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/>.
At the start of this year, I thought of some goals that I wanted to achieve by the end of 2019. So, taking Diamond Dallas Page's (former pro-wrestler, now DDPY guru) advice, I wrote down my goals on a piece of paper, cementing my goals in ink form so there is no confusion or misdirection from myself. It's stuck on a wall where it is seen by my two eyes every day.
I also have made a checklist that is separated by months of tasks that I would like to get done and that helps me continue on this journey of increasing my knowledge of game design. On the wall next to the goals are printed out versions of emails that I had gotten from companies informing me that my job application had not been successful. I keep them there as motivation, saying to myself 'I'll show them!'. 'Them' not only being the job decision makers of those companies, but people I know and meet in real life. If every time I heard people criticise me or even give me that look you get when they think that your wasting your time about my choice to make games, I would be one rich MFer. (which would make life so much easier). But there's only one thing that everyone is guaranteed, and that's death. So, why not do what I want to do? In my opinion everyone is wasting their time no matter what their doing. Why not make my life not so miserable - until I die from natural causes, unnatural causes or by cause of a belt around my neck (only joking. Or am I....).
Shit! Went a bit dark there. Anyway, continuing on... The failed job applications on the wall is also a reminder to myself to get better, keep learning and create more meaningful experiences in my games. The time of comparing myself to others is over. The only comparison that is acceptable is to myself. If my knowledge of game design is better at the end of this year than it is now, then that's a win in my book (or at least an improvement).
I have 3 goals on that piece of paper and excuse the vagueness of the first, its only because I'm working on it right now,
and who knows what the final product will become. There's also a chance of not completing all the goals during 2019, and if that's the case, the incomplete ones will roll onto the now yearly goal list for next year.
Complete unannounced game
I am working on this right now, not much I can say right now about it, but it's in its early stages. Prototype incoming.
Make a Duke Nukem 3D episode mod
I really want to make a full episode mod for Duke Nukem 3D. I have some experience with the Build Engine level editor, and I have modified some of the game files, to import my own sprites/textures, adjust values of gun damage, health, etc., and also recently figured out how to load your own levels, and go from one custom level to the next in-game.
Participate in a game jam
I have yet to participate in a game jam, and probably should soon. I'm thinking of entering in one on itch.io or gamejolt.com. I need more experience with rapid prototyping and deciding what works in a game and what doesn't, as well as managing time restrictions efficiently.
Peckham M 2015, Rocket League 2015, Psyonix, Panic Button Games, Time, Here's Why Everybody Loves This Bizarre New Soccer Game, viewed 3 February 2019, <http://time.com/3966126/rocket-league/>.
Near the end of my time at university, I searched for internships and jobs in the game industry, thinking that if I didn't get a job in the next month, it was over. The dream of working for a company that developed games would just be that... a dream, never to be achieved.
Before I graduated, I found a posting for an internship, a game design internship. I thought this was the perfect opportunity, so I stopped whatever I was doing and set my mind on giving me the best chance of getting that internship. In the span of a couple of days, I finished my resume, my website portfolio, wrote a cover letter, and even bought a domain name for my website (this website!). I believe I created the best possible chance I could have at the time to get the position. Anyway, about a month or two pass, and I had gotten an email stating that they were not moving my application forward. Disappointment, frustration, maybe even depression (don't tell anyone!) set in.
I had failed. About a couple of days go by, and I think to myself, "this can't be the end". So, I do the proverbial dust off the old baggy stone washed jeans, and whatever job listing I saw I could fit in with, I just applied for it! I emailed many developers asking if they offered any internships or junior positions (some even replied to the emails). Most didn't reply to the application I sent for their job listing. I knew this wasn't the way to do it, my heart wasn't in any of it. I had also been burnt out of developing games after I graduated from university. It wasn't fun anymore, creating, it felt like unwanted work that I had to do, and I got angry and bitter. It was a struggle to double click on the Unity logo on my desktop. Every time I saw it, I just got frustrated.
During that time period, I did move forward to the next phase of the 'job applying game'. I got a call from a developer wanting to have an interview with me about the job I applied for. This was my chance, it also felt like my last chance. But I was still tired of the game development cycle. Still burnt out and having not created anything since my time in university. I went to the job interview, and now looking back I can confidently say, that it was... average. I was average, the whole interview and my answers were too. I had no confidence in my work and myself. As soon as I left the building, I knew right then there was no way I got the job, and a week later I got an email confirming my thought.
I had to take a break, and almost make myself re-learn to have fun making games. I had to enjoy the process again, needed to love having to work out problems and bugs, think about different ways of applying mechanics to games, and everything else that game development brings to the table. So near the end of last year, I took a break, didn't write any piece of code, didn't model a small object like a lamp or some other kind of lighting appliance, I shut off everything trying to refresh my brain and forget about the bad times.
Now it's 2019, and I'm focusing on my 'recovery' and making myself a better designer. I'm already working on a game that I plan on releasing by this year (hopefully), and also have other game development related goals in mind. What if I don't get a job in the game industry? At this point, I'm not worried about that, I need to make game development my hobby again, I know that my portfolio work needs to be replaced with better work, and I need to get better at designing and creating games. I'm beginning to reintroduce my love for creating, And at this point, I can share my overall goal I want to get out of developing games, it might sound like a simple one but trust me, with your mind overflown with information and still not quite fully understanding everything it takes to make a great game, you can get lost in your own bullshit. So here it is... Make games that you would want to play! (it's that simple! or maybe it isn't).
Pavle 2016, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City 2002, Rockstar Games, Rockstar North, GTAForums, Best mission failure texts/calls/cutscenes?, viewed 13 January 2019, <https://gtaforums.com/topic/856025-best-mission-failure-textscallscutscenes/>.
A shrivelled up gherkin