Monday, November 4, 2013


Heya, reader. How're you?

Just kidding -- I don't care how you are*. In fact, all I care about is telling you things about my life, so here goes:

This past weekend, I participated in the on-campus QUILTBAG Game Jam, a 48-hour development event centered around QUILTBAG themes (QUILTBAG is an acronym like LGBT, but freakin' twice as inclusive). I worked on a team with 3 friends: Steven Li, Brady Thomas, and Charles Hankins, all of whom are fellow USC Freshmen. With our powers combined, we put together our game True Blue.

They're not ghosts, they're little squid-things. Cool it with the lawyers, Namco.

(Also, I just realized that my name is misspelled in my own damn game. #whoops)

True Blue is a platformer about ostracization: playing as an adolescent squid, users have to fake their way through a world hostile to their true nature. The story is pretty basic: the player walks to school and goes through class, passing by the folks of their neighborhood on the way. None of these NPCs are enemies, but the game still keeps track of their lines of sight, and they give a little greeting to the player when they see them.

The conflict comes in when you find out just how much the people of your community care about how you carry yourself. You see, there are two sets of movement keys for your character: the Arrow Keys, and Z, R, and H --

Wait, Z, R, and H? Isn't that a pretty unnatural configuration for your hand? The answer is yes (take a moment to try it out for yourself), but it's the way the folks of your community get around, and they don't like to see you do anything different.

Our tutorial is super-subtly integrated into the dialogue -- you might not even notice it at all!
Pro Game Design Tip: The player's eyes are naturally attracted to big friggin' arrows

Our core mechanic breaks down to this: the player is blue while they're using the arrow keys, and orange while they're using the ZRH configuration. The people in your community are closed-minded; whenever they see you using the arrow keys, they react harshly and you lose a unit of social acceptance (the orange "Others" bar). However, pretending to be something you're not feels unnatural and wrong to you, and so every time you use the ZRH scheme, you lose a little bit of self-respect (represented by the blue meter).

A pleasant old man says hello
A pleasant old man calls you a horrible abomination of nature. OLD PEOPLE GO HARD, MAN.

Players have to make their way through the day without totally compromising either their internal or their external perception of their self, but you'll find that managing this juggling act is no easy feat -- in fact, it might even be impossible (*Nudge nudge, wink wink*).

So that's True Blue -- a sort of stealth platformer about pretending to be something you're not. For a game jam game, I think this turned out pretty well: If you're interested, check it out!

On a side note, I've been making games for about five years now, but this is the first time I've actually worked in a team; everything I've done before this has been made alone, naked, and crying. It was a little scary letting go of the stranglehold I've had over my other projects, but I gotta say: I really enjoyed the experience of working with other folks. My original idea was hugely improved by my friends' input, and specialization of labor let us scale a little more ambitiously. Most importantly, I had a lot more fun making True Blue than I've had in any other jam; development really is better with friends.

Anyway, that's all I got. Thanks for giving this a read -- I'll see you soon!

*P.S. I'm sorry about what I said earlier. Go ahead and leave a comment telling me how you are and what's goin' on in your life -- I am sincerely interested in hearing about your well-being, and regret acting like such a jerk. Love, Brendan.

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