My first time joining a Game Jam

It’s the year 1999. All media is going crazy about the Y2K bug and people don’t seem to understand what’s happening to a point some believe their toaster will become aware and take over the world. I don’t remember if people said this kind of things sarcastically or not, but there were people actually believing it.

That year I was 13 years old and attended secondary school with a computers specialty. Back then not every family had a computer at home in Mexico so those big and old DOS PCs from the school lab were my first experience with a computer.

Part of the tools they taught us included Logo, the QuickBasic 4.5 language, and Dbase III plus, which was a visual database management system… in text mode. Actually, all the mentioned tools were command-line software. I immediately fell in love with QuickBasic: grabbed a copy on a floppy disk and made my parents buy a PC for me so I could write programs at home. But what really made a true impact in my life was a copy of a Mario game clone installed on the school PCs.

That Mario clone featured smooth graphics, colorful scenarios, excellent pixel-art, Parallax background, great control, and collisions comparable and even better than the original Mario from the NES console, especially the graphics. Back then, I couldn’t describe the technical aspects of the game, all I knew was that the game looked and felt professional-built and that it was done by a single person – because the game was signed with a cool ASCII message shown when quitting the game:

Back from the death… to rule Frisia again!
“Da Frisian Force”

Done by Utter Chaos [’95]

This game was what made me want to become a software developer when I was 13 years old. It blew my mind how a game like that could be made by a single guy. It made me ask myself if that kind of stuff were possible with QuickBasic, like a challenge.

Later, a recent year actually, I found out that Adam Howard (Utter Chaos) who was part of a demo scene gang (Da Frisian Force) stole the Mario game from another developer. He actually stole a beta, unfinished, and bugged version of the game, wrapped it to have its own mark at the end, and distributed it as Shareware, asking for money to “register” the copy.

The original developer is Mike Wiering, who is sharing the finished game on his geocities-era website, along with some technical explanation and full Turbo Pascal source code. Kudos to him. Also, the full source code was made available by several other people on Github, being this one the oldest repository I found.

The game jam

All the introduction above was just to help you and myself visualize how deep were my unmaterialized dreams of becoming a game developer. Instead of following them, I found myself writing another kind of code for 20+ years, sometimes interesting, sometimes boring, but always amazing. Amazing or not, I’ve never made a full game. I have dozens of experiments, from DOS Mode-13-based games to SDL-based demos written in C, to HTML-5 minigames. But never released a full game.

This has to change!

This month I forced myself to join a game jam called Metroidvania Month 15, where the participants have 1 month to develop a Metroidvania game. Metroidvania is a simple genre where imagination and a good story make a difference because the game mechanics don’t necessarily offer anything new.

The game jam started on February 15 and submissions will be accepted until March 15. I’m all focused on new features for OxyPowerPack 3.0 that I’m planning to release in mid-march, so chances are I don’t submit my game on time. This is a game jam that happens every month anyways so the worst scenario would be to submit my game on Metroidvania Month 16 instead.

I like challenges, also I’m a developer, not a game designer so to make the most fun of this venture, I’ve set myself a set of requirements for this game:

  • It has to be an HTML5 game.
  • It has to be side-scrolling, meeting the Metroidvania concept.
  • It has to be 3D (2.5D if it’s a side-scrolling), with WebGL.
  • No game engine. Libraries are acceptable. ThreeJS… probably, will try to avoid it.
  • Graphics or sound procedurally generated – I want to train for JS13KGames.
  • The story should be related to pre-hispanic pyramids. This is not a technical requirement but an idea that’s been revolving in my head for years.

My next month’s blog post should include at least a minor update on the game progress.

Until then!