Whistle Your Way Through A Cave in: Hyper Bat Simulator 2018!

A few weeks ago was the end of January, and many game developers know what that means: It’s time for yet another Global Game Jam! The GGJ is a world-wide event with hundreds of locations where people meet for 48 hours of rapid game development.

This year’s theme was “Waves”, and I found myself with a team that I’ve never worked with before – which is always challenging, but also fun! The development went nearly without any hitches and I’m really content with our result:

In the game, you are a bat flying through a cave looking through the bat pups so you can go hunting. The cave is dark and the pups are tiny, so you use your echolocation to see and hope the pups answer. You steer with the gamepad – but to use the echolocation, you have to whistle into a microphone! (Like the title suggests, this is definitely the latest in bat simulation technology.)

Here’s a video of our presentation after the GGJ (starts at 0:29):

Global Game Jam Berlin 2017 Presentations – Bat Simulator 2018

 

And a small trailer video Emily and Caroline made:

Hyper Bat Simulator 2018

 

The game and its source code is available at its Global Game Jam entry page.

Before I talk a little more about the development, here’s the team:

We also used some assets:

Okay, on to the development! This time (and very atypical for me), the concept was rather simple. A single player game with no really hard development challenges – well, that leaves more room for polish, and sounds just right for 48 hours!

This was also one of the few times where the game design didn’t change much over the course of the weekend. Everything just worked. In the end, we actually finished the game with all the features we wanted! We even removed some features we already implemented because they made the game less accessible and weren’t as much fun as we had imagined: Dizzyness when the bat crashed into a wall, and not being able to call out to children when there’s a wall in the way. We also wanted to add monsters that follow sound, but in the end the game turned out to be plenty fun without the added complications, so we decided not to go that route.

The microphone implementation was incredibly easy, more so because this isn’t my first microphone controlled game. I just had to sample the input volume and detects peaks.

First I wanted to do the echolocation waves via shaders, but that that would’ve taken some time. Then I remembered something I learnt about in a Pluralsight video tutorial just a few weeks ago: Light Cookies, which allow you to put shadow masks on Unity3D lights. The final echolocation waves are just multiple spotlights with a circular light cookie mask shining from above, and the angle gets progressively bigger. That way it “runs” across obstacles and scales walls and stalagmites instead of just looking like it’s two-dimensional shape projected from above. The effect is a bit hard to describe, but you can see it quite often in the videos linked above.

I am really happy with our result! Thanks a lot to my team for being the best team – and to the location organizers and the Global Game Jam team who made it possible for us to jam without worrying too much about such mundane things as work space or food!

Together We Defend, A Cooperative Crowd Game Prototype

I’ve made prototypes for local multiplayer games with 10+ people before – some very successfully, some less so, but always with great pleasure. There is something magical about a crowd of people all playing the same game together. You don’t just need to design good mechanics though – the game should balance well with a few or with a lot of people, which is also hard to test because you always need a crowd. Another problem is input: While yelling with varying volume in Screamy Bird is tremendously fun, it is a bit limited control-wise. Unless your crowd is very small, giving everyone a gamepad is not an option. But these days, most people have a smartphone with a web browser, and luckily, platforms like AirConsole and HappyFunTimes make using these as controllers extremly easy!

My goal was to make a game where people have to cooperate and that scales well with different amounts of players. To ensure cooperation, the game would feature two radically asymmetric roles: the Shooter, which can attack but dies to a single hit, and the Defender, which has no offensive capabilities, but whose shield can absorb any amount of damage. In the center of the games are the Cores which the players have to defend. Enemies come in from all around the screen and try to destroy the players and the Cores, whatever is nearest. The enemies’ projectiles are heat-seeking – they will always hit something, so without the Defenders, the Core and the Shooters will be destroyed rather sooner than later; but without the Shooters, the defenders could not destroy a single enemy.

This was a jam game done in about 12 hours and everyone around me was busy, so I there was no way I could balance it properly. I solved that dilemma by assuming the role of the game master: I would sit at the keyboard and spawn enemies.

Apart from troublesome connection problems, the game worked rather well for a jam game and the crowd loved it. Here is a video of the presentation:

Together We Defend, A Cooperative Crowd Game Prototype

The video was filmed by Iwan Gabovitch and the sound effects are from the fabulous Universal Sound Effects which I can very much recommend.

Connection problems aside, I am very content with how the mechanics worked out and I think there is a lot of potential there. I will probably revisit this prototype some day and make a proper game out of it.

Ritual Breaker: A GGJ Game For Four Druids And Two Traitors

It’s been a few years since the GGJ whose theme was “deception” – a theme that we, back then, utterly and completely ignored. The only way to make up for that (I assume) is to use the theme in another GGJ! So here, after 6 years, my honor as a jammer is finally restored. I proudly present our game:

logo

Six druids have come together to perform
the yearly Super Important Ritual.
But unbeknownst to them, two traitors
have infiltrated their ranks!

