Monday, February 1, 2010

Global Game Jam 2010

As many of you probably know, this past weekend was the Global Game Jam! We decided to do it, and we hooked up with the group at Newport, Wales, so we could start and end earlier than our own time zone. We partnered up with a great artist named Scott Thompson in Wales, and we made a game in 2 days.

Post-mortem

Making a game in 2 days requires some different skills and thinking than making a game at a "normal" pace does. I had to set aside some of my OCD tendencies and make some last-minute, dirty hacks to get a couple things working.

Perhaps the most useful thing was the necessity to limit the scope of the project. It's really easy to say, "Oh! Let's add this!" We say that a lot when we're working normally. When prototyping, it's important to really stick with what's essential for the core gameplay. The reason is because until you have the core done, you don't even know if it's going to be fun. While we've always prototyped our ideas before making full games out of them, we tend to let our prototypes bloat a bit, and we've thrown some out, so we could have saved the time if we stuck with the core features.

With a 2-day limit, it's also a good idea to stick with what you know, just for practical purposes. Some might disagree with that because it can limit creativity, but it just depends on how complete you want your game to be after 2 days.

Game Overview

The theme for this year was "deception", and the GMT constraint was "a sink, a wink, a rink" (in no particular order). We made a game where you play as a mouse looking for cheese in a big kitchen. You have to sneak around, avoiding being seen by the humans in the kitchen. Cheese can be hidden in one of a dozen places, and you have to find it and get it back to the drop zone near where you start. Each time you collect one piece of cheese, another piece and a mouse trap spawns on the map. Running into a trap kills you instantly, game over.

To make things more interesting though, you can only see traps, cheese, and obstacles a couple feet in front of yourself. Also, some of the kitchen appliances can be used to distract the humans and make them look at them. Click on objects that glow green to start them up. Some take longer to activate than others (e.g. filling a sink to over-flowing takes longer than knocking over a garbage can). Gray squares can only be traversed when you don't have the cheese, so you have fewer sneaking options when you're carrying it.

You can play the game here:
http://gabob.com/GGJ2010/GameFlash.html

This is the GGJ page for our game where you can download the source and stuff:
http://globalgamejam.org/2010/squeek-sneek

Conclusion

I'm not sure (at least at this point) if we'll do it again, because of the sleep deprivation and time away from families, but it was fun. Maybe in a year, we're be ready. In the meantime, we'll definitely keep our prototypes more focused.

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