Art, reviews and thoughts from a young artist in Plymouth, UK.

Posts tagged ‘KitiJenGames’

Games for Better Game Jam

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My ‘cover art’ for our game Infection! showing my final designs for the white blood cell, antibiotic and bacteria characters.

On the weekend of 30th September to 2nd October KitiJenGames (the games development team consisting of me and my brother) participated in the Games for Better 48 hour game jam.  The game jam was organized by Jack from SoGoodStudios and Oli from Sizeable Games because they believe that games can be a good tool for educating people about issues in the world. The game jam theme was Antibiotic Resistance.

On the Friday evening before the jam we went to Plymouth University’s Babbage Building to listen to talks from experts.  The first speaker was Dr Victoria Hurth (Twitter) who is an Associate Professor in Marketing and an expert in sustainability.  She talked about sustainable consumption and explained how animals are being bred (for food) in poor environments and they are given antibiotics to keep them healthy.  Because of this more bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics leading to the creation of ‘superbugs’.  The second speaker was Dr Mathew Upton who is an Associate Professor in Medical Microbiology and he said that “Resistance Is Inevitable” when we use antibiotics and explained about bacterial conjugation.  The third speaker was Dr Richard Ayres (Twitter) who is the Lead of Population Health at Peninsula Medical School and a practicing GP.  He explained that sometimes doctors don’t get a lot of time to assess their patients and this can lead to prescription of antibiotics when they are unnecessary.  The talks were really interesting and I didn’t know a lot about antibiotic resistance before them so I learned a lot.

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Dr Mathew Upton showed this image of resistant bacteria and I used it to design my bacteria character.

As soon as the talks finished the game jam started.  It was late on a Friday night so me and my brother J went home and talked about game ideas.  We decided to make a game where you play as an antibiotic and you have to defend the white blood cells from bacteria.  As you play, some bacteria would become resistant and you would have to power up with extra different coloured antibiotics, causing the bacteria to then become even stronger!  The game would be impossible to win and the goal would be to get the highest score possible.  We worked as a team to make a plan on paper and we decided that J would be in charge of doing the coding using Unity and I would be in charge of all the art.  J didn’t know much about using Unity yet but he thought this would be a good chance to learn more.  I decided to go with a cute pixel art look and that I would use Manga Studio 5 to make my files.

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My initial designs for the bacteria character

On Saturday morning J went to his Code Club (Twitter) and I went to my Art Club so we couldn’t get started on our game until the afternoon.  The list of things I needed to design was the bacteria, the power-up, the white blood cells, the antibiotic, the background and the border.  I began working on the main character designs, sketching on paper.  My antibiotic character was a blue pill with a smiley face that would have a little rocking animation.  My first attempt at a bacteria character looked too much like a little sun (very jolly!) so I redesigned to make it a bit more evil, and came up with a ball with angular spikes and a mean face, which would wiggle as it moved.  My white blood cell characters were dopey-looking spheres,and in our game they wouldn’t defend themselves but would just hang around until they were killed by bacteria.

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My initial designs for the antibiotic character.

J asked if I could provide my designs as a sprite sheet. I learnt how to make one from a tutorial and then drew the different sprites for their animations using my Wacom Bamboo tablet and Manga Studio.  After I sent a sprite sheet of the antibiotic over we needed a background. We used a basic plain one at first but it was difficult to tell if the character was moving around, so I made another background with rectangles of different sizes and similar colours, and for the border I used the same pattern but with darker colours.  It was a simple design (supposed to represent the inside of a body) but I really like how it turned out.  I created the sprite sheets for the other characters and sent them over to J’s computer for him to add in to the game, and I designed some ‘cover art’ to put on our itch.io page (and at the top of this post).

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Me and J are on the left eating pizza, Jack and Oli are in the middle.  This photo was taken and posted on Twitter by Eleanor Browne twitter.com/incubationeb

We had to haul our computers to the Babbage building on campus on Saturday night because J was struggling with making the animation work, and Jack helped us out with that and him and Oli gave us some tips.  We arrived just in time to share the free pizza which we ate while listening to video game music and chatting.  My mum had to start helping J with his side of the gamemaking and they spent a lot of time searching online for tutorials and help, but I think he learned a lot about Unity during this project.  We had to give up the idea of power ups and new levels because we ran out of time, and there are a few bugs with the scores, but overall I think our game is fun and cute.

Our finished game is Infection! and you can play it in a browser on your computer.  You can see the Twitter feed for the jam (and discover more of the games) at #GamesForBetter.  I really like Lumberjack and Chickens by Lisoo and I like the look of Dr. Swiperson by @CantGetOurName.

