Each year, a game jam is held. A jam that spreads its influence across the world, transcends language and culture barriers, and bands developers from every corner of the globe together to work toward a common goal – making a badass game. That jam is Global Game Jam. And of course, like a gamedev-mad lunatic, I took part.
Global Game Jam, like Ludum Dare, takes place over 48 hours. However, unlike LD, GGJ is entirely for fun – there are no ratings and no winners, and instead it’s up to you to make what you want of the event. GGJ takes place across many physical jam sites across the world; jammers must join up to a site and physically be there, or else they can’t receive the theme – this helps foster a ‘community’ feeling and entices people to work in teams. I worked alone, but I had plenty of other people in the room to bounce ideas off and have fun with; it was fun seeing what ideas others in the room were coming up with.
The theme for this year’s competition was ‘Ritual’, which was revealed in the keynote video above. The Warwick University site didn’t get the theme for about 45 minutes because we are definitely very competent, then I spent the next hour or so brainstorming/panicking, until I settled on my final idea – Doodle God meets exploration elements.
Roughly what my ideas were for the original world map.
My idea was that you start off in a grand temple with only Fire, Earth, Water and Air to start off with. By combining pairs of these elements, you must create brand new ones, building up a table of elements. Once you’ve crafted a certain item (hint: that item is Life), you’ll gain the ability to walk and can exit the temple. In the overworld, you’ll come across various areas in which an ‘Interact’ prompt appears on the screen – pressing select in these areas will either find a brand new element, one that can’t be crafted normally, or come up with a new prompt telling you that you need a specific item to progress.
An incomplete version of my very convoluted crafting tree.
In all, I managed to get the vast majority of my plans implemented in the time limit. I made space for 100 different elements in the code and UI, sketched about 81 element ideas, and managed to implement 70 for the final version. Similarly with the overworld areas, I’d planned for a ‘Good vs Evil’ thing with the world map – one one end, you have the River blocking off the Forest, which leads to the Hallowed Forest, with stairs up to the Floating Castle, and on the other end you’d have the Blood River, separating the Desert from the Dungeon, and on the other end of the Dungeon would be Hell. I had to cut the Blood River, Castle and Hell, and I made the Dungeon, Forest, Ruins and Hallowed Forest much smaller than I’d intended, but I’d planned the game in such a way that cutting these areas wouldn’t matter too much. I may work on the game further to add cut areas and elements back in, as well as grouping elements together and introducing a Temple in each area for crafting specific elements.
Given a bit more time, I’d have loved to work on the UI too. In the end, all of the UI elements were just default Unity UI panels and scroll bars, recoloured to make it easier to see when things were selected. I would also give a lot more attention to making the world feel alive; the river is static, there’s no dust blowing in the desert and grass doesn’t sway in the wind, but changing all of that would make the overworld more lively.
The crafting UI.
I’d also change a few of the recipes. Stuff like “Life + Stone = Egg” feel very contrived and don’t make much sense, even though Doodle God has similar silly recipes; given the time constraint I pretty much went with the first thing that came to my sleep-deprived head. With a little more time to think, I’m sure I can make many of the recipes better and provide alternative recipes for any one item.
Global Game Jam doesn’t have a rating system or a leaderboard of any kind, but I’d love for you to try it out. The version on the GGJ website has a couple of design flaws – you can walk over the River and you must click the mouse to interact with stuff – but the version on my Google Drive, linked on the image below, has fixed both of these issues. Let me know what you think!