Event & My Role
The Indie Game Dev Game Jam was held from December 17th to December 24th 2022 with a theme of "Going Up". I joined a team as a UX Designer alongside another UX designer working with the team of artists to define the project's mood and feeling. This team of 12 exposed me to working with all aspects of game development which I quickly fell in love with and it piqued my interest working in game engines.
Things I worked on directly:
Moodboard, color palette and font selection
Main menu design, pause menu design, credits scroll and different iterations of each
Dialogue box design and iterations
Implementing UI design into Unity - alone, with other UX designer and with programmer
Asset gathering with sorting by license use
Assisting on basic level design - mainly due to interest of learning how to greybox in unity
Our team met and discussed potential game ideas based on the "Going Up" theme. With our artists feeling comfortable working with 3D art, a 2.5D game vertical platformer as the game type. We were inspired by Toy Story but added a dark twist. "The Forgotten" focused on the dark abyss that broken or replaced toys live in a child's closet and under their bed.
Using HacknPlan as our Agile project management system, our team broke down our "need-to-have" versus our "nice-to-have" features or mechanics. This also helped breakdown responsibilities to each member of the team so that all aspects were being completed and nothing was falling through the cracks.
As the game idea concept was finalized, the idea of a building theme of colors, music and character changes with the mood starting dark and as the player climbs up, out of the abyss to the light where the toy could be found, the mood would lighten and become brighter.
This changing theme affected how we would select our color palette for the UI, wanting to have a stark contrast to the dark theme yet match and be a part of the light theme without blending in. The character design was inspired by the 'chibi' art style which influenced our UI design choices as well, including bright pastels and fun, whimsical fonts.
Working as a pair of UX designers, we started with a simple competitor analysis that included 'Hollow Knight', 'Celeste', and 'Little Nightmares' which were brought up as impact games during brainstorming. These games are not only platformers but also have a clean, simple UI that we pulled inspiration from for our design.
With a dark mood and theme, we had to make sure there was a source of light to brighten it up which is where the idea of a guiding "soul" would be implemented into the game. This "soul" would help guide and lead the player through the game on their pathway up to the top.
It was my suggestion to use this "soul" as the guide on the menu screens as well to show which option is selected - other suggestions were using a button similar to the character's eyes or creating an intense glow around the selection.
Design & Development
This jam gave me my first taste of Unity and working in a game engine which I found very enticing and enjoyable. I was so eager to learn Unity that I bought courses through gamedev.tv so that I could be more efficient and to learn visual node-based scripting.
I worked with the other UX designer to implement our designs into Unity, but unfortunately due to quite a few merge conflicts, our branch ended up being unusable. We both worked alongside a programmer to have them implement the UI following our design from Figma. Unfortunately, the entire Github repository was having merge conflicts so the programmer's work on the UI ended up being lost twice on merge.
Due to the game jam being held between two major holidays, we did not have a level designer or builder on our team. I took it upon myself to help locate 3D low poly assets with a universal license that we could use freely in the project. Since I was still new to Unity I did not know the most efficient way to greybox out a level but wanted to assist anyone who was willing to do so. But any work that was merged was once again lost.
Unfortunately, with the holidays and the revolving door of merge conflicts, the project did not get a working prototype. We were all fairly new to either using or collaborating with others in Unity so no one was quite sure how to deal with the technical problems. Even still, I considered this game jam a massive learning experience! I was given the opportunity to work with another designer, artists, programmers, music composer/sound designer and our volunteer project manager.
With the challenges of collaborating on Unity I found myself wanting to learn more about the proper way to manage repositories so that for my next game jam it would be able to be successfully built and showcased on itch.io. This project was also the first time I have experienced working in Agile form, which initially led to quite a bit of confusion within the group. Nevertheless, once I understood how it worked, it allowed me to know what was being completed by the other parts of the team that I was not directly working on.