Adventure Time! Or at least it was. Two weeks ago, Fantastic Arcade and Juegos Rancheros teamed up with Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward to create the first ever Adventure Time Game Jam. Although the 48-hour event took place in Austin, Texas, the organizers took the jam online to include developers all over the world. I was fortunate enough to be able to participate and make my own Adventure Time game. I decided to use Flixel once again, since I’m starting to get the hang of working with it. This time, however, I decided to go for a top-down Zelda-style game, which seemed to fit the style of the show.
For the most part, the first day of the jam went smoothly. Although I had only ever used Flixel for making platform games, it was easy enough to convert to a top-down format. In fact, the most time consuming part was having to create four different walking animations for all the characters. In any case, after a few hours, I had Finn walking around in an abstract blue maze. I actually kind of liked the blue maze, and considered making a game set in Lumpy Space, just so I could use it. In the end, however, I decided to place the game in the Grasslands, giving it a slightly more generic adventure-game feel.
After creating a basic tileset for the Grasslands, I started working on enemies and combat. Once again, sword combat was quite a bit different than the ranged combat I had used in previous games, so it took quite a bit of tweaking to get it working properly. The biggest problem was getting the animation and the actual contact area for the sword swing to match up close enough. I had originally hoped to include multiple swords in the game, and had considered making the sword animation separate from the Finn animation. In the end, I ended up combining them for the sake of simplicity. The downside is that when you swing your sword, the animation of the blade doesn’t extend very far (Compare this with Link to the Past, where a sword swing extends out as wide as your character’s whole body). Finn’s hitbox is quite a bit smaller than his actual sprite, so the sword combat actually ended up working pretty well. Still, a more complex sword animation would have allowed the player to more easily gauge his range during combat.
The first enemy I created to test combat was a skeleton. Even though it worked pretty well as a starting enemy, it seemed a bit out of place in the grassy fields. I decided to make a second tileset for dungeons and caves, where the skeleton would fit in a bit better. The dungeon tileset ended up taking more time than any other part of the project, not because it was particularly difficult, but because I got a bit carried away with it. By the time I decided to stop (at which point I think I only had 12 hours left), I had not only dungeon and cave walls, but a large range of arches, gargoyles, altars, banners and shelves. I had so many tiles, in fact, that a lot of them didn’t even make it into my final level designs.
With the skeletons now relegated to the dungeon, I had to create a new enemy for the Grassland. I decided to make a Grass Ogre, based off the character Donny from the show. Although bigger and slower, they otherwise had the same AI as the skeletons. To liven things up a bit, I decided to add some Bug Bats to the dungeon. I also created a stronger “Meat Ogre” to serve as a sort of miniboss.
At this point, however, I was starting to run out of time. Even though I had intended to have the characters rescuing princesses or something similar, I decided that it was time to stop adding features and get the game polished up. I hastily closed off the paths to uncompleted levels, polished up my triggers for switching between levels, and created a basic HUD display so that you could tell how much health you had left. Since the princesses had been cut (I really wanted Lumpy Space Princess to make an appearance), I didn’t yet have an objective for the game. Just as the jam was ending, I stuck a treasure chest in the dungeon and a second in the cave, and Adventure Time: The Quest for the Two Chests was born!
In total, the game jam created around a hundred different games, ranging from text adventures to iPad apps. When it finally came around to handing out prizes, the organizers pulled out all the stops. The team behind the winning game, Adventure Minute, was given a crossbow hand crafted by Iolo the Bard and presented by Lord British himself. That’s pretty hard to top. Sadly, my game didn’t win a prize, but it was still easily the best game jam I’ve ever been a part of.
Much of the credit for the game jam’s success can be given to its organizers. Despite being in charge of a large, high-profile event with some pretty impressive prizes, they managed to stay fairly laid-back. They were very flexible on questions of reusing assets and code, as well as on the final deadline. The latter was particularly helpful for me, since my eight-month-old son decided to have a tantrum somewhere around hour 47. In fact, though I was able to pack in all my last-minute editions before the deadline, I ended up breaking my build (which, admittedly, wasn’t nearly as bad as my last-minute problem last year). Fortunately, rather than freezing submissions when time ran out, the organizers gave the developers 12 more hours to get their submissions in, allowing us to fix any lingering bugs. I was able to put my son to bed and come back a few hours later, debug the program and submit. For a game jam, this event was surprisingly low-stress.
The other aspect of the game jam that made it so amazing was the use of Brett Chalupa’s BMO content management system. BMO (or the Beautiful Mess Organizer) is a platform currently being developed expressly for the purpose of hosting game jams like this one. It made the process of signing up for the jam and submitting the final project simple and painless. What really made this game jam great, however, was the addition of an update feed for the developers. Throughout the event, people were posting images of their games, animation samples and more. Between the updates people posted on BMO and the conversation that was already happening on twitter, I felt a greater sense of community and collaboration than I’ve felt at other game jams when all the developers are in the same room.
Some of my favorite games to come out of the jam were Noire Time, a short point-and-click adventure with beautiful art, Lumpy Space Chess, an abstract board game of sorts, and Legend of Finn, a very polished platformer after the style of The Lost Vikings. I particularly enjoyed the latter, as it was a good example of what a well-balanced team can achieve in a short time. Besides having very solid gameplay, the game had beautiful artwork (being able to spend three hours on Marceline’s attack animation was totally worth it) and awesome music. Since developers were posting updates on BMO throughout the competition, I was able to see the progress of many of these games over the course of two days, which was pretty neat.
The Adventure Time Game Jam was different than many other game jams I’ve done in a number of ways. It was considerably higher profile than any of the local ones I’ve entered. Both Venus Patrol and Wired featured my game in their coverage of the event, which was definitely new for me. Another amazing aspect of the game jam is that it keeps getting better. New features keep getting added to the BMO system and even though the competition is over, developers continue to add new levels and features to their games. Maybe this way I’ll get around to finishing my 8-bit Adventure Time theme or my NPC code (I think my game could definitely use more Lumpy Space Princess). In any case, I have a feeling I’ll be keeping an eye on this jam for a long time to come.
Also, if you haven’t played The Quest for the Two Chests yet, you should go check it out.