Last weekend we took part in the Global Game Jam. Our team stayed in a sleepy seaside cottage, as they worked together to create a game fitting the theme “what do we do now?”
We received some pretty great feedback to screenshots we posted up to Twitter, so we decided to put this development blog together to offer our insights into the process of contributing to the Global Game Jam!
Come on inside and read about how we came to form the game Vantage Point!
Conceptualization and going with a theme
The theme was “What do we do now?”. We brainstormed for an hour deciding how to best represent it, but the ideas we came up with were all really diverse. In the end we had a look at the diversifiers to narrow it down a little and were intrigued by the idea of players having to constantly communicate to each other, asking “What do we do now?”.
We had brought an Oculus with us and it seemed like the perfect way to divide information between players. Whoever wears the rift can see the game in a way that no other displays can, and at the same time, the wearer cannot see anything else. After that, the game concept just seemed to fall into place.
Inspirations like Knightmare, The Matrix, Metal Gear Solid and various spy movies came to mind where a team sitting at a bunch of screens paw through information while giving instructions to the agent actually doing the mission. Meanwhile, the agent talks about what they’re seeing and both sides try to agree on the next course of action. We used these ideas and came up with two main roles: The Infiltrator, and The Navigator.
This Infiltrator’s job is to sneak through a facility, finding various pieces of intel and making it to the end of the level unscathed. The Navigator aids the Infiltrator by keeping them up to date on what’s going on in the facility, including things like: Guard patrol patterns, safe areas to hide, the location of keys and intel, the location of the exit etc.
The game started out with a spy theme. You can still kind of see that in the game where some of the later areas have an office look to them. The initial idea was that you’d start out in low security areas like warehouse rooms or maintenance, then as you made your way further into the facility, things would look more high tech as security increases, ending in an opulent Director’s office filled with intel.
As development continued, we wanted to make sure communication was absolutely essential. We didn’t want the player just running through the game killing everyone and getting to the end without having to say a word. So we decided two things:
The player can’t kill any guards.
The game would end very quickly if they got spotted.
By the time we were able to playtest this idea, we realised how scary the game felt to play. So when it came to designing the guards, Matt & Torger came up with these scary homicidal looking robots*! That pretty much set the tone for the game and we embraced the horror aspect from then on.
*The plan was that we’d all take pictures of our faces and put them on the screens, but we ran out of time before we had a chance to implement that.
Team structure, delegation and design choices
The first decision that had to be made was how we could synchronize both sides of the game. Shaun and James both worked extremely hard on a local network communication system that would send packets of data from the Infiltrator, to the Navigator. This data ended up including the layout of the map, the location of any interactive objects in the game, the live locations of both the player and enemies, and the IDs of any alarms in the game that the player can trigger.
We realized that this would probably be the largest amount of work for the game so we set out to make some hand-made maps that the game could randomly pick from. However, it turned out that Jimmy already had a procedural level generation system from one of his personal projects, and since hand-made maps would involve sending a lot more data across the network than a simple tile-map, it made perfect sense to incorporate that into the game.
On top of the networking side, Shaun wrote the controls for the Infiltrator portion of the game, while Jimmy wrote the Navigator window.
Jonny worked on enemy patrol systems and player detection, while I tweaked the level generation system to include doors, items, and a room ordering system that would figure out which rooms to lock and where to put their keys so the player can always access the next key they need.
Matt and Torger worked together on concepts for the game. Then Matt designed the appearance of the Navigator’s view of the game, while Torger made the 3d artwork.
Eric worked on writing a lot of flavour text and documents to be included as the game’s Intel, but sadly we ran out of time before implementing them.
Advice for meeting deadlines within a Game Jam
Make your idea small, but make it modular, so that you can add features to it easily if you have time.
Make the main portion of the game and have it up and running in the first 24 hours, to a point that you would be happy to submit it if something disastrous happened and you somehow lost the next day of work.
GET SOME SLEEP. As tempting as it is to try and work the whole way through; If you’re tired, you work badly, you make mistakes, and you make bad things. Just stop. Get some sleep, and when you wake up, you’ll be refreshed and do more/better work in the next 2 hours than you would have done in 8 hours working tired.
“Hey wouldn’t it be cool if we added…” STOP. Whenever you or anyone on your team says that, think very carefully about what’s left to do. Order it by priority and if it’s not at the top of the list, cut it. You can revisit the idea later when everything else is done
How we felt about our final submission
We were worried towards the end that we hadn’t included enough of the communication aspect. A few playtest involved the Infiltrator saying absolutely nothing while the Navigator did all the talking. But that was before the enemies had been finished. After we were done, and played the final game together, we found ourselves talking constantly about the game; discussing strategies, yelling at the infiltrator for making mistakes, screaming when enemies do unpredictable things. Suddenly 2 hours had passed and we realised we’d been having fun the entire time! We would’ve been happy just to have it working, but the fact that it was as engaging and addictive as it turned out really surprised us!
What we enjoyed the most about the experience
The whole thing seemed to go without a hitch. This was in large part thanks to Shaun doing a butt load of work to organise everything, including finding a fantastic place to stay during the event. On top of that, the final evening where we just sat around and played the game for 2 hours wouldn’t have happened without everyone being completely on board and pulling their weight the entire time. I’m so happy to have worked with such an enthusiastic group of devs.
We had a great time participating in the Global Game Jam, as always thank you for the support and encouragement. We initially planned to stream the jam but unfortunately our connection wasn’t great, so sorry about that!