The Transfiguration

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Superheroes of the Day #1953

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Superheroes of the Day #1953

It’s been a long stretch, but we survived to the end of the 2014 Global Game Jam, and even came out with a little explorable world to show for it.

Laurel and I arrived late Friday afternoon to meet the other jammers, each wearing construction paper crowns colored according to the skills they brought to the table. The premise of the Game Jam is to meet with other game developers – programmers, artists, musicians, writers – and, in less than 48 hours, build a new game based on the theme given at the start. The theme can be anything; last year it was the sound of a heartbeat, the year before an ouroboros. This time it was the phrase “We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.” An eerily appropriate theme for me, since the idea I’ve been brewing is so closely tied to that.

Though the suggested limit for team size is six people, we started in a group of ten. It soon became clear that this was a mistake; we had too many ideas being pushed around, too many quiet people left out of the conversation, and a general lack of cohesion. Michel, Laurel, Natalie and I eventually broke off to form our own group, and our smaller brainstorm finally sparked a workable idea.

The goal was to play as a character recently moved into a small town. The citizens all need help with something, or are in some sense unhappy, and when your character (Jamie) cheers them up, you get the ability to transform into that other citizen. Every character you play as sees the world a little differently – little Melissa is scared of the homeless man in the park, while wealthy Augustus ignores him so thoroughly that he’s invisible; the police officer Phil is infatuated with teacher/aspiring novelist Marjane, and sees her with a halo. You can transform into nine different characters, and each of the 20 or so citizens says different things to each one.

Laurel and Natalie created the graphics for the game, an adorable set of 2D sprites and background tiles, while Michel did the coding. I was hoping to learn a bit of code as well this weekend, but I was busy the entire time writing dialogue, laying out the town map and devising the plot with Laurel and Natalie.

Projects like these always start with a much more ambitious scope than is really feasible, and in the last fifteen hours or so we realized we had to strip down the game to its core if we wanted anything at all presentable. Our final result lacked animations or quests, and simply allowed you to glide around town, transform into characters and talk to everyone. There are about 375 lines of dialogue, so it’s still a pretty expansive little game, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to share it soon.

I’ve always loved the little unimportant comments that side characters make in video games, so I had a lot of fun writing for them this weekend. It was so nice to have a project to work on and to dedicate entire days to making it real, even if the result was smaller than we’d dreamed.

Our game wasn’t the only one left unfinished. These jams are mostly about experimenting with odd ideas and learning more about what it takes to design and build a game, so the demonstration session was full of curious concepts – playing as a blind worm, for example – that often didn’t quite work as expected.

Our game (called Everyday Superheroes) should be in a freely playable form sometime soon, and after that I’ll get to work on what I really want to make. It’s been a long, tired weekend, which is sometimes the best kind.

yes to youup
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Written by Umbrella Man

January 27, 2014 at 12:24 am

Posted in events, friends, people

Tagged with , ,

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