Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Montreal Game Jam 2013: Day 3



Download Link (Mac and Windows)

Web Link (Unity Web Player)

  • W,A,S,D to move
  • E to pick up/drop hearts
  • Shift to run

The Montreal Game Jam ended with a 24 hour "crunch". Granted, my personal input was initial paper design and moral support, but still, we were all pretty tired by the end of it.

Our game came together a little earlier than planned. We made some sensible cuts in order to finish with something fully playable. One of our cuts drastically changed the design, and as it happens wasn't even necessary… but anyway, as basic as it was, we had something playable start to finish. The first public tester of Hjarta
The submitted build of what we called "Hjarta" differs somewhat to our intended design, though primarily the changes were in presentation and aesthetics.

The original design and brainstorm document is available to view here.

I feel I should address what went right and wrong for us at the game jam so maybe anyone reading this can learn from our experiences.

What went wrong

1. Not all of us had laptops

This wasn’t as big of a deal as we initially thought. With David and I focussing purely on game design we were able to come up with some new ideas and nail down existing ones whilst the rest of the team focussed on implementing content. We did briefly do some hands on work remotely to help out, but the team being together in one room really kept the ideas flowing, so that was short-lived. We could have made something a lot more polished had David and I been hands on for the whole project. More people generally means more polish – something I feel we lacked in our end product.

2. We playtested too late

By the time we were all playtesting, there wasn’t really an opportunity to make changes that would benefit the game. As I alluded to earlier, this was exacerbated by the fact that we didn’t find out that we couldn’t achieve the original vision of the game until late into development. One of our big mechanics was also a little late so we didn’t know that it needed a lot more work to reach what we had originally planned for it. This also effected our ability to see what signs and feedback were lacking, quite possibly one of our weakest areas.

3. We went too far pushing “form follows function”

We barely even had a form by the final product. We started out with a simple idea but ended up scrapping it entirely after we switched the design, never to offer a suitable replacement. The original idea had an old man wandering around a dark lonely house with only a small lantern to light his way. The lantern would project light in a small radius around him that matched his heart beat – the faster he moved, the higher his heart rate, and the larger the radius. The house would be inhabited by monsters that the player could see only by their heart beat, emulating the same behaviour of the old man’s lantern. The rest of the house would be in plunged into darkness, only to be revealed by the player’s or patrolling monster’s heart beats. The old man would navigate the environment trying not to cross his light with that of the monsters… this idea was scrapped mid way through development due to technical constraints. We ended up reversing the concept somewhat, having the levels fully visible but the enemies invisible except for their heart beats, an idea we never really gave a form to…

What went right

1. We had realistic goals

We didn’t set out to make something new, unique or crazy in scale, just something that we were likely to achieve in the time we had with the people we had, all the while sticking to the theme and making something that we could enjoy. Even with realistic goals we managed to create a fully working game that was mechanically sound. We even achieved a difficulty curve in our level design as well as managing to offer multiple solutions to complete levels for more skilled players. We had fun playing the game too.

2. We delivered with time to spare

Unlike a lot of groups around us, we were ready for the deadlines and had a first build uploaded as soon as the submission process had begun. We had enough time to test on multiple platforms and adhere to the submission rules then and there. We were also pretty tired by this stage so any more work on the game could have led to mistakes or erroneous decisions.

3. We rolled with the punches

Even after huge technical setbacks and the fact that two of us lacked laptops, we still kept high spirits and rapidly found solutions to every problem we came up against. We worked really well together, I’d work with any of these people again (that’s cheating a little, as I work with most of them already – but in my eyes, this is better than any LinkedIn endorsement).

Hjarta Level 1

Should we ever return to this little game to clean it up, I’d like to attempt to put a form to it…

You play as an ex-archaeologist trying to make a quick buck by raiding the tombs of fallen empires. You get a hint that this tomb will be the biggest score yet, however these riches come at a price… the tomb is inhabited by ancient evil spirits that patrol the crypts and hallways.

Using an ancient artefact that you “borrowed” from a local museum, you are able to detect the locations of these ancient spirits.You also learn that these spirits are dangerous but can be evaded if angered by seeking solace in blessed fountains.

Your task is to avoid the ancient spirits and use the hearts of those from fallen empires to pass through gates to get to the final treasure.

As well as a form, there are mechanical improvements I would like to make. If everyone on the team is interested in finishing it off I’d love to give it another try.

See you next game jam!