thehorror_successNow, I don’t participate many game jams throughout the year, but this time the concept itself was so interesting that I decided to do a little something for it. Usually, your average game jam starts with people gathering to one location, hearing the theme and building teams before starting to work on the projects. In this jam, that’s not the case. Mood – The Jam vol.2, as it was called, was different. Firstly, I was going to participate from my own home via the internet, while most of the guys were at Kouvola. The theme, the idea and the catch was to pick a song and make a game to reflect it’s mood, and make the game to be sort of a music video for the track itself. I ended up listening to different kind of tracks for couple of hours varying from metal to drum and bass to glitch and thinking about game ideas at the same time. Then it hit me. I’ve always wanted to do a sort of Slenderman clone and stumbled upon The Horror by RJD2. After watching the music video a couple of times, I knew this was going to be the time to make a game where you try to avoid monsters.

So I fired up Unity and started crafting a terrain and coming up with the gameplay in my head at the same time. The setting would be a forest with shacks, houses and some campfires and of course ti should be dark and foggy, so you can barely see where you are going. To guide the player around, I painted some paths into the terrain to connect the houses and of course there are some paths that lead nowhere. Now I ran into my first problem. I didn’t have any 3D assets ready and no graphics artist to help me out since I was going solo. So I ended up browsing Unity Asset Store for hours and picking up stuff randomly until pattern emerged and I had set my sights on medieval style buildings with some shanty town shacks and debris added for variety. I also found a monster from the asset store and thought that it will do just fine for my purposes, since this was going to be a quick project due to other, more pressing matters I had to take care of during the jam.

After I had finished the map, it was time to get coding. First, I tried to use a AI library called RAIN{indie} but quickly found out that I wouldn’t have enough time to learn how to use it properly, so I reverted back to more simplistic approach and picked up an old AI code I had made during one of my Unity3D lectures. It’s very basic and crude, but works well for the monsters that wander around the map. And they will find the protagonist. And given enough time, kill him as well. After I was happy with their movement, charging and attacking, I decided to give them an aura, so that if the protagonist gets in the area of that aura, he starts to panic and go insane. Now I wanted to do some nice screen space effects for the insanity part, but lacking Unity Pro I didn’t have render-to-texture functionality available so I had to improvise by placing a transparent plane in front of the camera and generating some artifacts to it in real time. Later on I also decided to manipulate the field of view of the camera in order to further enhance the feeling that everything is not OK in the mind of the protagonist.

But it was too dark to navigate! To solve this problem, I added a flashlight for the player. Who goes to a dark forest without a flashlight anyway? Some of us even take a gun with them, but our protagonist was denied a carry permit because he is a bit insane and lives in a shack. For added effect, I made the light of the flashlight dance to the music by utilizing my soon-to-be-released audio script package. I actually ended up writing some improvements to that bundle as well, but the basics of it can be also found from my tutorials on this blog.

What about victory condition then? Now that is a good question. I hadn’t thought that at all. Then I remembered I had placed a couple of wells in the map and thought that they could be the goals for the protagonist. They are in some sort of villages where there could be protection from the monsters and they provide necessary refreshment to everyone. Then I remembered a game called Get Water. Heh, a horror version of a game where you need to get water. Thats it. Let’s roll with that. At this point, I had spent around eight hours in the making of the game and it was starting to be ready for first playtests. I got mixed responses, some testers laughed while some shat their pants when the monsters appeared. There was certainly something there and I decided it was time to polish the game and get it ready for playing before I would leave to go back home for mothers’ day visit.

There was lot to fine-tune, the insanity effects, monster movement speeds and sounds for example. I didn’t build a full soundscape for the game this time, since the most dominant part of the game is the music, but I wanted to give the player some feedback by sound of what’s going on in the mind of the protagonist and also around him. Thus the monsters got their voices, campfires got their sound and the protagonist got some breathing noises as well. As always, one could tweak the game endlessly, but now I didn’t have time for that so I just packaged a webplayer version of the game and released it. In total, I spent around 16 hours working on this project.

It was a blast to build something almost completely random and figure things out as I went on. Next time, I definitely need a graphics artist to help me out with a project of this scale.

Big thanks for Mika from Karkia Solutions and the guys at Kouvola for organizing the jam!

If you want to play the game, you can do so by clicking this link.