How it all began

Before we get into all the nitty gritty game development stuff I’d like to take a few moments to go back to how this game came about. Back in 2014 a few of us were attending a course in game design, which took place in the Croatian Machina Academy. Just after we finished, a big game convention was happening and a game jam was going to be organized for the entire 4 days. The theme of the game jam was simply the word “and”.

We had a couple of ideas regarding how to make a game around it but the deciding factor was a YouTube clip of Samurai Jack fighting a shinobi. The visuals were only black and white and the entire clip revolved around the two opponents not really seeing each other and blending in with the background.

We created one level alongside a short intro sequence that explained the basics. The gameplay consisted of moving streaks of black that blocked the rest of the level and had the player try and find the exit. The art was very basic and the platforming wasn’t particularly good. The main selling point was the monster chasing the player. It only attacked when the player was in the dark and you couldn’t see it. This meant that the player had to move around the level alongside the light and not stay in the darkness for too long.

We took the level exit and decided to randomly spawn it at 3 different locations every time. This was and still remains one of the most important aspects of the game.

After the game jam ended the basics were in place but it wasn’t enough. We tried several designs to improve on it but they were all boring as heck. Then we tried to add roguelike elements and everything came together.

A lot of linear games have similar ideas to what we are doing, but the problem with creating an exploration based mechanic Is that if the level design is always the same then it’s not really required for the player to learn to use it. Instead they can just learn the level layout through trial and error and after a while brute force their way to the exit.

To our surprise the game jam version went on to win the “best gameplay” award. We decided to try to continue making the game but the original team fell apart. Everyone except our programmer and myself moved on to other stuff. It took around 6 months to get another person on board and start working on the next iteration. We scrapped the original sharp art style and decided to take it in another direction.

Even though the game took a different turn it’s important to note how one small game jam with a bunch of people who never met before managed to produce something worthwhile.

In the next post we’ll talk a bit about the current art style. Stay tuned!