This past weekend was the Global Game Jam 2017 and myself along with any other willing students from the college participated, there ended up being 30 of us total. Throwing away any weekend plans to do what we’re enrolled for, making games! From 5:30pm on Friday night to submission at 3:30pm Sunday, we spent the majority of awake time on campus grounds, grafting away to create something that pushed our current skills as far as they would go in the time allocated.
Thanks go out to my team of Kelly, Daniel Bishop and Adam Lyons for being brilliant team players and giving it their all, it was a brilliant weekend and I’m thrilled we managed to have an end result.
After classes I stuck around waiting for the keynotes to be delivered in the lecture theatre at 5:30pm. We sat through some sound advice from one of their sponsors ‘Extra Credits’ about distilling your idea down to its most basic element and focusing on that, something I learnt the hard way over my mock Christmas jam which barely managed an end product. Kelly made our motto for the weekend ‘minimum viable product’, to produce a single mechanic that worked and looked great.
*drum roll please*
The keynotes finished up and the theme for this year was:
*The panic sets in*
We were all a little lost for ideas at first, thinking that the theme was rather specific. However after ten minutes or so we started realising that there was a lot of scope outside of thinking the sea/ocean. Hands waving, sound waves, waves of enemies etc. Pairing up with my team we found a sofa and began brain storming, ending with three ideas we could go with. A surfer trying to keep his balance on waves, controlling light trying to reach a destination and using a sonar mechanic to try and navigate a dark environment. We all decided to try our hand at the sonar idea and fleshed it out into navigating a bat through a dark cave system while avoiding obstacles using its sonar. We weren’t too sure how to visually represent this with the skills we have to settled on using an animated spot light cone.
In an attempt to minimise the amount of assets needed we opted to create an endless runner and have a small selection of obstacles randomly generate. Controls would be a simple up, down and a button/key to send out your sonar.
All that was left for the first night with allocating roles/jobs. I already had a few ideas on how to quickly make the environment so I took up the job of making the cave system itself, Kelly took the role of programmer, Adam was going to focus on making the player character and the sprite sheets for it and Daniel would focus on creating the games pickups.
We packed up and headed home. I was determined to nail down a simple art style on the first night, I wanted both of the other artists to be able to pick it up and run with it if we needed extra hands to help with the environment. I love Animate for its ability to generate vector art very quickly and decided to use it for testing and to keep clean looking graphics that could be resized if required. I removed the stroke from everything and decided to build all assets using nothing but shapes and a palette of three colours. One primary and two shadow shades.
By midnight I presented this to the team online and was given a thumbs up to start using it in the morning. I should have called it a night there but instead I refined the idea and by 2am I had a full background and foreground to be scrolled at different speeds. They just required some refinement in the morning to tile correctly.
I arrived on campus and immediately began trying to cleanly tile my backgrounds. After an hour and a half of tweaking, testing, tweaking, testing I handed them over to Kelly to implement into the build. It’s amazing though, I set up all the background layers in Animate with exactly the same pixel dimensions and yet the end result didn’t tile perfectly, so all tweaking was done in Photoshop on a super high resolution version of the file.
Next I set about using exactly the same style to create obstacles. These boiled down to two types, rock formations and crystal formations. I created four of each giving us eight bits of terrain that could be randomly generated. These were all flipped vertically to give ground and ceiling obstacles.
At this point it was about 3pm, Dan had left to deal with family obligations and Adam was at a gym session, I didn’t have access to either of their work to continue it and had to take a moment to decide where to focus my time. Unless Kelly shouted that we needed more variation in the terrain the environment was complete.
While it could be seen as non essential artwork (especially for a jam) I set about making menu screens for the end product, along with navigation buttons using the existing style. I wanted a persistent background for all menus and had considered taking a screen capture of the current build, however I didn’t want to pester our coder over something so trivial at this stage so mocked one up using all the assets at hand.
I darkened this down using a layer over the top, stared at it for a moment and thought ‘damn I can’t install fonts on the college computers’. I really wanted to get something a bit wacky to use as a title font to give the whole thing a playful vibe, THANKFULLY I brought my own little ‘Road Warrior’ an old Lenovo ThinkPad. I jumped between the two machines, bringing rasterised text back and forth until I got something I liked the look of. Yes the font is bat related.
Some quick compositing and a few circles later I was staring at this:
It needed the bat to fill in the left third of the screen and some navigation controls. Since Adam was still away I focused on the buttons. This boiled down to another colour re-skin of a single crystal, up-scaling it and playing with fonts on my laptop again. Here are all the buttons. Also pizza arrived, so work stopped while 30 students descended on 10 pizzas like a horde of angry piranha.
Adam had returned and was finishing up the bat so I made a few alterations to the title screen to give us a blank canvas to be used for credits, how to play and game over. Off to play with more fonts for the game over screen.
YES! The bat was complete and looked amazing. I asked for one particular frame of the animation and used that to complete the title screen. I took a break, my eyes were starting to burn out for the day. There wasn’t a lot of time left, I made a few colour tweaks here and there and tried to make a game plan for tomorrow. Mostly sourcing sound effects to add some polish to the end product. I got home with good intentions of hunting for sounds that night but decided sleep was more important.
A bright an early rise to go digging through the depths of the internet to find some suitable sounds. More specifically freesounds.org and incompetech.com/music/royalty-free. I had a list of things I wanted to find:
- A bat screech
- Sonar ping
- Item pickup noise
- Button hover
- Button press
- Wing flap
- Menu music
- Main game music
With the two resource sites mentioned above I found everything I needed after a lengthy time digging. Gathering the rest of the team, we picked through everything and decided which sfx we wanted to use. These were handed over to Kelly to add into the build.
From this point on I mostly floated about trying to help the rest of the team, play testing to find issues and making odd tweaks to certain graphics at the request of Kelly. Adam had spent the whole day working on a death animation for the bat and at the very last minute it turns out we couldn’t use videos in Unity without having quick time installed, we need to rebuild on another machine and add this in future. We were all gutted we couldn’t use it. The team submitted at 3:30 to GGJ, put our feet up and took a look at what the rest of the teams had come up with over the weekend.
Proof we submitted!
Here is the link, files are hosted from my own Dropbox.
Here is the link direct from GGJ as a backup: GGJ 2017 – Sonar Slalom
The game can be downloaded straight from GGJ, downloaded both data and exe files and put them in the same folder.
Brilliant experience and I’m thrilled we had such a polished looking end result. Kelly is already fixing some collider issues for future versions and we still have ideas we’d like to implement. Bring on the next jam!