And last but not least, a review from Gamejam Curator. In their words, The art of this game has fascinated me, it’s very polished and with a lot of personality, which seems to be a usual feature in the games of Whales and Games. They have managed to give their game a very professional finish, so I’’ll definitely remain attentive to their future projects. We’re overflowing with joy. ?
Once again, thanks a bunch for the fun times on this jam. As the clock keeps ticking, there’s still a lot of people who are below their rating goals, so be sure to give them a good chance just like you’ve helped us. We’re still checking out games as well (when the team is not sick). Let’s keep supporting each other! ?
The reception we’ve gotten for Jazzy Beats has been fantastic, and it’s been fun to reply to them and to check out your games as well. But there’s some things that are still yet to be said about the game, so we decided to make a list of some interesting tidbits about the game’s development, references and so on. Here we go!
1. Lava Lamps saved the Game
After 4 hours of brainstorming, we still had no idea of what to make for the Jam. For some reason, we got stuck with Idols as our theme. Eventually, Jorge suggested Lavachan, and it all started to take form after that. I made some sketches, and eventually, she became the first finished sprite, which then we ended up calling Lavasama instead. However, we opted from using her as a protagonist, and she was too cool to be an antagonist, so now she’s just a cameo on the background. Still, if it weren’t for her, who knows what we would have done instead.
We originally wanted a comic/noir feeling to the game. To contrast with a darker world, I made Jazzchan because she’d be yellow, and instruments like trumpets and saxophones are common in noir media. For her rival, we made Bluessom, since her colors would contrast, and Blues seemed like the perfect enemy of Jazz. While her name’s not as catchy, Bluessom is also a play on words on Blues and Blossom, because of her outstanding flower.
2. The World Ends With Skullgirls
We’ve been told that our game resembles TWEWY and Skullgirls. It’s not by accident, as both games were visual and mechanic inspirations for the game (and so was Dynasty Warriors). Because we had girl idols fighting, and we wanted to put it on a Shibuya-like street, we kinda merged them both. Since originally the gameplay wasn’t as spectacular, we eventually made it so there were a lot of enemies on the screen at once, like in Warriors games.
I already mentioned that I made Jazzchan yellow to contrast with the world (which, in my mind, was far more red and dark than the final product). The color came first, and then the theme, which was a result of playing too much Skullgirls. So, she is heavily inspired on that game’s Big Band.
3. Do you like Anime?
We love anime, manga and japanese games, so we put some references here and there. Specifically, Jorge wanted to make a pun about that Dragon Maid one. The 140 is both a reference to the Shibuya 109 building and TWEWY’s 104 homage. It’s a 140 now because Jorge wanted to make it a reference to Ludum Dare 40. Boom! 3 references in one! And finally, because Steins;Gate is a recurring joke of us since I promised to watch it 2 years ago, I just put the satellite crashed into a building.
While not anime and not necessarily a reference, I made the lamp posts while thinking about The Beginner’s Guide. Just a nod, unless you want to give it a deeper meaning.
Shockwave Cereal, seagull, missing poster and everything on Empire’s Springs are references to projects currently in development or missing in action. You can find more of them by following us on Twitter.
5. It’s about artistic liberties
Jorge showcased some gameplay to friends who said that the street looked weird. I’m never been good at perspective or buildings, and it was too late to fix anything, as we were approaching the end of the game. So, pretty much just for kicks, I added a nod to the whole situation. It’s about integrity, okay?
One year ago, Ludum Dare 37 came to a close on this very day and, we, as a team, had just finished our second Ludum Dare entry – Hyper Holomayhem 37. Although the game’s overall placement and results were quite satisfying, every time we think back at the game we can’t stop but thinking we could have done several things differently, and how we could have faced our second entry in a completely different light and with a completely different design perspective.
As a result, it’s not a game we tend to mention or acknowledge often, however, having a game created during Ludum Dare early on that we ended up not really being proud off taught us several lessons that helped us change the way we looked at Ludum Dare and how we structured our workflow on every event afterwards, both in regards to the jamming part, as well as during judging.
Up to this day, we still carry those lessons together with us, as our latest Ludum Dare entry, Jazzy Beats takes the stage now, one year later. On this post, as the game celebrates it’s one year of lifetime, we’d like to discuss some of these lessons we learned the hard way through it’s development, and how they ended up shaped the way we approached our latter jams, including, of course this latest Ludum Dare.
A Problem of Scope
Hyper Holomayhem was a side-scroller shooter where, as a jetpack trainee, you had to stay as long as possible in the Hyperdeck, a room that kept constantly changing layouts as it was powered it gears. As you explored the rooms under a time limit, you also had to dodge and shoot enemies, breaks blocks, and return to the room’s core to deposit all the gears you’d find spread across the level. The gameplay hook came from the player’s free and unrestricted movement, thanks to the jet-pack mechanic, random room layouts and using the player’s weapon to destroy enemies and blocks in order to claims the gears spread through-out. Seems fine-ish and probably fun at first, right?
