Exquisite Corps

Posted May 1, 2016, 10:24 a.m.
tags: Game Jam , Unity

For the first time since last summer, I made a game I can show! Ludum Dare 35 had the theme "Shapeshift," which was decent. I went to a jam site in Eugene with my audio guy, but we showed up a little late and it looked like a lot of people already had teams. I was thinking of doing an abstract puzzle game to minimize art requirements, but at the last minute we teamed up with a group of 3 who were discussing what they wanted to make.

Their programmer had never made a WASD/mouse shooter before, and since I've made quite a few I decided that we should make his wish come true and do another. We ended up making a top-down shooter where your head, body, and legs were all either from a spider, robot or cactus, independently. It's like of like "exquisite corpse" - the game kids play in class where they fold notebook paper into thirds and each of 3 people draw part of the person. When you open it up, things are mismatched and hilarity ensues. So yeah, that, as a shooter!

What went wrong

Firstly, we had no artist. There was a guy who showed up the first day who wanted to do pixel art for us, but he never came back. So we were left with 2 programmers and 2 audio people trying desperately to make something that didn't look terrible. Thankfully, on night 2 there was a 3D artist who did our character art for us. The rest of the art - the walls, powerups, and UI - were all hastily thrown together by me toward the end of the weekend. They look "okay" but man, those power up icons make me wince.

Secondly, merge conflicts are a nightmare. We were using Unity, which is okay so long as you hide metafiles, but I was advised not to hide them at first and had to basically start over after the first night. Setting up source control was tough, but we made it work the second try.

Finally, and worst of all, my computer died on submission day. We'd worked through the weekend and had something pretty cool - dynamic music with FMOD, 3-layered state changing that makes you mix and match weapons and special abilities, and a decent enemy spawning system as well. I worked through that Sunday night to get everything working well, but on Monday afternoon my laptop screen wouldn't turn on. It ended up being in the shop for almost a week, and since implementing FMOD broke our source control the only version of the game we had for submission had zero audio and a totally broken enemy spawner :(

What went well

You know, though I'm sort of over WASD/mouse shooters at this point this one is pretty interesting. After we got the enemy spawners working, the game was almost - dare I say it - FUN! The enemies all have super simple AI, but we were able to make them feel right with steering behaviors.

I ended up staying at my audio guy's place out in the country, which was sort of a drive from the jam site but totally gorgeous. Sure, I slept on the floor and the bathroom was in a different house, but waking up to the misty quiet of the woods was really, really nice.

This project was ambitious - especially with no full-time artist - so the fact that we got anything done at all is a miracle. Sad that it took a week for me to get my computer back, but downloadable versions of our final game are available here!