Burning Love: Day 1: Design and Code

Posted by (twitter: @oreganik)
December 17th, 2013 2:29 pm

Play it here!

Burning Love Game Tile

Day zero was the night of the theme announcement. Eight of us sat around and bounced ideas off of each other, trying to identify what people would immediately think of (“one shot,” “one life”) and then move on from there. While wondering about objects that were inherently unique, I thought of the Olympic torch, and rapidly got to a concept where you are a primitive tribesman trying to carry a precious gift of fire through a raining jungle fraught with danger. In fairly little time, I had a 3D capsule moving around terrain tiles in Unity, with fire reflecting off normal maps generated with Crazy Bump. It was a promising start, with the potential for procedurally generated levels.

original concept

But something didn’t feel right. At one AM, six hours after the competition had started, I was moving around my world and realized it wasn’t fun. It worked, and it would be challenging once more gameplay was in, but it felt claustrophobic and tense. I think there’s a time and place for that, but if you aim at that target, you have to crush it. Falling short would just result in a comical failure that undercuts itself at every turn.

What broke my momentum completely was the realization that dynamic shadows are a no-go in Unity if using an Orthographic camera. Shadows were critical to the mood, and while I’m capable of creating 3D assets in a weekend, it would soak up far more time than a friendlier sprite-based solution. Tired and emotionally drained, I shut down the computer and left.

On the drive home, I thought about how people would be going through these games like popcorn, and how the games I enjoyed playing were light-hearted and fun. So why the hell was I making a game about a frightened Mayan warrior pounding through the Yucatan in the middle of a night storm?

I had to have an orthographic camera to keep art costs in line, and I wanted a sense of speed and motion. A knowing smile crossed my lips as I realized I would be following one of our medium’s ancient and accepted forms: the platformer.

After four hours of sleep, I returned to the lab, created a new project in Unity, and got to work. By midnight, I had a game with:

  • A platforming hero run by physics
  • A torch that burns down a stick for fuel (providing a handy in-game meter)
  • A realistic fire that dims and eventually dies
  • An ability to “blow” on the fire and see it blaze back to life
  • Rain that stopped you from blowing on the fire unless you were under shelter
  • Terrain that was low friction if a) stone and b) under rain
  • Procedurally generated levels that had inputs like total length, number of platforms, gap min/max, height change min/max, enemy placement, rain shelter, big blocks, etc.
  • Two enemies
  • Game progression (start, level 1, level 2, etc. end)

Here’s a timelapse of all that being put into play. Tomorrow I’ll post the art portion. Thanks for reading!

BONUS FRESH PRINCE DANCING GIF (if you enjoyed the ones in the video)


Play it here!

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