So I attended the Asylum Jam earlier this year. I went at it solo and made a really buggy prototype.
Here’s a little summary of the game jam:
“Asylum Jam 2014 is a game jam that lasts for 48 hours where the only rule is to not use asylums, psychiatric institutes, medical professionals or violent/antipathic/’insane’ patients as settings or triggers.”
Games are weird. You spend a lot of time designing and creating them, and by the end of it you’re left with this weird mutant baby right out of Eraserhead. Sometimes this mutant baby is nice and you grow to like it. Other times it spews venom at you every time you try to hold it.
At the end of last summer, I was completely stumped on the game I was working on: The Museum. I decided to just give up on the game, or at least put it aside until I figured out some issues. After that summer I kept thinking about the game in my head, over and over. Then, when this summer arrived, I figured out a lot of the design issues and made even more progress on the game. But, time is a cruel mistress and history loves to repeat itself. As I’m on the last day of my summer, nearing the first day of University classes, I feel the same hopelessness and dread as I did last year; I’m completely and utterly stumped on the game.
Who knows, maybe a year from now I’ll figure out the design problems I’ve been having as I did last year, but it’s looking grim. Thankfully, I’ve been feeling this hopelessness a bit earlier, a month ago to be exact. On that day of dread and despair, I realized that I have one month left before my classes start back up. I could have done two things: A) Realize that this is the last “summer break” I’ll ever have in my life and just relax and enjoy it before I join the cesspool of death that is the job market or B) Prepare myself for the job I want to pursue by practicing some C++ with OpenGL. Well, good news. I didn’t do either.
I instead just started to work on another game! (Commence onslaught of eye rolls) Except this time, I really focused on the missteps I took with The Museum. With every death of a game prototype, I learn a tremendous amount. I scour the grave of the prototype, trying to finding hints of why it went so horribly wrong. After some analyzing, I find some clues about why it died; simply bad (not fun or challenging) core game mechanic, lack of scalability, lack of art, no creative ideas found within the game’s systems. So, for this new game I decided to work in a preexisting genre; 2d grid-based puzzling. I then realized that, hey, I’m not an artist and shouldn’t waste my time on it. So after I completed a short prototype of the game showcasing the puzzles and ideas, I posted it on /r/gamedev and /r/INAT (I need a team) and lo and behold, I got a few responses! To be honest, I was utterly shocked. Who the hell would want to create art for a game made by me? Especially for free? (Also, the game is set to be a free release once it’s finished)
But real talk, the artist that I’m working with, Sara, is seriously talented. Just look at some of the stuff she’s made: https://imgur.com/a/Ek4NI
But alas, the artists I’ve been talking to share the same enthusiasm and passion for the game as I do. And with that, I spent my remaining summer crunching on the game and designing the puzzles. It’s also a short game, containing 5 levels of puzzles with each level taking approximately 25 minutes to beat. I currently have 2 levels completed, and am working on the remaining 3. Here are some screenshots:
Unfortunately as a result of my last year of University classes starting back up on Monday, I won’t have as much time to work on the game. I’ll still try to squeeze in some game dev on the weekends, or If I have any down time during the week. But for now, I’m going to focus on honing my C++ skills and learn to use the OpenSceneGraph library. Thankfully, I have an opportunity to do research this semester on virtual reality, which entails me using C++ and OpenSceneGraph to make cool stuff. Until next time.
Here are a few screenshots of the areas I’ve completed so far. I still need to polish all of the areas up before I can make it playable to other people, especially the centering of certain UI menu elements on the screen and some of the dialogue (as seen in the level 2 screeenshot).
Well anyways, here’s what I got done for this week.
This week, I set up a way for characters to communicate to the player. I tried to avoid using the convention of having a huge dialogue box on the bottom, covering up a big chunk of the screen (similar to Inner Vision). This time I’m taking the route of ‘floating, transparent thought bubbles on top of the players’ heads’. This part of the gameplay requires the player to look at what the people are thinking about and try to solve conflicts. What the conflicts are exactly about are reliant on the current story of the memory… Which is a fancy way of saying I’m still working on it.
Here’s a screenshot:
Yes, boss fights. I know it may seem like “normal” boss fights wouldn’t really fit into a game where you look at paintings and into peoples’ thoughts, yet I still feel like it’ll add more energy to the overall experience. At the end of every memory, you are introduced to a new kind of gameplay. During these segments the player will take on a giant monsters, where each giant monster will encompass themes found within the previously played memory.
The reason I went this route is because I think boss fights are really important in games, and are a cool concept in general that makes sense in terms of why they’re there. Most boss fights encompass the skills you’ve gained from the level you just played, and adds a feeling of accomplishment as well as closure to the newly learned concepts. In the future, I’ll go more in depth with how the gameplay will function during these boss fights (and why I think boss fights are the coolest).
Here’s a screenshot of the player HUD during boss battles:
Unfortunately, that’s all I really got done this week. A lot of the time was spent simply thinking about and designing the puzzles that will go into the memory sections before the boss fights. Puzzles still take me some time to come up with, while still trying to make it feel cohesive to the overall game.
Since I’m a lazy bum and don’t really “work” on anything besides my game, I decided it’s probably a good idea to have weekly blog posts about the progress I’m making on my game, currently called “The Museum”. This allows me to gauge my progress, and make decisions based on them. So, here’s the work I got finished this week:
I completely changed the layout of the level structure last week, and decided it made sense enough to rework it into the game. I spent the first half of this week setting up the layout and used a bunch of cubes with temp textures as placeholders. I needed the layout to strike a balance between art museum with hanging art, and an environment that’s unique to each level. The level I’m currently working on takes place in a corporate office. Because of this, I decided to limit my color pallet and focus on lots of grey. I needed the level to evoke emotions of boredom, monotony, and dread. The reason for this is story related.
Here’s a part of the layout of the first level:
Another big portion of what I worked on this week was the GUI. I had most of it in place, but I decided to polish it up a bit, fixing the positioning and coloring. Now, the GUI consists of 3 main elements. The first part is the ‘Score’ count on the middle top portion of the screen. On the upper right side of the screen, the player will be able to view the ‘Words’ they’ve collected. And on the bottom, there will be a steam of text that narrates the story of the game. Score, Inventory, and narration: these three make up the meat of the GUI.
There is also the GUI layout when locked on to an object. When locked on to an object, the ‘Words’ that were found in the upper right corner will turn into buttons. The player must find the right button to choose that corresponds with the locked on target. (I’m saving the specifics of the gameplay for a future post, definitely too complex to shoehorn into a weekly progress report!)
Here’s the current GUI:
Other Random Stuff
I added a visual indicator for the player’s progress for the amount of interpretations needed to complete a painting. Before, I had it as a number out of a number (i.e. 2/6), but now I just have a wave of particles that have a constant force going up. When the particles reach the top of the painting, and the picture dims, then the player will know that they “beat” it. I really value non-text communication in video games, and it’s a thing I want to see more games do.
I added an overworld hub that actually makes sense in the context of the story. This actually took me a while to create, but thankfully I eased my stress by reminding myself that the overworld isn’t actually that important. I mean, it is important since every part of a video game is important, but relatively speaking I needed to focus on the core gameplay and make sure to refine the hard design edges and find the most efficient solutions. So, I focused on the first level and tried to create an experience for the player that will be most beneficial.
I also found a few cool 3D models online to use as placeholders (under creative commons) and decided to pose them and make sure they’re in the right positions. Hopefully when I find a 3D artist to collaborate with, they can replace it.
Here’s a screenshot:
Hope to make more progress this weekend and the following weeks. Until next time!