Category Archives: Game Jams

Splodey Vaders, Game Jam, Game Design Idea Generator & Podcast!

Hello! Boy that blog title makes it sound like I’ve been up to a lot. Since the last blog post it’s been a hectic Christmas-New Year period, but now we’re halfway into February and there’s been a few things I’d like to share with you.

Splodey Vaders Updates

First up is progress on Splodey Vaders. Updates on Splodey Vaders have been a bit slow since December. There’s been some bits and pieces that I’ve done such as adding in a nice transition when they player moves from menu to main game. I’ve also included a handy little animated tutorial image as a lot of people when first playing the game didn’t know how to control the ship.

Tutorial

Something that’s been bugging me a lot is how to deal with what happens when the player allows Vaders to go past the bottom of the screen. Is it game over? Do you lose points? Do the Vaders respawn at the top of the screen, but faster? Do the Vaders explode? But, I think I’ve finally got a solution that will work which I need to implement and this will be rolled out in the next update. I’m not going to talk about it too much here as I feel like I could write a whole article about that design choice.

Global Game Jam

Global Game Jam is a game jam that takes place every year in January and I organised for the college I teach at to take part in the Jam. This year the theme was Waves and we had some really cool ideas from the students, but I also took this as an opportunity to make something small. So I made Mexican Wave Simulator in around 4 hours.

Game Design Idea Generator

Prior to this I made less of a game and more of a web tool using Twine. This was inspired by the annual BAFTA Young Game Designers competition. They provide a card game which had different environments, rules, goals, genre and a wild card and the idea was to generate ideas using randomly selected cards. I took this format and made it digital. My tweet on this probably got the most likes I’ve ever got!

Experimental Podcast: I Suck At Games

I’ve been listening to a lot of Podcasts in the car on my commute to work lately. This got me thinking about how I’d love to make a Podcast in which I talk about games, game design and general game stuff. Then I figured ‘I’ve got an hour-long commute to work and a voice recorder on my phone, what’s stopping me?’, so I recorded a spew of thoughts about the most recent game I played, which was the HD remake of Shadow of the Colossus. I uploaded it to Soundcloud, so you can have a listen to it there.

 

I’d much rather have had someone else to talk to in the podcast as I feel like multi-person podcasts are more entertaining to listen to. Sadly I was all on my lonesome, so had to make do. I called it ‘I suck at games’ because I genuinely feel that I’m not particularly good at playing games.

Wow, when I write everything down like that it looks like I’ve been really busy, which good I suppose. I’d love to hear your feedback on the games I’ve made and I’m particularly interested in hearing what you think of the podcast and if I should make it a regular thing. Please get in touch via Twitter if you’d like to share anything with me. You can find me on @Stuart_Lilford

TL;DR

Procedrill

This post is REALLY late! I made this game for GBJam 4 back in August. The jam required developers to create a game in a week using only 4 colours and conforming to the original Game Boy resolution.

Made for #gbjam 4. Procedrill is a randomly generated roguelike drill-em-up. Drill stuff, find diamonds, don’t die in an explosion. The music for the game was produced by RushJet1 (who made music for PewDiePie the game).

HOW TO PLAY:

You play as a greedy dwarf who just wants to drill for diamonds. Drill rocks to break them or use bombs to cause explosions. Each floor of the cave is randomly generated and gets progressively larger. There are other things in the caves, but you’ll have to find those out for yourself.


DOWNLOAD AND PLAY ON GAMEJOLT

CONTROLS:

Arrow Keys - Move
- Drill
- Drop Bomb
F - Toggle Fullscreen
- Restart Game
Esc - Exit Game

CREDITS:

Stuart Lilford (@Stuart_Lilford) – Developer
RushJet1 (@RushJet1) – Music

The 8 lessons I learned from making a Twine game with less than 300 words

RPG-ish_Logo_GameJolt

Lesson #01: Keep an eye-out for cool jams

Twiny Jam – Make a Twine game in under 300 words.

I read the Tweet and was immediately intrigued. I’ve always wanted to take part in a game jam and although I’d made attempts in the past, they’d always been unsuccessful. I’d also always wanted to make a Twine game, having read about the tool and even played a few games made with it. 300 words wasn’t a lot either and I think this is what ultimately led me to take part in this Jam. The 300 word limit made creating this game unintimidating as I felt it could probably be done in a few hours. On top of all of this it was Easter weekend and my wife was working long shifts, so I’d be in the house alone, free to jam for a couple of days.

