Last weekend, I took part in Ludum Dare #33 and made a game about flying around a messy space station in zero gravity. In 0G, a mysterious explosion ripples through the station, disabling the gravity stabilisers and leaving the player character in a state of disrepair. The player must then find a way to repair their body and get the station back in order, all while gliding through an ethereal environment and listening to Bach.
I was really happy with how this turned out. Unlike most of my Ludum Dare forays, I managed to implement almost all of the features I had initially planned. I made the sneaky decision to work off an idea I had been mulling over for a day or two before the start, which meant that I mostly ignored the theme of “You are the monster”. One the one hand, I missed that chaotically fun brainstorming session that happens when trying to come up with a game idea around a theme. On the other, I was able to quietly throw out a few of the more tangential ideas and come up with a more focused list of features for the game.
I’d like to carry on with 0G, but even if I don’t, it’s a fairly complete and entertaining game which has had one player confessing a play time of around 40 minutes! I may extend it to include a bit more of a cohesive story. I didn’t pay enough attention to the writing and story design process while jamming, so I’d like to try to add more of a mysterious narrative to the game. I also think there’s room to play with some physics and gravity-based puzzles in a zero gravity environment.
Overall, I had a ton of fun with this Ludum Dare! It was great to do a solo jam for the first time in ages. Over the last year or so, I’ve been jamming with my fellow RetroEpic devs, which has been fantastic, but in the solo jam I get to stretch my creative muscles and level up a multitude of skills.
I took part in this year’s Global Game Jam, making this my third. Apart from being enormous fun, I’ve been suffering from a holiday-induced slump in productivity and I thought it would be good to kick things into gear again with 48 hours of twitchy coding, “free” pizza, and hopefully a game at the end. This year, I went in with a bigger team consisting of Matt de Villiers (@mattdev), Damien Manuel and Tim Smith. Matt and Tim did the majority of the AI, pathfinding and flocking code, I worked on design and interface, and Damien created all the awesome art!
We created Glorious Nation, a city-building sim from the point of view of an evil dictator!
As it is with many jam games, we didn’t get as far as we would’ve liked, but we were still thrilled with what we managed to accomplish in 48 hours. The basic idea for the game ping-ponged between a number of different core mechanics: pure city builder, tower defense, even arcade shooter, but the one thing we were adamant on keeping was a satirical narrative. The theme of the jam was the phrase “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”. From this, Matt developed the idea of a dictator who had to build a wonderland for tourists and foreign dignitaries, while viewing his desperate and disenfranchised populace as evil.
It was really interesting having a biggish team this time. In all honesty, I was predicting disaster, with us fumbling through the division of labor. However, apart from a few GIT hiccups, we each managed to have plenty to do without stepping on one another’s toes.
Overall, it was another amazing GGJ event! Many thanks to the organizers and UCT for hosting. Until next time!
I’ve restored balance to my sleep cycle, defeated the plane air disease cocktail, and gathered my thoughts. It’s time to write about A MAZE 2013.
A MAZE is an annual digital games, media and art festival that takes place in a number of different countries. This is the second year the festival has been set up in South Africa, and it was held at various locations around the heart of Johannesburg’s trendy art and student district.
The festival was full of all manner of talks, workshops and exhibitions, but the real joy came in spending time so many incredible game developers and other creative types. Apart from a much-needed meeting of the Jo’burg and Cape Town groups of developers, we were lucky enough to hang out a group of wildly entertaining international devs such as Rami of Vlambeer and the mad Sos Sosowski. There were also some wonderful devs from the rest of Africa, and while I’m sorry I didn’t get to chat to them much, the talks and games they presented were simply fantastic.
Silhouette was demoed at A MAZE too, which drew some decent crowds and garnered a positive reaction. It was quite surreal seeing people actually playing and having fun, and be able to get some good feedback on the game.
There’s something really special about being able to take the best social elements of a day or night out, and combine them with fun games. Over the weekeend, I had a great introduction to Joust and a bunch of other fantastic physical games that really make you feel like a kid again.
I originally went up to A MAZE with the intention to demo Silhouette, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect beyond that. What I discovered was an endless amount of fun and revelry that felt more justified, because I got to learn from and engage with a number of amazing people.
Many thanks to all the organizers of the festival. It’s so exciting that South Africa gets to have a festival like A MAZE. It can only do excellent things for our indie game dev scene, and I’d encourage anyone even remotely interested to go next year.
Well the deadline has arrived and I’ve submitted Legends of the Swell! You can download and play the current build for Windows and Mac OS X.
As with most of my jam endeavours, I plan to carry on working on this until it both looks and feels a lot better. This game seems to be another step in the right direction of me actually making fun games (y’know, the one thing they should probably be). Maybe it’s having clocked up hundreds of hours of gameplay, but wave ramping, jumping, spinning, and dodging jet skis feels good!
That being said, a competition submission would be nothing without it’s share of bugs and broken mechanics. There’s still a lot to do to make the movement feel right. At the moment, the result of ramping off the crest of a wave is entirely unpredictable. Sometimes you slip over it anticlimactically and lose the wave, other times you rocket into a wild looping spin. Incidentally, this looks pretty awesome but it doesn’t feel intended, which takes some control away from the player.
I also need to modify the wave movement logic. There are still situations where waves magically collapse, sometimes followed by a sneaky tidal wave. I also want to see if I can add a breaking/barrel shape to the wave.
Any and all feedback is appreciated! If any real surfers want to lynch me for brutalising the realism of the sport, feel free to do so. But while you are, let me know what the game needs to feel more like surfing
I’ve mainly been working on the wave shape and getting the movement to feel right. This has turned out to be quite a challenge, so I’ve been left with less time to implement things like obstacles and character animations for tricks. However, it seems that most of the fun comes from just cruising around on waves, trying to reach the powerups, so a slew of environmental features might not be necessary after all.
Silhouette has been really well-received since Rezzed, but while it marinates I’ve been working on a new prototype for the makegamessa month-long game dev competition. This time round, the idea is to make a game that only has two usable buttons, which provides its own set of wonderful and maddening challenges!
We’re encouraged not to limit ourselves to game ideas that we think would be totally suited to two-button input, but rather to explore what other game genres would be like with only two buttons. This would include games that are traditionally suited to having many inputs, like sports games, beat ‘em ups, and strategy games.
With that in mind, I started making a surfing game! I’m tentatively calling it “Legends of the Swell”, but that may change. Here is the current state of the game:
The left arrow turns the surfer left, and right right, while holding down both builds up a jump. There will also be powerups floating above the crest of the wave. So, the gameplay will have the player trying to navigate the wave shape and build momentum, grab powerups, and perform tricks.
At the moment, my challenge is trying to come up with a novel but fun way to perform tricks given the two button constraints. It’ll probably involve a system of combining left, right and hold moves together to form combos, and maybe even being able to create custom tricks.
The competition ends of the 9th of August, so I’ll post a build soon!