The second weekend of February, I participated in the Cartoon Network Game Jam. I was on the Fat Little Rain Cloud team, which was 6 developers based out of Eugene: Ted Brown, Ed Friese, Michael Jones, Jay Michael McCarthy, and Peng Xu.
We got to Portland Fryday afternoon, and dropped off some equipment before we went and checked into our hotel rooms. Yeah, we didn’t go all badass and stay up for the whole weekend. We’ve all been doing this long enough to know that you can work better when you’re well rested.
After getting checked in, there was a keynote talk with the organizers and the creators of OK, K.O.! They explained a bit about the characters and universe, the idea behind the property, and how the game jam fits into it.
They then randomly assigned a character to each team, and we got to work. Our character was Dogmun. A dog who was bitten by a radioactive dog and became half-man/half-dog. Yeah, it makes as much sense as it sounds.
So, we headed for the nearest bar and started brainstorming ideas for the game. We tried to come up with super powers related to every type of dog behavior that we could think of. Everything from sniffing butts, to peeing on things, to burying stuff, and eventually fetching. We ended up making his super power be the ability to throw his own ball, and do a rocket fetch move that lets him fly through the air and crash through objects. After deciding on the mechanic, we got the project set up and ready to go before we headed back to the hotel.
The next morning, we got to work on the gameplay and animations. There was still some discussion about the background story for the game and how the details would work. We started with a 3D platforming game, and had it up and running in a couple hours. We quickly realized that the 3D controls were too confusing, and we switched to a 2D platformer. That gave us the ability to control the arc and strength of the throw, instead of simply aiming the ball. It felt much better, was easier to understand, and made the level layout simpler.
The end result was a game where you would tap on the screen to tell Dogmun to walk to a position. If you tapped and held the screen, you could drag your finger to aim a throw like a slingshot, in a similar manner to Angry Birds. If you tapped the screen while a ball was in the air, then Dogmun would fly to the ball at high speed and fetch it, while destroying almost anything in his path.
Overall, it was a fun mechanic, and we had it up and running on the PC and mobile. Everybody who tested it seemed to have fun with it, and it was exciting to see how quickly they figured out how to play.
Every team received feedback on their game from the OK K.O. creators, and was allowed to work on the games to address the feedback over the next few weeks. We cleaned up some stuff and finished up the puzzles for our demo level, and…
We won $3000 for the team, and were interviewed for a special that may air on Cartoon Network someday. All in all, a pretty successful first game jam I’d say.
I believe that once the special airs, I may be able to post a link to the game. Either Cartoon Network will post some of the games online, or we can use the game without their characters and publish it ourselves. We’ll see what happens.