Last weekend I took part in the Global Game Jam 2017 with my brother J with support from my mum and Plymouth Game Devs. This is the third game jam that we have done as a team, KitiJenGames. The theme was “Waves”, it was a 48 hour jam, and our jam site was ThinqTanq.
The event started with a video about the Global Game Jam. The video explained that the GGJ is a massive international event involving over 600 jam sites and more than 40,000 people across 90 countries! We saw clips of people working in teams all over the world. Most of the people in the video looked like they were in their twenties and I didn’t see anyone else around our age but I hope that there are others out there somewhere! There was a welcome talk by the Extra Credits team. Extra Credits is a YouTube channel that gives advice and has discussions about game development, and me and J really enjoy their videos.
The narrator explained some of the different reasons people take part in GGJ, like making prototypes for future development, to share their passion for making games, and because they love developing new games. They then gave advice on taking part in a game jam:
- Keep It Simple!
- Communicate with your team and the other participants. Being able to reach out for help from other developers is a benefit of doing a jam.
- Keep brainstorming short and develop your ideas through the jam. A game could start with an idea that seems odd but could be well made and fun (e.g “Mario’s core concept is a jumping plumber on drugs.”)
- Compromise with your team, and don’t dig your heels in.
- Know what to save for next time! Stay focused on your main idea and leave some of your other ideas for another time. Try keeping a “For the sequel” file of ideas.
- Get some sleep.
At the end of the video there were lots of short clips to introduce the waves theme. We weren’t allowed to talk about the theme on social media until the next day because everyone has to wait until the last timezone (Hawaii) is told the theme! It was just after 5pm on Friday when we found out the theme.
Me, J and our mum had a short brainstorming session together, and we talked about different kinds of waves e.g. sea waves, waves of monsters, sound waves, seismic waves… We talked about what ideas we had related to them and about different game genres, and decided to make a game where you had to save as many people as possible from an earthquake using a giant claw to take them to a safe zone before the timer runs out. We planned it out on paper and made a short video with our little sister. We would only have until Saturday evening to make the game because we had plans for Sunday (visiting the Eden Project with friends), also we couldn’t work on Saturday morning because me and J both have regular Clubs then. We knew that we had very little time so we worked for a couple of hours from home that night, I worked on the art for the main character and J started to code for the shaking background and the people to rescue.
In the morning we couldn’t do any work because J had his Code Club and I had my NatSatClub. I had a workshop on using Photoshop to make animations. I got back to ThinqTanq just after 1pm to start work on our game again, but my mum had lost the stylus for my drawing tablet! Luckily Viki (ALittleRedPanda) had one spare and lent it to me. J was responsible for the coding and music, I was in charge of making the art assets, and our mum supervised us to make sure we were on track.
The art assets I had to make included the character in peril, the claw to pick them up with, and the safe zone to drop them in. I made all of them in Manga Studio 5 in a pixel art style. The character has their hands in the air, and has a little animation which makes them look left then right, to give the impression they are running around screaming. The animation only uses two frames. I designed the first sprite, then for the second frame I flipped my design and edited the t-shirt on the flipped version so that it was correctly aligned. I only had time to design one character, which my family all say looks like me!
Next I worked on the claw, which has an “open” design while empty (and looks a bit like a propeller), and a “closed” design when holding a character. I did the “open” design first, inspired by the claw machines in arcades. This was another two frame/costume animation, for the second frame I erased the outer joints of the claw. I am happy with my design which does look like a mechanical claw from a birds-eye view.
I designed the “safe zone” as a white square with rounded edges and a big red cross on it like a cartoon ambulance. I also hand-lettered “SAFE ZONE” on the digital image using my stylus and big, black and blocky letters, to make it easy for the player to identify.
By then J had got most of the game code sorted out, so I sent him my finished sprites so he could add them into the game (he was using plain rectangles which my sprites had to replace). I still had to make the background and the start screen, but my hand had started hurting after making the first few sprites so I took a short break and tested the game. J had managed to also make the game music in BeepBox which he said he wanted to sound like an earthquake. We were laughing over the music and the little screaming characters running about because it was quite comical and ridiculous.
I got back to work and started making the background. We had decided to use a road and pavement setting and I dotted rocks and rubble all over it to give the impression of an earthquake. These small elements are also necessary so that when the background shakes or a character moves around it you can imagine the movement and it seems like a real space rather than a flat background. I learned about doing this when we made our last game, Infection! I designed one pile of rocks and rubble and I cloned it to dot around because I was short of time to make lots of different piles of rubble.
The last thing I had to design was the Start Screen. A Start Screen is important to explain what the point of the game is and what the player has to do. I chose a colour scheme that made me think of dirt/earth to go with the game theme. I chose not to use a ready made font but instead I hand-lettered the game title and instructions using my stylus. I didn’t want to use a font that someone else had made as I wanted our game to have its own original look to it. I tried to give the letters a messy but simple look. I wanted to also make a Game Over screen but my hand was hurting too much to do any more drawing and we were running out of time. Finally, my dad, my mum, me and Jenson all recorded voice clips for the game for when the player saves the little people. We used an Android phone to make these wav files (and the Hertz app) and we tried to make funny silly voices to fit with the feel of our game.
It was really fun making ‘Quake Rescue and being part of the Global Game Jam. It felt like I was part of something giant with all the other jammers around the world. The other teams at our site and Jack (SoGoodStudios) the organiser were all friendly and supportive. I think our final game works well and I would describe it as a fun minigame. I think we have definitely improved our skills since our first game jam and our teamwork is better too but it did get hard later on Saturday when we were tired and J wanted to finish up before I did. I am looking forward to doing more game jams through this year!