Weekly Game Jam #23 “Special Delivery”

MicroMailman, Weekly game jam #23 Entry

This blog post is dedicated to MicroMailman, a game I created for the Weekly Game Jam #23. Theme of the Jam was “Special delivery.” Game was created by using Scirra Construct 2. Completing this project took me 12 hours from start to finish.

  • Playable game is Iframed below!
  • Want to know how it was developed? Scroll down to my Development Blog!


MicroMailman, Weekly game jam #23 Entry

I have been developing small games for around 4-5 years now. You can read more about my prior game development endeavors from my Yearbook.

Getting in to a Jam! (Preamble)

Last couple of years I have had really hard time finishing my game projects. This fall I had been working on two major projects, other one being a small macro RTS and the other a Megaman style action platformer. About two weeks ago the UNTHINKABLE happened, my hard drive got destroyed. Realizing that I haven`t done any backups since last spring, my main projects were GONE! After the usual 4 steps (Denial, Bargaining, Depression & anger), I hit the fifth stage (Acceptance). I realized that my previous work was gone and I have to start over.

Being that I haven`t finished a project in ages, I decided to accomplish at least that on my next build. Browsing through the internet for inspiration I hit the motherload called ITCH.io Jams. It was clear to me, I had to get back to the saddle and what better way than taking part to a JAM!

After deciding to take part on Jam I started searching for the right one. Being a family man, I can only dedicate maximum of couple hours per day on development, so pulling of a weekend / 48 hours Jam was out. I decided to go with Weekly game jam, since I was confident I could put in at least 10 hours of devtime. There was still couple days to next theme announcement, so I turned to Youtube for some early motivation and inspiration. I came across excellent youtuber called Pixel Prophecy. He`s Ludum Dare postmortem videos were just the thing to get me  exited for Jam to Come! During the course of next week I listened these postmortems several times on my daily jog. Seriously they are that good! Thanks for those vids Phil!

Theme

Finally the theme was announced and it was…. (drums) “SPECIAL DELIVERY”. Theme being that tangible was just right for me. I was not that interested of creating anything super unique anyways, I just wanted to finish this project. So I set the following rules for myself:

  • Finish no matter what! (this includes sounds & music too)
  • Learn to participate in a Jam! (since this is my first one)
  • Write some sort of devblog! (this is it by the way)

After laying out the rules it was time to start brainstorming… Unsurprisingly, nothing good came to mind. For some reason the theme “Special delivery” only brought to my mind an old Finnish game called “Inva Taxi.” Game is about transporting handicapped people to right locations based on their hrmmm… rather unclear awkward speech. Horrible I know…

Invataxi game

 Anyway… After that, and a very awkward idea of Santa Claus delivering presents by bungee jumping of the flying slate it was time for a break. During that break I wondered through my house and saw my 7 year old son playing with toy cars, then it HIT ME! I have been wanting to build a car game for some time, why not do it now. The game idea was clear, Drive a car through town delivering packages. The town would not be a actual town but a “traffic playing mat” we all had as a kid. (damn, it kind of looks like that Inva Taxi thing THO…)

traffic mat

Basic gameplay

So the basic game play would consist of:

  • Player / car
  • AI cars & traffic
  • Picking up & delivering packages
  • Timer / game over condition

Player / car

I had played around with couple of car projects before so getting the basic movement and camera set up was fairly straight forward. Although this game is heavily inspired of the old MicroMachines 2 I did not want to go with straight top down view on this one. Instead I wanted something like in the Blizzard oldie “Rock`n Roll racing.”

MicroMachines 2

Rock n’ Roll Racing

 

Game mechanics wise, choosing a sort of “isometric” view did not make a lot of difference compared to straight top down view. The main difference at this point was the need for separate animation handling and use of 8 sprites instead of one. I had the basic movement and the player car pretty much done in around 2 hours.

AI cars & traffic

This part was the most tricky one and I do not feel I did a very good job here. Knowing that playing too deep with the AI could spend most of my development time I decided to stick with what I know… A basic waypoint based racing AI.  I had some experience with AI like that. I did end up using only two predetermined paths for AI cars and never got the AI work quite as fluently as I hoped. Anyway I feel this crude implementation is good enough for this game. ( I was going with the old standards of “make sure its not shit”)

It took me around three hours to build the AI and some of the art needed for town setting etc. At this point I found a really nice way of producing assets with that “carpet” looking texture. I used Gimp to produce the assets and finished them of with RBG mask. Example on that below.

Before Mask

After Mask

Picking up & delivering packages

This part was a breeze, except for one thing. (more on that later) I used couple of variables to check if there is a package spawned and if player is “carrying” package. No biggy… The thing is, when I develop games I save a new version every time I implement major feature. (something I am afraid can mess up my project) In this case the final iteration is number 16. Well…. i also had iteration “13_switch up”, this was due the fact that I noticed I had build the whole pick up / deliver mechanics backwards. So player would collect packages from town and deliver them to post office and not the other way around, hence the iteration “Switch up”. Also this was during my crunch time, so…. Fixing something I had build several days prior was not a breeze, but I got it done.

Timer / game over condition

Timer by it self as a game over condition is quite simple. In this project I had to implement adding time every time you collect or deliver. I did this by calculating distance between the package and randomly generated “goal” or delivery address. I then used the distance as a multiplier to add more time, this worked like a charm. After that was done I implemented a difficulty curve by throwing in another multiplier (deliveries done). The idea was to subtract deliveries count from “bonus” or added time. This system works and it makes the game harder and harder, BUT… I did not have enough time to test this system and there is a flaw. When you have collected around ten packages the subtraction is so massive that if goal spawns too close, it triggers instant game over. Oh well, more testing next time!

The crunch

Old wisdom of game development is that “you will always run out of time…” Unsurprisingly this happened to me as well. Below is a list of my things to do at the last night I had time to work on the project. I know its weird jibberish of english, finnish, nerd and arrowhead writing combined, but the point is… There was a lot to do… I ended up doing 3 major bugfixes / new mechanics, 3 house assets, sounds and music in around 2 hours. Music… ah the music… Do not judge me too harshly, since its a third chiptune (or music in general) I have ever done. And I did it in 8 minutes.

The Conclusion

So how did I do? I set out to:

Finish no matter what! (this includes sounds & music too)

This I pretty much achieved, although there are a lot of features I had to cut, but that is the name of the game. Also some more polish would have been nice.

Learn to participate in a Jam! (since this is my first one)

This I kind of messed up. I did not know the actual process of delivering my entry and got that done only partially. This I need to take care of next time!

Write some sort of devblog! (this is it by the way)

Nailed it! Well, not exactly… Next time I really need to take notes on what I am doing and when to be able to write about it later. Also documentation needs to be far better to be able to write a good blog post.

 

But all and all… the Jam was just like they say in Weekly game jam site: “Finishing a game in seven days is Like dolphins riding a Nutella rainbow. Keeping your game idea simple will help you to succeed. Remember, you will learn from each weekly experience.”

 

Thanks for reading, be sure to check out my other posts, here!

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