Friday, January 15, 2021

Community Jam Projects in Dreams -- Exactly What I Needed

I'm continuing to play Dreams, and I have to admit, I'm starting to surprise myself by how designing levels in this game is just starting to "make sense" now. I was complaining earlier this week to my oldest about how I wanted to just be able to get into the game and "make things happen."  What I meant by that was to finally lose the sense of confusion when approaching the myriad of game controls.

Something clicked this week and I was able to flesh out a quest where you collect 8 shells and a crab pops out of the water to tell you a story.  Was it the most elegant of presentations? No.  Did it work? Yes!  . . . and it even had a strange bit of charm to it.

Backing up for a second . . . why the heck was I making a shell collecting quest with a story telling crab? Well that's because Dreams has a community "game jam" of sorts every couple of weeks. I discovered it about three weeks ago and submitted my first piece.

The theme two weeks ago was "illusion." For this "game jam," I made a very long hallway with words that floated in the air while you walked through a swirling mist.  The words came from a poem I wrote 20+ years ago about a time in my life where I had a pretty severe allergic response and ended up with beet-red eyes for about a month.  It was pretty crazy.

On paper the poem is quite short--one of my shortest.  In game, it ended up being super overblown and dramatic.  I liked it, and it was really fun to make.

The coolest thing about this, however, is that by entering it into a community game jam, my level has been played through many more times than it would have otherwise and even received a few thumbs up from people passing through! Yes!

So this week's game jam has the theme of "storytelling." I wasn't sure what I was going to do at first, but after making a "beach scene," I decided to have a crab give a quest to collect shells before he'd tell you a story.  That was my basic shtick . . . a crab telling you a story.

Next came making the shells so that they would be collectible when you ran over the top of them. To do this I had to make a microchip that would destroy the shell, make a sound, and send a signal to another microchip that was counting shells. 

The first night trying to craft the collectible shells was a bust, but, after complaining to my kid and a good night's sleep, something just clicked . . . and I figured it all out.

The power of the microchip!

Next was figuring out what to do with the crab, so I made it so after you collected the 8 shells, the "counting" microchip would send a signal to another microchip that would delete the small crab and make a large crab and a book appear and queue a timeline.  For the timeline, I simply read an old, motivational boy scout tale I heard once about crabs in a bucket. 

This is why I'm not an electrician . . .

After this, it was all polish.  I started adding beach towels, chairs, beach balls, palm trees . . . basically all the beach themed items I could find from searching Dream's item directory.  I added a dock and a lighthouse, an exit, and a seagull flying overhead.

At first the lighthouse was merely going to be decoration, but then I thought . . . nah . . . I want to go out there!  So I found a raft model and invented a kind of moving conveyor to and from the lighthouse, but what to put in the lighthouse?  Why . . . how about a crab rave?! YES!

As I kept creating and adding things, I then hit a wall.  Yup.  I found the limit on things I could add to the game.  I simply ran out of audio space and object space, and then I had to call my project "done."

Check it out!

I'm really enjoying myself in Dreams lately. It took quite a bit of fiddling and thinking to overcome the hurdles I had initially, but it feels pretty refreshing to have made something like this, and the community game jams seem like just the thing.

Happy Dueling!

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