Global Game Jam 2015 and ‘Low Resolution’ 2-Week Challenge

Ever since doing Ludum Dare 31, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the next 48 hour competition or jam. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait that long, as Global Game Jam happened at the end of January. Games submitted for Global Game Jam aren’t rated like those for Ludum Dare, but the rest of the event is structured similarly – you turn up, get given a theme to work into your game, and you have 48 hours to create and submit something. The nice thing is that start and end times are based on time zones rather than a global start time, and the theme isn’t voted on by participants, so you tend to get less terrible themes. You’re encouraged to work in a team, and so I worked with Tom for this one.

Team Photo

Our team photo. The cat represents team spirit. And meowing.

Due to the time constraints, we firstly decided 2D was a must. Then, We decided on a pixel art style, like above. The theme for the event was ‘What do we do now?’, so our original idea for the game was to make a platformer with levels that branch off each other based on the challenges presented to the player, but we didn’t get enough levels completed so that didn’t work out. We managed to have different outcomes to levels though, so our plan did come to life in some respect.

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We should totally focus on pixel art more often.

The protagonist, Nathan, starts off the game by getting fired from ACME Plumb Inc., and is thrown out the window of the 5th floor, falling into the first level. From there, he needs to do tasks for people in the city to get to the next level. We focused on the humour elements of this game more than we have in previous ones, such as the second level where someone has lost their cat, and instead of handing it to her, you can throw it in the fire and watch her get angry.

game-screenshot-02Poor Mittens, doesn’t know what’s about to hit her.

The gameplay mechanics are straightforward – the challenges are generally ‘move x to y’, or ‘pick up x, give it to y’, so nothing too strenuous. We were pretty happy to actually have something done by the end, because at the end of Friday, we really didn’t have that much except some (awesome) pixel art, mainly drawn by Tom.

Since GGJ2015, we’ve done a little bit of work on the game for the Warwick Game Design two-week challenge, with the theme of ‘low resolution’. There were a few collision issues (such as a really cool infinite jump bug and totally unhelpful sticking-on-sides-of-things bug) that have been fixed, plus a bit of level rejigging. Most awesomely, we’ve managed to get it working on Android! It’s pretty much exactly like the GGJ version, minus those bugs, because we haven’t had the time to add any levels. We’re hoping to continue work on it in the future, and port it to other platforms, because we find the simple and humourous gameplay, coupled with the pixel art style, has potential for becoming a fully-fledged game.

You can find the download on the Global Game Jam website.

Pixel Art, Done Differently

Have you ever looked at some amazing pixel art from some video game and thought, “I wish I was that good!”? Well, why not rip them off? Oh, but that’s a bit of a scumbag way of doing it. How about, ripping them off, but making it look awesomer? Now you’re talking! Well, luckily that’s just what I did with a few bits of card and a lot of effort. Basically, I’m talking real-life pixels made of card.

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Obligatory ‘Charmander is best starter’ comment. Let the fights commence.

This is what we’re aiming for. Of course, you can pick any piece of pixel art you wish, just make it realistic, measure out how big it’ll be once completed. These pixels are half a centimeter on each side, so use that as a rough guide for how big it should end up being. This is the image I’m using:

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Just steal from others. It’s easier.

I was originally planned to do more than one of these (about 6 was my first estimate), but after trying out the process on one, it became blindingly obvious that wasn’t going to happen. So, I settled with the best one on the image; please send all best-Pokemon-related hate mail to my email address, if you can figure out what it is.

What do I need?

You’re gonna need some stuff for this; sorry, things ain’t always free in life. Says the guy being paid by the government to be at university.

  • A pencil/pen – mightier than the sword. Also used for drawing out guidelines for cutting the card.
  • Scissors – for actually doing the aforementioned cutting.
  • Coloured paper/card – to be aforementionedly cut with the aforementioned scissors.
  • Glue – For ruining surfaces in your house with suspicious white residue and gluing down the card.

Cool, I followed your stupid list. Now what?

Firstly, you hurt mine and the list’s feelings, you heartless brute. Secondly, our first step is to draw out gridlines on the card we’re using – we’ll need a sheet of coloured paper for each colour in the image you’re following. For Charmander, I needed orange, darker orange, black, white, yellow and red. I used 5mm x 5mm squares, but if you want your finished product to look bigger, then perhaps use 1cm x 1cm. Beware – the tinier the squares are, the more hellish the next part.

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Here’s what you’re gonna spend a while frustrated on.

The hellish next part

Next up, once we’ve got a load of (hopefully evenly spaced) gridlines drawn on, we’ll need to cut them out to obtain your squares. You can see I cut them into strips first – this makes it far easier, faster and more accurate than cutting squares individually. Then, just cut individual squares off each strip. And hey presto, we have our pixels! Of course, we’ll need to do this for every colour we need.

20141216_153322This is the part where you start feeling less happy that you need 17 colours for your image.

The drawing-y bit

This bit isn’t always crucial, but it’s a huge help. We’re going to draw another set of gridlines, the same size as the final image will be. Then, draw an outline of what your finished product is going to look like, colouring in each square that’s, say, black. Really, it doesn’t have to indicate the colour of every square, just a nice guide to help you. Seriously, it will help you. Follow this advice. Now.

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This is my rough version. It really does help!

Instructions unclear; glued face to wall.

Well, that’s probably because you didn’t sketch it out like me. But for those who didn’t screw up the last part, now’s the part where we start getting these damn squares stuck down. Easy – just follow the image you’re unceremoniously ripping off. Try sticking the squares down so that the face you drew on with the pen doesn’t show, and that you on’t get much glue on the top bit and leave a weird residue on the face that’ll be showing.

This part does depend hugely on how you did the original cutting out of the squares, as many of them seem to deviate from the size they should be however carefully you cut, so be prepared for some not to fit the grid exactly, and to start cutting out new squares if you need to. But thankfully, once you’ve got them all stuck down, then we’re finished the main work. Congratulations, go and take a break with a non-branded, cola-flavoured beverage – you deserve it!

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Well done if you have any patience left and haven’t stuck your hands together.

Ow, my joints broke, do I need to go to hospital for replacement fingers?

Yes.

Now we’ve completed the hard bit, we can go a step ahead if we want, but this bit is optional. Basically, if you want it to be framed like mine, just cut out a piece of card a bit larger than the image (so it’ll fit neatly in the frame) and make it a nice aspect ratio (so not ridiculously thin or fat, mine could probably be squashed downwards a bit really). Now, cut out a frame – if you make this a single piece of card like I did, it’s a little harder, because then you have to cut out the centre of the card, which can get fiddly, but no-one will notice if it isn’t a completely perfectly connected frame shape. Like everything else, my frame is 5mm wide on the sides, and black to make the bright art stand out. For the sake of completeness, here’s my finished product again:

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I call this particular angle the ‘deja’ view. Get it? Deja vu? My humour is wasted on here.

And that’s what I did during the holidays and forgot to write about until now. If you do make anything using this technique, or you have any ideas of super-cool art that anyone can do, feel free to leave a comment!