My First Game Jam
by Tom Gilchrist
I think I mentioned in a previous post about the future of 4MB Interactive, I had the intention to try and build more experimental and tightly focused games. Well I have made good on this promise with the creation of Shape Shift which was our entry into the Unreal Engine Spring Jam which had the theme of ‘Transformation’.
Shape Shift is a puzzle game where the sole objective is to get points by lining up your shape and transforming into the oncoming shape. Get the same shape before the walls hits you and you get points. If you are the wrong shape then you die. You can speed up the oncoming wall once you are ready and this rewards you with more points. This gif quite nicely shows it off.
Powerups are available which bestow you with more points, extra lives or slow down the walls. The walls get quicker as you progress through the levels which is a mechanic I nicked from Tetris and countless other puzzle games.
So how did I find the process of building a game with a five-day limit imposed? I think the biggest thing I can take away from this is how much more focused I was on keeping things simple and ensuring I would have ample testing time included in that five days. Arguably 50% of the time was actually spent on the tweaking and polishing versus the proper nuts and bolts of building the game. This is something I have traditionally been rubbish at which is why my games are so buggy and terrible. While this is small, it is polished and perfectly formed and with maybe only a handful of bugs.
This focus partly came from me using a development method called something like the Circular Development Process. I discovered this via a Udemy Unreal Engine course, this is the first time I have used it and I absolutely love it. The process for software is shown below so if you swap those out for Level – > Player -> Enemy -> UI -> etc etc, you get the idea.
So you just get the game working at a very simple and basic level but with all elements there, a crappy menu, some blocks for characters, rubbish UI and so on. The you go round the circle again, improving things slowly each time but never spending absolutely ages on one thing.
Usually I get bogged down on something stupid like making sure the material for a roof looks good before I have even looked at Enemy AI or something and that is just a dumb way to do things. This process helped me get a functioning but crap version of the game finished in just a few hours. It is a process I am trying to use for the upcoming Undead Blackout reboot and again I have found it has helped me speed up the development process.
All in all then, I am happy with my first game jam experience. Shape Shift will certainly be getting ported to mobile at some point in the near future, just need to figure out some nice touch controls and then we are all good. More importantly, it has helped me nail down a style of working which I think can only benefit all my future projects by getting me to focus and work in a methodical and far more effective way.