This first article will focus on the game part of the game jam. In the (hopefully) upcoming articles we’ll cover the technical side of dithering and shaders, and level generation using a (very) basic neural network, and maybe the screen flow.
The restrictions were:
- Monochrome black #43523d and white #c7d0d8 (or green and green)
- Resolution of 84 by 48 pixels
- Monophonic sound
- Up to 12 controls (the number of buttons on the keypad), keyboard only
- Optional theme (which I totally didn’t follow) was “ON/OFF”
With that, I decided I wanted to create a 3d game. It had to be something that would readable with such low resolution. I chose to make a racing game inspired by Mario Kart on the Gameboy
The Gameboy Advance still had 240 × 160 pixels, so I had to do away with most of the hud, most of the car detail, and simplify the track and texture.
It makes much more sense in motion, but here you can see:
- The race car in the centre. Black wheels, checkerboard car, and a spoiler
- The time remaining, bottom left
- Grass, 25% black dithered pattern
- The track, outlined by a solid line
- Trees (hard to tell when not in motion)
- Flags/checkpoints (in the distance)
Ignoring all the technical details, I had a game up and running fairly quickly. You could drive around, the car slows down on grass, and there were checkpoints to hit.
The next step could have been to add some AI cars, but at this resolution they’d just be blobs in the distance. By this point in the game’s development I was running out of time, and still needed to add more tracks.
Instead, I decided to have a countdown timer. Each checkpoint adds just enough time to the timer so you don’t run out. To make it harder as you play, the time that gets added is less and less as you complete more laps (hopefully making it challening before you get bored).
To spice it up further, oil spills get randomly added each time you pass a checkpoint (hence the name). If you drive over one, it forces you to either steer right or left (somewhat randomly). This will slow you down if you hit any and you might run out of time. As you play, and as the oil spills add up, it becomes harder and harder to reach the next checkpoint in time.
This might have been enough to make it technically a game, but it seems players got bored before properly running out of time.
Providing the players with more actions they can perform (like boosts) or items to collect, or racers to dodge would have made it more fun