The truth was that for a great part of the jamming period, we hadn’t really agreed on what made our game unique, or what made it stand out. Instead, we had several different, unexplored design ideas in our minds that didn’t exactly cohere together, from different environments, to power-ups and puzzles, and by the time we decided to focus mostly on the shooting and speed oriented gameplay, we were already reached a point where we had very few time left to flesh up the gameplay without compromising everything else. On other words, we had an issue of scope, and the feeling that we could have made several different design decisions in regards to it, is one that accompanies us up to today.
This feeling taught us some very important lessons that we’d apply to our workflow on the following jams:
Always settle for an idea right at the beginning of the jam, and, if preferably, create mock-ups so everyone on the team understands the game vision and direction right from the start. If the idea already sounds like it’s going to be an hassle and you haven’t even begun it’s execution, then it’s preferably better to rethink it. The moment everyone in your team understands the concept is a pretty magical moment and one that you can really tell when it really happens.
Consider time and resource limitations and work little-by-little. Although every member knew exactly what they had to do at a given time, because of the lack of direction and scope, we ended up not having a clear distinction on what each of us should be aiming for. If the direction was established earlier on as point 1. mentioned, each member could have worked more coherently to improve gameplay.
Another aspect we felt we could have performed much better on as well as the judging phase, especially with it being the first time we were judged on a Ludum Dare. Since it was at the time where everyone on the team was busy with their personal work, school assignments and commissions, we ended up not putting as much heart and thought into it as we could have possibly have, making it the Ludum Dare we have posted the less, commented the less, and received the less feedback on of all of them, especially when compared to our latest ones.
From that point on, we realized it was important to do things differently, and that, for our next Ludum Dare we’d have to rethink most of our workflow, focus on the scope of our next project, and involve ourselves much more in the judging period.
The Next Ludum Dare
Four-months later, and cue Ludum Dare 38. For the second time, we decided to assemble exactly the same team that had participated in Hyper Holomayhem‘s development, meaning we were practically giving a second try at our team’s structure. During the whole development of this new project, we took into considerations the things that we felt we hadn’t played out as we expected during Hyper Holomayhem.
For starters, just as the jam started, we decided to make sure we’d completely settle on an idea before beginning the game’s development. After almost two hours of discussion and some rough sketches, we had settled on the idea that would lead up to Petty Puny Planet’s creation. Having a clear vision from the start allowed us to plan ahead much better, and by the end of the first day, we already all of the base gameplay down, allowing us to further refine the concept, additional features and polish and add content for the remainder of the event, a polar opposite situation to what had happened with Hyper Holomayhem. How did some of these rough sketches look into the first hour? Well…
…even so, it was this much of a simple sketch that allowed everyone to understand what we were trying to develop.
Same-wise, when it came to the the actual judging phase, we focused on making sure that we’d spread the word about the game across as needed, and, even if we were still on a busy time of our personal lives like we had been during Hyper Holomayhem‘s development, that we’d take a moment off each day to guarantee we gave the game the attention it deserved.
At the time, we also cemented the name of our brand-evolved-into-collective Whales And Games, using its logo, name, and likeness for the first time ever in this project. Looking back, our focus on the judging phase after a rough first experience, and on getting the branding out for the first time, was an important step that helped lead to everything that came afterwards.
And finally, we arrive at Ludum Dare 40, which judging phase is going on at this very moment. With all the lessons learned with Hyper Holomayhem and the latter, Petty Puny Planet, we took up the Dah-ray once again, creating and developing our currently in-judging game, Jazzy Beats. Applying the lessons we learned through the development of Hyper Holomayhem, and the changes we’ve made to our workflow through Petty Puny Planet, we we’re able to deliver a project which we believe transmits the same values we have as a collective. For many, those values might not be the most important thing when it comes to game jamming, but for us, game jams are a opportunity to try new things, whilst also showing what Whales And Games is truly about.
On Hyper Holomayhem first anniversary, we might not have been able to ship a massive content-update to it as we did with our Ludum Dare 36 game, Colossorama when it was it’s one year anniversary, but it’s still a game to look back at and, for all it’s flaws, realize it was an important milestone that helped us define a lot of our working procedures and direction to go. It’s a game that, even if we aren’t as proud of as much as others, it’s a game that we, at Whales And Games will always consider a part of the family and of our history. One day, we’d like to go back and give the game the proper treatment and love it deserves.
In behalf of our team, thank you for reading, and for all the support you have given us during these past Ludum Darethat has lead us to the point where we are today. We might have gone through some hardships, but getting feedback, and seeing people playing our games is what drives us to keep on going! If you’d like to do some chit-chat, or would just like to keep up with the different things we develop, we also have our very own Discord! It’d be nice to see you there. Thank you! ?
