An impromptu game jam maintains the momentum

Shortly after my last post about making short sketch games to practice new skills and explore concepts, some of my fellow PowerQuest enthusiasts started talking in Discord about a possible PowerQuest game jam. The idea took hold, and PowerJam #1 was initiated. The goal: One room, one week. The theme: Eels!

This jam was a great excuse to keep up my momentum for making short games, and doing it along with a group of other adventure game devs just made it more fun.

I didn’t have any particularly inspiring ideas at first. I contemplated a game called Eel Pit, which would be a kind of ‘die and retry’ game where you have to try various methods to get across a pit full of eels, but I couldn’t think of enough feasible puzzles, so I eventually settled on a sushi-based setting, and came up with a basic storyline (if you can call it that), and a simple ‘find three things’ kind of puzzle.

It was nice to get back to pixel art after my previous Hi-Res game, and I knew I had the opportunity for some fun animations, but to begin with, I always like to start with a super basic sketch and build the game using these placeholder sprites before doing any more detailed artwork or animation. That way I can get a playable game in the first couple of days (even if it looks terrible), and then spend the rest of the time polishing and refining the artwork until I run out of time. This is what the game looked like after the first weekend:

Not very impressive, but it was a complete game, and all I had to do then was replace all the artwork and add some music and sound effects. Simple!

Needless to say, scope creep got the better of me as the week went on, and I ended up expanding the room to make it more interesting, and adding some extra puzzles that came to me based on the progression of the artwork. By the time I had finished, the game was looking like this:

Overall I was pretty happy with the way the game turned out. I didn’t win any of the jam categories, but everyone said they enjoyed it and that’s all I care about really. I like the artwork, and I feel like it’s a step up from my previous pixel art game (the electrocution animation was especially fun to do!)

I also learned a few new things:

  • How to use Butler to upload builds to itch.io more easily.
  • How to ‘use’ an inventory item when you click on it, rather than making it active.
  • What ‘Consume’ does!
  • How to make a WebGL build and make it look ok on the itch.io page.

Nothing groundbreaking, but all great experience, and most importantly a lot of fun. It’s always a great time when the submission deadline ends and you get to play everyone else’s games (which were all awesome. Check them out if you haven’t already).

Due to the slightly competitive nature of a game jam, this ended up being a bit longer than I would normally intend for a ‘sketch game’, so I plan to get back to a much more limited scope for my next sketch, just testing concepts and having some fun. Stay tuned!

You can play Unagi now in your browser, or download for PC, Mac, or Linux:

Leave a comment and let me know if you enjoyed it!


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