Complete the rituals, but watch out for
those which fail – and who participated!

Watch your fellow players!
Identify the traitors!
(Potentially) Save the world!

A deceptive platforming game for four druids
and two traitors with XBox360 Controllers.

GGJ Page with Windows build

Ritual Breaker (Global Game Jam 2016)

Credits:

  • Elise Terranova: Art, Game Design, Hat Design
  • Heiko Weible: Programming, Game Design
  • Tobias Wehrum: Programming, Game Design, Sound Design

Used assets:

Gamestorm X Body Play Jam

A few months ago, I’ve been to the Gamestorm X Body Play Jam – a game jam about making physical games which use the players’ bodies as the central element. And what a jam it was! The ideas were flowing, and our team of four (comprised of Xanto, Juri, Nina and me) didn’t just finish with one, but two working games. To round the event off, the other games were incredibly fun to play as well and in the end I left exhausted from moving around so much, but satisfied.

Before I present the games, here is an awesome impression video from the jam. A huge thanks to the Gamestorm team for their filming and editing work!

Gamestorm X Body Play Jam – Impressions

Our first game: Dance it off!

The development of our first game started of really smooth: Juri suggested a dancing game (“I know nothing about dancing, but…”) where you get some kind of behaviour instructions and have to find your partner. After thinking of the board game Inkognito and pondering how to make partners identify themselves and what should happen if somebody wrongly thinks they found their partner, the game shifted a bit from “stealth/bluffing while finding the one partner” to just straight out “party”: Everybody gets 3 dance styles/moves (like “tango”, “picking apples” and “Michael Jackson”) and has to find their three partners as quickly as possible. The first one who achieves that wins the game!

Body Play Jam: Dance it off

Apart from a few hang-ups, the game worked really well. The only problem I can see is when one of the partners doesn’t know how a certain dance style looks like. This could be fixed by having a game master whose sole job is it to explain dance moves.

Developing this game teaches me once more not to give up too early. This is not a game we could test in our group of four, so I suggested we try to think in another direction instead (which resulted in the second game, so no regrets here!), but when we later had people to test it with, it turns out that it worked pretty much out of the box! The biggest thanks goes to Nina here – while we were pondering some details for the second game, she used the opportunity to playtest this one with the organizers and she singlehandedly created dozens of dance style cards.

Our second game: Slurp!

Again after a suggestion by Juri (“I know nothing about biology, but…”), our second game was roughly based on the idea of cells absorbing other cells.

At least 8 players are formed into two teams, and in each team, players are paired up. The two players in each pair hold hands, thereby forming a small circle – and then they try to enclose enemy players in it, either by throwing their arms over an enemy player or by briefly letting go of their hands and then closing them again around an opponent.

Once you caught somebody, you yell “Slurp!” and the caught enemy has to let go of their partner and stay inside your circle where they can try to hinder you by being uncooperative when moving. Caught players can be freed again when one of the enclosing players is slurped.

When one team has caught a certain amount of enemies at the same time, they win!

The rules are sometimes slightly confusing to execute in the heat of the battle and it’s not always clear who caught who first, but the ensuing chaos was still a lot of fun.

Cupcake Puppeteers

Apart from us, there were two other groups. The first one made Cupcake Pupeeteers, an improv game where players are paired into puppets and puppeteers. The puppeteers are given a scenario (for example “Hogwarts”) and characters (Harry Potter, Voldemort etc.). Then they have to play the scenario out by moving their puppets – and the puppets have to guess in which scenario they are.

Cupcake Puppeteers

It was a bit hard to direct puppets bigger than you and I feel like the game would be better with commonplace scenarios (like “in the kitchen” or “at a shop”) instead of pop culture scenarios which needed specific knowledge, but overall it was quite enjoyable for either party – “masterfully” directing somebody else on one side and trying to deduce what the heck your movements are supposed to be on the other.

YOGAme

And here comes my favourite of the evening made by yet another group: A “yoga game” with a master teacher that has transcended so far that they can freely levitate, while the players have to try to imitate the teacher as closely as possible with the help of assistants.

To make this game possible, the teacher is actually lying on the floor. They are filmed by a camera and projected on a wall to make it seem like the teacher is upright instead of lying down.

While the teacher is striking poses and the players strive to get as close as possible, a helper is going around and appoints players who are not doing well to be assistants. Those assistants help players who are still in the game. And that’s desperately needed, especially once the teacher begins “levitating”.

The last player who is still in the game wins and is the teacher for the next round.

I can’t even begin to describe how much fun this game was! The concept itself is already funny, the strange moves of the teacher quickly become absurdly hilarious and even when I dropped out and became an assistant it was equally enjoyable and satisfying to help other players. My favourite part was when the teacher gently levitated of the “floor” and started swimming – first up, and then sideways and down, a point in the game where the assistants had to work as hard as the remaining players.

