Idea: Last week, I made the fairly impulsive decision to launch into a Game a Week challenge inspired by Rami Ismail’s model. I promptly stalled for a day after making a vague plan to use this as an opportunity to play around more with Construct 2, a tool for making HTML5 games with some advantages for rapid prototyping. I realized after playing with the platformer tutorials that this could work well for taking on the remediation of Jeremy Hight’s “Ethan Has Nowhere to Go,” which has so far been rewritten by Alan Bigelow and turned into a film by Aaron Avila among other fates. I saw in the bleak story about a man returning to the shell of his hometown an opportunity to probe at suburbia while exploring the nature of the platformer.
- Construct 2 Platformer Tutorial
- Funkyos’ Simple Rain Example
- Acoustic_Mirror’s “Windchimes, Rain, Wind, Thunderstorm”
What went right: Although I didn’t have time to invest in the graphics I’d envisioned, I’m very happy with how the dynamics of mood and time work in this game. The platformer aspect is simple–there are five “enemies” all hanging out in front of their houses, and as each one is eliminated the screen goes darker, the music and thunder rises, the rain intensifies and the player comes closer to “nowhere.” I took key phrases from the text to form a short poem that repeats over the UI, providing an internal monologue as the player guides Ethan towards the inevitability of an empty landscape. I love the rain as it intensifies. There’s an opening and closing screen, so there’s at least a feeling of completeness even if it is very, very short.
What went wrong: It took me a while to figure out what I was trying to accomplish with this game, so I spent way too much time playing with that rain and the many options (ultimately, it only bounces off Ethan for emphasis). The graphical vision I had for the game was more than I could complete in a week, so I ended up making very simple graphics and leaving blocks for Ethan and the other people. I’m pleased with the simplicity on the ending screen, but I’d like to do more with the lines and silhouettes. For audio, I had planned to mix from several Creative Commons-licensed tracks to create the intensifying of the storm, but I ended up raising the audio on Acoustic_Mirror‘s track instead of building my own this time.
What I learned: Scaling back is good. I like working with Construct 2, but it definitely took time to figure out how certain simple code constructs (like arrays!) could be implemented through its visual interface. Next time, I need a concrete idea faster so I spend less time playing with the non-interactive elements.
Other Games from Week One
Talking to my three compatriots–Mark Danger Chen, Melissa Peterson, and Dennis Ramirez–throughout the week on Twitter definitely helped push me along.
Mark Danger Chen‘s game, “The Unflappable Academic (and his hoverboard)“, is a playful critique on academia disguised in Flappy Bird’s mechanics. Thankfully, it’s easier to play than the original, so I could appreciate moments along the way like failing at choosing a major and the GRE. It’s also made in Construct 2, with cool moments including clouds passing behind the windows.
Melissa Peterson‘s game “Weather Worker” is a card game, so I didn’t get to play it but I hope to at this year’s NASAGA. She wrote up the game concept here, including the overall concept for cooperative strategic play that reminds me of board games like Pandemic. I like the concept of simulating weather and a town’s attempt to survive atmospheric chaos, and this definitely makes me want to go back to paper for more of my own prototyping.
Dennis Ramirez‘s game for this week is a version of Blackjack built in Unity, which is definitely not a tool I turn to for rapid prototyping of this type of project. It’s primarily text-based but uses napkins and minimal art to accent the gameplay. So far, I’m exactly as bad at it as I am at “physical” Blackjack. Dennis wrote about his process this week here.