Over the weekend I participated in the Game Maker’s Toolkit Game Jam, my first ever game jam. For those of you who haven’t heard of game jams before, in a game jam you are given limited time to build a whole new game from scratch and are given a theme to base your game around. In this case, I was given 48 hours to make a game that has dual-purpose mechanics. The game jam was both fun and maddening. While I don’t think I put my best foot forward in this jam, given my slight lack in experience I did fairly well. It was a good learning experience, created some code that can be useful in the future, and came up with a pretty cool game concept.
“Escape the Graveyard,” is a 2D, top-down stealth-adventure game where you control a newly risen zombie trying to escape from the graveyard you woke up in. You’ll have to sneak past enemies lurking around as you are far to slow to defend yourself. If your caught however, it isn’t the end. Your spirit comes back as a ghost and if you make it back to a grave you can rise up another body and continue your attempt to escape. There is more to do as a ghost however. You can posses your foes and move them out of the way and there are secrets only a ghost can find.
Death not just being a setback but also an opportunity was the main concept for “Escape the Graveyard.” The idea came to me when my partner for this project mentioned a game he played as a kid that would glitch when he died and move him to the next stage. That imminently stuck with me as a potential system that could have multiple purposes. After brainstorming some ideas, I settled with traveling back to the checkpoint after death. I spent several hours building the basics of gameplay, but when I tried to move on to the meat of the game I ran into trouble. Originally combat was going to be a major part of the game. Once I got started working on this I realized I had no idea where to begin, I didn’t have any experience in designing action combat. I wasted most of a day on trying to find a to make combat work.
Eventually I decided to stop looking for a way forward and instead looked back. I looked for anything I could change to make my game work. Then I remembered advice I’ve heard many developers say, look at the parts of your game and ask if they’re really necessary. With this in mind I looked at everything I had and when I started thinking about how my game would work without combat, I found my new direction. Now I would make my game about avoiding enemies, I had something to work with.
The rest is pretty uneventful. Just desperately trying to finish something to had in.
I really wish I would of reevaluated my game earlier. Because I wasted so much time I couldn’t add any polish and could only finish a very simple level. But I’m still glad I did it. At least the lessons of “evaluate sooner” and “sometimes you have to remove elements” are burned onto my brain. These were always things I knew but after experiencing it firsthand I know understand. And I have a cool idea for a game I may use down the line. Overall a worthwhile experience.
The game can be downloaded at itch.io.