Lesson #02: Try something new

I set to work, firstly learning the toolset. From what I could tell, twine has 2 versions, the older desktop version and a newer in-browser version. I opted for the desktop version as a part of me didn’t trust using the in-browser version to save my progress. Twine is a great bit of kit, easy to pick up and simple to use. Plus there are a bunch of helpful tutorials and resources online.  Once I had a handle on Twine I started brainstorming ideas for a game.

Lesson #03: Don’t settle on the first idea you think of

My first idea drew inspiration from my time working in a call centre trying to sell PAT Testing. The game would be a series of dialogue options that would lead the player to make a sale or the person on the end of the phone would say nasty thing to you and hang up. When they hung up, the player would *sigh* and make another call. The game would be an endless loop just like my days in that call centre. Call after call after call. Every call would go one of a number of ways and the game would reflect that with only the slimmest chance of making a sale. I quickly ran over the 300 word count for this game with dialogue options, I would have to think of something else.

Lesson #04: Be inspired by the work of others

I started playing some of the existing Twiny Jam entries and played one where you were in a tiny dungeon and you had to give a kettle to a dragon before you could win. This got me thinking about creating a miniature role playing game and my mind drifted to past RPGs that I’ve played. Games like Golden Sun, Final Fantasy and Pokémon sprung to mind and I found myself thinking about that place I had always gotten to when playing RPG games: Wandering around some cave grinding to Level Up. I thought about how this mechanic (although it’s more of a side effect really) was present in a lot of RPGs that I has played. I thought about how even though killing low level enemies to gain XP sounds intrinsically boring, there is an element of fun to it, it’s almost therapeutic. This is what I decided to make my game about.

Lesson #05: Be prepared to drastically downsize your game

Initially entitled ‘Every RPG Ever’ the idea was that you started in a village and progressed through grasslands, mountains and eventually a dark castle to reach a boss at the end. The different locations would have increasingly difficult enemies, forcing you to level up by grinding against lower level enemies. You would have bare minimum dialogue and battle options, but enough to feel like an RPG. After implementing the first area into the game, I realised that I would have to cut a lot of planned content in order to land within the 300 word limit. Initial plans to include numerous items that increased HP, armour that increased DEF and weapons that increased ATK, multiple areas and a boss that had 3 final forms where all scrapped and the game was now a mere third of the original scope. I instead I chose to focus on making the game appear non-repetitive.

Lesson #06: Randomness is your friend

I included a lot of random elements to the game. Whether you find treasure, nothing or an enemy while exploring, the type of enemy you encounter, should it be a Rat (Oblivion), Spider (Skyrim) or Boar (A reference to that South Park episode Make love not Warcraft), the damage dealt by an enemy as well as enemy HP, the number of XP and currency found at the end of a fight are all randomised between a certain range. This allowed the game to at least feel different for every playthrough, while still having the player doing essentially the same thing.

Lesson #07: It’s never too late to research

After a quick google to see if the working title would clash with anything existing I came across an infographic entitled ‘Every RPG Ever’. It’s a pretty accurate representation of RPG games (my experience at least) and I even took a few things from it such as having an inn that replenishes all HP, having to go on a quest for a Questitem and I even managed to fit a plot twist in there, all in under 300 words. Because of the infographic I decided to change the name and went through a number of name ideas including Micro-RPG, Mini-RPG, Twiny-RPG, RPGrind, but eventually settled on RPG-ish as the game isn’t quite there in terms of a full scale RPG.

Lesson #06: Seriously, you’re going to cut a bunch of stuff from that initial idea

In regards to the word count, I went through the game quite a few times to cull any superfluous words where the space could be used by a more useful word. I also looked for any repeated sections which could be avoided by using the same passage within Twine and referencing it from another passage. The stats shown within the game for example, display before a fight, after a fight, when you level up, etc. but each section merely references the ‘stats’ passage, so this kept the word count down.

