“Yo dawg, herd you liked game jams, so we put your jam in a jam so you can jam while you jam!”
In the last month I’ve attended 3 game jams:
- Game Dev Party Lyon March 23-26,
- Ludum Dare 26 April 26-29,
- CHI 2013 “Games [4 Design]” game jam April 27-28
As you can see, two were at the same time!“Hugly” a care-bear based beat’em’up
First off I promised a debriefing of the Lyon Game Dev Party. We had a team of 8, which was very exciting for me – I’ve never done a jam in such a big team! All told it went extremely well:
You can pick up the 48-hour build of the game from indiedb or grab the newest rolling release from github, though you’ll have to wait a bit for a nicely-packaged version of the latter. Code is under LGPL so free to use even for commercial products provided you give credit
Most of the changes involve making the game more “legible”, with a lot more feedback and a clearer interface.CHI 2013 “Games [4 Design]“
So the jam in Lyon went well and the one before it in Lille was an epic failure. Despite having been to so many jams I’m losing count (it must be about 10 now I think), I still haven’t found the magical formula that makes a jam go well, and the CHI 2013 “Games [4 Design]” game jam was… well if not a failure it was a bit of stagnation as far as my personal progression is concerned:
I suppose I can hardly expect each new jam to feel like a leap forward when I’ve done so many. Still, I feel somewhat unsatisfied with my contribution. Our team made the heart-beat game: a sort of Pong style game where you control the height of your paddle with your heart-rate. We went through a large number of rapid iterations and generally did all the right things, but in retrospect I’d saying trying to use a heart-rate monitor as the control interface for an arcade game was just the wrong path to choose from the very beginning.
It was a fun gimmick, but ultimately wasn’t very playable: the sensors never worked very well and stopped working altogether just before the presentation, which made things a little complicated This is why I don’t work with hardware! Also worth noting that we only had Saturday and Sunday until around 4pm, that we never had a decent internet connection and that most of Sunday we didn’t have any electricity. All things considered we did a decent job.
That said while the other teams thought outside the box (Joust clones or not) we stayed tied to the screen, and people have a lot more fun interacting with each-other than with a computer terminal. The most enjoyable games were those where technology made at best a cameo appearance. There’s a lesson to be learned from this I’m sure…Ludum Dare gathering Montpellier
Back in my home-town I’d helped organise a second Ludum Dare real-world gathering through our association “Baptême du jeu” which now has a blog and a logo. I was off in Paris during the event, but apparently things went really well, so I suppose it’s not all bad I’ll try to mention some of the better projects that came out of the jam, if not here then on the French tumblr blog.
For my part I entered the Processing prototype I wrote for the Paris jam, minus all the Arduino code for the pulse sensor which was either found online or written by the others (or a bit of both). The source-code is available on github – my first ever time using Processing as it happens
That’s all for now – I may write up some thoughts on CHI 2013 when I have some time. For now though I’ll simple say that researchers, especially in Human-Computer Interactions, are rather odd people
This last week, or the week before depending on when you started, was the “7 Day Roguelike” (#7DRL) competition. I was one of those who started right at the beginning, teaming up with Kevin aka ‘Gaeel’ and Hannes Delbeke, an intern artist at The Game Bakers.
Before I get into a flame-war about what “Roguelike” games are and aren’t, a quick news bulletin:
Last week I started work as a R&D intern at NaturalPad, a little start-up that makes games for rehabilitation. I’m working with C# / Unity3D on their “Hammer and Planks” pirate shoot’em’up as well as toying around with the Microsoft Kinect (again).
Our “Baptême du Jeu” association has a Tumblr blog now, for those of you who don’t have Facebook. We’ve managed to get hold of a nice big place to hold another real-world gathering for the next Ludum Dare (26-29 of April). We should be able to host about 50 jammers: I’ll point you to the sign-up page when we’re ready (probably next week).
Despite organising the Ludum Dare in Montpellier at the same time, I will actually be in Paris at the “Computer Human Interaction (CHI) 2013” conference at the end of April, doing yet another game jam! No rest for the wicked…
Phew! Now that we’ve got all the out of the way, on with the show…Are all “Roguelike”games like Rogue?
Yes indeed, this month the 1GAM theme is “Rogue”, in part because of 7DRL but also because well, why not?
