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Engine: Unity

Tools: Photoshop, piskelapp.com

Role: Team Leader, Artist, Game Designer & Level Designer

Team size: 3

Development Time: >48 hours

Synopsis:

"Keyboard Warrior" is a 2D arcade bullet hell completed with two university Masters Game Developers / Programmers. The theme for this jam was "Corruption and Mutation" and won the prize "Best Game", which also translates into 1st place!

Demonstrable Skills:

  • Leadership:

    1. Presented the game to judges and fellow jammers

    2. Led brainstorming session

    3. Set up Google Jam Board for initial ideas and a secondary board for the chosen ideas agreed upon as a team

    4. Coordinated the team with assigned tasks

    5. Created and set up itch.io page

  • Game Designer:

    1. Drafted various ideas to go with the themes

    2. Organised and refined ideas

    3. Provided guidance for programmers on what features to implement and how they should behave

    4. Sourced some audio files

  • Art Coordinator:

    1. Found suitable art assets which fit the game theme

    2. Set art assets up in Unity

    3. Created custom sprites where required

    4. Created additional art assets for the game

  • Level Designer:

    1. Created the large arena with 6 unique mini-locations to explore

    2. Built test levels within Unity before making completed versions

Skills Breakdown:

Leadership

Originally, we were meant to be a team of 2 but we had another member added to our duo at the last minute (quite literally, the last minute before the jam kicked off!), so we ended as a team of 3: myself as the game designer and my teammates as programmers, all of us in our Masters degrees. Since I had the most experience with game jams out of all of us, I suggested that we focus on brainstorming ideas for the first evening before we began working in Unity.

I posted the majority of the ideas and used a colour coded system to help make sense of the mass of sticky notes, with the "main" ideas that fit the theme being in blue and branching ideas off of those ones being either green or pink to show different pathways that we could take. After about 4-5 hours, we got back together in a call and talked through our ideas before taking a vote on which one we liked the most. These were then brought together in a new jam board to help refine the ideas down and to make it easier to discuss what ideas we wanted to keep. Once we had a clear idea we were making a 2D game, we got our Unity project and GitHub repo set up and I suggested we call it a night and wake up early the next day to get working!

The biggest challenge in the second day came from coordinating updates from both the programmers in the team, since they were working on different parts of the game. So we had to be in contact very frequently via WhatsApp or Discord to avoid the project becoming messed up, which worked out well for the most part. Whenever a feature was in the works or completed, we shared updates together and gave each other feedback and ideas on things to add or change to make things even better. It also became apparent that certain things from the original plan may need to be cut as the day went on, so we made sure to talk about it and I made sure to give reassurance where needed.

By the final day, I followed the suggestion of one of the judges and made sure that we did a feature freeze by midday to allow us enough time to polish and get our presentation ready, as well as travel into the uni for presenting our entries. I got our slides and itch page all set up and added as much as I could before I had to travel in. Then, I presented our game and did nearly all the talking - especially since we were all shattered, but it went down really well with the judges. They particularly liked seeing our jam boards I had made and talked about in the pressie, so that was a nice compliment to receive!

Game Designer

After I suggested we all went away and have a think about ideas for the jam, I started noting down various ideas into a mind map before I brought them into the jam board. I approached the theme from as many directions as I could think of; from the definitions of the words themselves to how the words could be turned into gameplay mechanics.

After discussing the ideas, there were a few that we could see working together, which we collated into a new jam board. There was a lot of potential with some of the ideas, but there were some ideas that I felt needed to be discouraged (such as doing an endless runner). Once we finished finalising features we would like on the first day, we began working on them the next day.

As the jam went on, we got more ideas for things to add into the game to really sell the idea that the game had become corrupted. This would be things like the UI changing to reflect which keys had become corrupted  and the camera glitching effects that I had sourced. I felt that we needed clear colours and effects to represent the corruption and mutation mechanics in a straightforward way, so did some research on colours associated with the two words. Corruption is mostly associated with purples while mutation is a colour that isn't the ordinary or expected colour for whatever the thing is. I decided to go with blue to make it stand out against the greens present in the environment.

As we were approaching the final day, we realised a number of features would need to be cut out. This included things like more custom animated sprites, getting the attack sprite sheets implemented for the boss keys, making custom mouse boss sprites, more dynamic levels and a lot more. I made the decisions on what things we should drop and where to best cut our losses so that we could focus on polishing what we did have instead. Trying to get all of these in would have been great but would have just led to more stress when we were just wanting to have fun with making the game, which my team agreed was the right thing to do. At the presentation, I talked about these cut features when asked by one of the judges.

Art Coordinator

Where possible, I sourced art assets from the web to help save us some time since creating the custom sprites took much longer than anticipated. Since we decided upon making our corrupted keys turn into enemies in the game, I knew the most important ones to create were the movement keys first. If more time was available, I would have looked into how to make the sprites for the mouse buttons, but this would be a feature we had to cut.

Some unexpected issues arose from the sprites, in that it took much longer than expected to draw out all their animation frames and get them to export at the same size (something unknown happened during an export which messed up the size for one sprite sheet, which resulted in a lot of headache). When the sheets for the movements of each key were done, I got to work on their attack animations. These sadly didn't get implemented in time, but they perform a slap attack which I think would've looked good!

Level Designer

For the levels, we toyed with the idea of having either multiple levels for a bit before coming to the conclusion that it would have to be one single level. There were a couple of reasons behind this: one of our programmers who was handling the AI behaviour didn't know how to make the AI recognise physical levels in the 2D space and we didn't have much time left for creating and testing multiple levels, so we decided to go with the one large map that was just a flat terrain.

 

It would've been nice to have had multiple tiers to give the environment more dynamic elements but we were going for an arcade-like experience that could be replayed a lot. So, one large level would be enough (hopefully) for players when they were running around trying to survive the time limit. To give it a bit of flare, I set up 6 mini locations within the map using the sprites I had sourced from online.