Critical Hit 2015: Speedmaking (3 games in 30 minutes)

One of our creative exercises, lead by Jorge Lopes Ramos, was to make 3 games in 10 minutes each with a set of utensils. As if making a game in such a short time was not hard enough, he added another restriction: We could not give direct instructions to the group who would play our game afterwards. Instead, we should come up with a more creative way to instruct them.

With 16 participants making 3 games in groups of 4, we had a lot of different approaches.

Starship Command Center Pro, The Trial Version of a Global Game Jam 2015 Game

Somewhere in space, a lone starship discovers that the theme for this year’s Global Game Jam was “What do we do now?”. It also discovers that a very cool game was made for three players. And that there something is wrong with its Operating System.

Starship Command Center Pro

Starship Control Center Pro

Deep in space, nobody hears you scream
when the trial version of your OS runs out.

Not that screaming would do much.
Instead, you and your two friends now need to
figure out what the randomized buttons of the
free version of your system do.

Together, operate thrusters, cannons,
shields and a mining magnet, collect
gold and buy a proper license!

A cooperative and confusing space adventure
for three players with gamepads.

Download for Windows
GGJ page

Starship Command Center Pro (Global Game Jam 2015)

 

Credits:

  • Brian Davis: Idea, Game Design, Music and Sound Design
  • Mikko Lepistö: Art
  • Tobias Müller: Programming
  • Tobias Wehrum: Lead Programming

With sounds assets by Ricky SituCST 201 KaWilson and Jim Rogers.

The theme is used twice in our game – once in the game mechanic with players having to talk to each other what do to next because they need to work together, and secondly in the story: The trial version of our control system has ended and the result is a chaotic and unknown button layout, what do we do now?

We even satisfied a diversifier (sort of an achievements for the developers) this time: Noise Generator, “The mechanic of the game is based on players having to stay in constant communication with each other.”

Fun fact: Originally we wanted to do the controls Spaceteam-like with custom controls on multiple smartphones – buttons, sliders, rotatable knobs. It took us over a day to get it to connect and run smoothly between Android and PC, only to find out that using controls on a touch screen while looking at another monitor felt awful and (apart from buttons) was nearly unusable. So after that day of work, around 5 in the morning, I spent 30 minutes to program replacement gamepad controls. It worked perfectly and felt good.

Super Fruit Punch (Global Game Jam 2014)

With the current Global Game Jam right around the corner and only just about 11 1/2 months late, here is the project that we did for the last Global Game Jam: Super Fruit Punch!

Super Fruit Punch (Global Game Jam 2014)

You can find a download at the game’s GGJ page.

Credits:
– Game Design: Thomas Bedenk, Norbert Haacks
– Programming: Tobias Wehrum, Benjamin Schug, Richard Wepner, Martin Heller
– Art & Animation: Kirill Krysov
– Music & Sound: Lesley Dean

Lost in the Darkness

Lost in the Darkness was originally made for the Ludum Dare 27 for the theme “10 seconds”. It was well-received, but had some flaws which I addressed in this post-compo build.

Lost in the Darkness

Find a fairy. Follow the music. Save your friends. Escape safely.

And above all: Don’t touch the darkness.

Play for free in your browser on GameJolt!

Lost in the Darkness

A game made by Tobias Wehrum.

With assets by:

Connector

Here’s a thing that I did at my last Mini Jam. I originally had this idea for the last Ludum Dare (theme: Entire Game on One Screen) and since I dropped out of that, I did it now.

Connector

Rotate the center and the bubbles coming in to connect same-colored bubbles.

Survive with as many points as possible!

Play in the Webplayer or on Android.

Credits:

Electric Finger Jousting – A MaKey MaKey Game

At the November Mini Game Jam (for which we had over 100 participants, wow!) I made my first experiments ever with the MaKey MaKey, an Arduino-based kit that measures when a circuit is closed – even through very high resistance like a chain of people holding hands. My game is less about hand-holding though, and more about poking your opponent’s hand with a pen-lance. Enter Electric Finger Jousting!

electric-finger-jousting-title

Take your pen-lance! Get ready, and… fight!
Poke the other player before they poke you!

But beware, don’t touch them before
you hear “fight”, or it’ll be a foul…

Electric Finger Jousting

Electric Finger Jousting Berlin Mini Jam Game

It’s not all fun and sunshine though: The game is a rather repetitive. I hoped to get a fencing kind of game, but it is really hard to balance the distance so it’s neither too easy to hit nor unreachable. Moving while touching the copper wire (which ensures that the right distance is being kept) isn’t easy, so you aren’t very flexible. That leads to very short distance jabs that are nearly impossible to react to and each round was pretty short. Despite that, fun was definitely had while developing and playtesting!

PS: When you do something like this, have water nearby to regularly dip everything into which will make circuit contact for a very short time. Water improves the conductivity so much.

Credits: