däj (2019)

Context

In December 2019, I undertook the task of creating my own playable video game for the first time, after having designed assets for games during freelance for years. I decided to join a 2-day long game jam on itch.io and see what I could do, having never touched an enterprise game creation tool before.

The finished product

I created a basics desktop playable video game in which you play as a race car driver trying to dodge (däj) hazards while applying my knowledge of UX at the time in the construction of the game. 

Software used:
Game Maker Studio 2, Adobe Illustrator, Lots of Youtube tutorials

Thought process

I made däj for a 2-day long game jam, so I didn’t have much time to do research and testing. In addition to the fact that I didn’t have much time, I had also never created a game before. 

The theme for the jam was “quick,” and I immediately thought of a racing game. Since I hadn’t created a game before, I had to keep the scope really narrow. I decided on a top-down view of a car racing around a track while dodging obstacles. 

A year prior to even considering entering a game jam, I bought a tool called Game Maker Studio 2. I figured that since the goal is to just get something submitted, I would cobble together things I learn from various tutorials as well as from the sample games that the engine comes with for people like me to explore.

After about 4 hours of familiarizing myself with the interface and functionality of Game Maker Studio 2 via tutorials and messing around, I jumped into the deep end and started thinking of the next steps needed to make my game.

User flow/gameplay loop

I tried to give myself some context for what the entire scope of the game would be in order to correctly account for how long I'd have to design each thing. Again, I kept the scope quite narrow, so I luckily didn't have that  many screens and considerations to go through.

Asset Creation

In a realm of unfimiliarity, this felt like home. I sat back and created all the visuals I would need for the game, trying to invoke my own vector art style on to it.

Programming and Pitfalls

A problem I didn’t anticipate was the rendering of the score. I wrongly assumed it’d be as easy as dragging in a pre-made component from the Game Maker Studio 2 library, choosing the display format and font, and dropping it onto my project. Unfortunately, the only way to display a live-updating score was to create a text rendering engine. Since this was out of my skillset, I followed a tutorial and did my best to adapt it to my own design specifications. It didn’t end up how I wanted, but since I only had 2 days for the whole project, it would have to do. Below is how it was supposed to look (image 1) versus how it ended up looking (image 2).

Results & Reflection

In the world of game jams, getting a game finished is already a big win, regardless of how buggy it may be. For my first game that’s also doubling as my first game jam experience, I would say I knocked it out of the park! I had points of frustration when I had no idea how to add certain features or fix bugs in Game Maker Studio 2, but I took away something very valuable from this experience:

There is no reason to be ashamed that you don’t know something, there is only reason to be ashamed if you get frustrated and don’t take the opportunity to convert frustration into furthering your learning.

Along my journey to getting this game done, I asked dozens of questions online to people who had more experience than me, and watched dozens of tutorials. Since this experience, I have become a much more proactive asker of questions. If you don’t ask, you don’t know! The biggest mistake a designer can make is assuming things without basis and not correcting themselves.

Prior to this project, the only experience I had with programming was front-end web development, but I’m glad to be able to say that I’ve diversified my interests and skills.

The project ended up scoring 5th out of 50 entries, which was a shockingly good result for my first time participating in a game jam. Regardless of this result though, the biggest thing I took away from this project was not bragging rights. It was an improved mindset that has gone on to help me a great deal both in my personal life and in my design endeavors since.

thank you very much for reading/browsing!

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