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Pneumatic

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Another Phoenix IGDA game jam has brought forth yet another game. This time around the theme was much more open ended with 5 options to choose from (you had to pick at least 2). An artist, Blake Bjerke, was “assigned” to me by the jam’s organizer Tyler Coleman and for which I was very grateful to have. Blake turned out to be quite a competent artist and he was able to produce assets at a rate that often exceeded my ability to get them into the game (and looked quite good to boot!).

The themes we chose were torque and wholesale. The original design involved launching a taxi full of customers through a city in order to deliver them with as little force needed as possible. The eventual design strayed from this a bit, as the city setting was not very interesting and the concept of customers in a taxi was too hard to get across in such a short time frame. So we settled on a capsule full of colors delivering to stations that matched the same color. With a bit of extra time those colors could easily become passengers, or widgets, or energy, or whatever fluff was needed for the final presentation.

I ended up wasting about 6 hours trying to get the capsule pathing around corners to look good and work consistently.  In the end I opted for my original solution, which had some problems that could be covered up by level design and a hacky little “fix up” script that looked for errors in the capsule placement and corrected them.  In the end, I thought of a solution that would actually work in all situations and be free from the issues that plagued each of my 3 prior attempts, but there was at that point no time to implement it.  So if you see the capsule stray from inside the tube and then snap back, that’s my hacky solution at work.

On the design front,  the variety of puzzles we were able to create felt a bit limited.  We had several hours at the end to just make levels, which was a fantastic change of pace for my normal game jam timeline.  The problem was, we needed another special type for one of the tubes to add some more tools to our palette.  It’s easy to come up with a handful of ideas, we just were constrained by time.  I believe the first and last levels of the main game are the best we created, but even those feel quite basic and easy to solve.  With a few more components I believe we could have some devilishly difficult challenges, as befits any proper puzzle game.

Overall I’m quite pleased with how this one turned out. It’s certainly the most polished game I’ve created in a game jam and it feels nice to have something playable and mostly complete.  My goal this jam was to build the tech part as fast as possible so I’d have a long time to polish and refine.  My capsule pathing issues sort of held that goal back, so that’s something to consider for next time.  I should have just taken my hacky solution and stuck with it from the beginning.  That would possibly have bought me the time to implement a new pipe type that would have provided a lot more interesting puzzle design.

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