Here we are almost at the end of the year. With no progress on Rogue Flight over the past month. Shame on us… But I was so busy working on our game jam submission for the Github Itchi.io 2017 game off. A game jam that lasted an entire month and themed – throwback. So I decided to take some time and try our hands at a game jam. And wouldn’t you know it, I over scoped, had to cut a ton of features and fix/tweak until minutes before submitting. But! It was a fantastic experience, it was fun, it was hard and I feel like we delivered something interesting all be it buggy and incomplete.
You can try out Core here. Let us know what you think, vote if you can! It is greatly appreciated. I got quite a bit of help with ideas from the community and I can’t thank those people enough for their input. It was of great help and I loved the interaction between everyone. This game jam was also open source so here is the code if you are interested.
So my initial concept when the game jam started was to build a throwback to missile command but i wanted to give it more life. So I personally love resource management games so figured why not. But then I wanted to make something different. So I took missile command and made it a resource management game and then threw in a text adventure that players must complete to beat the game. They would have to protect their base and escape before they were overwhelmed. And what if it had older Atari style graphics that are just shapes moving around! Perfect! Concept created. And I think it fits the theme pretty well.
But what should it be called? We are on an asteroid, with ships and its space. They all have cores and that could be an interesting plot device in the text adventure. So Core was born.
So we have a month and we nailed down the general idea within a day. That gives us 29 more days to get this done. Easy! Which is the first mistake I made. Nothing is as easy as it seems. I was thinking I had the base idea of how to code a good part of the game as they are things I have done before. And the things I didn’t have an idea on how to code like an entire text adventure I could probably learn. After a couple days of coding I realized how much stuff there was to code beyond what i had initially thought of. I didn’t write out everything that needed to be done. Mistake 2. So I wrote a list of functionality that I wanted – You can check that out here. The list kept growing and growing and growing. But I was planning, and from the start I knew I may not get everything I wanted and as much as it may hurt to cut things, it will be ok. But then I had to add even more because I need a UI, I needed music, I needed graphics, I needed a story. I am a coder, I can sit and code and get things done without to much head scratching or saying I can’t do this. But when it comes to music, graphics and story ( to some degree) I can be pretty useless. So I had to figure out the best ways of planning this in. But I decided to keep coding and let future me handle that situation.
I love this part, I find coding to be a giant puzzle that you get to cut and properly fit pieces to your liking. It was an open source project so I didn’t use any plugins or paid assets. I used tutorials and stackoverflow for just about all my issues. Unity had a great tutorial on Text adventures that also used some new coding methods that I plan to use going forward. For those interested its scriptable objects asset files. So piece by piece I worked on the game and then integrated everything and then made necessary changes. Not going in depth on everything that was done but looking back it was a hell of a lot of work for such a short time. In the end I had to cut a bunch of things, leave some bugs, leave some bad code, and various other items. But I made sure that the base game works and that players can make it through the game. Which honestly is the best I could have hoped for.
I like graphics, just I am not great. I had my wife help me out here. Since the graphics were simple and basically just shapes it was a little easier to manage. I gave her my ideas, she did some research and came up with some really good stuff! We talked more, refined things and then I went to photoshop to create items. I really wanted a variety of items and we delivered… almost…. I forgot to create the farms… but thats ok. They still had some representation that differed from other items. But the entire process took up multiple days. Even though they were basic. Same goes for the UI, I actually took the ui elements from Rogue Flight to get something in the game. It worked so we kept it. And then some fonts from google fonts. All in all I spent about a week getting all the graphic and UI assets made and in the game and working. I am glad I had a plan of what I was looking for, it made life easier for everyone. Also it was a lot of fun to get the communities input on the logo, and it was even better when the community gave us ideas. And that was amazing.
Music and sound
I am awful at music and music theory but other people are not. We hunted for sounds and music. We hunted for specific kinds of sounds and music that fits a scifi/retro game. We eventually found our sounds and eventually found our music. Chan Walrus makes some royalty free music and interestingly made a number of scores that really fit the game.
Again this is something I like but not great at. And unfortunately it was a later thought in the process so I had already lost more time than I really wanted to. I hadn’t even started to make the text adventure, so I had no clue what was possible. I saw I was in trouble and reached out to a good friend of mine. He has done a lot of DnD and writing of his own scenario. So I asked if he would write something for the game and he did. I gave him the base mechanics, an early build and my thoughts on the story as a whole. The story helped to build the mechanics for the text adventure, and some of the mechanics helped build the story. We had to toss some things out because we were running out of time. Plot hooks and story decisions were made because of the way the game was built. Things like player deaths and path decisions had to be cut. Again we really should of planned this a little more, but we got through it by communicating about what can and can’t be done or about what needs to be cut or what needs to happen to finish the game. All in all it was a great process. But one that will not be left to figure our later in development.
At the end
After all the over scoping, asking for assistance, having a week of holiday travel with no work to be done, needing music, coding things I have never done before, getting assets, running out of time, and submitting. I feel things went really well. Its a game that I am proud to have made, a game I am proud to have made mistakes on. 30 days is not a lot of time. But I ended up learning a lot within those 30 days that will help me with anything I make in the future. Ive learned lessons before I work on games that could potentially take years to make which I believe will make things better. And even though so much happened and even though things were cut and some things are bugy and unfinished. It will always be something to look back on as a learning experience.
- Thinking it will be easy since its a game jam.
- Not doing a complete planning session.
- Not giving enough time to complete something.
- Did not leave time to clean up code and graphics and assets and text….
What I learned
- Cutting features out is ok!
- Community means everything from input to creating.
- Ask for help and bring people in. It will most likely will always make things turn out better.
- Planning is important. Even if its just understanding the timeline
- Try new things!
- Always have a plan
What I would tell others
- Its ok, everything will be fine
- Never quit.
- Get more people involved if you can.
- Try new things
- Always have a plan