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Global Game Jam 2023

Global Game Jam 2023

Unity project - Don't Look Down

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nicholas lo piccolo
ยทFeb 27, 2023ยท

8 min read

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This year I took part in the Global Game Jam and the experience amazed me so much. The idea is to develop a game in 48 hours non-stop on a given theme solo or with a team.

The best part, also the goal of the event, was the opportunity to get in touch with people that work or would like to work in the game development world. I could work and talk with many members of all the different teams. All kinds of artists like 2d, 3d, and sound designers and also with some level designers and story writers for games. Few teams were trying to publish their game as Indie developers.

How it all began

Well as you know I'm in the CuculoGames Team and the other fellows asked me to participate in the event. It was all brand new to me since I had never heard of it before, and as they described to me a little about the event I decided to jump on board.

You should know that yes the event is global but the problem is that the coordinators can't coordinate all the different teams around the world so they gave us the possibility to split into small groups.

Event mentors & location

The group in which I participated was located in Modena in a municipal building called MakeIt and coordinated by their collaborators, who brought us food, snacks and energy drinks to always keep us productive.

Our mentors were some guys from Orbital Games Company with a registered office in Modena. These guys told us how they started a game dev company and what are the most needed careers in the game world right now. They also helped us while we were stuck in development situations and with feedback.

The Team

So let's say that in our small CuculoGames group, we're 2 unity developers and one unreal. Due to this difference in our engines, we decided to split into two different groups.

Roberto and I never really cooperated on a big project like this, so this was the right time to challenge ourselves to do it, but without any artists, there would have been a bad ending.

The first step was to join the Discord channel and so, ice braking time!!

I started to keep an eye on one particular channel called "Matching" where people could tell a little about themselves and ask to join a team. Doing so I started to write to sound designers and 2d artists to create a bigger team. In the end, we were 9 participants in the group and my face was like that ๐Ÿ˜ฑ.

The team was composed of an Indie group called Newbix, that's currently working on a wonderful project, of 3 people: one unity dev and two 2d artists.

Furthermore, I also reached out to bring in two amazing sound designers, another 2d artist and one dear friend of mine, Gianmario, that's currently studying how to work within the game development world.

The Theme

In each edition, the theme changed and this year it was "ROOTS", here is the short video of the revealing if you want to see it.

The Idea

As the theme was published we started to brainstorm about it and everyone came out with a few ideas. The theme was really large, we could talk about actual root or family trees, root directories or everything related to it.

In the end, we decided to mix it in a double way. Roots as the location of the game, walking up from the roots up to the top of the tree and also with the meaning of the past of the main character.

The story is not too complicated and also not too directly explained, we decided to leave most of it to the imagination of the player.

But the main idea was something like that: one little girl with her bunny cuddly toy is struggling to reach the top of the tree, asking herself if she was a burden for his father, and the only way to be free was to reach the top and doing so running away from her roots.

The game is 2d and the way to play it was done in two phases: a platform where the little girl can jump and dash all along the levels and the fighting base in one arena where her little companion jumps up to defend her from all the monsters.

The title of the game: Don't Look Down.

My Role

Let's jump into the juicy part!!

So we were nine in total: five artists and four developers. Roberto took the role of the game designer (I am really proud of the efforts he put into that role) and I worked on the level designer with Gianmario.

It was the first time that I had that role and the possibility to design the platform levels and I was enthusiastic. Taking care of the abilities of the character, create levels long enough to be played, good to see and play.

The little girl always played only in the platform zones so we had to find a way to intrigue the player to keep playing and have fun. Our goal was to create 3 platform levels and in each of them the character would have a new skill: in the first only a jump, in the second a double jump and in the last a useful dash.

I did the first level, with the revision of Gianmario for the first part, using the tileset done by one amazing, and also really patient, 2d artist Daniele and with that, I had the opportunity to learn more about the usage of tile palettes in unity, something that I will use a lot in my future projects.

The second level was up to Gianmario and we also introduced one tiny enemy, a small worm that periodically pops out from a wall. The best part of this level is a tiny easter egg, but don't worry I will not spoil you what it is, so go and play!

The third level was done by me, but I have to warn you that it can be frustrating and may make you want to rage-quit. So please try not to blame me too much if you find it challenging โ˜ ๏ธ.

Difficulties

Since the group was not too cohesive, because we come from different backgrounds and we never worked together, someone found really hard to call for help and this delayed our work. The timing was also crucial because 48 hours are not enough and for sure not sufficient for a game with 3 levels and two different characters and mechanics, so also the choices made from all at the beginning should have been bridged better.

Despite that, the whole team was made up of very stubborn people who gave their best until the last minute.

Mistakes memorized

The first lesson learned is that I will make sure to take some extra time and ask everyone, including myself, "how long do you think a feature, music, or art will take to complete in the worst-case scenario?". This is not to assess the ability of the team members but rather to determine whether a task is essential or not.

The second lesson is even more important, about team building - it's a must-have for any team to function at its best. When everyone works well together, that's when the real magic happens. So, investing in team building is totally worth it if you want to achieve great results.

In my past experiences at work, I feel really bad for not being able to complete a task and my calling for help was always in a bad way. In those moments I felt like I was wasting not only my time but also the time of others. So now I can match those two events in my life and I learned that team building is essential when you work with others.

Final Thoughts

The projects gave me new lessons and a lot of new competencies using unity but as I started this article saying that people are what game jam is meant by is again indeed true. The networking that is possible to do here has no comparisons to me.

Here you can find young people winning last year's event (two really smart guys at the time they were 17), artists looking for projects to shine, designers of all kinds, and indie developers looking for more members willing to bring to life their ideas.

The game jam was crazy, but I found a place in Modena where like-minded individuals could come together and share their vision for the future of the gaming industry. The reason is that, nowadays, many people feel that the industry is too focused on making money and not enough on what truly makes a game great - creating immersive worlds and captivating stories that spark the imagination and bring joy to players.

Special Thanks

I want to thank one sound designer in particular, Giorgio, who was able to give a soul to our project with his wonderful OST songs.

Last but not least I'd like to thank the whole team, for the passion they put into it.

Here is the original exe from itch.io

Here is a mine version with some fixes in the platform levels.

. . .

What about you? Would you like to participate in a game jam event?

Leave a comment and tell me your opinion about it.

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