GGJ'13 Results

The GGJ has ended and it was super-awesome! A lot of people were new faces and for the majority it was their first time doing a game jam. Me and my buddy Rajat Verma were the designers and from the developers side, there were four of them who had a few years of exp. in DirectX. With the team now complete. We though it was our lucky weekend since we had not one, but FOUR devs. ready to work on our pitch. No wonder we were elated the whole time. The first few hours were introductory talks by some notable local game devs. and studio heads. Most of their talks involved monetization and mobile games with a few inclusion of social games. I was quite intellectually engaged from what I got to learn even though I had a roundabout knowledge about some of these things before. Quite a few of them had little clue as to what was being talked about. But I am happy they at least managed to learn something important. I for one was looking more forward to talks in line of narrative medium and how video games could be used to implement intricate stories and instill thoughtful ideas among the gamers.

It was now time for the real event to kick in! The topic for this year’s game jam was presented to us in the form of a soundbyte: http://d.pr/a/P5HB 
With the theme now perfectly clear, we started generating ideas and I was pleased that even the developers took active part in suggesting and improving the ideas. We decided that each of us will write down 10 game ideas and scrap the top five because those ideas would be the most common among groups (Thanks Behance - for the tip through 99u)

Here are my ideas in case anyone is wondering: 

  1. RPG with Monsters
  2. Runner game with the objective of saving a beloved one.
  3. Medical patient-soon to die.
  4. Platformer to collect hearts.
  5. Doom-like FPS/ Shoot-em-up
  6. Musical game involving RPG elements.
  7. Two-dimensional game involving the destruction of circles in a wide-area effect.
  8. 1-bit game about destroying procedurally-generated shapes to find a treasure with the help of an audio clue.
  9. Racing and obstacle avoidance game involving blood vessels.
  10. Game based on friendship- a hidden object game. 

After an exhaustive review of game ides from all of us, we came to the conclusion to make an endless-runner type of a game involving the protagonist to search and rescue the damsel-in-distress (Sorry, Anita Sarkeesian, but most of my team members don’t think in a modern way)

We settled for the game and aptly named it Heart Runner.

Heart Runner involves you, the Alpha Heart who starts his quest to find his beloved, Beta Heart, who is supposedly lost in the land of Legonia. You must hurry and see to it that she is well before she is consumed by the Dark Territory of Legonia.

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Our team, Modular Beings, was a self-assigned group of individuals, each with their own skills and strong points who contributed to the game. I was assigned as the UI Designer, Level Designer and the Gameplay Designer. Rajat had the fortune of being the Character Designer and Environment Artist and the developers had their won thing going own. Let’s just say they weren’t as communicative as we would have liked them to be.

The first 24 hours sailed past smoothly, we were heavily driven and wanted to give our best in what we were supposed to do. The real hitch came on the second day during the development phase. We were completely stumped as to what direction should we take our project to. The prototype was just no upto the mark at all. There was no physics at all, no top-notch animation sprites. And the gameplay was just dismal. Now some of you may point out that this is a game jam, nobody is supposed to make a full-blown top-notch game, It is highly impossible especially for someone on their first jam. Well, the thing is, I wasn’t going for the full blown AAA style of result! Play games as minimal as Super Hexagon and Super Meat Boy prototype and you see the polish. That’s what I am talking about. Our game doesn’t even have to have loads of features but what I expected from the developers was a certain level of polish which was non-existent. It was a big blow to our morale because even though they had 3+ years in Direct X, they couldn’t come with something good. Something that just felt right with the controls. We adjusted our tone and emotions after some time and confronted them again about the result and they told us that Direct X is hard and it takes for them to do it properly. When we told them that they could have or rather should have done it in a language much faster than DX and which could be meant for rapid prototyping, they replied they knew no other language. All four of them…knew only Direct X and did horribly. I mean, yeah, I did lose my cool- this just wasnt justified, at all! We discussed each and everybody’s skills and they should have let us known that they knew only one language and that one that took a long time for the results to show! Newsflash! We didn’t have enough time. We barely had about 10 more hours and everything was now left for the devs. to call upon their magic. With the designers work done, I decided to do some additional work, one area which was completely overlooked-Sound.

I did extensive sound research and was able to find footsteps SFX for the character running through woods, snow, and grass. I had breathing sounds and ambient environment sounds, such as birds chirps etc, too!
For the soundtrack, I visited a dependable sound site called FMA
I mean, now that I look back, we had a lot of assets that just went unused.

It was time to showcase our work and as the presenter of our team, I was nerve-wracked. We didn’t have a good game game. It just barely worked and we had to insert level backdrops from some random good-looking game.

The presentation went well but we could notice a few nods of disapproval from the audience watching the gameplay demo. 

The biggest disappointment is that the developers did not even bother to hand us over the .exe file of the game! No worries, you can try out the game here Heart Runner. I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t even work on your computer.

However you can have a look at some of the work I did for the game and please do critique, I really need all of it to improve my game.

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Well thats the game, or what’s of it. 

As an endnote, I would like to just mention things that I found to be of value during my exp. in GGJ

Emphasize on KISS (Keep It Simple, and Stupid)
Do rapid prototypind: Fail Early, Fail Fast
Remember MOSCOW- Must . Should . Could . Would
Focus on constraints
Communicate with your team.
And most of all- Have fun!