Lesson #07: Think of ways to quick polish your game

One important aspect for me when making this game was to make sure it didn’t just look like a default Twine game. I had seen some really cool examples of games made with Twine and although I knew I didn’t have a lot of time, I focused on trying to get the game as far away from the default template as possible. I used the Final Fantasy menu system as a base and found a suitable font, replaced the cursor icon and even learned some CSS to get that Final Fantasy blue gradient colour. Sound was also an important factor when distancing the game from other twine-made games. I didn’t make the music, but found some very good RPG-ish sounding things on Newgrounds by some talented people who are credited on the game’s pages.

Lesson #08: Be prepared for criticism (but also nice things)

I made the game across 3 days in chunks of a few hours at a time and submitted the finished result to itch.io and Game Jolt. I didn’t expect an adoring reaction from the indie game community, but I figured someone from some corner of the internet may appreciate it. When I checked the pages the next day, I found the odd comment stating that the game wasn’t for them and a couple of people had rated the game 2/5. I must admit it was a little disheartening. It sounds ridiculous really, I mean, I only spent a few hours on the game and knew it wasn’t a masterpiece by any means, but there’s still a part of you that gets a little upset when players don’t enjoy your game. Later I found someone comment on how impressed they were with the game given the limitations and they enjoyed the random aspects. The comments on the games Jam page were really supportive, discussing how a lot had been done to say it was made with Twine, which I’m really happy with.

Summary

Overall, I really enjoyed the experience and learned a lot. I had never taken part in a Jam before, never used Twine, never used CSS, and never made a game that was playable in a browser. It might be far from perfect, but I’m proud of what I accomplished in such a short space of time.

The reason I think that I was successful in finishing a game for this Jam comes down to the limitations. Knowing that I only had 300 words made it easier to cut things from the game and reduce the development workload.

You can play RPG-ish over on Game Jolt or itch.io.

RPG-ish

RPG-ish_Logo_GameJolt

Over the weekend I took part in a Game Jam called Twiny Jam, where you had to submit a Twine game using less than 300 words. This was my first time using Twine and the first time I successfully finished a game for a Game Jam. Although the end result is pretty basic, I’m happy with it considering the limitations and time constraints.

RPG-ish is a Micro Text RPG which takes inspiration from the Final Fantasy series. Try to be at least Level 5 before fighting The Dark Lord and stock up on plenty of potions.

Or play it over on Game Jolt!

I’ll probably right something about the development of the game soon, but for now give it a try!

My first Ludum Dare and how I failed miserably

This is a list of advice that I want to write to my future-self, in case he attempts to take part in a game jam again.

The Condensed Version:

Don’t waste time

If the majority of your time isn’t spent on actually developing the game, you’re doing it wrong.

How much Time Do you Really have?

Yes the game jam is for 48 hours, but how many of those hours will you actually spend making the game? Plan accordingly.

Don’t make an adventure game

Adventure games are all about pace, exploration and investigation. The design process is the same and therefore not suited to be done in 48 hours.

SCOPE! SCOPE! SCOPE!

Make something super basic to start with and build on it over time.

The Longer Version:

This Bank Holiday Weekend, I attempted Ludum Dare for the first time. For those of you that don’t know, Ludum Dare is a Game Jam in which a person must make a game within 48 hours on their own. I failed miserably at it. the following is what I think went wrong.

Wasting Time

For Ludum Dare I attempted to make an adventure game. I got as far as having 4 backgrounds, 2 character sprites and barely any functioning puzzles. How did I manage to have so little by time the competition finished? Well, I tried to keep a timesheet to monitor my progress and this is pretty much how it went:

07:30 – Got up, looked at the theme. It was “Connected Worlds”. Rather then jump straight into making a game, I thought about it over a cup of tea and discussed it with my wife before she went to work.

08:15 – The wife just left for work leaving me with the whole house to myself… And my 2 dogs. I should probably walk them. During our walk I thought more about what game I could make for the theme. I came up with the basic idea for an adventure game.

photo 1

09:40 – Arrived home. Had breakfast: Porridge [pictured] for energy. Set up my work space. Looked at Ludum Dare Website whilst eating for inspiration and to nosey at other peoples work in progress. Realised that shit… some people are actually really far ahead.

photo 2

09:50 – Started fleshing out my game idea.

