Last month, I decided to participate in the weekly One Hour Game Jam. It was a rather random decision, as I decided to join literally the minute the jam started. Clearly, my unconscious mind felt the need to jam again. But then, it had been a while.
The theme was “the floor is lava”, which didn’t particularly excite me, however, I had an idea within about a 45 seconds, so I decided to run with it. The plan was for a simple arcade game, where the action takes place on a single screen and players compete for high scores. Following the video game tradition of the “rule of threes”, I pictured 3 platforms protruding from a fiery pit, with hazards sweeping across the screen. The player would jump between these platforms to collect pickups whilst avoiding hazards.
I opened up Construct 2 at the 2 minute mark and setup my project. “Low resolution and pixellated” – in a jam with a deadline this tight, it’s the only way to fly. I quickly sketched out the idea using basic, block-colour sprites; a long red rectangle representing the lava, a set of three white rectangles representing the platforms, and a small white square representing the player. All on a black background… hello, Downwell!
Next came the basic platforming functionality. I used a basic platforming behaviour for the player sprite and set the platforms to solid. Getting the movement speed, friction, jump height, and gravity to a point I was happy with took me into the 10 minute mark. Time flies when you’re tweaking.
For the following 10-20 minutes, I started wrangling pixels to make the hazards (fireballs), as well as the pickups. The fireballs were a simple red outlined sprite with a fill that I flashed between white and black. I used a bullet behaviour combined with a sine wave to create a bobbing fireball effect. I mirrored the bullet direction for the right side of the screen to save on additional sprites. My plan was to add some additional particle effects, but I ran out of time.
The pickups started out as coins, but I wasn’t a fan of the initial design so I switched to a typical diamond or gem design. I added a basic sheen to help them stand out and applied a slight sine wave to make them bob up and down (notice me, senpai, etc.). I also created a simple (but very effective) animation for when the player picked up gems.
As the deadline approached, I managed to implement the pickup logic, but failed to add any randomisation for the positions, nor had I exposed the number of pickups (score) to the player. It was at this point that I realised I was unable to make the one hour deadline. I made the decision to continue working until I was happy with the game. Once the hazard logic, effects work, and score system were in, I could call it a day. This took me to the 2-3 hour mark.
Looking back, my main time sinks were around the random spawn logic for the gems. I was definitely overthinking things, and investigated some erroneous methods. Sometimes the best solution is the easiest one.
This was definitely my strongest game jam game to date. The relationship between the effort put in and the quality of the game was perfect. I only wish that I was able to finish within the time limit. I don’t feel that I was out of scope from a design point of view, but rather from a polish perspective. My desired quality bar is a little difficult to achieve within a one hour jam. But I am getting better…
If you’d like to play the finished version of SCALD, then check the banner below. I’ve patched the game several times at this point and there are a number of devlog updates to read on the SCALD game page.
If you have any suggestions or feature requests, feel free to drop me a line.
Until next time!