Global Game Jam 2018 took place at the end of January. It was hosted locally here in Sacramento at Square One Clubs. I participated as much as I could, but unfortunately I had some family obligations that prevented me from making it down to the site.
For my game, I created a first person puzzler in a 3D world. I used it as an opportunity to get more familiar with Blender and Unreal Engine. With this being a learning experience, I didn’t get as far as I would with tech I was already familiar with. Overall, it felt like a success. I am now much more comfortable making shapes and applying textures in Blender. I also learned what is lost while exporting a blender project into Unreal, such as shaders that are closely tied to the rendering engine.
Alright, so lets take a peek and go over some stuff!
My game takes place in a testing grounds with various platforms and standing orbs. In this first iteration, it takes place in space, but after building out the platforms that idea didn’t seem to pan out so well, for reasons I’ll go into shortly. The skybox texture was created using a premade texture from SpaceScape, a free tool for creating space skyboxes.
Unreal is a very powerful engine with some very useful tools in prototyping a scene. You can create shapes in the scene on the fly. Unfortunately (at least as far as I know) those custom shapes, known as brushes, are their own object type and I couldn’t find an easy way to convert them into components for reuse. I imagine it’s possible, the answer just wasn’t easily at hand. I created the octagon platforms and the orb with stand using brushes.
This is the first post in a series that will reflect on the project from various stages, covering pros and cons of the creative process and implementation of the game. This review is a long time coming, it was originally started right after the 2015 Global Game Jam.
In January I broke a lull by participating in the annual 48 hour Global Game Jam. Prior to this jam, it had been some time since prototyping a game of my own. Game jams in general are a great opportunity to break creators block and start fresh.
I started a project called Out of Phase. The original idea was to create a two player game that involved a series of puzzles contained within chambers, similar to Portal 2. There was a twist, where the environment was slightly different between the two players, requiring them to communicate between each other to solve the puzzles.
At the end of the 48 hour jam, I produced the first version. While not complete, it still gave an example of the general concept with a couple puzzle examples. Two players were supported through a local co-op mode, where chracters were toggled by hitting the tab key.
For this post, I’ll give a general overview of the tools and design ideas that took place at the Global Game Jam.
It’s a good rule of thumb in game jams not to build your own framework. Your focus is on producing a game, not a toolset. Phaser.io is a real snazzy HTML5 game engine/framework. It comes with a tilemap loader, collision detection, WebGL support, and a plethora of other goodies to make life easier.
One problem I ran into early on was selecting the wrong physics engine for collision detection. This set me back a little, but helped me learn the differences between the P2 and Arcade systems. In Phaser.io, you can actually have more than one system active, so they’re not exclusive to each other.
Reeeally late in posting this, but I’m determined to post about my game jam back in July where the theme was time manipulation. The dynamic was a little different, I had an “idea person” to help move the creative process along and blocks. I was paired up with Jacq, sound engineer and creative mind. After a few iterations of rehashing the fundamentals of our game, we finally came up with a platformer that fit the theme. From this experience I had some takeaways to apply to my next jam.
Idea People are AWESOME
Having a person to handle the brainstorming while you’re coding has its benefits. It’s easier to cut and run when hitting a wall, as the other person has already been thinking into alternatives, opposed to wasting time on something that just isn’t working because you don’t have any better ideas.
Skillsets can become dusty
This was a frustrating lesson to learn. After not touching Flixel for a month and a half, working with basics like movement and sprite placement was more difficult than it should have been.
There’s an easier way to prototype
My toolset has been pretty low level. I use ActionScript, and while I utilize the Flixel framework with libraries, it still requires a lot of coding. At the end of the jam I surmized I would have developed my prototype faster with a prototyping framework such as Construct 2 or Stencyl. Both allow the rapid prototyping of platformers, such as this one without coding.