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Idea Bucket Game

Making a game based on hundreds of drawings by children in 8 hours

Well I'm back in the States again after another fantastic week at GameCity!  We have some big announcements about our new game and collaboration coming very soon, but I wanted to wrap up the Idea Bucket before I got back to bizniz.

If you were following along last week, you'll remember that I was in Nottingham, getting ready to make a game in 8 hours with my friend Rebecca Mayes, based on ideas and drawings made by the kids that attended the GameCity5 festival in the town square.  Well, we did it!  And it turned out pretty cool I think.  There are two versions of the game online:

The process was pretty straightforward.  All day on Wednesday and Thursday kids and their parents sat at these long tables and made drawings with chalk, markers, and glitter:

Then they put the stuff they made into this bucket:

Then my friend Matt Patterson helped me scan in over 200 amazing pictures on Thursday night.  The bulk of the scanning took about 10 or 11 man-hours, it was pretty intense.  I spent another 4 or so hours cleaning up and organizing the scans so I'd be ready for the jam in the morning.  I set up a github (open, online code and asset storage system - like a fancy dropbox) project for it and uploaded all the images in case anyone else wanted to jam along with us on Friday.  I think I got about 3 hours of sleep before meeting Rebecca for a groggy breakfast.  Then we jammed.

We jammed pretty much straight through from 10:20am to 6:20pm or so - it was a really exhilarating and exciting experience.  Game jams have been part of the indie game scene for a long time, and jamming definitely has its pros and cons.  I think it's really important to understand that this is not, by even an enormous margin, the first time somebody's made a game in a day.  I think I'm probably the 834th person to do that this year.  However, I think it's still important to show people from outside our little community what it is and how it works and how much fun it is!

The first hour or so was mainly spent setting up a title screen and a kind of jiggle-animation system for the cut-out pictures.  I started to get worried after that first hour, because it was time to make a call about what the game would actually be.  I opted for one of the submitted ideas:

Make a game about a lost thought trying to find its way back.

This was accompanied by an adorable crayon drawing of a crying thought bubble, of course!  What an idea though - definitely perfect for a project that needs to have a hundred or more different ideas floating around in it.  I decided to try and make a kind of nebulous, vague arena full of hostile daydreams, and you are trying to guide your particular daydream home.  Each time you play all the "thoughts" start in a different position, but you're always trying to find the home in the middle of the dreamspace.

So we built it!  Rebecca wrote not one song but TWO, which we could cross-fade and pan dynamically as the player explored the dreamspace.  Unfortunately, we ran out of time before I could include all 110 monsters, so we only had 55 in the "official" version.  The updated build has 34 different "player" thoughts, and 110 monster thoughts, all drawn and submitted by the kids that attended the festival.

All in all I'm pretty happy with it.  It's not "space invaders with kids art", right - it's a valid exploration of an interesting mechanic (kiting monsters away from your goal), with some fairly vicious constraints (enemies' behavior only changes based on their size).  I could pretty easily imagine exploring this idea further, with specific designs and more elaborate behaviors and enemy traps, and more interesting backgrounds.  Unfortunately, I've got a few things on my plate - but all the source code for the skeleton (Thursday night), jam version (Friday afternoon), and the updated version (just a few minutes ago) are all up on github!

So if you can see all the fantastic possibilities this project might hold, just download it and continue working :)  Or make your own game using their crazy art!  The repo includes a list of the all the design ideas they submitted, most of which are completely magical.  So yea, that's it I guess.  Only thing I will add is that if you're planning on incorporating a lot of kids art in a project, letting them work with traditional materials is great - just don't give them glitter. much glitter.  I wonder what the hotel cleaning ladies thought happened in there?

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