical ones that needed to be lit up.
Everyone wanted to tap the heart – We designed the heart to emit a pulse when there is no pulse or tower left with a charge. It’s automatic but players continued to tap on the heart even when we told them it did nothing.
Slow start – We weren’t able to start programming until late the first night. The Ethernet ports weren’t working so Shane and Mex couldn’t connect to the internet to activate their Unity license.
Overall it was a really fun project to work on. Since then I have fixed a few bugs and made it easier to see which buildings you need to power. You can play the game in your browser if you have the Unity Web Player plugin installed.
Here’s a quick video of a game I made over the weekend at the Full Indie game jam. It’s a co-op game where you shift enemies between universes since the only way to kill them is with the opposite elemental shot. I’m planning to fix some bugs and upload a web build that can be played locally on the same keyboard later this week.
Tiny World was an interesting theme since a few of my past game jam games fit the theme perfectly. I wanted to create something different so micro gravity and spherical worlds were out. I also bought an iPad a few days prior to the competition so I wanted to make a game that would work on both tablet and desktop. At this point I knew I was going to use Unity but I wasn’t sure if I would go 2D or 3D. After sketching a few ideas like giants playing soccer with planets, I thought about making a board game with relationships. It went through a few iterations. It started out as a simple rule base combat version of Conway’s game of life game and ultimately arrived at a solitaire worker placement game inspired by Carcassonne. This was the final sketch before I started. It still had hex tiles and citizens had ‘hates’ too, which I quickly eliminated.
What went right
Using RagePixel – It allowed me to create all the art inside the Unity editor and not have to deal with exporting and importing. I could see exactly what they would look like in game and iterate over the design quickly.
Using Paper by 53 to brainstorm – I had just bought an iPad so I wanted to use it for brainstorming. I started by using Procreate but I quickly realized I needed a notebook solution instead of a single canvas. Working digitally is slightly slower than a pen and paper but I liked how quickly I could share my pages on Twitter and undo mistakes. You can achieve pretty good looking results in no time.
Balancing the game (sort of) – I created 7 different types of desires with parameters to tweak. At first I randomly assigned three desires to each citizen but then I realized it was too random. Certain combinations were more interesting than others. So I created citizen templates for those combinations and grouped them into 4 categories: easy, medium, hard and rare. Each category is assigned a probability with each template in the category having equal weighting. In total there are 13 templates and this made the game much more enjoyable.
The amazing feedback – I’m honestly surprised by how much positive feedback I got. I thought my game was decent but not as good as people are telling me it is. I’ve been encouraged by many people to polish it up and release a mobile version. It’s definitely something I’m considering.
What went wrong
Resolution independent font positioning – I ended up using Unity’s GUI system and wrote code to scale and position the text on the iPad. It didn’t work perfectly in the end but most people played the web version.
Not enough playtesting – It wasn’t until the end of the competition that I had the time to sit down and play my game for real. I quickly discovered problems I hadn’t thought about before. Now I understand why Notch plays his games so much during development.
Representing desires – The biggest challenge I faced was displaying each citizen’s desires visually. It’s quit easy to represent attributes of a citizen such as their name and colour, but there was no space left over to display their desires. Right now you hat to tap on each square to see them.
I’m really happy I placed 41 in the innovation category. Other categories weren’t bad either. My desire as a game developer is to create innovative games but that doesn’t always work out.
I used Playtomic to record some basic stats. The average playtime of my game is 9 minutes and at least 24 games have been completed out of a total of 273 plays. It’s inspiring to see which countries are playing my game.
I created a simultaneous turn-based local multiplayer game called Qua-tzar for Ludum Dare #21 using Unity. The core gameplay is implemented but as with all my projects there was more I wanted to do. Try it out and let me know what you think.
I’m looking forward to participating in the Global Game Jam this year, which will start in just a few hours. This will be my first GGJ since last year I signed up too late. I have participated in numerous 48 hour competitions in the past so I know how difficult it is to create a game in such a short timespan. My plan this time is to get the essential experience prototyped as quickly as possible to evaluate if the idea is actually fun. I have in the past wasted too much time on ideas that weren’t fun and ended up starting over. I haven’t decided if I want to use XNA or Unity 3D but I’m leaning more towards Unity.