In 2013, I decided to participate in One Game A Month (aka #1GAM). The goal was to create a game with a proper start, middle and end, each and every month of the year. It was a bit like one big ongoing game jam.
While I don’t like to think of it as a competition, I’m still going to brag; I managed to rank within the top 100 after the 12th month (somewhere around ~75th). I’ll admit this helped push me to get games made in the last few months while juggling the responsibility of being a new parent, so I guess the ‘gamification’ aspect worked :) Here’s a rundown & some thoughts on the 11 games I made:
Warning mega-post ahead.
TLWR; I did One Game a Month and made lots of games, several of which I’m happy with the result. I made l a bunch of games that run on OUYA, kind of by accident. I’m not (intentionally) doing 1GAM this year, but if you haven’t done it, you should.
As the end of October loomed, and I realized I hadn’t made my #1GAM yet. I’d been digging back through very old projects looking for something I might be able to finish, and I found this old ‘tunnelrun’ game I’d made in Python (with overkill ODE physics !).
I decided that the original code wasn’t worth salvaging, and that I’d remake it in Unity as a quick ‘roguelike’ (which is apparently anything with procedurally generated levels and permadeath these days).
I had been working on implementing cellular automata for cavern generation during the month, so I pulled that code into the project and tweaked it for purpose. I ‘wasted’ a lot of time optimising this to prevent major framerate drops as levels are progressively generated in realtime, and dealt with some annoying room & exit placement bugs. I pulled in a spacecraft prefab I made almost 12 months ago for another as-yet-unreleased game. Generated a sky-sphere using some space assets I bought on sale a while back. Fired up Audacity, got on the mic, made some breathing sounds. Made some item pickup sounds with Ableton Live. Made a simple ‘generic item’ model in Blender – I need to practise it more and at least modelling something simple will mean those neurones remain active.
I had already decided that a core mechanic would be searching for ‘oxygen’, which would deplete over time, ultimately resulting in death. I also knew that I wanted to play with visibility, and use that to indicate oxygen levels, along with breathing sounds. Then I went searching for Public Domain literature written about space or the ocean, looking for some text to use as inspiration (or wholesale steal). I ended up reading this – A Hundred Years Hence : The Expectations Of An Optimist by T. Baron Russell, 1906, (Chapter 6: UTILISING THE SEA). Russell’s vision of the future and the challenges we might face with resources and continued human expansion set the direction for this game, and everything fell into place. I knew what I needed to do with this. It still blows my mind that this was written in 1906 ! I tweaked the colour to be ocean-like, so as to intentionally make it ambiguous as to whether the setting is space or the ocean floor. I tweaked the level generation to embrace the idea of increasing scarcity, incorporated Russell’s text as short random snippets, and left the player to fill in the gaps. I think it mostly works as intended – a short experience that I hope will make players pause to think for a moment.
TLDR; Inspired by some literature, I ended up dropping all plans for combat and made some sort of art-game roguelike.
My name is XXredactedXX, I’m one of the guys behind XXredactedXX.
I’ve recently played Arriving in Damascus on GameJolt.com and I was wandering if it would be possible to publish the game on our website.
Thank you for your time,
(Happy to privately share the name of the site, but didn’t want to drive them any traffic).
I didn’t bother replying (ignoring that they got my name wrong) – once you have a few apps and games published around the place you get these sorts of emails from bottom-feeders all the time. Although Arriving in Damascus is a short free game, I had no interest in putting it on XXredactedXX, since GameJolt (and Kongregate) split advertising revenue with developers and this other site does not. I also don’t want to have to run around to multiple places if I want push out an update.
So today when cleaning up my inbox, I found this email and thought on a whim I might search for Arriving in Damascus on the XXredactedXX site. Turns out they published a copy anyhow, without permission. It also turns out the joke is on them, since I’ve been using this little SiteLock.cs script with any of my Unity games published on web portals. The copy that XXredactedXX ripped from GameJolt simply forwards people away from their site to the version hosted right here on this site. No need to send any polite or angry requests, I’ll take the free traffic :)
Arriving in Damascus is an on-rails first-person hypertext interactive fiction (ORFPHIF), made as my One Game A Month, and produced to help battle-test “uTwine”, a Twine for Unity implementation I’ve been working on.
If you just want to play it, try here, or here. It’s short, and even shorter if you tap + a bunch of times.
I started out planning to make a Dear Esther parody, but as I went along, I discovered that (1) not surprisingly, it had already been done, and (2) I was finding it difficult to make light of the original, given the subject matter surrounding grief and loss. So, I went for some parallel universe ‘fanfic’ instead, and tried to capture some of the atmosphere, extending the story in another direction. Here are a bunch of things I learned along the way.