Sunday, January 29, 2012

Global Game Jam 2012 Experience

Global Game Jam Experience
This weekend was an interesting one, I decided to participate in a world wide event, known as the Global Game Jam. The goal of this event is that people gather together and make teams, you then have 48 hours using any resources you can to make a game (either board game or digital game). We started at 5:00pm on Friday and had until Sunday at 5:00pm in order to create our game. The neat thing is that it wasn’t only us doing this, like the name of the event says, it’s global. We saw footage of streams from all over the world also partaking in the event at the same time. It’s cool knowing there are others in the world trying to do this at the same time.

To start off, there are of course some limitations to make it interesting. We were given a picture, which we could interpret anyway we wanted. In the end the theme we came up with was zombies, and the renewal of life. So it was a man turned into zombie, that had to become a human again. Somehow we ended up deciding on the theme of 70s disco and our game involved into a game about zombies and disco. The goal of the game was to turn our zombie character into a human.

Planning phase

Now the most important part in this event was planning our game, since we had to throw out ideas in the first hour, deciding important aspects of the game. We discussed things like the type of gameplay, style of graphics, if it’s 2D or 3D, and various other details. I can honestly say we didn’t have everything set in stone right away though. Certain aspects we realized didn’t seem quite feasible or were too broad in scope, remember we had to make this in 48 hours so we had to choose things we could complete in time. Only by the half way mark would I say we had everything completely set in stone, though of course we were still developing our assets (Images and such) all along the way. We managed to get most of our assets into the game, of course we weren’t able to get our game fully polished but we did do rather well for ourselves I would like to think.

Sleep deprived? Not really!

We submitted our game prior to the 5:00pm mark, and though there were still things we would have liked to modify to make it better, we had a working game at least and one that I personally find rather fun as well. I am not so certain about some other groups, but I know a few of them did run into issues that unfortunately did not allow them to get a fully functioning game. Our game managed to get to this stage and I am thankful for it.

The entire process wasn’t too stressful either, at times it was especially when we were running out of time. However we didn’t even go for the full 48 hours, much of the time we spent for decent amounts of rest. So we only used maybe 30 hours of the entire process of actually working give or take. We aimed our scope so that we wouldn’t have to spend all 48 hours because honestly we would feel terrible if we had done that. But the experience was overall enjoyable anyways.

Comparing Game Engines and Programming Code

GameMaker is the tool we used for our game

Before I get to the fun stuff (I.e. the game we made) I want to talk about my experiences in making the game. Now we had 7 people in our group, and most of them were designated to art assets while 2 of us were assigned for programming. I myself made a fair amount of art assets for our game too, but what I want to talk about is the programming for the game.

Now, in my previous games we used C++ code, using visual studios. We had to code EVERYTHING from scratch in those games for school. For the Game Jam however, we used an existing engine already. Game Maker, and after having used it,  I can say I have great respect for any coders, including myself. The only reason we could make the game in 48 hours was because of this engine. It made it so easy to implement everything that we wanted. It really sped up development significantly and the cool thing is that, I pretty much know how to implement everything we did in this game, in C++ code. It makes me really respect how people can actually code stuff because they have to go through so much more labour and problem solving then those who use engines. With my C++ knowledge, I can understand both programming code and this engine, where as someone who used only the engine would only understand the engine!

Game Time
Anyways let’s get to the fun stuff finally, we named our game Zombie Fever.

Main Menu screen

It’s a single player game with 2D graphics and like previously mentioned features zombies. Lots of zombies. Now the reason we went with the disco theme, I have absolutely no idea in the slightest (I was part of the meeting by the way), but the overall gameplay eventually turned into “DDR” (Dance Dance Revolution) like style. Where arrows appear on screen and you must click the correct one to score points. Our game didn’t require precise clicks of the arrows like DDR does but still has the same overall feel.

Prototype Screenshot of gameplay

Every level features a different song you have to dance with, getting harder and harder. Of course we made an incentive for players to want to keep playing and so we added score and eventually you can get high scores and such. Also you can die if you miss arrows, how you die to dancing zombies, I have no idea. We planned other methods to make the game more dynamic, including a combo system that would keep track of how many correct arrow keys you pressed in a row, but unfortunately we ran out of time.

Example of a sprite sheet we used for our game

But we made due with what we have and we made a simple, but fun and stylish game featuring happy zombies instead of evil ones. Also listening to the old 70s music made me happy while playing. Anyways enough about me simply talking, it’s time for you all to try it too! You can download it right here!

Go have fun and tell me what you think! Also remember, things are missing due to time constraints so of course it’s not perfect.

Shorter post this time because I am rather tired. But Game Jam was definitely a fun experience, I will go for it again next year!

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