Global Game Jam 2021 (Trials Of Unrest)

Global Game Jam 2021 (Trials Of Unrest)

Due to the pandemic, Global Game Jam 2021 was held entirely virtually this time around. I would normally make the ~45 minute drive to a local college that hosts one of the largest jam sites in my area to find a group to work with. This time I used, Discord, Google Drive and Perforce to accomplish everything I needed to do and I hope that the people who run GGJ decide to allow a hybrid of in person and remote participation in the future.

I went into this game jam wanting to work with a couple of co-workers but knew that we would need to find some others to help us build out a full team. I searched for a jam site that had both a large number of attendees but also one I felt connected to and landed on one called “Central Florida GGJ 2021” which was hosted and mostly attended by Full Sail students and staff. I sent out a ping to the group saying that I was forming a team and that I would need artists, sound designers and other designer / UE4 developers. By the time the jam started we were a full fledged team of 9 people including, 2 artists, 2 sound designers, a writer, a programmer, a composer and 2 game designers.

I put together my standard list of google docs to use as guidelines to help us get ideas flowing and written down. Once the theme was announced (it was “Lost and Found”) we came up with a handful of ideas and when the jam started we had a discussion that ended with us deciding to go with the idea of a boy who couldn’t sleep without his favorite pillow which had been lost. The gameplay was based on the idea of a fetch quest chain, where the player would need to take items to NPCs to get yet another item and so on.

By the end of the first night, our writer had written out an entire first draft of the dialogue between the characters and we had a pretty good idea of who needed to do what to complete the game’s development on time. Unfortunately the other game designer had to drop from the group which left me alone to knock out implementing all the art, animations, audio and the level design. I asked our programmer to come up with a solution for the dialogue system and he seemed to enjoy taking on the challenge, I was especially impressed since he had never used UE4 before.

I think I spent a bit too long on the level but I ended up scrapping my original “boring” idea to go with a country hillside theme and I think it paid off in the end as it gave the level a nice aesthetic that you don’t see in a lot of jam games. I also focused on how to hide the edge of the map from player’s view. I ended up using a combination of hills, forests and a river to accomplish that, I didn’t want to use invisible walls to block players from traversing off the map if I could avoid it.

I’ve implemented characters in UE4 using Mixamo’s animations before so that went pretty well. It wasn’t too much after getting the characters from the artist that I had them in the game and moving around. For implementing audio we decided to use FMOD, which neither sound designer had used before but were more than willing to try out for the first time. Using FMOD actually allowed me to find a bug in UE4 that had previously been thought to had been fixed. FMOD projects couldn’t be played on Mac OS builds due to some missing .lib files and luckily I was able to get ahold of someone on the engine team and they fixed it right away. It felt good to be able to help out with the engine in that way, I’d say it was my first real QA find where my input helped a large number of users.

By the end of the jam it was a crazy rush to get the dialogue system working correctly and still be able to build the lighting and game before the turn in deadline. Global Game Jam has a “soft deadline” because of the sheer volume of teams trying to upload their games at once, its better to turn it in early before the rush makes it so that you can’t upload your game. The game we turned in wasn’t quite what I was shooting for but after becoming the sole designer I was definitely proud of what we were able to finish.

The jam site that we participated in did a little event award voting thing and we actually placed in the top 5 out of 23 for a handful of different sections.

3rd – Art Design
4th – Narrative
5th – Custom Art
5th – Level Design
2nd – Use of Diversifiers

I kept working on Trials Of Unrest, solo, for another week and got it to the point where I imagined it being for the jam. Free of most bugs, all features completed and a large number of visual and audio improvements including mixing the audio and tweaking the lighting. Both versions are available on our page which can be found here:

Or you can download the updated version from here:

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