Hello, It’s been about 18 months since I’ve started a game project due to finishing University and starting a full time job. That’s why I decided a game jam was the best way to reignite my creativity and motivation. I chose the GMTK game jam as it was hosted by Mark Brown of Game Maker’s toolkit who has a brilliant Youtube series on game design. The theme of the game jam was ‘Genre without mechanic’. This means that the game needed to be based on a genre and take away a key gameplay mechanic such as shooting in a first person shooter or not having the ability to jump in a platformer.

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The latter both played a part in the inspiration for our game ‘VacPac’. We were stumped on what game to make in the beginning, so we considered what we could remove from genres whilst keeping the original genre still in tact and found that many mechanics were necessary. After a while we realised we could substitute some of these mechanics or take smaller mechanics from the genres. For example, one idea I had was to make a beat em up game which doesn’t contain violence, my idea was to have a medic going around and beating injured people with a med-kit to heal them.

The game concept originally started off under the shooter genre and the vacuum was used as a replacement for a gun, instead of shooting bullets you would shoot your vacuum this could have meant hitting enemies with objects, collecting enemy bullets and firing them back or numerous other things. However the idea of moving up with the vacuum made us feel like we were creating an interesting platformer mechanic instead. Due to this VacPac became a physics based 2D platformer. To give the vacuum context we decided to make the game around cleaning with cobwebs placed in areas in which you would need to show off your platforming skills. To emphasise player skill we decided to add a timer to make players move quickly and elegantly through the air. The context for this timer was going to be that you were a minion of this dungeon keeper (hence the orc-like design of the main character). Your master would not be satisfied if you did not clean the dungeon in time and most likely replace you with another disposable minion.

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For this game jam I decided to team up with Ninstox who did the entirety of the artwork and level design in the game. I was tasked with programming the game in Unity, which this was quite a challenge as I’d never done a proper 2d platformer let alone one with proper physics. This was also going to be my first attempt at implementing 2D lighting which I think turned out great. I put to use a couple of things I’d used at my job as a software developer, one of these was that I was now familiar with linq and used it to replace many of my foreach statements. The two biggest challenges for me personally were creating the vacuum and creating the levers. I struggled with creating the vacuum angles for example I had objects that were being pulled the wrong direction, I also had issues with the vacuum pulling you to the centre of objects an issue I did not have time to correct and so all objects are small and square in shape in the game. This could have been fixed with raycasting but I was unable to get this approach working. The vacuum itself works with a capsule collider that is slightly in front of the player so that the player does not pull himself along with objects he brings in as frequently. Here’s an image showing the collider.

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This project was also the first time I used Unity’s cloud collaboration services which for the most part I was extremely satisfied with. Artwork was created in GIMP and royalty free sound effects were found online. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the game jam and the challenge the theme presented. I highly recommend doing a game jam even if you’re not a programmer you can collaborate or watch tutorials to make your own game, for game developers struggling to come up with ideas the forced theme makes you think outside the box and come up with some great ideas.

Download the game here: https://tompouchergames.itch.io/vacpac

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