The Resting Place - First Game Jam Postmortem

I've just finished uploading and publishing my finalized files for the GMTK 2019 Game Jam. This was my first ever game jam, funnily this is also my first every devlog. Gotta start somewhere!

The theme for the game jam was "Only One". A very vague theme. In the kick-off video Mark suggests: one level, one bullet, one sprite, one something, take something that the player usually has lots of and give them one. 

The Plan

Initially I was quite stumped about what to do. I wanted to avoid everything that he had suggested. There were only a few ideas that stuck. My girlfriend googled "nur eins" (only one in German) and we were immediately greeted by a poem by Wolfgang Borchert. The idea of the poem was that there is only one answer to various situations, "no". So I thought about making a philosophical game where the player is put in various situations and must say no to said situations. Ultimately it seemed a little too preachy for me. I'm not really one to tell people what is right and wrong.

Ultimately I settled on the idea of a community based drawing game. The theme is incorporated by giving the player only one pixel to place. There is a background theme that you are in a transitory place between lives and that there is only one you. A little bit spiritual. This plan ended up sticking, I think because it offered me an opportunity to implement server based gaming and I romanticized the potential images that could appear from a community based drawing game. It's not much of a "game" but I knew that I would learn a lot from it and I thought it was still within my capabilities and nothing else stood out so here we are.

The Execution

The execution has been mostly smooth, apart from a few larger issues - which I think is the usual way development goes, at least for me anyways. As always, it's the hiccups that teach the most.

I built my first ever dialogue system. I hadn't expected that I'd need one but such is mostly unplanned game development. It's not perfect but it does the trick. It's quite satisfying to watch the two characters go back and forwards, exchanging with each other. I have to say though, the code for the dialogue is quite the mess. Possibly one of the most horrendous things I've ever written. Basically it's a really long list of strings and commands in one coroutine. But hey, it works!

Probably my proudest achievement in from this project was my handling of the data that is received from the server. I'm relatively new to working with servers so I'm sure there are far more efficient ways of achieving what I achieved but basically the best I could do in this short time is retrieve a big string with all of the data in it. Then I had to pull the string apart and assign this data to the correct places. In hindsight it seems really obvious... but at the time I didn't really know how I would do it. Everything works smoothly now and that's the important thing! Without the server element this game wouldn't be anything. In fact, upon initially posting the game (thinking I was finished 4 hours before submissions close) I discovered that there was a vital piece missing to my server interaction. I felt quite the panic... for if that failed the game would not display other players marks and thus the player would see nothing... which defeats the purpose of the game. Fortunately I managed to fix this issue (whilst learning about another aspect of server interaction) within an hour (pheww!).

Otherwise it was just a series of small pieces to get it to work. Laying out the pixels that players place. Randomizing the players initial colour. Closing off the game loop and preventing players from placing more than one pixel.

The game itself is relatively short, the majority of it is spent in dialogue (I figured it was the best way to add context and give the game a bit of flesh without it simply being a pixel drawing game). The core loop works and although the players can most likely easily get around the games limit of one pixel per player, I doubt anyone is so dedicated... especially since you MUST sit through the dialogue again to do so.

Additional Stuff:

This is my first game where my girlfriend (a.k.a Avocado Dog) helped. She is currently in the midst of important university work so she couldn't dedicate as much time as me to the game jam but she helped with a few parts. The most important being the spirit "Mark Brown" with whom you speak with. She designed the spirit, which actually I hadn't asked for but I'm very glad she did because I think it is far more interesting than what I originally had, which was more or less a pixel with eyes. What I like too is that I never would have made that. I think I've become a bit too attached to the "clean" look of pixel art, those perfect lines and such. She drew it up on our tablet and I animated it within Unity by simply animating each piece of the body and adding in some particles for more "spirity-ness". I think it turned out really cool. I'm stoked because as I said, I would never have created that myself and now it's become the face of the game and I think a really vital piece to introduce the game and give it a bit of flavour.

Music was something I hadn't really thought about until I opened up Garageband on my tablet and accidentally opened up the double-bass. Which sounded awesome. I thought yeah! double bass jazzy space music... perfect! I'm pretty happy with the music I think it adds a lot to the atmosphere of the game.

Post Launch:

So this is actually officially my first launch which is quite exciting. At the moment I'm working on another game called Avocado Rescue which is set to be my first "real" game launch. It's been in the works for a few months now and it's probably still a couple of months away so it's really nice to just put that down and make something else. It feels great to just make an finish a game in a short amount of time. I wish I could game jam every day! That would be quite the life - probably rather exhausting, but I'm sure I'd learn a lot.

I think the main thing I've learned from this game is that I can actually do it. I can make games. I still have a lot to learn but hey, look at what I achieved in this short amount of time. It's a very satisfying feeling and I'm really excited for what the future holds.

I'm excited to have released the game and actually it's a game that can just sit there and continue to accrue marks from new players. Maybe in a few years I'll come back and it will be a packed out canvas. We'll see!

I'm going to avoid the temptation to jump straight back in to development today. Instead I'm going to soak up some other games from the game jam and see what others have created. I think I'll do a post on my favourite games I find in the game jam.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

If you haven't already, check out my game The Resting Place and leave your mark.

and if you're reading this before the rating submissions have closed, be sure to leave a rating! :)

Leave a comment

Log in with to leave a comment.