Hug Marine: A Game Jam Diary - Intro.
I must be completely insane.
I was on Twitter, reading through my feed, when suddenly I noticed a couple of tweets going back and forth between two writers I know, Ashton Raze and Scott Nichols. They were discussing the idea of a month-long game jam for May. Instantly, I knew I wanted in on that, so I tweeted at them and said two words that have changed my spare-time priorities for a month: "I'm in."
If you're not familiar with the concept of a game jam, it is thus: Create an entire game, start to finish, within a set amount of time. Usually it's a weekend, but this time it's a month, which is ideal, Scott states, for those who are not able to dedicate entire days at a time. It's also ideal for people like me, who can't code and need programs like Game Maker and StencylWorks to actually create anything. So come on in — follow me into madness. I'll even tell you my idea.
As you might've guessed, my game is called Hug Marine. A while back, I wanted to make a game in which you played as the Dalai Lama, and ran around hugging people. That was it. You hugged everyone ever, and got a ton of points. There would be combo points and over-the-top animations and sound effects.
Mulling this one over, I wasn't entirely sure that using a major religious figurehead was a wise idea, so I wondered what else might work. Marines seemed obvious. I've been a fan of Warhammer 40,000 for over ten years, and the idea of this guy being trained his whole life, genetically modified, armoured and equipped up to the eyeballs, simply to hug it out with people, was one that amused me. As of several days later, I've now refined it into the idea of rolling with ten levels, each set on a different hostile alien world, in which you have to find a set amount of aliens and hug them to complete your mission of diplomacy.
So that's what I'm rolling with as an idea. Let's talk tools.
I'm going to be using a combination of StencylWorks (to design and develop the game itself), Pixen and GraphicsGale (to create the art), GarageBand, PixiTracker and the Korg iMS-20 app (music). The reason I've chosen StencylWorks is because it's an easy, drag-and-drop game design tool, like Game Maker, but geared for Flash and iOS development, which seems ideal. It also feels a little less clunky than Game Maker, but that could be the noob in me speaking.
Frankly, I'm not aiming to do anything massively ambitious. In each level, you will spawn and begin scouring various dangerous environments for huggable people (or aliens - yay for ideas while I'm writing). Once you've found them all, you head to the next level. No time limit, no finite lives — the reason for this is two-fold: One, they will make the game harder for me to make; and two, I find I don't enjoy games that tell me I got one star despite doing everything I was told to do.
I'm tempted by the idea of a Metroidvania-style approach, with areas unlocking as you hug new people, but I'm not entirely sure. It doesn't seem too complex on the surface, but then again, neither did making electronic dance music until I came face-to-face with actual synth software, and pop went my brain.
I'll be chronicling my journey over the next four to five Fridays, and hopefully embedding a playable build as I go, followed, hopefully, by a time-lapse video and a finished game that I'd like to get up on some Flash sites and potentially port to iOS.
Let the games begin.
Image courtesy of James Gibbs.