2019-Oct-01 10:00 AEST
The 20th to 22nd of September 2019 was the 7th Alakajam 48 gamejam. Theme suggestions are submitted by the community, and through a mysterious but possibly democratic process, a single theme is chosen and used by all participants to create a game from scratch. After my theme suggestions were rudely eliminated in an early voting round, I pinned my hopes on 'Bird' being selected. That didn't happen, and instead the mob voted for 'Tower'.
I try and be indifferent to the selection of themes in gamejams - I really don't believe there is such a thing as a 'bad theme', but I do have my preferences. This is especially true when it comes to playing the games other participants have made - certain themes tend to result in a lot of very similar games, and nobody wants to spend the post jam voting period playing 50 'platformer where you can invert gravity' games. I felt like 'Bird' would have resulted in a much wider variety of entries.
Anyway! My initial idea was some kind of assassination simulator where you would perform politically motivated state sponsored murders of persons in a skyscraper (that's the tenuous theme link to 'Tower'), but my partner didn't much like the sound of that and so instead I decided to make something our four year old child could play.
I decided almost immediately to try a Tricky-Towers inspired physics stacking game, and so picked Godot for its combination of apparently mature 2D engine and integrated physics engine, instead of trying to slap box2D into a custom engine or even worse - write my own physics engine during the jam.
I'm glad I took this route - normally in game jams I 'roll my own' as much as possible, which leaves very little (if any) time for nice media assets or polish. Working with 2D in Godot proved very straightforward, and even the physics engine was fairly simple to bend to my will.
The screenshot above shows the POOP mechanic - a hidden meter fills as the player builds their tower, eventually allowing them to glue a cluster of birds together with 'bird poop', causing them to function as a single rigid physics body. This helps solidify the tower, but more importantly it simplifies the physics simulation which would otherwise quickly become chaotic when large numbers of birds are moving and colliding simultaneously.
Having more time for things beyond implementing an engine and the basic mechanics was a lot of fun, and I even had time to spend on music, almost always relegated to lowest priority in past jams. The soundtrack is fairly short and repetitive, but I'm pleased with it and my son hums it to himself, which is high praise indeed. You can hear it in this quick trailer I threw together to promote the game on twitter.
Hopefully I'll allow myself to sometimes work on simple game ideas in future jams, and produce more polished entries - but perhaps with less poop.