I was browsing through itch.io/jams for possible game jams that I could enter into and found one that peaked my interest. A game jam is a sprint-like event in which designers, artists, programmers, etc., plan, design, and create a game within a short span of time. A game jam usually has a time limit and a theme. The theme is usually announced as soon as the game jam starts. Another cool aspect is that you can play other people's games and see how they interpreted the theme in their work.
The jam I entered into was called 8 Bits to Infinity ~ Platformer Week and it ran from March 2nd to March 8th (or if you're in America, March 1 - 7, but I'm going by the time zone I was at. Ya hear!). I didn't have a whole week to work on the game due to 'real life' shi... stuff, so I knew I had to create a game that was short, and that used Unity (game engine) primitive objects (cubes, spheres, capsules, etc.) if I wanted to create a game in time. The theme of the game jam was Darkness and early on I thought of the idea of making a first-person platformer where the player jumps on platforms (duh!) to reach the goal in time before the timer runs out.
Pretty generic I know, but the goal wasn't for me to change the video game business (even though I probably couldn't even if I tried), but it was for me to see if I can still complete a game in a restrictive time limit and when I don't know how to implement a mechanic into my game, instead of just giving up and walking away, I wanted to stick to it, and get through the failures, and find compromises for things I didn't know how to do yet. It seems like my goal is to see how many times I fail before I succeed at something, seems close to Einstein's definition of insanity, but hopefully I see different (improved) results.
The theme being Darkness, I took that in the literal sense so the game world was to be pitch black and when the player steps on a platform the game level reveals itself by lighting the way. I also wanted the player to know what to do without a traditional in-game tutorial, and also keep UI elements and menus to a minimum. There was no need to waste time creating insignificant scenes, menus and buttons, when I could be using that time to focus on gameplay.
So after about 3 days (less if I counted the hours that I worked on it for. Which by the way, I probably should keep track of next time I enter a game jam), I had a prototype of a game called Escaping Absence. I couldn't think of a great title for the game, and that name just came up during the last moments of finishing it. But it's better than A Game with No Name! (oh wait! that's a great title!).
Escaping Absence contains 6 levels, and the goal of the player is to reach the end of the level before the timer runs out. The player can either use a mouse and keyboard or an Xbox 360/One controller (the only controllers I tested the game on).
To get the outline effect on the 3D objects, I used a shader that I had been messing around with my previous game development projects. The shader is basically Unity's standard shader but coded in the shader is an outline effect. Messing around with the lighting settings in Unity I created a pitch-black game world, and the lighting is handled by 2 (directional) light sources. One lights the starting cubes which are always on, and the other lights up the hidden objects which when hitting a platform, the light intensity rises, and the player sees the path. Due to the real-time lighting, this is a heavy load on the old Personal Computer. So, using primitive shapes helped out a lot in regard to the frame rate.
I also got some great feedback from two streamers on Twitch who were playing all the games from the game jam. Watching their streams, one wanted the game to have an option to invert the Y Axis for the camera movement and felt like the timer didn't need to be in the game. I agree with adding an invert Y Axis toggle, but taking the timer out, I feel like that would take out that struggle to get to the end of the level in time, I could be wrong. All the player does in the game is jump on platforms. Maybe if I had more time and added more complex levels, then the timer could be removed.
The other streamer had a good point of when the player dies, rotate the player to face the level. This I was coding into the game, but ran out of time, and the system didn't work properly. But this is achievable for the future. He also commented on when you lose a level, he didn't like that you had to go back to the start of the game. Both streamers didn't know what to make of the in-game audio, one said it was weird. I also agree, I feel like the audio track could change when the platforms light up. I don't have much knowledge on audio design, so I need to increase my knowledge on that in the future. The sound effects I used were part of a Unity package I downloaded on the Unity Asset Store. It is called Universal Sound FX by IMPHENZIA. Both streamers did get the idea of the game and after testing the mechanics they knew what they had to do to finish the level. There was some good feedback in there and I appreciate them playing the game.
If you want to check out the streamer's videos:
I was contemplating for a couple of days about updating the game to add the features of; the inverted Y axis toggle, the player facing the right way after dying, and changing up some of the audio. Ultimately, I decided to continue working on the project and add those features in and fix whatever bugs that were still present in the first published build. So yeah, that's what I'm working on now. :)
To date, the game has been downloaded a total of 36 times (36 is greater than 0, so that's a plus). The game can be played on Windows, Linux or Mac. Most of the downloads were for the Windows 64-bit build with 18 downloads, next was the 32-bit Windows build with 10, and then Linux with 6, and finally Mac with 2 downloads. It was a good idea to add builds to not only Windows, but to Linux and Mac too, and will continue to build for those platforms in the future. The game has also been added to 5 people's collections. Collections on itch.io are lists that users put games in to either get inspiration from, or find fun to play, or like the art style, etc., it's sort of like a playlist on YouTube, or any other type of collection of things that you save (I guess! :/ ).
There were some really cool games that were submitted for the game jam. One of the games I played had a mechanic that I thought was great. The player was a candle stick like character, and you can click on lit flames with the mouse and add it on top of the character's head to light the way and store the light for use later in the game to activate objects. That was just one of many great ideas that were implemented in the games submitted. You can check the games out here: https://itch.io/jam/platformer-week/entries
But if for some reason you want to play the game Escaping Absence, you can check it out HERE .
Heart of Darkness 1998, Interplay Entertainment, Ocean Software, Amazing Studio, Top Best Alternatives, viewed 17 March 2019, <https://www.topbestalternatives.com/heart-of-darkness/>.