“Cardinal Quest”, “Dungeons of Dredmor” and many others abandon the ASCII art-style entirely while maintaining the Roguelike genre’s core mechanics, “Red Rogue” opts for a side view and, although the latter titles in the series have incrementally done away with the overbearing tension and punishing difficulty that are its hallmarks, the original “Diablo” was a fine example of a real-time isometric Roguelike game in my opinion. This is a bit of a controversial claim of course, so feel free to flame me.Are all “Roguelike” games dungeon-crawlers?
Not all Roguelike games are dungeon-crawlers: the same random generation, permadeath and insistence that “losing is fun” can also be found in “Dwarf Fortress”, which is essentially a very punishing city-building game. “FTL: Faster Than Light”, a little game I’ve fallen in love with recently, likewise changes the gameplay and even the settings, from dungeons to outer-space, yet keeps intact the Roguelike “feel”.
Not all dungeon-crawlers are Roguelikes either: it’s controversial to claim that “Diablo” is a Roguelike, so I think we can all agree that “Diablo 3” isn’t.Well then, what actually is a “Roguelike”?
Interestingly, “Diablo” and “Diablo 3” will, most often, be lumped together under “Action RPG”, despite the absence of any real role-playing in either game. “Extra Credits” said it best, we tend to classify games based on very superficial criteria such as the setting, mechanics and art-style, when we should be classifying them by “feel” or, as they put it, “aesthetics”:
So what are the aesthetics of the “Roguelike” genre? Exploration, first and foremost, and challenge most certainly. There’s also some degree of fantasy and a great deal of self-expression too. The game’s rewards are largely intrinsic (rather than extrinsic) so the fun comes from the moment-to-moment gameplay more than working towards something, otherwise permadeath would be frustrating as hell. All together it’s enjoyable to challenge yourself or each-other to get as far as you can, it’s also fun talk about what you did in these games and what emergent events occurred.
“Dispatch: Rogue Planet”
We talked for a long time about doing a multiplayer turn-based squad-based tactical game set in a Cyberpunk world, so basically “Frozen Synapse” only grid-based and with few extra widgets like hacking and cyborg augmentations (see “Blade Runner” and “Ghost in the Shell”). We eventually decided to put the idea aside, not because it wasn’t “Roguelike” enough for 7DRL but rather because our artist, Hannes, didn’t want to draw things from a top-down or isometric perspective.
The new idea was one Kevin had had one the back-burner for some time, inspired by some fascinating parasitic brain-fungi he’d found out about in a documentary:
So basically you’re sent down onto the rogue planet to find out if it will support life, only to discover that it supports it just a little bit too much: all life has been assimilated by a strange alien fungus and turned into mindless pawns. To survive you’ll need to penetrate into the planet’s core to locate a cure before the contaminant gets the better of you. Yay! So basically “Waking Mars” only with more depression. Here’s a screenshot:
Despite being a platform-shooter from a mechanics point-of-view, we want the game to feel like Rogue. It is to be a survival game rather than an action game, and hopefully we’ll have time to add some items and upgrades (though probably not before the beginning of April).
Okay, that’s all for now, time to jam it up in Lyon I’ll see you all on the other side for a debriefing…
Notice I said “finish a game”, not “make a game”. Starting is, after all, a lot more easy than finishing. Hopefully this challenge will serve as impetus for me to finish some of the numerous half-finished projects I’ve got lying around. Here is my #1GAM profile.
So far I’ve managed to January and February… well, the February game still has a few bugs and needs a little polish – shh, don’t tell Christer Kaitila! It’s March now, so a third game is already in the works: a RoguelikeJanuary: “Disquiet”
My university years are drawing to a close, but one last mini-project had be messing around with interactive sound and music using FMOD. I came up with a little demo horror game called “Disquiet”: your character needs to escape from an invisible monster whose presence can only be detected through sound.
The game also features my first ever music track, which I’m actually rather proud ofFebruary: “XX13: Pace Breaker”
Pace Breaker is an extension of our GGJ game XX13 – a game very similar to Spy Party and Hidden in Plain Sight, especially the latter. Although we managed to build a working real-time server and client architecture using technology we weren’t very familiar with, the gameplay didn’t get a lot of attention. We didn’t really have time!
The idea of the game is for a bunch of hidden hackers to take down as many AI civilians as possible before they are discovered. They do this by interacting with the civilians (hacking them), something civilians also do periodically with each-other. As a result the only way the opposing team can identify the hackers is thanks to their human heart-beat.
