Ludum Dare 41: Combine Two Incompatible Genres

Ludum Dare 41 was fun and challenging at the same time! Check out our entry here. We had fun during the game jam and our entry turned out pretty good. Friendship is Magic is a co-op platformer that turns into a pvp battle arena.

Game Design

Ludum Dare 41‘s theme, “Combine 2 incompatible genres”, was very interesting. As soon as the theme was announced, we had several crazy ideas surging through our heads. We threw around ideas like a real-time TCG game akin to the combat of Megaman Battle Network, a MOBA Battle Royale(what?!), a rhythm fighting game, and some others.

Eventually, one of us suggested a co-op pvp game. We were interested in the combination and started contributing ideas. One of us suggested a co-opetition game where the players have to work towards a goal but are still somehow competing with each other. Another suggested a boss rush game where the players work together to beat bosses but have to also eliminate each other until only one is left. This eventually led to our idea for Friendship is Magic.

The game starts off with 3 players trapped in an unknown place where they must work together in order to escape alive. However, upon escaping the area, they discover that they are trapped within a death battle arena where only the last remaining warrior will be granted freedom. The 3 companions quickly turn against each other in order to fight for their freedom.

The Characters

There are 3 different characters the player can choose from: the ninja, the dasher and the brawler. Each have different skills and abilities that complement their playstyle for both the co-op and PVP parts of the game.

Ninja characterThe ninja is the smallest character out of the 3. He is also the quickest and frailest of them all. He contributes to the team by being able to crawl in small, inaccessible areas to open doors. In PVP fights, it was planned for the ninja to be able to climb and slide down walls. He moves very quick but it only takes 1 hit to kill him.

 

 

Dasher characterThe dasher is the all arounder of the team. He has average stats compared to the other 2 characters. He was designed to have the ability to dash which would allow him to cross large chasms during the platforming stage. The dasher moves at an average speed and he’s fairly durable, taking 2 hits before dying.

 

 

Brawler characterThe last character is the brawler which is the big man of the team. He’s the biggest and slowest of the bunch but he’s also the most durable. He helps his newfound friends by actually acting as a portable platform. If there are any high reaching places, you can always count on this guy to give you a boost. Sadly, his only special ability during PVP is that he’s extra durable. It takes 3 hits to take him down. If we had more time, we could have given him a grab ability that allows him to grab and throw other players. We also wanted to give him the ability to push or lift heavy objects during the platforming stage but this was also scrapped as well due to time constraints.

The Platforming Challenge

Puzzle/Platformer Level

The platforming stage was inspired a lot by the infamous first level in Super Mario, the godfather of all platformer levels. We wanted a level that could speak for itself, that is, where the player can figure out the mechanics of the game without relying on the designers to hold their hands. The stage is designed in a way that makes full use of each character’s unique ability. At the final stretch of the level, all of the character’s abilities are utilized to open the final door.

The Battle Arena

PVP Level

Upon escaping from the platforming level, you will find yourself in the PVP battle arena where the 3 of you must fight to the death. We took some inspiration from the stages you can find in Super Smash Bros. and Samurai Gunn. For this game jam, we decided to keep things simple by creating a small stage where you can take the fight at the upper part or lower part of the stage.

 

Art

We had a clear goal when deciding for the visual style of the game: it has to look fun and cheerful at first, then turn into a chaotic mess at the end.

The time restriction during game jams also always dictates the visual approach for our projects. We knew we had to go with pixel art. Pixel art is fast and, most of the time, gets the job done (in our case, at least).

We really liked the idea of having the contrast between the cute and colorful art from the first part of the game and the violent and tense nature of the last part. This is especially apparent on the colors within the environment; saturated, vivid, and friendly. One of the challenges in having a colorful palette is to make the characters and intractables distinguishable from the static environment. To overcome this, we decided adding outlines to everything. Static environment had lighter outlines that match their colors while characters and interactables had black outlines for contrast and to separate them from everything else.

Like any other game jam games we’ve done, we wished we had more time to add extra visual polishes for the game. For example, a different tileset for the arena stage would have added a bit to the narrative; character squash-and-stretch effect could have improved the platforming feel; and excessive blood and gore would have completed the cute-versus-violent contrast we were aiming for.

This Ludum Dare taught us the importance on how the game should set the mood and communicate with the player visually, and how we could use their expectation on the established vision as means to further the narrative, explore a new mechanic, or introduce a new theme.

 

Music

For this Ludum Dare, we also tried inviting an audio designer to add music to the game. Music can also contribute to setting the mood. We made two different background music for the game. One for the co-op level and one for the pvp level. The co-op bgm has a chill vibe attached to it and the pvp bgm has an upbeat tempo and action vibe attached to it.

For the creative process on the sound design and music for the first level we tried many approaches. First is to mix the theme of a tribal and fairytale fantasy world soundtrack. We switched to a LO FI Hip Hop theme because we think that would make the music more ambient and synergize with the art style that the game has. The LO FI Hip hop style was also chosen because we want to emphasize the cute art with the music and it gives the player the assurance that he would not encounter any type of action during the first level.

We applied music theory to it and wrote the riffs in key of F because it has a mellow and ambient tune in it. We used major 7 chords because it adds more variation and harmonies for the chords.

For the second level, we used the Minor scale to give it a dark tone and combined it with drums. There is a lot of variations in the drum beat so that it would sound that it is building up to something.

This Ludum Dare taught us that the art and music should synergize well because they would not work if they are not implemented properly. This also helped our audio designer grow because he learned a lot in 48 hours.

 

Programming

At Chryse, we don’t do game jams just to make games or to win prizes. We always try to do game jams with a purpose. In Ludum Dare 34, we did our first try on pixel art. This last Global Gam Jam, we prototyped an idea that we’re planning to do once we’re done with Shots Fired. And this recent Ludum Dare is no exception. We wanted to try the new 2D features of Unity and also do multiplayer… and so we did.

Tilemap Editor

This feature is going to be the most used Unity 2017.x feature in game jams. It’s the platformer-dev’s dream. Basically, anyone who can use his mouse/trackpad and has a tileset ready can build 2D maps quickly. After doing the map, you can add colliders to the map with just a snap: TilemapCollider2D. This really is a time-saver that we were able to play Dota 2 right after laying out the level 1 map.

Local Multiplayer

Friendship Is Magic is our first local multiplayer game. We used the very nifty tool, InControl and three DualShock 4 controllers. The only problem we’ve had is when one of our designers (he owns one of the controllers) went home and worked remotely, and suddenly, we only have 2 controllers left. This forced us to scrap a few buttons so we could fit a 3-player controls configuration in a single keyboard.

Conclusion

We had many more awesome ideas for this game but due to the time constraint, we had to scrap them all. We had fun designing this game though as it’s a breath of fresh air from the Shots Fired, which was an entry in Ludum Dare 34. Hopefully, in the future we can come back to this game and polish it further since it’s a very interesting concept and would probably make for a fun party game to lose friendships from.

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