New game in the making

Jumpy Zergi production Log #1

A project which started off on an uneventful weekend is now being developed whenever there is some free time. Jumpy Zergi is a free little game, with the character based on Carbot Animations version of a Zergling, or as we like to call it, Zergi. The game is a 2D platformer with 3D graphics (or a 2.5d game), in which movement is automatic and the only input is jumping. The game is synchronized with the music and requires precise input timings to complete the level. Jumps need to be timed correctly to avoid spikes and land on platforms. The game is inspired by titles like The Impossible Game and Geometry Dash.

Currently planned game features:
  • Simple and precise controls
  • Catchy music and an environment that goes along with the beat
  • Simple but shiny and dynamic 3D graphics and 2D level design
  • Hard and challenging
  • Spikes, cubes, platforms, speed and gravity switches
  • Be a Zergi!

It was clear in the beginning, that the game should be simple in both gameplay and graphics, in order to release a polished product in free time only. The creation of a well polished game with minimalistic content, which can be added onto later is the final goal of this project. A 2D platformer with only one input seemed like a good idea. As usual, the project turned out to be more work than first anticipated, partly due to always wanting to improve the game.

The main objectives for Jumpy Zergi are:
  • Simple enough to be created casually, but with professional polishing
  • Simple but challenging gameplay, without being unfair
  • Playing a level must feel natural, no clunky controls, every necessary input should go well with the music
  • The entire level should be dynamic and go with the music as well

A lot of the time goes into prototyping, testing and tweaking, as well as building the level. The actual asset creation goes by rather quickly. Everything was designed around a grid, to make gameplay consistent and level design more streamlined. Once the objectives were defined, I immediately started prototyping, by implementing features in a very basic form first and with very quickly created graphic elements. The 3D model of the Zergi and its rig already existed from previous projects, however it was not animated yet.

Jumpy Zergi very early prototype

The game continued to look likes this for quite some time. At this point, a lot of work went into improving and tweaking the controls, adjusting hit boxes and character grounding registration. For example, the character should be able to reach a block or platform which is 2 units higher than its current position, but should not be able to hit something which is 3 units higher. The jumping mechanic is also a bit more generous by letting you jump when more than half of the character is already over the edge and in the air.

Apart from jumping over obstacles or on platforms, the game also features gravity and speed changing objects. Once they are activated, the player has to control his Zergi upside down or at a different speed than before. Those features have not been initially planned however. The level is going to be approximately 1 minute and 30 seconds long. When level blocking was in progress, it became apparent that simply jumping along for that time became monotone. With the addition of changing the speed or the down-axis the game becomes more interesting and also more challenging, without breaking the one input rule.

Progress so far:

Most of the game mechanics and elements like blocks and spikes of varying sizes, as well as the character itself are already finished. Game elements animate in and out of the scene and have a glow shader attached to them, which will later be animated. The reflection is entirely faked by using a transparent gradient and duplicated assets which are negatively scaled and placed on the opposite on the vertical axis. Speed an gravity triggers already work and have their position in the level defined. About 30% of the level has been built, while the rest of it has been blocked out with markers, to make syncing with the soundtrack easier.

Early gameplay snapshot
Current game elements
What’s next:

Currently, the level is being built, which involves more testing and tweaking than actual building. When the level is finished and balanced properly we will then take on additional decorations, animations and polishing for the main level. Most of the user interface is also still missing, as well as the main menu. A practice mode will also be added, which will allow the player to place checkpoints on the map to learn the level before trying it in one go. If there is enough time, collectibles and achievements may also be implemented into the game. Depending on feedback, the game might be updated with a second level in the future.

Keep an eye on the next Jumpy Zergi production log, which will focus on level design and how we balance the level to keep it interesting and challenging.