I was quite busy last week as I found out pretty last minute about an upcoming 24 hour game jam and leapt at the chance to have a go. The aim of the game jam was to create a toilet game using game maker for a windows 8 tablet in teams of two. Well I have to admit I’d never actually used Game Maker before although I’d been intending to for a while, so for the 4 or 5 days leading up to the event I spent most of my time messing about with the software. I actually quite like Game Maker and have since bought the professional version as it’s quite quick and easy to work with. I also grabbed one of my friends and convinced him to do it with me. He’s a programmer however, so as seen as I was the only one with some art skill I also had to grab my graphics tablet too.
When the theme of ice was presented to us we quickly went on a brainstorming session and eventually decided upon the idea of ice fishing. I didn’t want to go for the typical mechanics you tend to first think of with ice (like slippery surfaces) and I also didn’t want to go down the combat/conflict route as it is all too easy to take this direction in game design. I was partly inspired by the game Dingle Dangle (for which oddly enough the developer actually came along and showed an interest in our game), and the fishing programs my dad tends to watch on TV. The most interesting part of fishing for me is the discovery element of it; not knowing what is swimming down there or what will hook onto your line next; a pleasure that I’d like to capture in the final version of the game. The reel motion also gave us a pretty obvious touch mechanic to work with. I’ve also noticed that a lot of successful apps tend to be quite bright with a lot of character, so we came up with the idea of having a seal sat at the top that eats the fish to add a bit more light heartedness to the game.
While it’s a very simple relaxing style of game I think it really works with the motion of moving your finger around the screen and it feels quite good. Our game was judged at the end by people from Microsoft and they were all very impressed with what we’d managed to achieve (we even made it into the finalists for which we had to stand up and talk about our game in front of other developers… eek!) There’s a competition running at the moment to produce a window 8 game before March, so we are now polishing it up to submit it in time for that.
The Game Jam was really fun and I’d recommend the experience to anybody. It can be stressful working under that tight deadline when things go wrong, but it’s a great way to push yourself, get feedback and a game for your portfolio (we also got free beer and pizza .) I’ve also managed to impress myself as I’d never designed an app before and so it was all new territory for me. I found it really enjoyable though and I have to admit that I’ve since caved and bought my own tablet as I’d really like to build more. I’ve already got a couple of ideas brewing in my head.