The Bad Bat Escape
January 22, 2017
This was created at the Global Game Jam 2017.
Project took 46 hours to develop.
Global Game Jam Description:
You are on the fly, escaping some kind of monster that want to eat you! You are navigating through a cave with rocks blocking your way. However, being a bat allows you to send out sound waves that will show you where to fly in order to escape. Controls: By swiping, on the tablet you can navigate through the obstacles. The harder you swipe the more you move. The sound-waves will be triggered automatically.
I had not participated in as many jams as I would like to in 2016, and I was regretting that I had missed out on the Global Game Jam, 2 years in a row (even though I have had the time and been close by). So I decided to go this year.
As per usual; my game plan was to get into group full of
strangers people I haven’t met, and create something interesting. Interestingly enough, I found out I was not the only one with that strategy. Henrike Lode did a talk titled Challenge the Default, where she mentioned that she has been doing the same. This wasn’t the focus of the talk, but it was interesting to hear that other people employed the same game plan.
The team I ended up joining/creating, consisted of 1 artist (later 2), 3 coders, no audio people (later 1) and 1 designer. None (excluding me) with that a lot of experience with game development or Unity, but they did have experience within their fields. The team formed over the idea of flying around as a bat and using echolocation to navigate. It was the first jam I have attended where there were a lack of audio people. The last few on-site jams I have attended have all had an abundance of audio people. Luckily, because I have met so many audio people when I was in Vancouver I had a few options. That said, I went with option #1: Nicholas Zhang whom I have worked with on a few projects in the past. And he was willing to help out, which was super cool.
Pre Game Jam and Ideas.
The theme for the Global Game Jam 2017 was Waves. This was what sparked the idea of echolocation with bats. But, as was pointed out by many people, this has been done plenty of times before. The you only see sound-type of game, and well, even I have made one of those before (Starlight). I was kinda bumped out that everyone’s reaction to the idea was “Seen it already”, but I was not surprised. We decided to carry on despite the initial reactions.
The keynote talk of the game jam was Extra Credits’ Keynote address, which seems to give a lot of the advice you typically get at game jams, but I feel like my biggest mistake in this game jam was not pushing back against the advice, but more on that later. My team took all the advice to heart, and we ended up taking decisions from this.
After a short brainstorming session, we decided to make the game as fast a possible and then see where we could innovate. I created a system for procedurally spawning obstacles and thought the uninitiated git. Meanwhile Mads did movement, Thorbjørn started on the echolocation effect, Louise started creating concept art for our bat and Frederik got settled in Unity. At that moment, we were unsure about a lot of things in the game. But the movement of the bat started to reveal a few things to us. Initially the player had to tab space in a rhythm to maintain their altitude, which revealed to be sucky to play. Next another button was selected to fire of the echolocation to reveal the obstacles, however, in classic video game manner, there was no reason not to fire it as often as possible. And so the game became an infinite runner, where the echolocation was automatic. And by being an infinite runner, we immediately move to the mobile platform, from the desktop platform.
During the cause of this, we stopped a few times and asked, is this really what we want to make? I had come up with a new idea involving waves, and in a format that seemed novel (even if it wasn’t that original). My new idea was a puzzle god game, where you were an angry god punishing the people of a small island. You had limited power to create an enormous tidal wave that would wipe out certain parts of the island. And now I really wanted to make that instead. I had become tired of the infinite runner, and I was actually really dissatisfied (not with the team, but with the project). It was in the middle of the night, the others had left to get some sleep and I was making a fluid simulation for my tidal game. The more I worked on it, the more I wanted to make that instead. So when the others arrived the next day, and I showed them my fluid simulation and how far I had come, they were impressed, but still reluctant. There was no way they could contribute as much to this project as the other, and we already had an almost finished game. I was going against a lot of the advice given to us in the keynote talk. I considered leaving, but I still think that it is dick move. So I saw it through.
Reflecting on the keynote
I still think I/we should have made the tidal game instead. But it would have gone against the following points mentioned in the keynote:
1. Keep it simple. The tidal game had to have a water simulation for the game play, and I did not have any experience with developing a water simulation. Otherwise; if I have had experience the idea would not have been that complex.
4. Compromise. I would argue that throwing out everything, just because I had a good idea and thought our current game was growing stale is the opposite of a compromise. (but compromising is usually not a bad idea)
6. Get some sleep. I attend game jams as a sprint, not a marathon. I kind of enjoy the late nights, maybe I am broken, but I kind of like crunching in this environment. I am however glad that crunching is not part of my day-to-day.
I got to play a lot of the other jam games. Usually I do not have time for that, but this time, I made time to take a break from development. The jam organizers had set aside time, before voting, to try all the games. This was really good, something that I have been asking for at previous game jams [TODO: LINK TO NGJ16, Blogpost not publish yet]. I guess they where able to do it because it was not that big of a jam site. But it was really well executed.
Another thing that went well, was the communication, everyone was really pleasant to work with. And I think; despite our game being kinda mediocre, there are some good ideas in there, e.g. there are small interesting choices made in the level design. And the game looks good. This is despite having made all the assets during the game jam.
Perhaps spending more time planning would have been a good idea, but I probably would not have come up tidal game if we had anyway. That kind of idea can only come up in the middle of the night, when everyone stopped thinking properly.
And maybe our team was too large for what we were trying to accomplish, if we had made something more ambitious we could more easily have justified the team size. (But then again, I attend game jams to meet people)
I slept on a park bench in the middle of Danish winter, for I had not planned my trip properly… And that sucked.
Tags: Atmospheric, Casual, Game Jam, Mobile, Unity