Sunday, August 2, 2015

Jam Week 2015: TetherBrawl

Last week I participated in Jam Week at work.  Jam Week is a week in which the entire studio gets to work on anything they desire -- within reason.  I, like I tend to do, worked on a solo project that I entitled TetherBrawl.  The following three videos are of the game's progress over time:

http://mattrified.tumblr.com/post/125212118058/schell-games-is-doing-a-jam-week-this-is-what-i

http://mattrified.tumblr.com/post/125305271785/more-progress-of-tetherbrawl-the-jam-week-game

http://mattrified.tumblr.com/post/125526782007/this-is-the-result-of-my-solo-jam-week-project

In TetherBrawl, the two players hit the ball, trying to get it through their hoop while moving in the correct direction.  Once the ball enters the hoop, a set of gems is generated that the player must collect; the amount of gems generated is proportional to the ball's speed upon entering the goal.  If the player is hit by either the ball or the opponent's attacks, they lose 10 gems that their opponent can then pick up.  After a minute, the winner is determined by whomever has the most gems.
I only did one character, a billiards player with an eyepatch, but my thinking for the theme was to create a cast of characters all based of sports that people don't deem as very athletic:  billards, golf, chess, bowling, esports, etc.  I do think the character proportions for the size of the screen work against it.  That character is probably around 7 heads tall; for a game like this, characters should probably be more cartoonish, around 5 heads tall, maybe even 4.
I thought it was a simple game, but a lot of people didn't quite know what was going on, at least on their first play through.  I think part of this is because I didn't get a chance to tutorialize it enough -- then again, when you have 4 days, maybe 4.5, tutorialization isn't your top priority.  Another is that I sort burned myself out.  I've been stressed lately trying to finish up Battle High 2 A+; finding motivation to work on it has been rather daunting.  So working on something in such a short amount of time burned me out.  Also, I realized about halfway through that most of my Jam Week ideas are extremely similar.  Two times I worked on GumTrix -- which is now available for iOS and Android -- and every other time, I've done some sort of 2-player, competitive game:  Two years were different fighting robot games and now this year was a competitive game.  I guess I sorta felt like a one trick pony.
Also, lately, doing solo work has been a little problematic.  I like working by myself.  There's a lot of good aspects to it, but I've lately found there are some negative aspects as well.  The most positive aspect is that there is a lot of ownership and control over the ideas.  No meetings to brainstorm or discuss or hurt feels when things are rejected or undesired compromises.  On the other hand, I find I have a hard time staying confident in an idea without working with another person, and sometimes, bouncing ideas can be beneficial.  Also, trying to do everything yourself is extremely daunting.
That was one area that working solo affected this jam week.  I tried to do everything myself when I should have cut some things.  For example, I made a character using Fuse and then animated it in 3DS Max.  This took a little longer than expected, the Max to Unity process being a bit clunkier and slower than I imagined.  Also, I thought I knew a lot more about Mecanim than I did.  I was able to get my animations and transitions working, but there were times were triggers always happened or when the game would wait for a transition before going to the next state.
 I think if I had went with a simpler, more minimalist approach to the art, I could have focused on the game's design more, maybe even getting a chance to make a strong tutorial.  Overall, I learned a lot, but I should have narrowed my focus during this year's Jam Week; given the amount of pressure I'm imposing on myself to finish the Xbox One port of Battle High 2 this year, trying to do a whole game in 4 days was a bit imposing, and after 3 days, I sorta stopped caring about the idea, as I just wasn't feeling it.  Next Jam Week, I'd like to avoid the two-player, side view game theme as well, but we'll see.

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