Okay, I didn’t really journal while I was making it, so this is all retrospective.
My game’s called Slimy Things Did Crawl, which is Coleridge, but the line got associated in my head with evolution thanks to Douglas Adams.
I made this in FlashPunk, which I’ve used to make two games before, 2.5 if you count the room I made for the Room Jam in Winnipeg.
The theme was Evolution, so I thought of how to incorporate that into the game mechanic somehow. There are plenty of games where you improve your character over time, leveling up or gaining new abilities, but I wanted the mechanics to more closely match the mechanics of evolution. Evolution doesn’t change individuals, it changes populations, so I knew you’d control more than a single character. And you’d somehow select the survivors, and your new populations would descend from those survivors.
What I came up with was a pretty basic platform game, except for the controls. You have a dozen creatures that you control simultaneously, and for each one the letters A to Z are randomly assigned behaviour. So you find the keys that get at least one of the creatures to do what you want, and then train those keys to do it better.
Initially, I thought I’d add the ability to map the arrow keys to letters once you’ve decided which you want to use. But the game resisted that approach. I found that when playing the game, instead of training: move left, move right, jump; I had to train: run left, run right, jump left, jump right, jump up, crawl left, crawl right, and whatever else as it became necessary.
I called the little things you control Slimes, after the title, sort of. Their graphics are filled with random pixels of a random colour, which is inherited from the survivors and randomly mutated. The visuals have no direct impact on their movement, but it helps reinforce their ancestry.
Playing it I was kind of reminded of playing QWOP in that I was never 100% certain what would happen when I pushed a button, so I’d keep mashing things, and maybe they’d all go where I want and maybe they’d all jump off a cliff.
I unfortunately didn’t get any play-testers to comment on it until after the 48 hours were over. I should have done more to emphasize that you don’t want to get ALL the slimes to the flag, because you’ll evolve faster if you leave most of them behind. That strategy kind of goes against what we’ve all learned from playing games like Lemmings or Pikmin or World of Goo. In most games, the more of them you save, the better you’re doing. So I should have driven the point home in the game to counteract that expectation, because if you don’t get that point, you won’t make it to the fun part of the game.
I did the levels as bitmaps that it loops through pixel by pixel to make the map, which is a method I’ve been meaning to try for a while (because of frustrations I have with using OGMO) but never got around to it until now. So that’s an element I’ll probably expand upon in a future game. The colours on the level selection screen are kind of ugly, because I just straight up show the unconverted maps, which I made very high-contrast so I could easily remember which colours to use. If I had more time I would have converted the level maps to something approximating the colours of the levels themselves.
Well, it was a fun thing to try, and thanks to the theme, I tried out a gameplay mechanic I wouldn’t have tried otherwise.