Welcome, hi, good day, hello, what's up?! I'm the Sketchwhale!
I make games, talk about them, draw comics and post sketches.

fredag den 29. april 2016

Doki Doki Densha Sekai


The Reasoning

Some weeks ago, Nordic Game Jam 2016 took place, and even though I'd said to myself that the NGJ wasn't really my... (fuck)... jam (god damn it), I was sufficiently starved for creative endeavours that I was willing to give it another shot. This time however, I'd decided to bring an idea. Enough with game design taking a backseat to the simple stress of making pixels move.

For this game jam, I was gonna bring an idea, convince some people to help me and create something that matched my vision. It sounds slightly egotistical and if a game is about a group of people molding an idea together, then yes. To me, a jam can be many things, and even though I don't see it so often, I think there's room for a mini-scale version of the auteur taking the reins.

The Idea

Ever since I first rode the subway in Tokyo 5-6 years ago, I've felt inspiration from its atmosphere and the representations of it, I saw in manga, games and anime. But how do you translate the idea that the Japanese subway is nice to ride, into a game anybody would want to play?

A few years ago I was convinced some sort of puzzle game, a match-carts-and-commuters thing might be it. Looking back, that didn't make sense. Thematically it would be related, but it would hold none of what inspired me. The simple and difficult solution, seemed to be direct: Make the subway.

Another concept I've been struggling with, is that I love Zelda games and the two Little Big adventure games. They are what action-adventure is truly meant to be, according to myself, and yet I can't simply do copies of their gameplay, that would be uninspired. So I've been going back and forth in my mind: What is the core idea of these games, what makes them what they are before they become what they are. At the NGJ, some designers from Blizzard some of iterating on the core 30-second gameplay of a game, yet that doesn't make much sense in Zelda, you'd end up with a video of someone from though a door, running down a hallway and switching an item in a menu. That's hardly what I like about them. This is a bigger topic for another post, but for now, what I can say is that I thought it make sense to try and represent a bigger world, living, designed world with as few mechanics as possible:

A game about travelling to various train stations and delivering messages and packages. It sounds small like that quickly you realize: various can be a lot, and what constitutes a train station? Delivering parcels is its own system and travelling means movement. Besides, don't you need other commuters and... It escalates. So here's what I said to myself:

1. If we make a train cart with commuters, we've succeeded.
2. If we can travel between two stations, it's a massive achievement.
3. If various commuters can board and get off different stations, we've blown my mind.
4. Anything beyond this is just showing off. Really, it'd be awesome, but it's just a game jam, let's take it easy.

We got 1, 2, and 3 done. I'm still mind-blown.

Here's a couple of watercolors I used to convince Jon and Astrid to help me make Doki Doki:

The Jam

NGJ still is both amazing and not really the kind jam event I want. It's a bit too short and whole voting which project is best, doesn't really suit the idea of being creative, which I consider most important in a jam. Yet the atmosphere is great and people are high on creativity and insane ideas with virtual reality hats and games written in C and assembly. It sounds weird to criticize the the competition part, because Doki Doki became a finalist in the main competition and that was fucking amazing. It was overwhelming to get recognition for the game being worth a damn and it was fantastic afterwards to hear people I admire and respect, praise the game and its ideas.

I'd actually convinced Jon to help me before the jam and we discovered Astrid on the second day. Luckily we were apparently just as much the type of game she was searching for as she was the type of musician we needed. Both Jon and Astrid seemed to like the game idea from the start and the many additions Jon made to gameplay, both to actually make it play and it make it play better (such as when you walk in a cardinal direction, the character will sort of wobble to show it is moving) were amazing. But I feared trying to get a musician on-board. I know so little of how to convey my ideas in music, I fear giving the musician the wrong impression and wasting both our time. This was not the case. Astrid really understood, like Jon, what setting we were going for and how the play was hopefully supposed to feel when idling in a train cart.

I hope you will enjoy Doki Doki Densha Sekai. It has received some fine-tuning and bug fixes and Jon was able to implement some path-finding for the other commuters, so it's slightly more alive than the version we finished for the jam.


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