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Global Game Jam 2015 - Shape Up!

A blog post dealing my team's entry for the 2015 Global Game Jam called Shape Up.

With the rest of the team unable to go to this year, it was up to Joe Blakeston and I to represent the Opposable Games crew. We went to the Global Game Jam site at the University of the West of England and eagerly awaited the theme or at least one of us did.

The theme was announced whilst I was locked out of the building, so when I regained entry and Joe told me the theme was “What do we do now”, we both stared at each other feeling very much perplexed. With only two of us, our concept needed to be simplistic but scalable dependent on our progress. After some quick brainstorming, we realised the theme was quite easy to manipulate to our needs and we came up with a good concept.

The concept involved making a game, which involves the mechanics of keepy uppy but with our own twists. The key twist is that rather than keeping up a traditional ball, you instead keep up a shape that constantly changes dimensions and shape when you tap it. This adds an ever-changing sense of difficulty. We also had plans of a competitive multi-player mode, which allowed another player to try and ruin the main player’s play session but our initial focus was tied to the single player.

With that concept drafted out, we cracked on. Joe mocked up some visuals and I focused on creating the basic prototype. It didn’t take too long to have a very simple prototype of the game working. This was great as it meant we had something to play with really early and it meant we could split improvements into sensible iterations.

Main screen iterations

We worked for the majority of the time available and stayed on or near the jam site for the entire time. We had to be quite inventive with our sleeping arrangements, with beds made of chairs being a necessity!

The prototype kept improving and we were gradually able to shift our focus to the multiplayer. It’s with multiplayer where we felt the theme could tie in to our concept.  Our concept for the multiplayer, involved giving the second player to amend key values to try and outfox the main player. This would mean both players would have to be making regular decisions.

It’s at this point that I made my most sensible programmatic decision. All the behaviours were very much modulated, allowing me to able to quickly test key changes locally before worrying about hooking them up in the network. We then used OneTouchConnect to handle the devices connecting together.

With this all done, we had enough time to add a certain level of polish. It’s actually this area where changes took the longest and often the gains were quite small, but those gains were important. With time running out, Joe eventually stopped creating any more assets and focused on making paper airplanes instead, whilst I carried on with any last changes I could make.

Joe's step by step guide to the perfect plane.

And the end result is Shape Up! It’s playable through this link (but without multiplayer) and there are builds available for Android, PC & Mac. It does also work with iOS, but Apple makes it a nightmare to distribute builds.

Overall it was a great experience and I learned a lot during the process. It was great to revise skills, which I hadn’t used in a while, and also focus on a much smaller project.

We should thank the staff at UWE for a great jam and also Red Panda Audio who created the audio for the game.

Long term, Joe and I are hoping to develop the game to full release. We’ll let you know more when we can.

Hope everyone else had a great jam and we’re looking forward to it again next year!

Android, PC & Mac download link: http://ggj.s3.amazonaws.com/games/2015/01/26/1324/Builds.zip

Lukas Roper,

Twitter: @LukasRoper 

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