Taking Part in Ludum Dare Game Jam – Part 1

Nathan has been wanting to take part in a Game Jam for quite a while – so when we saw that the Ludum Dare game jam was about to take place – and they were celebrating their 15th year – we decided we would give it a go this time.

Amazingly, as we are busy most weekends, this particular weekend everyone cancelled on us and we had an entire weekend to ourselves – we took this as A Sign and resolved to definitely¬†try to make a game in just one weekend. We have never done this before so we thought it would be a great challenge and possibly fun ūüôā

The first step was to vote on the possible themes on the LDJam website – these had already been posted by other users and game jam enthusiasts. The actual theme of the competition would be announced at 2am (UK time) on Friday night while we were sleeping. We were hoping that it would be “Keep it alive” as we’d thought of a really great idea for that – but when we stirred in the night and checked our phones we discovered that the actual theme was Small World.

We tried to go back to sleep and hoped we’d dream up a really good game idea before morning. We had a brainstorming session as soon as we woke and talked about what Small World could encompass:

  • there are already games out there already featuring small worlds that are fought over because they won’t fit everyone on
  • small world can also mean child-sized things
  • small world theory where everyone turns out to be connected to everyone else – could we make a game about that or would it just end up being too massive?
  • then, we had the brainwave that small world could also mean – microscopic!

That idea really got the cogs turning and we came up with superbugs – a game where you’re in a science lab and¬†peer through a microscope at viruses in a petri dish.¬†The aim of the game would be that you have to kill them off with combinations of drugs before they grow too big and become Superbugs – and resistant to ALL drugs.

We’d start with a few simple levels , where you just have to kill one virus¬†with a drug of the same colour. This would be scaled up to many viruses – some needing multiple drugs and others needing colour combinations to kill them off.

As Nathan, our developer, is halfway through his first course on Unity – we thought we’d make the game in that. It seemed like a good way of testing his understanding so far!

Our first prototype was one petri dish containing the viruses – but it wasn’t very interesting and did not need a lot of skill. Also it was difficult to animate the viruses and get them¬†to interact with each other.

Then Nathan came up with the idea of hexagonal cells – like a beehive – where each drug would affect the cells around the target one. This would make it into a proper puzzle game. It also allows for drug colours to be combined to make the other colours needed.

We didn’t have any access to sounds – so¬†Nathan did the sound effects himself and recorded them to put them in the game. ¬†I especially like the “pop” as each virus explodes as it is eliminated by the correct drug combos!

One of the hardest parts of making the game so far is working out how to automate the production of each level to ensure that it is still solvable. They do it with Sudoku – so it must be possible!

Check back in a few hours for part two, where we’ll show how the game turned out and how you can play it!

Find the game here: https://centrifuge.itch.io/superbugs