Another Game Jam – Frog vs Flies

Surprise surprise, I completed another game jam over the weekend just gone.

This time I took part in the GMTK Game Jam 2020, another 48 hour long game jam, this time based around the theme ‘Out of Control’.

A few different ideas popped into my head, but this time was a little different as the GMTK jam started at the same time as the Godot Wild Jam, where originally I was planning to start a project that would fit both briefs, as it was declared you could upload to both on this occasion.

The theme for the Godot Wild Jam was ‘Tiny World’, and so although I have since decided to take a break after submitting my GMTK entry and not upload to the Wild Jam, I went for a game based around a terrarium.

Heavily inspired by the sheer amount of flies that snuck into my house over the weekend, I created a really small game where you play as a frog trapped in a terrarium, and catch flies that swarm in.

I’ve been toying with a few game ideas that I want to work on outside of game jams, longer term projects, and so I really wanted to focus on figuring out a few things ahead of moving onto that project.

I want to use watercolour imagery in the projects I’m soon going to be working on, and so I used this as an opportunity to test out how this would work in terms of importing, and in terms of performance.

The idea for my game when I first uploaded it was simply that you had to eat the flies with your tongue, and that if the flies hit you the frog would be damaged, take too much damage and you die.

My wife playtested when she got back from work, roughly half an hour before the deadline, when she suddenly dropped an idea on my head – why not have it so that the flies don’t damage you but you have to stop the jar from getting too overcrowded?

I cursed due to the fact I only then had 20 minutes to make any changes and upload, but I committed and somehow managed to figure out the coding in a last minute panic, exported my project and re-uploaded. I think that says how far I’ve come since I started learning how to code in Godot using GDScript, the fact I was able to set up 2 functions in 20 minutes and completely change the loss state of the game – I was quite proud!

The brutal frog attack animation

Visually, I’m fairly pleased with how the game turned out, and I’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback on the artwork, there are definitely improvements that I’d want to make (I’ve outlined them on the game page), but as with the previous jams, I’ve learned a lot and that’s what I wanted!

As I mentioned, I’m giving myself a break from game jams, I’m not going to continue working on this for the Godot Wild Jam as this coming weekend I’d like to actually give myself some relaxation time before work, as much as I love working to a tight deadline and coding, it probably isn’t doing my eyes very much good…

So for now, I’m going to do some work on my longer term projects and see where they take me, because I think that being able to work on something until I’m happy with it, instead of being until the deadline kicks in will probably feel a lot different!

Play Frog vs Flies on itch.io

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My Second Game Jam

After completing my first game jam with ‘We are All Ants’, I found myself wanting to give it another go very quickly.

I think it’s because I enjoyed the time restrictions that the game jam imposed, I had a deadline and I knew that I needed to hit that deadline in order to ensure my game counted as a submission.

After having a look at the game jams on itch.io, I found the United Game Jam, which is an annual jam for beginner game devs – although they define ‘beginner’ as a dev who has uploaded no games at all to Itch.io, I figured that I was new enough to take part. Also, this game jam was only 48 hours long, and so was a really tight deadline over a weekend, so I could take full advantage.

The theme for the jam was ‘Two’, a very broad theme that at the start really stumped me, but having learned from the last game jam that I need to start small instead of trying to put together a huge finished game, I eventually came up with an idea of having two controllable characters that you had to get through a platforming level.

I think next time I will either update the blog as I’m going or take WIP screenshots, but after eventually figuring out how to set up the whole mechanic of switching between two characters, ‘Escape Escape’ was born.

The basic level

Using my experience from the last game jam, I started small. I made sure that I had an actual game going on, so I put in some mechanics such as:

  • Spikes
  • Moving Spinning wheels of death
  • Conveyor belts that either sped you up or slowed you right down

Once I’d built the components and coded them to make sure they worked properly, I then focused on the artwork, including animating both characters, sorting out backgrounds and created a tileset for the level.

I then playtested (as much as the timeframe would allow for anyway), and figured that although it could be a little fiddly with the conveyor belts and controlling two characters, it didn’t prove much as a challenge – essentially you could get one character to safety at the end, then switch back and do the same with the second, there was no sense of urgency or difficulty.

To resolve that, I added a final mechanic, which was a closing wall that would move at a consistent rate from left to right, and touching the wall with either player would result in game over. This meant that it became more important to manage both characters at the same time, instead of just focusing on one. I think this worked really well, and led to the backstory that the factory these two robots were working in was self-destructing, and they had to escape.

The wall added and closing in, increasing urgency

It was pretty late in the game jam then, so I quickly added some sound effects for when the characters jumped, when they died and some background music, as well as death animations.

