Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Global Game Jam 2014 - EvoDash - Postmortem

Well it has certainly been a busy week.  This past weekend was the Global Game Jam and what a time that was!  It was a wonderful time creating games alongside a bunch of other talented people.  Fire Hose Games also just did a live stream play through of SBX: Invasion as well today at noon.

So let's start with the Global Game Jam.  It was exciting, it was exhausting, it was all around a good time.  I left for the Jam on Friday and took the Commuter Rail into the city.  The Jam location was at Northeastern University in the Digital Commons (which is quite an impressive area) in the Library.  The site was open for 24 hours a day so I planned to stay for the entire duration and brought a blanket and neck pillow accordingly.

The first day was a lot of fun, and right at the start I knew I wanted to get our team together and start work asap.  After all, 48 hours is not a lot of time to finish a game.  So during the mingling a group of people kind of came together, and I asked if anyone knew C# and wanted to work in Unity and two of them said they were fine so we set out a group quickly.  The theme was "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." and we grouped in a corner of the library with a white board and started hashing out ideas.

Our final idea that we decided would come to be known as 'EvoDash'.  The concept was that the game was essentially an infinite runner / survival game, that evolves based on the player's actions.  The player also changes based on the way they play as well.

For instance, the player can move through the world by sprinting, jumping and dashing in addition to the normal run.  These actions require endurance, which is a limited, regenerating resource.  As the player jumps during the game, their jump becomes stronger, as the player sprints, their speed increases, and as the player dashes, their dash becomes longer and on a shorter cool down.  However, if they don't use these skills, they will decay down to a minimum over time.

In addition, the world will generate obstacles based on the current stats of the player, so if you jump often, there will be jump obstacles, if you dash often, there will be dashing challenges.  All of this being procedurally generated.  That's the high goal at least.  We accomplished this to a degree for the Jam, but it will certainly take some refinement to fully realize this.

Then we set out to create the game.  We located a table with some screens set up and assembled our workplace.  Our team was comprised of 6 people:

  • Lead Designer & Gameplay Programmer...............................Jason (Me)
  • Lead & PCG Programmer.....................................................Kevin Cavanaugh
  • 2D & UI Artist......................................................................Christian DeSilva
  • Musician & SFX Artist..........................................................Harry Lodes
  • Programmer & Git Specialist.................................................Jeffrey Robbins
  • Programming Assistant..........................................................Jacob Ginsparg
The screens at the tables were extremely nice with adjustable mounts, so we set them up to the side as our script screens.

Kevin and Jacob Programming (note the awesome screen)

My Side of the Table (And Jeff's Foot)

A Selfie of Jeff:

Unfortunately we don't have any pictures of Harry or Christian as they were off by themselves grinding away for most of the weekend.  We didn't really focus on taking pictures or making the video.  We were fairly engrossed in creating the game.

There were a lot of challenges as well.  The first night we had some massive problems with Git integration with Unity.  I'd say over the whole weekend, trying to get Git to work properly with Unity cost us around 5 hours.  And when you only have 42 hours or so after all of the announcements and what not, that's a lot of time.  So, GIT was our number 1 challenge.

Sleep was also tough, the first night I passed out around 6 a.m and slept until 9 a.m and then Sunday Morning I finally let myself sleep from 9 a.m until noon once we at least had a solid build out.  I don't think I've ever stared at scripts for so many consecutive hours, but it was fun (as a rare event!).  Also, on Sunday Night through Monday Morning I slept 14 hours to recuperate.

The experience was amazing and we actually finished a game!  A fellow jammer actually lent us a SNES USB controller to use for testing and EvoDash is a lot of fun on a SNES Controller, by the way.  You can play the game as well on my website.  The controls are there, you just need to have Unity player installed.  I also got used to the 2D Workflow in Unity which is actually very nice!  I'm ten times more comfortable with 2D in Unity now.

For now, we all agreed to evolve the game in our own ways and the idea is that we can take our versions of the game in the future and make a new version that's much better and takes from all our ideas.  So I'll be working on my own version of EvoDash alongside Tzarr.

So THAT was the Global Game Jam, if you like making games and haven't done it yet, set aside the time next year!  I highly recommend it, even if you are new to game development.

In other news, Fire Hose Games, creators of Go Home Dinosaurs and Slam Bolt Scrappers, and recently in the news for their Indie Incubator announcement on Joystiq and the Boston Globe, did a live stream of SBX: Invasion today at noon.  You can check out the video on Twitch.TV.  

It's been a CRAZY weekend, and a lot of fun!  Some friends of mine, Ben Taylor and Dawn Rivers were in the GGJ as well and created Snub Titles, a neat meta game that challenges people to think critically when they review games.  It's pretty interesting so far, I look forward to seeing how it develops.

I should also have a playable build of Tzarr by Friday for Feedback Friday and our goal in February is to have an online multi-player matchmaking system in place.

That's about it for now, but I'm sure you're tired of reading words by now.  Subscribe to the blog to stay in the loop!  Lots of neat stuff is in the works so you won't wanna miss out!


Jason Carter / WakeskaterX

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