June 30, 2017
The game jam started around 8:00 PM (GMT+8). I didn’t start right away with programming or asset design because I wasn’t at home when the jam started. I was about 2-3 hours late. Instead, I started with game design on my way home and for the next couple of hours after I arrived home.
The rules for the jam are simple: “your game need to conform with the given theme and your game should use two items which will be announced at the start of the jam”. The theme was “Darkness” and the items were “fire” and “map”.
The first thing that came to my mind when I first read this was a survival game or a walking simulator; because of two things. They are both relatively easy to make, I could just make a first person game, design a map or area to walk around (a house, maybe), then write a compelling story and compose a emotionally-striking music; and survival and walking simulator games doesn’t really require a complicated gameplay mechanics. Don’t get me wrong, I love these genres, but, I feel like challenging myself a little more.
Another idea came to me, an endless runner. Now, I have an endless runner in my portfolio and I believe that I can make one that might be better than my last. Endless runners are common, people love it; there’s a big replay value for this genre; the mechanics are quite easy; the only problem that I saw was I need to make the artwork and soundtrack of the game, to very compelling in order to compensate for the repetitive gameplay. Or, add another mechanic that will compliment the general endless runner mechanic.
I played around with these ideas for a while then I stumbled into the idea of the “darkness taking over light” cliche…and Splatoon.
As first I wanted to modify the “occupy as much of the map as you can” mechanic of Splatoon by making it a tile-based-turn-based game with 3-dimensional isometric cell-shaded art style. That didn’t sound bad, especially if I add the dice mechanics of the mobile that I was hooked on, Dice Hunter: Quest of the Dicemancer. Each dice has an action which the player can choose during his turn. In each turn, the player ‘tosses’ the dices then the actions (move, defend, attack, cast magic, use an item, dance, etc.) on the ‘board’ are the only actions that the player can perform during his turn. Then, each tile on the map that the player steps on will be ‘his’. The same goes for the enemy, whether AI or human.
Again, I played around with this idea for a while in my head. But, I couldn’t make out the algorithm for the 3D dices. I thought of making the dices rigid (rigidBody in Unity), then just add a force when the player ‘tosses’ the dices, but, I wanted a more code-based approach, and I failed. I can just print the actions in a button or something 2D on the screen but, that will not be as immersive as an ‘actual’ 3D spinning on the screen.
My last idea was my last hope. I stayed with the “occupy as much of the map as you can” mechanic of Splatoon and I added a different approach. At the time of writing this blog, the game Nex Machina is gaining popularity. It is an “intense arcade style twin-stick shooter” by Housemarque. I like the top-down or isometric camera angle in games because you can hide some areas in your map, if you restrict the player from rotating the camera; and I grew up playing different shooter games.
I started with sketching how the game would work using Paint. I drew various camera angles (above), some key core components of the game, mechanics to incorporate in the game, some win-lose criteria, and drew random artworks that I might use. I also browsed Pinterest to look for more inspiration in the general look and feel of the game, character designs, and environment/map design. Here’s the Pinterest board I made for this jam.
I was happy with my progress so far; I pretty much designed about a third of the game on paper and in my mind when I woke up for the next day. I plotted the things that I will do regarding the jam for the next couple of days and went to bed.