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Ludum Dare 32

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I’m In.

Posted by
Friday, August 21st, 2015 12:54 pm

I’ll have pretty limited time (as usual) this weekend but I’m going to make something. I’m entering the jam, not the compo.

I intend to use Unity 5 as my engine and Logic X for music. I just did weird sounds last time so I’ll probably do some more fleshed out music this time. I am thinking I’ll do something procedural and first person in 3D since those are two things I’m comfortable-ish with. Let’s see what happens!

Free Game Jam Menu Template for Unity 5

Posted by
Tuesday, August 18th, 2015 5:22 pm

I posted this a while back when we released it but I figured I’d repost as things heat up for LD33. This is a simple menu UI / audio package that you can download for free from the Unity Asset Store. There’s a list of functionality below, as well as a live training session I did for Unity’s YouTube about how to set it up and use it here.  If you have questions there’s a forum thread here. Hopefully this helps you focus on making fun games and less on boring stuff during the jam! If you end up using it drop me some feedback on the forum or via twitter (@mattmirrorfish).

 

gameJamTemplate

You can download it from the Unity Asset Store here, for free

Functionality:

Main Menu
-Placeholder title image and title text
-Start Button
– Options Button
– Quit Button
– Fade to black (or any color assigned to FadeImage) when transitioning out of main menu to main scene

Options Panel
-Music Volume
-Sound Effects Volume
-Back Button

Pause Panel
-Music Volume
-Sound Effects Volume
– Resume Button
– Quit Button

Music
– Change or loop music clips when starting game
-Music pre-routed to Audio Mixer, connected to UI

Other functionality:

-Can be used either with single scene or multi-scene games.

Free Game Jam Menu Template in Unity 5

Posted by
Tuesday, June 30th, 2015 2:53 pm

After my participation in LD32 (my first!) I experienced the pain of having limited time to work on making some cool mechanics, art and audio, only to realize at the last minute that I didn’t have time for basic functionality like a menu, pause screen and music and sound options.  Since I would like to be able to use these things myself in the next jam I decided to make a template package that’s publicly available for everyone to use, and since in between making jam games I work at Unity as part of the online content team (we make the tutorials for the Unity learn site)  we decided to publish it as an Official Unity Thing™.

See below for a download link and a list of functionality built in. The package has a read me file inside with setup instructions and I’ve done a live training for our live training series which walks through setup and also how the scripts work.

gameJamTemplate

You can download it from the Unity Asset Store here, for free

Functionality:

Main Menu
-Placeholder title image and title text
-Start Button
– Options Button
– Quit Button
– Fade to black (or any color assigned to FadeImage) when transitioning out of main menu to main scene

Options Panel
-Music Volume
-Sound Effects Volume
-Back Button

Pause Panel
-Music Volume
-Sound Effects Volume
– Resume Button
– Quit Button

Music
– Change or loop music clips when starting game
-Music pre-routed to Audio Mixer, connected to UI

Other functionality:

-Can be used either with single scene or multi-scene games.

Grateful

Posted by
Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 2:58 pm

My game Skull Bomb managed to score in the top 100 for both Audio and Mood! (*happy dance*) I’m very grateful for the chance to participate and for the people who checked out the game and gave feedback. What an awesome community!

To those who are struggling with the feedback they got or lack of recognition, here’s a quote I love from Ira Glass:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

 

So in participating, you’re getting that much closer to where you want to be. Yes it stings to not be recognized, but please, don’t give up! The only way to fail is to quit. Doing good things is hard and takes time and energy. Although I haven’t been making games for that long I’ve been doing audio, writing and film making for 17 years so I do know something about the struggle :)

Skull Bomb Post Mortem

Posted by
Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 6:46 pm

Cross posted from my blog at NewbQuest.com

I did my first game jam this weekend! I participated in the jam portion of Ludum Dare 32 and made a little game called Skull Bomb (play it here). The theme was “An Unconventional Weapon” and after it was announced I brainstormed a bit before settling on ‘blowing yourself up’ as my interpretation of the theme. I didn’t want to have my player character blowing up other humans so I decided to make the game about a world taken over by evil robots. This also worked in my favor that I didn’t have to program any sort of realistic AI.

I’ve been really wanting to do a Ludum Dare since I learned about it but being a dad, having a job, etc always seem to stand in the way of coming up with 48 uninterrupted hours on the jam weekends. This time I decided to not let that stop me and jammed in the hours after my kids bedtime, for a total of maybe 16 or so hours over the 72 hour jam period. I’m really glad I did!
What went well:

I made a game! Not waiting for the perfect moment and the planets to align allowed me to actually make something.

I scoped correctly. I picked a topic I was able to finish in the time I had without crazy crunching.

Used Unity 5. That went well, Unity ran smoothly, few crashes and weird bugs. I think it crashed once.

Using Unity’s Navigation for AI. Setting up the enemy units as Navmesh Agents worked great. I made an array of destinations and selected randomly from that to get enemies moving around un-predictably. Easy and effective.

Simple Sound Design. I added some spooky synth drones that I made with Logic X’s built in Sculpture synthesizer. Sculpture is a physical modeling synth and I love the timbres you can get out of it, I thought they set a good, ominous and abstract tone for the game.

Narrative via Voice Over. This was probably the best received aspect of the project. I wrote a simple voiceover script describing a dystopian sci fi world overrun by machines and laid out the players mission. I had my girlfriend read this and did a bit of editing and mixing in Logic. Details I was happy with that people commented on as well were the cut-up phone maze style strings of numbers that added to the overall dehumanizing atmosphere. Using a voice over was cheap and easy (maybe 2 hours work to write, edit, mix and implement) and added a whole narrative layer to the game that I thought was very effective. Because it ran in the background at startup it allowed the player to experience the narrative without having to wait, read or otherwise be delayed from experiencing the game play. Several people commenting on the game remarked on how well the voice over worked so that was definitely a high point.