After playtesting again, I figured that the level was maybe a little bit tricky for a first level, and although I tried to set up more levels with a gradually increasing difficulty, I think the way that I had organised my files/set up meant that this was difficult, and I didn’t have chance to finish this before the deadline, so it ended up just being the one level, saying that it took my wife a good while to finish it, so it wasn’t necessarily a real quick game.

I ended up submitting the game with an hour and a half to spare, but there was definitely more that I would work on if I had more time:

  • Tidying up the collision boxes – a lot of player feedback said that some of the collision boxes were a little unfair
  • The background music – it restarted everytime the level restarted because the player died, so ideally I’d want this to run continuously, but also speed up if the wall got closer to the player so as to increase the sense of urgency
  • Switching sound effects/animation
  • More mechanics that resulted in death
  • Level progression
  • A clearer win state, currently you just go back to the title screen, but I’d like to make it more satisfying
  • A timer so that you can see how quickly you make it through the level, so there can kind of be a scoreboard

The finished level can be found below:

Escape Escape by plumthumbs

Okay, this time I am back

And this time – I actually mean it!

To prove it:

We Are All Ants by plumthumbs 

Look! An actual published thing! I say thing because I don’t know what I should really describe it as.

Long story short – I’m using my Covid-19 quarantine to learn how to code properly! As my previous posts describe, I’ve mainly used Construct 2 to develop my previous stuff, whereas this time I’ve been learning GDScript and coding within the Godot engine.

I started trying to use Gamemaker Studio back in 2018 (was that really 2 years ago?!) but it didn’t really sink in, so instead I started learning Godot around 3 weeks ago.

To really get the ball rolling – I decided to enter a Game Jam for the first time, so I entered the Godot Wild Jam #22 as a bit of a test – first to try and ease myself back into designing, but also to give me a set deadline to put something together in.

The jam lasted a week – but as I’m still working full-time (from home) I only really had chance to work on the game at weekends, which meant there’s a lot more that I’d want to have done to complete it.

I’ve had some amazing feedback and I’m genuinely so happy that people have played it (even though it isn’t too fun in it’s current state), but the following is what I would want to re-do if I do visit it again:

  • Sounds! Definitely need a soundtrack/sound effect, gutted I didn’t have time to put some in
  • Animations – the playable ant has a walking animation, but I’d love to have added some idle animations but also included them for the NPCs as well, to stop them just standing idly
  • Collision Boxes – They’re a bit messed up and it causes the ant to be jittery, so at some points the ant will need to do a little hop in order to move around, and there’s a point in the map where the ant falls through the floor
  • Quest Acknowledgement/Guidance – At the moment it’s a case of exploring yourself to figure out what you need to do, which is fine for some people but others may need a bit more help – it’s easy to forget when you’re designing the game that no-one else knows as much about the game as you do, and so what is obvious to you may not be obvious to others!
  • Similarly, the ending – Unless I plan to expand the game with more quests/levels (which I’m not ruling out), I want to make the ending a bit more final, to make it clear that you’ve reached the end, because it definitely isn’t clear now!
  • More NPC ants, because in reality, would there only be 4 ants in an ant colony?  I really wanted to include the Queen Ant (blocked away of course, the peasants can’t approach her), but I’d love to add some more ants flurrying around in the background
  • General graphics improvements – I decided to focus on the concept/coding this time because that was where I needed the most practise, so the artist in me kind of hates the final quality of the art (apart from the main ant, spent a lot of time on that walking animation).

That’s the list that I can think of at the moment, I have a few ideas that could I could use to continue the story, so let’s see whether I revisit this or not!

As a Ty update – I started building it into Godot, but I’m really going back to the drawing board with it, so I’m not sure what’s happening with that just yet…

I thought you were back?

I am back! But I’ve been doing something a little different instead of just jumping back into Ty.

Since starting to develop in Construct 2, I’ve had some doubts as to how future-proof using Construct 2 is (I know that they have released Construct 3 but that’s an in browser editor and I don’t really trust that, and it’s not really a software used in the industry).

So I’ve been looking into both Unity and Gamemaker Studio, and I’ve been torn between them, literally flicking through so many comparisons and reviews of the two.

For now, I know that I want to concentrate on 2D games as learning 3D modelling would be biting off way more than I can chew at the moment (I’ve got experience with AutoCAD and rendering but that was many years ago!) and I’ve dabbled a little bit in Unity previously, but I think that Gamemaker Studio would be better for the games and ideas I have at the moment.

Hence why I’ve not been working on Ty, I’ve been hitting up the tutorials for Gamemaker Studio and having a play, even making loads of notes – I feel like I’m back at school again!

Since taking my break from working on Ty I’ve had a lot of ideas running around in my head so I’m finally taking a note of them now, thinking them through and I aim to do some short prototype style games so that I can get a portfolio built up.

