Game Jam Graz - Day 2

Posted on Fri 02 November 2012 in university

Right now it’s evening of the second day of our 2012 Game Jam at the TU Graz.

status

I’m trying to wrap my head around what’s still possible for our team in the remaining time and what’s entirely unrealistic.
Early on during the competition our team chose Manuel as team leader; a decision that I fully support, though I wish we would’ve settled on the used technology earlier in order to have everything running on each developer’s machine on day 1 or in the morning of day 2 at last.

That issue could’ve been prevented by having the registration be team based, but I’m not sure that the event as a whole had worked with that condition. I’m not confident that we have a community large enough to support that kind of team based competitions with pre-formed teams. Considering that there are multiple people who came here from Vienna in order to participate I’m rather inclined to assume that the reach of our event is large enough to draw multiple teams which know that their teamwork is great.

vision

The game that my team is trying to create is part puzzle focused exploring and part survival horror based escape from a building. The protagonist is to find an object of great emotional value in a decrepit hospital. The player explores said hospital from a first person viewpoint and has to solve multiple riddles before finding the object. Afterwards the dare turns into a dangerous escape from the haunted hospital.

We plan to achieve this vision by using our skilled team members in the best way possible. Due to the horror-based nature of our setting we immediately drew the attention of three sound designers after the initial presentation as well as one graphic artist, three programmers and a writer. As we decided on project participation based on interest Escape - our working title - was the project I settled on. I have to admit that it was my second choice, but nevertheless participated with eager interest.

progress

During the first day the programmers decided on which engine to use (OGRE), me and Lisa, my writer colleague developed the back story, setting, gameplay mechanics and level design. The sound designers jumped at the list of required effects which just kept expanding throughout the day. The same can be said for the list of required graphics and models. I have to admit it’s rather cool to wish for something and have it done professionally. Although it was never officially stated or anything like that I felt like the lead designer while Manuel was our tech lead. Status updates and miniature meetings were held to determine progress and technical possibilities.

setbacks

The decision for OGRE lasted one and a half day during which our tech team tried to get the engine to run on two different flavors of linux and one Windows install. That… didn’t go so well.

  • On our Arch install the main engine was installed okay.
  • On the Ubuntu install the system was outdated which required manual installation and didn’t work afterwards. We assume that this was due to graphics drivers, but obviously lacked motivation and time to properly look into that.
  • While the Windows laptop after spending several hours in vain trying to fix the source to make it compile at all, struggling with CMake and finally OGRE crashing after milliseconds, the Windows part was scrapped after breaking the mindset of two developers.

In an effort to have everything ready, Manuel spent the first evening fixing everything at least for his system in order to also have a working physics engine (namely Ogrebullet), which wasn’t easy either due to a package build from the AUR which didn’t compile. (He may or may not submit a patch for that after the Game Jam.)

And after many, many hours of trying to repair everything that was shipped broken or couldn’t be configured easily the realization was inevitable. If we were to continue using OGRE we wouldn’t have a playable prototype in time for the deadline. A fallback option was quickly decided to be the Blender builtin game engine which would be relatively easy to handle while not being all that performance optimized that a real engine might be.

lookout

At the moment we’re as far as having a pretty complete plan for day 3. We’re going to have two teams working on our two levels (or rather, both sections of our single level), meaning we assign a writer, a scripter and a environment artist to each team in order to assemble our game world.

I’m of the impression that it’s quite possible to even have the full level playable (I’m not talking about bug free here) tomorrow late afternoon for the deadline. Given that both our scripters are already familiar with Python which is used for scripting in Blender progress is realistic. Both my female colleague and me will be coordinating the efforts to make the levels feel and behave right.

The disadvantage of using this method is lacking extensibility since the whole level will be assembled by hand and the whole scripting is specific to the current situation and not used from references.

conclusion

  • I am amazed by the awesome work that our sound team has delivered yet. The quality of sounds as well as loops and melodies is amazing and almost nothing required changes. Those were made only to keep everything perfectly in sync with the atmosphere we are trying to create.
  • Huge thanks and a shoutout to Phil, our sole graphic artist as well as modeler and environment artist, who put in an amazing amount of work in order for us to have both architectural models of the levels ready for work tomorrow.
  • I am proud of the story, the concept, the gameplay mechanics and the level layout that Lisa and I came up with.
  • And I am totally looking forward what our scripters will come up with tomorrow in order to make the prototype resemble our design and our ideas as closely as possible in order to maximize the output within this short time period.

After working on this draft while trying to help our team out wherever possible and helpful (except actual scripting) and suggesting solutions it’s now soon midnight. I’m looking forward to tommorow’s final sprint in our little event. I am aware that it’s not a competition but it will be amazing to have something to demonstrate. The downside is that it’s going to be extremely detrimental to the mood of the whole team if we end up having nothing to show.