The amazing community of GameMaker developers over on the r/GameMaker subreddit have hosted another one of their quarterly game jams called GM48. This is the 24th edition of the jam. This game jam requires developers to use GameMaker to create a game in just 48 hours, from scratch, with similar rules to the strict ‘Ludum Dare’ Compo. The theme for this GM48 was ‘One Shot’.
At the end of the 48 hours, entrants were to submit their game and vote on everyone else’s. The winners were determined by these votes and YoYo Games graciously supported the jam, once again, by providing prizes via desktop licences for Game Maker Studio 2. You can play all of the games submitted to the game jam here, and see the results here.
This specific GM48 took place right after GameMaker Studio 2 came out and the participants were given a trial of the engine to create their game with! I have interviewed the top three games for this jam, focused on the new version of the engine, GameMaker in general, and their awesome game. This is going to be a three part series, each game with their own interview article. This specific article is on the game that placed 3rd in the jam. Let’s get into it!
Lovebirds is a platformer where you are looking to make it to the roof of another house, far across the city. This house is very important to get too, as it contains a potential love, whom you’ve found through social media. Instead of taking a train or car, you have decided to go paragliding across the way. The only issue is all of the kites in the sky – blocking your bath. You must throw out birds to learn where they fall – understanding the path you can then take to make it to the other side. All of your throws are tracked via a radar. This game was made by a team of three, however this interview focuses on Justin, the programmer, and Kahlief, the artist/musician.
“Lovebirds is a game where you can blindly chase what’s really important to you – love. Soar through the skies with passion as your only fuel and the souls of dead pigeons as your only guide. Or something like that.” – Kahlief
The way you find your path – by throwing birds off a roof and seeing where they hit and fall down, which then appears in the grid – this is something I haven’t seen before. What inspired this idea and where did you come up with it?
Justin: “The game started out originally being about making paper airplanes and throwing them between buildings. You would have just one shot to throw and aim your plane, and then you watched it go. I then decided it might be more fun to let the player control the plane while it was flying. I also wasn’t happy with how the simple 3D paper airplane model was looking during actual game play, so I decided to represent the plane with a 2D sprite instead.
I thought a paper airplane sprite might not look all that great, so I changed it to a bird. At this point, I also wanted to give the player more than one chance to play a map, as having them fail after one try might prove to be rather frustrating, which finally pulled together the idea of having “trial” birds to gather info about the map, and then having one final leap when you were ready to see how well you had mapped it out.
Long story short, it went through quite a few changes based on what worked, what didn’t, and what ultimately was more fun.”
Kahlief: “This was all Justin – I do remember discussing a bit early on that it would be KIND OF like the Yoshi Fruit Cart game from Nintendo Land on the WiiU. In that game, you have to map out your course on the gamepad while avoiding obstacles that are only shown on the TV. It’s really neat! We added some of our own spin on it, but part of the foundation came from that.”
I felt that the mechanics and the art style were two major stand out points when it came to Lovebirds. Not only was the gameplay something I had not seen before (I had not played Yoshi Fruit Cart before), but the mix of 3D and 2D graphics is very well done – something that is hard to do. Neither style felt inconsistent in a bad way.
Why did you decide to mix the two types of graphics?
Justin: “I think my favorite era of video games are the weird games that got made when no one quite knew how to handle 3D correctly. You had a lot of people trying to solve this problem in some really creative ways, having to also take into account the hardware available at the time.
Sure, you had a lot of terrible games that came out, but you also got to see a lot of unique and original stuff. You don’t really see stuff like that anymore in games, I think. I love the idea of using a mix of 2D and 3D to create weird new ways to see things.”
Kahlief: “Justin learned how to work 3D in Game Maker around 6 or 7 years ago, and ever since, a LOT of our games combined that 3D/2D aesthetic. In fact, our VERY FIRST gm(48) game, Castle Carts, was a combo of 3D/2D graphics. I feel like it shows the best of what we can do and the depth that it provides really elevates our games to another level.”
Doing 3D graphics in the Game Maker engine is not something that is common. Hearing the inspiration around this style is very interesting!
How did you feel when you heard about the theme & how did you go about figuring out a concept from that theme?
Justin: “I always try to design the game’s main mechanic around the theme as best as I can. I try to start from scratch and focus only on the theme, at first. For this one, I knew I wanted to make a game around the idea of trying to plan as best as you could, since you would only have “one shot” at whatever task you were doing. I find it really helps to take the first hour or so of the jam and just brainstorm different ideas. They can be as weird or impractical as you want until you find a good idea to pursue!”
Kahlief: “I was actually busy when the theme dropped, so Justin came up with the idea. He always does a great job with making sure the game will be fun to play and mechanically sound as opposed to going for just the first thing that comes to our heads.”
Brainstorming is a tip I hear again and again when it comes to theme! Don’t rush straight into the first idea you have and instead explore and think about possible ideas to go with.
Both of these developers have entered the GM48 before, as stated above. They are regulars when it comes to this jam and the Game Maker engine as a whole!
How was participating in the gm(48)?
Justin: “It was great, as always! The community surrounding it fills it with so much energy.”
Kahlief: “The GM48 is one of the BEST game jams out there. The community is amazing – everyone just loves playing the games and the website is really easy to navigate. It’s definitely fun seeing the games that everyone makes, but it’s awesome just to know that they were all made using the program that we love – Game Maker.”
What is your experience with developing using GameMaker? How did it go?
Justin: “We’ve been using Game Maker since version 6.1, so I think a little over 12 years! I don’t get to use it as often as I used to, so the quarterly gm(48) game jams are always a great way for me to catch up on the newer features.”
Kahlief: “Justin and I have developed games in Game Maker since Game Maker 6! It’s been a long time coming, but we’re definitely in the swing of things and have our workflow nailed down. Game Maker Studio 2 was a challenge to figure out at times, but overall, a lot of its tools and capabilities have been helpful for us.”
The challenge of switching to a newer version of an engine, even one you are familiar with, is a very tricky thing to balance when it comes to a game jam. Having the set amount of time really forces you to think on your toes and use the knowledge you have.
The next GM48 is January 13th, 2018. If you are interested in joining an amazing community of developers all using the GameMaker engine, I would suggest checking out this jam. It’s also a super good opportunity to make a quick game and test out new features in the GameMaker Studio 2 engine.