Jupiter Hadley played all the Games for Better games (including ours) for her YouTube channel Jupi Plays (support Jupiter on Patreon) and the judges sent us some feedback to help us improve our gamemaking in the future.  J has signed up to a Unity course to learn more for our next project.  I have signed up to a course on Pixel Art so that I can improve my skills and make more detailed sprites.  Our courses are both on Udemy and if you look around online you can find big discounts on them.  I am also researching game cover art because I would like to improve my cover art illustrations.

I really enjoyed this game jam and I’m looking forward to the next one, and though 48 hour game jams are really hard work they are well worth it because you have to push yourself and so you can learn and improve your skills a lot in a short amount of time.  Follow the link for my post about our first game jam.

 

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Ludum Dare 36

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Roman defence start screen

Last weekend me and my brother were invited by Jack from SoGoodStudios to take part in Ludum Dare, an event where you spend a few days working by yourself or with a team to develop a videogame from concept to publication.  The theme this time around (for LD36) was Ancient Technology.

I talked with my brother about game genres and what skills we have, and we decided that he would do all of the game coding in Scratch because he has experience using that, and I would work on pixel art for the game.  Our idea was to do a tower defence game, called Roman Defence.  In our game you are a Roman soldier defending a town from escaped wild animals. It is a relatively easy game, using only a few keys, but as you play the enemies get faster and it becomes more challenging.  There is also a power-up in the shape of Pompeiian bread that appears every 30 seconds.

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Roman defence game screen

The game was written in Scratch but converted to Flash for playing on the web using the  converter at http://junebeetle.github.io/converter/.  You can see inside our code on the Scratch page for Roman Defence.  I used an Android app called Pixel Art Editor for the visual elements and we used PixiTracker for the music.  It was the first time we had used these apps.  They were a bit confusing at first but we learned enough to be able to produce what we needed.

The only experience I have had in the past of doing pixel art is building in Minecraft creative mode.  Working on my tablet to create the sprites was fun but zooming in and out all the time was a bit of a pain.  First I researched online to find images of Roman shields, helmets and spears, and for pictures of lions and rhinos.  Then I opened the app and created a canvas in the size needed for that sprite or background.  My brother J told me what size he wanted for each object, as he was coding alongside me using just coloured blobs and rectangles until my art was ready.  I thought about the images I had found in my research and did rough paper sketches of what I wanted, then started to work in the Pixel Art Editor app.  Sometimes the poses weren’t quite right, so for example my first draft of a lion looked very tame!  But it was easy to change and add shading etc.  I like my designs but it would have been good to have had more time to create more animations and enemies.  The only animation in the game is that the soldier’s head and arm bob up and down as he moves.

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Roman Defence game over screen

I saved the images as .png files with transparent backgrounds and used BlueTooth to send them to the computer that J was working on.  I sent them one by one as I completed them so we could see straight away what they looked like in the game.  It took only a few clicks for J to replace his blobs with my art and I felt satisfied and proud seeing them in the game.  Sometimes I sent partly completed images just to check that they looked right on the screen.  At the end of our Sunday working session I also drew the game title for the start screen.  That took more time than the other images because I had to make sure the characters were evenly spaced.  J said he wanted fat characters like in the Metroid logo, so I did some research into the old Metroid games and used that as a starting point, but obviously we didn’t want something space age!  I think my final design looks like an authentic retro game title.

When we had finished Roman Defence after two long days of hard work we opened an itch.io account together, calling our team KitiJenGames, and uploaded our game there.  Then we created a Ludum Dare account also called KitiJenGames and submitted our game to the Game Jam.  I also wrote a blogpost about making Roman Defence and Jupiter Hadley (support her with Patreon) played our game in Part 3 of her LD36 YouTube videos and again in her Plymouth Game Devs LD36 video.  We have been playing lots of other games which were submitted to the Jam and leaving some comments.  Two of our favourites so far are Tank In Dungeon by @BentouDev which we would buy if it were a longer game, and Sacrifice by @tayl1r which is interesting because it is such an odd (and dark!) concept.

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“Disgolem”, a rhythm game for LD36 by Jack (SoGoodStudios), OhCarson (SizeableGames) and Emmy (Ghoulkiss)

We were lucky to be working on our game opposite the team which consisted of Jack from SoGoodStudios, Emmy (Ghoulkiss, support her with Patreon) and @OhCarson from Sizeable Games.  They were helpful with advice and testing our game and we learned a lot just from seeing how their own development process worked.  Their game for LD36 is another of our favourites, and is a rhythm/puzzle game called Disgolem.  Emmy’s golems are adorable and are brightly coloured with geometric designs.  I was really pleased to meet her as I admire her work but I was a bit shy and didn’t say much! I also briefly met Will from SoGoodStudios and the BrainyBeard team, and the Plymouth Game Devs have tweeted and Facebooked our project.  We definitely plan to make more games, J is getting started with learning to use Unity and we already have some ideas for our next project, so Watch This Space!

 

 

 

 

 

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