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One month, one game

The brainstorming and planning process to construct a suitable game theme for a game jam submission

Transferring my existing software engineering skill set into the realm of game development throughout the past year has been a rewarding experience. Paired with more recent efforts in absorbing everything game design-related, I feel confident in my participation of a game jam. What better jam to join than one organised by a company mere blocks away, Vancouver’s Archiact?

Sure, I wouldn’t place any bets on my skills standing a chance against the competing talent, but at least I have a deadline to work towards, March 22nd is the final build submission date for the Global Archiact Jam. In this time, I will build something beyond a sketchy incomplete prototype… I am guilty of sooo many unfinished prototypes and incomplete game ideas.

The competition is split between Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR categories. As I don’t own the Gear, nor any of it’s fire-prone siblings, I aim for a Cardboard submission using the Unity game engine.

Tracking my progress

I had finally decided to try out Medium to record the progress of a project, and this felt like a suitable candidate. It is already close to a week since GAJ was announced. I hope to gauge the frequency of my posts based on how verbose these initial entries becomes. I do feel like there is already plenty of progress to document, for myself to look back on at a later date, and maybe for the interest of others.

The theme

Once I decided that I was ready to tackle a game, the theme was my primary focus while trying to brainstorm my concept.

The theme, Is it too late?, is as interesting as any to work with. After letting the idea gestate in my subconscious overnight, I create a fresh Stormboard and spend the morning weaving ideas and their relationships between one another.

Stormboard’s tangled web of themes and ideas

Stormboard’s tangled web of themes and ideas

Initially, I was hooked on time manipulation. It conveniently ties together interesting game mechanics and the theme, but I unfortunately didn’t get it to a point that I was satisfied with.

Another set of ideas revolved around time-sensitive gameplay. This was problematic. In the end, every idea felt like nothing more than glorified time penalties, which are commonplace in countless games and no more theme-relevant than the level countdown found in a level of Super Mario Bros.

The remaining popular theme throughout brainstorming focused on an environmental observation of the question. I asked, is it too late to address climate change? This is a very topical, albeit political, question that would lead me to my game theme and in turn, my description:

It’s too late. The anthropogenic damage inflicted on the environment is irreversible. Rather than addressing the cause, refine your jetpack skills. After all, it will be the primary means of transportation between the city skylines of the future once much of the coastal rooftops are submerged by the rising sea levels.

Juggling the contentious theme with a light-hearted description of what I hope would become a fun mobile game, this description will be refined over the course of the project. At least for now, it feels much like a mission statement that I can get behind.

And so, Jetpack City was born.


Read more on Medium @rhysp, or follow me on Twitter @rhysjpatterson

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