It was my first time working in a group, and I am absolutely mindblown by the result.
Although we ranked #7 on the voting, we ended up at a final rank of #2 after taking into account votes from judges, which was a real shocker!
A Surprising Theme
When the theme of "Surprise" came out, our team was befuddled. An initial session of brainstorming had us throwing out some ideas on Discord, but we didn't want the obvious, yet didn't really land on a great idea. I was to put together a more concrete idea. After simmering on the theme in more detail, I found myself contemplating on the following:
What makes something - Surprising?
Things working in unexpected ways.
I was inspired by the following:
- The Lost Room, a miniseries where everyday objects have mysterious powers.
- Doraemon, one of my favourite anime as a child, where technological gadgets look like toys or everyday objects.
- Gambol and Japes Wizarding Joke Shop - from the Harry Potter series, which is a shop full of tricky magical items which are more for pranks.
Ultimately, I ended up with this idea of a game where things would work in unexpected way. I initially envisioned an exploration game where there's no clear "end state", but something more akin to a physics sandbox, with fooling around and chaotic gameplay as the focus. There'd be less of a puzzle element, and a prank/joke tone to it. The idea of having ordinary household objects juxtaposed with extraordinary powers was interesting, and I haven't really seen it being done in games before.
What makes a game - Surprising?
In a traditional Zelda dungeon, you'd have the single dungeon item that has cool powers that opens up a new way of interacting with your environment, or opening up new modes of traversal. In a predictable manner, you'll then use your dungeon item in puzzles that are carefully designed to aid you to understand how that particular item operates.
What if - there was no tutorial, and part of the fun was finding out how each item works, and being surprised at it? That's another aspect that I wanted to explore: hidden information and tutorials. Kind of like in The Witness, although I haven't really played it yet (I should get around to it soon!).
And finally, the holy grail of surprising gameplay: emergent gameplay. Where a bunch of mechanics in a game interact in a chaotic but meaningful manner lending to new gameplay mechanics that were never envisioned by the designer. A key inspiration would be The GOTY of 2017 - yes, referring to Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. BOTW is full of those golden moments.
Although to reasonably achieve that, you'd need MUCH MUCH MORE mechanics in a game though, which was way more than the scope of the jam.
We ended up having a few basic puzzles in the game, which relied on a few key items with the solution being rather open-ended.
The Christmassy theme came later on, inspired by the festivities and served as a way to drive the narrative as well (as I was also clueless on what would be an appropriate background story for the game).
Next up - working with a team (and wwise with source control)!
Get A Curious Christmas
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