This month I changed a number of things to improve on the original, 48-hour, build:
- hacking takes a lot longer than a ‘normal’ interaction, so serves as another tell,
- Z-ordering and character shadows to give the scene and illusion of depth,
- Death animations and sound effects,
- Corpses appear to provide feedback (did I kill a hacker or a robot?),
- A new character sprite for the police character,
- Police don’t shoot immediately, but rather must lock-on for a few seconds,
- Giant explosion when the police shoot their target!
The graphics as a whole were given a considerable overhaul. Here’s the 48-hour version:
And here’s the improved version:
That said I think it’s useful to finish what you’ve started, if only because you learn different lessons at the beginning and the end of a project: if you never finish anything you’re missing out on a lot of lessons you might potentially have learnt, even if you’re stopping because “I’ve learnt so much, next time will be better…”
This month I’ll be working on an unconventional Roguelike game with a very talented artist called Hannes and Kevin who I worked with for XX13. I think it’ll be a lot of fun
Anyway, while back a friend offered me a job. I’d be in Paris, surrounded by a thriving game-development community, and involved in setting up student associations, organising events, making connections… this sounded like a pretty swell deal to me. It would have meant sacrificing my half-finished MSc. though and well, it’s one of those sunk cost fallacy type things…
The idea stuck with me anyway, and Epona Schweer’s “Want to be Surrounded By a Thriving Local Games Industry? Grow Yours” made me realise that I needn’t go to Paris or do that particular job to be involved in setting up student associations, organising events and making connections.
With this in mind, I created the “Baptême du jeu“ association! That’s “Baptism of game” by the way: in French “game” rhymes with “fire“, so it sounds a lot cooler.Ludum Dare #25 – “You are the villain”
The first jam we organised with the association was a real-world gathering for the 25th Ludum Dare competition. We’d done one for the Ludum Dare 24 (more information here) as well, but there were only 3 of us that time.
It’s hard to give an exact number of participants we had this time around as some left early or came late and others didn’t hand anything in, but there were about 14 there full-time. We did it at the Informatics department of my university, which is simply called “Montpellier 2″. The head of the department was really cool about it, allowing us to broadcast our live-stream over the university’s web-TV, and even subsidising our food!
I had projects to hand in just after the event, which I’d hoped to have finished well before it started. Unfortunately the organisation took up all my free time: we needed to know who was coming before having access to the room, and we couldn’t really send out invitations until we knew whether we’d have the place or not. We also needed to hire a night-watchman to make sure nobody spontaneously combusted, and couldn’t officially let people sleep on the premises because of insurance issues.
Basically it all made me realise that setting these things up isn’t as straightforward as one might think. In the end I didn’t have time to finish my projects before the jam, so I ended up doing my them over the weekend rather than participating in the competition
Here’s the time-lapse from this first event:
Funkiture #1 – “Multiplayer games”
Watching other people make games while I worked was somewhat frustrating, so after my exams we organised a second, private, event at a friend’s house. This time there were 6 of us: we’d have liked to host more but we didn’t have room.
The event was rather informal, but we decided that multiplayer games would be the order of the day. I gave node.js and websocket a spin and made a basic multiplayer strategy game called “Hubris“. Node is fantastic in my opinion, and absurdly easy to use, though forcing the player to install it in order to run the server rather defeats the whole purpose of using HTML 5 in the first place…
Here’s the time-lapse for the 36-hour period:Global Game Jam 2013 – “heartbeat”
Last but not least, we helped set up a Global Game Jam gathering in Montpellier, along with Kawenga and some students from the University Montpellier 3 (Arts, as opposed to Science). The latter had done most of the negotiations before we arrived, though we did sort out the sign-up procedure and final list of participants, plus broadcasting the right information to the right people at the right time.
Our game, “XX13“, is rather similar to “Spy Party” in that one team is indistinguishable from a bunch of AI civilians, and thus must be hunted down thanks to their tell-tale heartbeat. In other words it’s Blade Runner… only backwards. Again, this was a multiplayer game, using node.js and, this time, socket.io rather than websocket (well, technically socket.io is just a level of abstract above websocket).
Here’s the time-lapse:Montpellier Unity Users Group
I should mention that we’re not the only ones trying to energise the Montpellier game-development community. The Swing Swing Submarine guys have set up the “Montpellier Unity Users Group” or “MUUG”, which has sort of unofficially become a hub for the more professional side of game development culture in Montpellier, Unity or no.
Things seem to be kicking off – exciting times lie ahead no doubt Till next time folks!