Bubbles and Griff (Astrojam Entry + Retrospective)

Hello! Over this past weekend I participated in a game jam!

The Lost Cartridge Jam (Astrojam) was the first annual game jam hosted by Astrojone. I'm close with the Astrojone guys-- I've worked with Quackgyver on a game jam in the past, and I'm doing the art for the upcoming game Zookeeper.

I like to participate in at least one game jam or contest each year (last year around this same time, I spent a month working on Izel's Observatory, and the year before that I made Walljump Lawnmower for a weekend jam). Enter the Lost Cartridge Jam (originally called the Astrojam, which I like better!)

Here's my entry: ¬†ūüź† Bubbles and Griff ūüź∂

  • Genesis-inspired run-n-gun platformer, created in one weekend¬†for the first annual Astrojam: Lost Cartridge Jam.
  • Benry has been kidnapped!¬†It's up to GRIFF THE BEAGLE¬†and BUBBLES THE GOLDFISH¬†to fight their way through¬†Heck City to save their¬†master!

The original idea for the game has a lot more going on. But such is the nature of game jams-- in the extremely tight time frame, I had no choice but to cut cut cut!

The end result is... playable. It's probably loaded with bugs, and many features are completely nonfunctional (when you die, you don't lose a life-- the "x03" is hard-coded into the HUD!). The game consists of just one level-- a single level that I threw together in the last hour before the deadline!

Genesis Aesthetic

The "Lost Cartridge" theme is a fun one: make the game look like it could have been made for a pre-00s console. Other entries look like Game Boy or NES games. I wanted to play with the Sega Genesis aesthetic, a decision that was probably too ambitious.

Most of the jam time was spent on the graphics (if nothing else I am proud of the general aesthetic and how the game looks). I spent the first day of the jam working on the player character's sprite animations, a basic tileset, and the background.

I put a lot of time into making the background city, and getting it to look right in-game. Certainly way more time than I should have, considering this was a 72-hour jam. (But I think it looks good, so it was worth it. ūüėČ) There's three different "chunks" of city buildings, and the game generates a random skyline using them. A parallax effect makes use of the night sky in the back and the mountains front of the city. I wanted to make a few more different building variations, but I'd already spent too much time on the graphics without even starting to make an actual game!

Scheduling Fail

Gameplay-wise, the end result is extremely basic. The second day of the jam was spent putting together the basic movement and controls, collisions, etc-- as well as the title menu and the scanlines overlay.

The third day was shorter than I had originally planned, too. When I was first coming up with my list of goals for the weekend, I'd budgeted for a midnight deadline. I'd completely forgotten about the time zone difference. The actual deadline was 5 hours earlier.

It's my own fault for not paying attention when I was scheduling my goals for the weekend. Though as I got stressed out when the deadline got nearer, it was cathartic to blame Quack and shit-talk him for being a foreigner. ūü§£

I realized my mistake towards the end of the second day, so I was able to adjust my plans by cutting out more content: no intro scene, no background music, no victory screen-- when you get to the end of the level, you are abruptly thrown back to the title screen.

I'd planned to make rocket launchers for the enemies, and the player would have to dodge or shoot down incoming projectiles, but had to cut that too.

Bubbles the Goldfish

When I first came up with the game concept, Bubbles (the fish) would ride on the dog's back and carry the guns. In an ideal full version of the game, Bubbles would be the star of some shmup-style bonus levels as well. 

I knew early on that I wouldn't have the time to properly animate him onto the player character, so I'd decided to use him as a checkpoint.

Of course, as the deadline got closer and closer, I didn't have time to program a checkpoint system. ...or any sort of respawn system (not to mention the frozen lives counter and lack of game overs) -- when you die, the level just restarts, so you lose any score or weapon pickups. I'd wanted the weapons and score to carry over upon death-- but all of this was had to be cut because of the five hours that I "lost".

In the final jam submission, Bubbles sits in the background, watching the player from his fish bowl. He stealthily refills your health as you run by him, since I didn't have time to properly make any effect for interaction.

Endgame

As you can imagine, the final few hours before submission were a total rush. 

At one point, I seriously thought that I wouldn't enter. I was being really hard on myself for the time zone mistake, and for spending so much time working on the fun graphics stuff over prioritizing a playable game.

I ended up doing something that would seem counter-productive: I walked away. Took a few minutes to go outside, took the dog for a walk. Got some fresh air. I was only away from the computer for five minutes or so-- but it helped tremendously. When I came back inside, I was feeling better about myself, and I'd decided to do what I needed to do and submit the game.

I uploaded Bubbles and Griff within the final hour before the deadline.

Whats Next

At some point, I want to revisit the game and give it some much-needed polish. It would be really nice to eventually add the original ideas that I had-- stuff like Bubbles holding the guns, gun fusions, enemy projectiles, shmup bonus stages-- even just some more levels with more visual variety (and better-designed with time for real playtesting).

Anyways...

For the immediate future, I'm going to take a few days off and recover. Feeling quite burned-out from a weekend of hardcore game jamming-- but at the same time, I'm proud of what I managed to put together.

I hope you enjoy Bubbles and Griff. Thanks for taking the time to download the game-- and for reading this little retrospective.

---

I'll take a few days to relax before I come back with new graphics and fill some patron requests.

Thanks!

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By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 379 exclusive posts
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Video