Designing my First Game at Design Buddies Game Jam 2020

Project Overview


Design Buddies
, an online design community, hosted their first Game Jam in December 2020. A game jam is similar to a hackathon where you have an allotted amount of time to produce a program, app, design, etc but you create a game demo instead. I decided that this would be a fun opportunity to do UX and practice UI in a different context that wasn’t web or mobile. I teamed up with other fans of video games from around the world to create this small adventure Role Playing Game (RPG). The game jam ran from Dec 16th to Dec 23rd, 2020.

Team + Responsibilities

  • Martin - Game Design/ Level Design / Unity Programming
  • Angie - Narrative Design/Dialogue
  • Daria - Art Design/UX/UI
  • Alexis - Unity Programming
  • Myself - UX/UI/Narrative Design/Dialogue/Level Design/Sound and Music Selection/Video Editing

Tools

  • Unity 2D
  • Figma
  • Google Docs/Sheets
  • Adobe Photoshop and Premiere
  • itch.io for our page
  • Youtube for our submission video.

Let the Game Jam Begin

The theme given to us was Community on December 16th. My team and I got to work immediately on ideas for the the game.

Challenges

3 of us never had made a game before or knew how to program.

Ideation

We thought about community, what that could mean and how to show that. We incorporated the Design Buddies mascot, a bunny, into our game. We landed on the idea of a Rabbit and Fox team living in a world with fellow woodland creatures.

Understanding the Game Process

That was my first of many questions to our lead Game Designer, Martin. I had many more such as:

  • What design and game tools will we use?
  • Will this game be 2D or 3D? What genre will it be?
  • What kind of visual art style should we go for? What will be the game mechanics?

We landed on creating a 2D, 16-bit Adventure RPG, told as a fairytale, with a Rabbit protagonist, River.


Sketches and Flow

I researched common RPG game UI elements from the Game UI Database to better understand what would be needed for our game.

I created low-fidelity sketches and mid-fidelity mockups with Figma and Photoshop. Daria would then finalize the look of our UI assets from mid-fidelity to high fidelity mockups. She pixelated and cleaned up my assets to better fit the style of our game.


To keep things simple, I utilized the menu idea that Blossom Tales had of keeping several different screens accessible via tabs under the menu screen.


The HUD would show off some of our inventory, community growth mechanic and currency.

Let’s Do Some Level Design!

Martin, our Lead Game Designer, taught me how to put together a small level in Unity 2D. I was inspired by early Pokemon’s isometric overhead view. Daria created ruined home assets that went with the story of our game for me to use.


Let’s Get Some Music Going

I’m a fan of video game and film OSTs. The music had to fit the genre of the game and the emotion I wanted to evoke at that moment for the player. I used songs from Bakuda’s Generic RPG pack to set those tones that I used were:

  • Windless Slopes for the game’s introduction
  • Red Carpet Wooden Floor for when players are exploring
  • The Arrival for Battle Music
  • Foggy Woods for the Game Trailer

As for sound effects, they also had to match the game's genre. A futuristic laser sound makes no sense when a sword is being swung. SFX has to match the world it was based in.

A Dash of Dialogue

I assisted Angela, who was in charge story and dialogue. I wrote dialogue for the Non-Playable Characters based on the behavior traits. For example:

Doe the Deer, a Potion Shop Owner, who loves Music and Chemistry

  • “River, Fern, take this, you will need this on your journey. It’ll lift your spirits when they get too low.”
  • “Have you heard the latest melodies from Lute-acris?”
  • “River, Fern, I made this potion that allows you to see sounds. Trust me, it’s safe.”

Bacon the Baker, a Jolly and friendly Pig Baker

  • “I got some freshly made baguettes! Want one?”
  • “Time to make some dough! Ha ha! Get it? Dough!”


We Ran Into Some Problems

During the course of the week, we had a few bugs that didn’t give us time to do a quick play test with users. We dealt with such things as:

  • Disappearing tiles from our level
  • Colliders that blocked passage to our bridge to get to the other side of the level
  • Characters not switching when prompted

Among other things, we also ran into issues with Unity itself.

Our Game Trailer

We needed a game trailer to submit to Design Buddies along with our game submission on Itch.io. I compiled the gameplay footage, music from our asset pack, the voice over narration from Angie and screenshots into short trailer in Adobe Premiere. You can view the trailer below.


My Learnings + Takeaways

Making A Game Is Harder Than It Looks

Being on the other side has given me an even deeper appreciation for those who make games, no matter how big or small the team.

  • Organization is very important.
  • From the beginning of the project all the way to the end especially when dealing with many assets and individuals working simultaneously on different things.
  • Collaboration is key.
  • We all need to be on the same page and explain things to each other so that we can paint a better picture of what we want our end product to be.
  • Most importantly, I had a lot of fun and learned a lot from my team. They made the whole process much more bearable.

Post Game Jam - A Little Happy Ending

4 out of 5 of us decided to go back to the drawing board and flesh out our ideas and make a full game as Kiwi Studio!

We kicked things off officially in early January 2021 working on our game part-time on our own time. There’s no release date yet but we’re excited!

Special Thanks!

Design Buddies: For hosting the game jam and giving people an opportunity to try something new.

Kiwi Studio Team: Martin Garcia, Angela Wong and Daria Kotlowska. It was awesome making this small sample of a game and I can’t wait to see what we make.

The Asset Creators who allowed us to create our game as quickly as possible:



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