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What went wrong with our game in the Band Name Jam

I participated in my second game jam after winning my first ever. The game we made did not do as well as I thought and this is what I think made it so.

This was our second jam that we participated in with Philly Dev Night. The jam theme was band names. We decided to go with Rage Against the Machine and thus created the game, Kicking and Screaming.

Kicking and Screaming is a mash-up between hot potato and Lethal League. Two players hit the mechanical bomb in the center of the screen to infuse it with rage until it is armed and ready to explode. The last person to hit it and make it explode is the winner.  The player can move, jump, kick, and special kick. The special kick increases the rage in the machine a bit more than a regular kick. The game also allows players to yell into a microphone to do a special which makes the machine go faster. We also decided to allow special kick to lower the rage in the bomb when it is about to explode, which can act as a save move.

We thought we had a pretty interesting game concept and would do pretty well in the game jam.  I thought we will do pretty well. The last game jam we did, we won first place with Friendship Train .  I thought the interaction with the mic for this game would be interesting and carry it to victory in this jam; but it didn’t. Here’s what I think what went wrong…

1) The game was too complicated and not intuitive

What worked really well with Friendship Train was that it was short and simple. “Work together as a team to move the train left or right. Avoid obstacles, collect the blue cubes, and survive as long as possible. ”

With Kicking and Screaming, there were too many elements.

“You can only do a special kick after three normal kicks. The special kick also resets the bomb.”

The players also were confused about why they wanted to be the last one to hit the bomb to make it explode.  A lot of them thought they want to avoid the bomb, because normally exploding means death. I also think the fact that bomb bouncing on the ground and wall did not increase the rage meter might have been a little confusing as well.  We basically broke the established rule when players first start the game. If the bomb is going to explode, then the player should be the only thing that makes it explode.

The game arena is also too small. It is hard to keep track of where the ball bounces and where the players are. There were also times when the players didn’t understand how they lost. Things were too fast and unclear. It also didn’t help that I forgot to program the font color when displaying who won.  Instead it said, “Player 1 won!” without indicating a specific player.

The lack of visual cue of when the player hits the ball makes it harder to indicate that the player actually affected the ball. This made it difficult to gauge why kicks weren’t landing. The reason why I never noticed while developing, was that I had the Gizmo View turned on in the Unity editor, so obviously I had the information in front of me while in game players did not.

2) The voice feature wasn’t even noticed.

When it was time to present our game, we set up our laptop in an open space where people walk up and play. It was noisy; therefore our mic integration wasn’t useful at all. People are also very conscious about yelling in an open room.  The music in our game was too loud to hear the voice that played back. There wasn’t really incentive to use the special kick unless you wanted to end the game or try to save the ball, which was hard. The player didn’t need to scream to use the special kick to get their desired result.

It’s interesting to me that this game started as an idea to just juggle balls, but it turned into this non-intuitive game. Despite not doing great, I did learn a lot from this jam.

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