Background on the Game
In January 2013, Paul and I (Nick) took part in the Global Game Jam, and since we knew each other and had been on a From Nothing hiatus for a little while, we decided to work together on this with some other classmates from our school, that being Drew Buchanan and Sean Johnson. EarthPulse isn’t exactly a From Nothing game, but we’ll spotlight it here as we did work on it.
The Global Game Jam is a weekend of hellish marathon development because, let’s face it, it’s fun. This is also part of a full global effort for a bunch of teams around the world to get together and develop a bunch of games all centered around a single core inspiration. For 2013, the theme was a heartbeat.
Now, there are a lot of other “challenges” that can go into the game concept–these are known as Diversifiers. Some of the diversifiers were things like making the game look like an Atari 2600 title, making it 2-D, making it kid friendly, and things like that. We met three (potentially a fourth, but we didn’t notice it at the time) Diversifiers:
- I’m Board: Make a game that is inspired by, but not a simulation of, a popular board game.
- Approved for All Audiences: The game must not show any violence, not even cartoonish. Stepping on living mushrooms is off the list, as is killing any type of enemies, not even undead, though we know they’re already dead…
- Bigger Picture: The game touches on a political, environmental or social issue.
Ours also took place entirely within one screen, which I think was another Diversifier.
EarthPulse was, in part, inspired by Settlers of Cataan with some Civilization and SimCity peppered throughout. It’s a resource management game with a grimly real-world backdrop: Namely, oil. Everything in our modern society is, in one or more ways, linked to oil and oil production. Plastics are petroleum by-products, for instance. Logging requires oil and gasoline-powered vehicles.
The goal is for players to achieve “clean energy” with the old dirty energy technologies before the oil is all gone–and then they get screwed. Players must build a variety of factories–oil, metal, etc–in order to have the supplies to build clean energy producers. Clean energy comes from solar panels, windmills, cold fusion plants, and hydro-electric. These power plants can only be built in certain landscapes–solar panels, for instance, are best in the desert landscape. Hydro-electric needed to be on a river.
Players had to put up oil pumps and then manage their oil production carefully. The heartbeat of our game was the heartbeat of the Earth itself, timed with the oil pumps. Yes, our game is painfully grim, but then so is actual real-life Peak Oil.
The End Result
As noted, the Global Game Jam is a 48-hour development marathon heavily fueled by Mountain Dew and pizza and likewise healthy energy-making foods. It was exhausting, but enjoyable. Paul, who had recently finished leading the programming for GravBlocks on Android took a back seat to coding and Drew led the way, with Paul giving guidance and Sean filling in where he could. I (Nick) handled the design layout, numbers necessary for balancing the game, and all the graphics.
The game was developed in Unity and all the graphics were made in Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Autodesk 3D Studio Max. The game was point-n-click in the gameplay, and featured some large menus.
EarthPulse featured a randomly generated grid-based levels with it’s only real design rule being to lay out a “lake” and “river” segments with beaches nearby. The various landscapes are deserts, beaches, forests, prairies, and mountains which, just like old-school JRPG’s, are basically barriers that can’t be used for anything.
In the end, our numbers to balance the game were put in literally about an hour before the submission deadline, so we didn’t get a lot of testing to see how well balanced the game was, and as is, it’s almost impossible to win! But, we ultimately crafted one of the most complete titles in the entire Game Jam. We had a playable game, a full tutorial, and even end credits. If that sounds a little dis-jointed, well yeah, it kind of was.
EarthPulse can be downloaded at the Global Game Jam site, right here.
(We’ll try to get it set up and downloadable here at some point.)
View the EarthPulse gallery by clicking here.