I’m enjoying using Gamemaker Studio as instead of using drag and drop style editors, I’ve actually been using their scripting language, I know it’s not a universal scripting language but it feels nice to be able to have more control over what I’m working on, and there’s a huge sense of achievement after typing out a chunk of code and getting it right.

By the end of the week I’ll have worked out what little project I’m going to work on first, and I’ve also signed up for some Game Jams which will start over the next month or so.  It’s all going smoothly, regardless of what the emptiness of my blog might suggest.

Where have I been?

Well… it’s been a while! Over 2 months in fact.  Does that mean that I have stopped working on my games forever?  Nope.

You see, just over a week ago, I got married to my beautiful wife surrounded by amazing friends and family, and so as I’m sure you can appreciate – it’s been a very hectic time.

I tried continuing my games design alongside work and wedding preparations, but honestly it was way too much for me, and so I told myself that I would take a break from Ty and my games so as to not burn out.

Taking a break has been hard, but now that we’re back from our honeymoon (Disneyland Paris because we’re big kids) I’m so excited to crack on again!

Luckily I’ve been able to book most of the next week off work (still definitely need to recover from the last couple of months with wedding planning and socialising so much) and so I’m going to jump straight back into my games – I’m so hyped to do so!

Of course, it’s also my favourite time of the year – E3!  I’ve just finished watching the Microsoft Conference and I’m now trying to keep myself awake for Bethesda and Devolver Digital which may prove to be a little difficult, it’s been a while since I’ve stayed up past 4am.

So basically, expect my blog posts to start back up again, and more progress being shared!

Update #10 – Just keep going…

So, things have slowed down a little bit, and I’m not too happy about it.  Work has been a lot more intense recently, and so by the time I get home I’m too tired to crack on with the game development.

We’re undergoing a pilot currently at work where we effectively have to do two job roles at the same time, and my eyes are always red raw by the end of the day.  Still, I’ve been slowly getting some work done on the game.

level1

Compared to the last time I shared some artwork, the seeds were a little too realistic and the trees were all different colours, the branches were the wrong colour and there weren’t any additional details.

I’ve also downsized a lot of the images, most of the images I had imported ended up needing shrinking by at least half, and so I’ve made the original files smaller.

level1A

As well as the immunity that I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve now also made it so that Ty will flash whenever he takes damage, to ensure that the player has a visual indicator as to when they are immune and make it clear that they have taken damage.

Next, I want to include damage animations so that the damage is further highlighted, possibly by the coloured feathers floating away.  I don’t know quite how realistic this idea is going to be, but I think it will be very effective if I can pull it off!

I’ve also started getting some sound effects into the game, and so Ty currently has footsteps audio, and one of my close friends is working on the music for the game as well, so we’ve had some nice jam sessions, coming up with a nice relaxed yet recognisable soundtrack.

I really hope that I can get over this recent hump, I think I’ve been struggling because I need to put an NPC in this first level and it will be a large part of the level, I reckon it’s a little too intimidating for me…  However, I have a full weekend off work coming up, and although my Saturday is looking pretty busy, I should be able to get a solid day making progress on Sunday at the very latest.

Update #9 – Lookin’ Pretty

I’ve not updated this blog in far too long, but I am still working on the game every single day whenever I get a moment after work.

Lot’s of art has been added into the tutorial level and so it’s starting to piece together nicely.  I now have actual poison flowers, nettles and ledges.

The trees have been overhauled, the level has a basic background and I’ve even included animations for when Ty jumps up a level.

level1

level1b
After some play testing I decided to add a drop-down facility, so that the player can now pass down through branches.  It made sense to do this if I’m expecting the player to spend a lot of time in the trees, as otherwise they’ll have to go around branches to get back down, not exactly fun!

Also, after some testing, it definitely did appear that it was a little too hard to travel around the level without knowing what’s about to come up… I myself hadn’t noticed this as I knew exactly what to do at every single point in the level, though now it seems to obvious!

I’m going to do some fiddling around with the size of the layout, as I think I prefer it being more zoomed out, but I may not end up with it being as zoomed out as this.

level1c

It was also very obvious that it was all too easy to become damaged as the game stood, just colliding with a poison flower spore once was impossible because 3 would spawn at the same time.  Therefore, I’ve altered the settings a little bit so that when the player collides with an enemy they will be immune for 2 seconds, and so can get to safety.

This definitely makes it a little harder to die, which I think will be a blessing later on in the game!

I may not have updated this blog for 10 days, but I’ve definitely been working on the game constantly and I’m no closer to slowing down or stopping, I can only dream of a day where I could work on the game instead of working!