I mainly do music composition as a hobby on top of being a software engineering university student. For me, my passion are games and their creation.
In this post I’ll be going through the creation process of the music for Jazzy Beats, and in a future post I’ll go through the SFX process instead in more detail.
The list of materials I used for the music composition this time around was as following:
Laptop with a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) installed (Bitwig Studio)
MIDI Controller: M-Audio Keystation Mini 32
A Pair of Standard Headsets
While preparing for the jam, I had some problems with Cubase, the DAW I wanted to use for the music composition but wasn’t able to. Instead, I used my backup DAW, Bitwig Studio.
Bitwig Studio is a rather new DAW in audio scene, but it has rather some interesting features. One example of these is being able to able to open multiple projects easily at once and switch between them (almost like Chrome tabs). Each plugin (or VST) runs in its own sandbox, meaning that even if the program crashes it doesn’t crash the whole process together with it. Plus, it’s rather intuitive for beginners like me to use.
This was also my first time participating in a game jam with a MIDI controller, and I have no freaking idea why I hadn’t bought one of these before. The MIDI controller I use is a simple one, with only 32 keys, a volume knob and octave buttons. It’s light and quite small, and, as such, it’s perfect to take with me to local game jams, especially when they involve traveling to other places (picture above).
It’s also quite cheap, meaning it’s a perfect choice to get into music composition even if it’s just for something like game jams!
Music is not something easy to create, especially during a game jam. The reason behind this is that most music is build around the visuals of something. What happens during most game’s development cycles is that the music is primarily created when the art and the base game mechanics are already in a state where they won’t change much. On the contrary, in game jams, what mostly happens is that you don’t have the time to waste waiting out for the development of the visuals.
What did I do to resolve this issue? After the game idea was settled, I waited for the first sketches of the game, whilst also searching for references. I also asked the game’s programmer and artist for music ideas based on what they’d like their characters to sound like, or asking about the games that inspired it’s visual style. In this case the visuals were highly inspired by two games, Skullgirls and The World Ends With You. I started listening to some of the music in those games. This was the music track I used the most as a reference:
After listening to some other tracks, I started setting up the instruments I would like to use, and getting some chord progressions together alongside them. After getting some progressions up I started searching for some non-game soundtracks to see if I could find any interesting ideas in BPM’s, beats, and even in the combination of instruments.
After I got some ideas, I started changing the chord progressions to have more rhythm together with the base/background instruments. The music composition kept constantly changing as new art and gameplay started emerging.
At the end of the first day I had the game’s music created. Even though it was done, during the next days I needed to continue adapting the music to fit the visuals and the sound effects.
To continue making those changes, you really need to find a good workflow that allows you to easily make changes, mix and master the tracks. Always be ready for more changes. The perfect workflow was something that I unfortunately wasn’t able to achieve yet.
Hello there. I’ve come to talk a bit about the art direction of Jazzy Beats. As usual with our games, we’ve got a dedicated programmer who can barely doodle and a dedicated artist whose programming knowledge dates to 2002’s HTML classes. We’ve also got a cool audio guy around. But my point is, a game like this one was only possible because of division of labor.
Now, what was my workflow to make as many of these sprites as possible? Well, since I did dabble a bit on Unity this time around, the idea was to make “basic poses” only, and manage the transitions through simple Unity movements, like bouncing. So, I didn’t have to sprite all the frames. That would have been unreasonable for a project like this. Heck, thiswas unreasonable. My wrist ended up aching so much by the time of the deadline. But it was well worth it!
So, by making quick sketches first, then lining them up, coloring and adding extra details, I was able to make a pose. Then another, and another, and so on. Because of time, I had to cut on corners wherever it was possible, so most characters have the same poses. And for purposes of gameplay, some characters are only recolors:
However, I didn’t just want to make the recolors be recolors for gameplay purposes. There’s a lot of colorblind people out there, so, trying to make it as accessible as possible, I tried to reverse the values of clothes. Note how the yellow guy has bright pants, while the blue character has a light shirt instead. I admit my ignorance when it comes to how colorblindness works, but I want to say that at least I tried to accommodate.
Finally, since the game was about a very crowded street, I wanted to make as many enemies as possible. Time was a constrain, so there’s only 4 different looks (8 if you count the recolored versions). Cutting corners, the second version of characters were just a new layer of stuff above the old one, with some minor tweaking here and there. For example, the second male fan was the same with a goatee, different hair, a scarf and boots. Here’s how the final sheet for the yellow alternate fan looks like:
’m extremely satisfied with the results. If you happened to be the artist of your game, I’d like to know about your own experiences when working on it, so do let me know!