10:00 – This idea is going nowhere. I know, I’ll start making the basic game and add in the details after. I used Ghost’s BASS Template for Adventure Game Studio (http://www.adventuregamestudio.co.uk/forums/index.php?topic=48441.0)

10:07 – Remembered Ron Gilberts Puzzle Dependency Charts article (http://grumpygamer.com/puzzle_dependency_charts), so had a quick read through to see if it would help. It didn’t.

10:33 – So far, all I’ve done is add basic navigation to the game with placeholder art. Still no idea what puzzles to include in the game. My notes say “Maybe something with a tree?”

10:54 – This note just says “DESIGNERS BLOCK NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

11:10 – Okay, got a few puzzles designed now, making tracks

11:25 – This note just says “This is Hard. FUCKING SHIT THEME.”

12:05 – Spoke to a developer chum over Skype. We pitched each other our ideas. Thinking ‘He’s a proper coder, so he’ll probably finish.’ However, I managed to complete my puzzle dependency chart!

photo 4

13:08 – By this time I had now added some of the basic puzzle mechanics into the game as well as adding in the additional characters with placeholder images.

14:17 – Ran into an issue where I needed the game to know which character was currently the player character and I thought it would be a simple thing, but ended getting confused with it. My not here says “BULLSHITE!!!!”

Outside

16:06 – By now I spent some time in Google Sketch Up creating basic environments for me to paint over. I also started to think about my colour palette. Having never worried about a colour palette before, I used this website: http://paletton.com/#uid=73G1f0kmjsEaSqPgosKsGvoEIxS to come up with one for me. This was my work in progress background before I remembered that I needed to go to shop:

Progress002

16:43 – Got back from shop and figured I should probably tidy up some of the days mess.

19:11 – All the time before this was spent painting all of the backgrounds. Now that they’re all done, time to start work on character sprites.

19:28 – My notes here say “Feeling Broken. Adventure Games are a bad idea for game jams.”

19:58 – Stopping for today

Progress003

And I never went back to it. I wanted to try and figure out where I went wrong with my time and so if we break it down in to a chart where we can see where the majority of my time was spent.

Time01

We can from the chart that the main time was spent painting backgrounds, creating 3D models, designing the game and actually making the game. Which sounds okay, but if we look at it like this:

Time02

I wasted a lot of time making art assets, which didn’t even look all that good. The time I roughly spent on actually making the game is almost equal to the time I spent not doing anything related to the game at all. In the future, I think that the biggest chunk of this chart should be actually making the game. The art can fall into place around that.

Adventure Games Are a Bad Idea for Game Jams

The reason I like playing adventure games is that they have a steady pace, exploration, beautiful art work, hand-crafted animations, intriguing dialogue, clever puzzle design and a gripping story. The design of an adventure game should be exactly the same. You should go at a steady pace, explore ideas, spend time on creating nice art, painstakingly create each frame of animation pixel by pixel, think carefully about the dialogue, spend time thinking of innovative puzzles and create a story and game world that the player wants to explore and interact with. These things should not be rushed. I think that an adventure game CAN be created in 48 hours and I have played ones that have worked and played well, but they were made by more than one person and much more talented people than me.

So avoid adventure games, pick ANYTHING else! Make something really simple and build on it over time.

Be aware of how much time you really have      

In my head I was thinking that I had 48 hours to complete a game, when actually I had 12 hours or less. For some, they can easily spend near-enough the full 48 hours making a game. But for me, I have certain responsibilities, a house, a wife, two dogs and I wouldn’t be winning husband/owner of the year if I ignored my family for 2 days straight. If I’d of taking into consideration this factor and planned accordingly, then maybe I could have achieved something.

SCOPE!

Time Stone took 3 months to make. It contained 1 background, 1 playable character and 6 core puzzles. My game for Ludum Dare was going to include 4 backgrounds, 2 playable characters and 10 core puzzles and would need to be finished at the end of a 48 hour period. When I write it out like that I realise how much of a big stupid idiot I am and am even mad at myself for even attempting to make this game.

I teach game development as my day job and I always tell the students to think about Scope. Here I have completely ignored my own advice and tried to make something too big. I’d like to tell my future self to think along the lines of Space Invaders or Pong and build upon that over time.

 

There you have it. I hope that future-me listens to my advice. I think there’s another Ludum Dare in December and after failing to meet the deadline for MAGS (Which became Time Stone) and this Ludum Dare, maybe third time’s the charm?