Global Game Jam 2015 - "Falling Nukes + Running People"

Last weekend my notorious partner in crime, Jonas Lieb, his artist friend Lukas and I attended the Global Game Jam 2015 in Cologne. After watching the keynote, which was not only slightly cringeworthy and partly in a language no one on the site could understand, but also way too long and obviously tinted by Anita Sarkeesian ideology (she was also listed in the section for “Special Thanks”) the theme was announced as “What do we do know?”I initially expected something way to artsy and narrow, like one could expect from the GGJ organizers, but I was very pleasantly surprised. My first idea was making a game with no objective, similar to Proteus, but local mulitplayer and, of course, 2D, but somehow one of the guys had the idea of a game, which was also explorative, but rather a quest of finding something specific rather than finding anything. We decided to make a game in which the players are placed into a world with an obvious threat, initially during brainstorming referred to as a comet, but later implemented as the impending impact of nuclear missiles. It is then the players’ objective to find a way out of this situation by exploring his/her surroundings and finding a way to escape the impending death. We planned on placing numerous different items in the world, which only had capacity for a single player, therefore leaving the rest of the group behind posing the theme question and giving the rest of the team the incentive to step up their efforts. The first major dispute was about the underlying tech of the game either being tile based and only featuring full tiles (i.e. squares) or (my stand point) using arbitrary polygons, which would be edited in a editor specifically made for this game and full images for the whole map rendered above these polygons (which were used for collision). Of course this is a very crude approach and far from efficient, but it was the easiest way this could have been done without major preparatory work. The reason for me rooting for the polygon approach was the fact that, for the first time, we could facilitate having an actual artist who knows what he’s doing and leave him a lot of freedom in designing the levels and all the layers above and below it. Jonas though was of the opinion that a tile based approach was not just a lot easier to implement and was something we did numerous times before, but also gave us the opportunity to create levels a lot faster, without Lukas being the obvious bottleneck of the level creation progress. Of course he was right, but I always prefer trying to make a cool game people will find cool rather than doing something mediocre, that will more probably pan out successful. Thankfully Lukas was on my side and we went with the fancy approach.

After about 24 hours (without any sleep by the way, because I really can’t sleep well if I really want to work on something) we had most of the engine running, a test level and could try out a first prototype of the game we had in mind. Quickly we noticed that our idea was flawed in a way or not feasible in such a short amount of time because it seemed way to easy to find a way out, since the objects were clearly stood out as special/objects to interact with. It would have needed a lot more objects, which were actually useless. And we think this wouldn’t have changed the feel of the game to an explorative one, but rather to a game which is full of useless stuff, you have to filter out by mashing the “use” button. We didn’t want that and were trapped in a kind of design bubble. I started integrating a little “shove”-mechanic which pushed and stunned the player for a short period of time and after testing it we noticed that this is probably the most fun element of the game so far and decided we should focus on it. We then made the decision to shift the game into a lot more competitive platformer, with a lot of punching and maybe other fighting mechanics and a lot more linear levels, that forced the players to initiate confrontations trying to reach the escapes. Sadly this sounds as stereotypical and bland as it gets but it was a lot more fun than our previous ideas would have been, I think (at least if we only had 48 hours to invest). The final result can be seen here:

Falling Nukes + Running People

All in all I am very satisfied with the result. The crowd seemed to like the game and the testers had a lot of fun beating up each other with a little timer in the upper right corner. I’m also very happy that technically it turned out a lot easier than Jonas expected. Also as a very nice side effect another jammer might have joined our ranks. And even better: an (in my opinion very competent) artist!

As a conclusion to the GGJ this year I learned that it is very important for multiple team members to clearly state their goals in making a game to ensure to make the right decisions along the way (unfortunately this was a little problem in our group, as we discovered afterwards).

Also I should spend a little time (Hah! “little”…) to work on a proper animation editor, since Lukas uttered some dislike in having to draw numerous frames for a single character. At first I thought about a bone animation editor, like the one I started for Metroidvania, but I’d much prefer a hybrid like in the beginning of this video: Youtube: How Rayman Legends is Made. Furthermore I really miss the collision detection library I’m planning to make once I have time to finally get rid of the bullet through paper problem, that also proved to be quite annoying during the global game jam. But first: exams, not screwing up my Bachelor’s and SudoHack.