New Genre/Mechanic. I’ve never tried to make a stealth / sneaking style game and was quite happy with that aspect of it. I definitely learned a lot and enjoyed working with the form in a short format. This is perhaps my favorite aspect of jamming, the chance to try out different genres or ideas in a short form, low stakes way and get feedback.

Art Style. The art style that I chose was simple, minimal and achievable. I was happy with the result and felt like it worked well with the theme. I got a few nice comments on it so I consider that a success, especially since I consider myself a non-artist. I also got pretty close to my initial ‘vision’ visually.

Getting Feedback / Iterating. By posting the build a few hours before the deadline I got some very useful, maybe critical feedback about playability, controls and clarity. This included a lack of clarity on where to go which I tried to address and not locking the mouse cursor which lead to issues in browser based play. Catching these early was good. I’ll definitely aim to do this in the future, getting those little bits of feedback before finalizing was great.

What went poorly:

Level Design. Several people commented that they wandered around, didn’t know where to go, couldn’t find the goal. The way I laid out the level had no clear (or unclear) path through it, it was just a big box. After getting that feedback I added a moment in the beginning where the player falls from high up and gets a chance to see the black box that represents the server. In hindsight I really gave the player almost no clues as to where to go. I even was considering initially having the monolith change it’s location each time player spawned to add replayability and difficulty. I realize now that that would have been a mistake.

Difficulty. The difficulty was very inconsistent. Sometimes the enemies randomly left big clear paths, sometimes they created impossible, inescapable situations. With more time or better planning I would have set up some more carefully planned routes for the AI to patrol that interlocked, created gaps etc. As Twitter friend @ChrisLaPollo points out though that these are the types of things that you learn in making a jam game and can polish up after.

Browser Support. Annoyingly Google Chrome dropped support for NPAPI plugins right before the jam breaking support for Unity Web Player. The game played fine in other browsers but this was just kinda annoying.

Control Tuning / Playtesting. Several players complained that the movement speed was a little slow. I actually bumped it up a bit but probably could have taken it up a little higher. More playtesting earlier probably would have helped this but given that I was jamming on my own in my apartment I didn’t have local playtesters available. In the future I’d like to try and jam with a team and / or at a space with other people. I think this would have helped a lot to catch this and some other issues before posting.

Play the game here, or watch a video below:

Skull Bomb Gameplay Video

Posted by
Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 5:46 pm


I created a little video of me playing my jam entry Skull Bomb. I got to the end of the level and died, which I think is appropriate :)

Please check out the game here for Mac, Windows, Linux or Web: SKULL BOMB.

SKULL BOMB: Mini Post Mortem

Posted by
Monday, April 20th, 2015 7:31 pm

Skull Bomb by @mattmirrorfish

This is my first time Ludum Dare-ing. I have been putting off doing it because I never have un-interrupted time on weekends but this weekend I decided to go for it anyway. This game was made in the hours after my kids went to bed and any other little bits of time I could get together over the weekend, maybe 16 hours or so in total. I hit on the mechanic and theme I wanted to do pretty quickly on Friday night: my interpretation of an unconventional weapon was a suicide bombers bomb.  Because I knew I wouldn’t have time to do sophisticated AI I decided to make the enemies robots which would make their slightly stupid behavior thematically appropriate. The AI could be improved a bit but for now it mostly works. The theme also supported my primitive art style which is made using basic primitives within the Unity editor.  The main mechanic is avoiding coming into contact with the red awareness zones of the enemies while trying to get to the end of the level and blow up the enemy server. I leaned heavily on stuff Unity does easily out of the box for this, in this case Navigation. The flying and hovering enemy types each have nav mesh agent components attached and a script randomly assigns waypoints from an array. This causes them to path through the level randomly and adds some un-predictability. I also added some searchlight gun tower type enemies inside the ‘city block’ formations since running through them, where the hovering enemies couldn’t go, seemed to be a dominant strategy.

I created the audio using Logic which is mainly sounds made with Logic’s built in Sculpture synthesizer. I stuck to ominous drone sounds mostly. I wrote a minute long text which adds some additional context and had my girlfriend read it on mic, which I then processed and cut up a bit. I think it adds a lot to the vibe of the game and provides some useful expository narrative framework.

All in all I had a ton of fun doing this! I’m going to aim to continue to jam, even when limited for time, and try to block out a full weekend to get together with a team and attempt something more ambitious.

Here’s my entry: SKULL BOMB.

If you liked the game or just want to say hi I’m @mattmirrorfish on Twitter. Thanks for reading!

 

EDIT:

I got some great notes from people playing and rating my game which allowed me to make a few small tweaks, hopefully for the better before the cutoff. I found players didn’t know where to go so I made the final objective more visible, and had the players drop in from high up so they get an initial birds eye view of the level. I also moved an enemy that was sort of spawn camping the player in a really unfair way :)

Also, lot’s of people liked the voice over! I must say having a little bit of recorded audio in your game like that to add some story is a pretty cheap and easy way to add some production value. That is definitely the thing I spent the least time on (maybe 2 hours out of 16 to script, record, mix, edit and implement) but has gotten the most positive feedback. Definitely food for thought! Thanks very much to all the people giving comments on my game (and on everyone elses!)  It feels great to be a part of a community of game creators like this.

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