Global Game Jam 2013

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The 48-hours-to-make-a-game challenge put on by the Global Game Jam just wrapped up here in Portland, and here’s what the team I was working with produced: Murmur, a “ 2D side-scrolling one-button rhythm-based survival-horror” game. You run away from this monster you’ve created (you are a BIOLOGIST who has a problem with compulsively creating flesh-eating beasts) by tapping the spacebar on the red beats as they pass under your feet. The prompt for the jam was a ~10-second audio recording of a heartbeat, and we tried to reflect that with a rhythm game that represented/induced the same sort of pumping heart of TERROR.

To get away from being, as a fellow Jammer put it, “a one-note guitar hero”, you can also hit optional nodes to direct yourself down alternate paths. The highlight of this is being able to lead the monster to fellow scientists in order to buy yourself time while it chews on their bones.

We designed this choice (among others) to just add some variety and interesting gameplay decisions to an otherwise simple mechanic. We didn’t intend for the fact that it was a “human” powerup to be particularly meaningful. It was really interesting, then, to see people playing Murmur learn that they could do so, initially avoid it, then as the game got harder begin to resort to the sacrifice. There’s some message in there somewhere about people being moral only until it’s inconvenient.

All in all: I’m very pleased with the the scale and focus of this project. There were only three of us (plus one physically absent audiowizard- Mike Skalandunas) and we were able to come up with a core mechanic, design enough variation to keep things interesting, and produce a polished product within 48 hours (a little bit less, even, since we started late).

There was a bit of talk among us to throw in a couple more I’m not a huge fan of the lingering-commitment variety of gamejam. I like my projects wrapped up neat and tidy, which doesn’t allow me to fall into the habit/excuse of “I’ll fix and work on this more this later”. Working within your constraints, setting realistic goals based on available resources, etc etc, I’ll get off the soapbox now. Long story short: I think it’s a polished little nugget and that feels great.