Update #8 – First Level Underway

It’s been nearly a week since my last post, and finally I’ve started putting together the first level.  The level is all planned out, and I’ve done some thorough testing of the positioning of assets, and also allowed people to have a play through to ensure it was actually playable.

playground1
I’m going to use a lot of layers so as to make the level design levels, here is the opening to the level

playground2
I may need to reduce the thickness of the trees and I think these are just placeholder images

playground3
Those yellow particles are poison and are pretty lethal!

As you can see, I’ve popped a few images in there, but there are still a lot of placeholder images at the moment.

The level so far involves:

  • Nettle placeholders which will damage Ty as he collides with them
  • Rocks and grass textures
  • Depth with levels, Ty goes in front of some trees and behind others
  • Poison flower placeholders with poison spores which damage Ty
  • A collection system, the player collects seeds which restore health
  • Seeds have been placed to ensure that Ty has a chance to make it to the end no matter what damage he has taken

I will be testing the level a little more vigorously soon, though I have tested it on gamers with varying skill levels.  There is still a lot of work to go into this level including backgrounds, an NPC, dialogue, scripting and extra details, but it’s great to see an actual level start to take shape, even if this level is very simplistic in order to introduce the player to the controls.

Luckily, after tomorrow I now have 4 days off work and so I intend to work a lot on Ty when I’m not playing squash and tidying my flat, hopefully the level will move more towards completion by the end of my time off!

Update #7 – Slow but Steady…

I’ve not been able to work on Ty too much recently because I’ve spent a couple of days in Norwich visiting my wonderful (nearly)in-laws.  However, it’s been nice to show off some of the footage from my game and luckily they enjoyed taking a look at my game so far as much I’ve enjoyed making it!

We returned to Leeds yesterday and I had managed to book today off work at the last minute.  After giving the flat a nice clean, sorting through the washing and giving our lovely guinea pig some sorely needed attention I was able to return to Ty.

TheNest090318

As you can see from the above screenshot, I’ve still not moved any further from The Nest, but I’ve managed to colour in some of the background.  I now just need to colour the background trees and figure out what I’m doing with the space behind that, whether adding sky or more foliage.  But I definitely think adding opacity to the background helps distinguish the foreground from the background.

You may be wondering what that unsightly red box is, don’t worry, that’s not some strange glitch I’ve created.  That’s a makeshift hazard.

In the above screenshot, Ty has already lost some of his colour and so has collided with the hazard once.  As a result, his walking and idle animations will now reflect the loss of colour.

Not only will Ty’s colours affect his appearance and animations, but it will also affect his ability to fly.  Previously, when pressing the “fly” key, Ty was able to go up as many times as the player wanted, which would have been far too easy for the player to navigate around the levels, and was really causing me a headache when trying to design levels.

I’ve therefore made Ty’s flying ability align with the number of feathers he has.  When Ty has all of his colour, he can fly up a maximum of 4 times, and each feather he loses will cause this number to drop down once each time.  This not only reinforces the link between the other birds losing all their colour and their ability to fly, but it also increases the skill required in the game and the risk of losing feathers.

I return to work tomorrow but with my day off on Sunday I am planning to create some solid level design work, so that I can actually get this game on the move!

Update #6 – The Nest is nearly done!

Well, progress is coming along nicely.  I finally feel as though The Nest is nearly complete, and I must admit – I’m quite proud of it!

TheNest040318TheNestB040318TheNestC040318

As you can see, it’s looking a lot more finished now… (ignore those random numbers please, they’re triggers for the colour to change for when I was capturing a video).

I think it improved hugely by adding the background, which I was lazy and just mirrored so that I didn’t have to draw the whole thing out, but I don’t think that it’s too bad…  I need to colour it in, but that will be quite a big task I feel.  I’ve also tried to make the main Nest Tree stand out more by reducing the opacity of the background, but I don’t know how that will look when coloured.

Also, I need to fix the top of the background trees, I’m thinking of having them fade out anyway so that the sky can be viewed, but we’ll see.

I’ve also fixed the collision boxes for not only Ty but also the assets he can stand on in the nest, meaning that he no longer hovers just above or seems to be embedded.  The only asset that I can think of other than those included so far would be the level selector board, which I’m going to create in the style of a National Trust information board with a map – this can be left till towards the end, at least until I’ve figured out how the map will look.

This next week I’m going to be in Norwich visiting the in-laws so I’m not sure how much work I’m going to get done on my project, but I’m going to take as much work with me as I can in the hope of finding some time to crack on, even if it’s only on the train journeys!

I also need to start looking at character designs for my NPC’s who are mainly going to consist of Ty’s sister, his mum and grandpa.  There’s still a long way to go, but I’ve gotten way further than I thought I would be able to manage, and I’m pretty damn proud!