The Greenlight Jam was a 5 week jam with sprints and deliverables, focused on creating a project that could be published on a platform such as steam. With a larger time period than any other jam I've been on, me and 9 of my friends worked together with one goal in mind: making a "fishing game". This very loose idea grew and evolved, and soon enough we were prototyping a way to fight hoards of fish and collect them as weapons, with the final goal of defeating the god of the sea, Posideon.
In Pescabearian you play as a bear searching for fish to feed their family back home. Players will fight through three levels collecting fish and gaining weaponry before coming across a final boss.
Development time: 5 weeks
As we are still working on polishing and updating Pescabearian before it's release on steam, versions of the game will be detailed below. 1.0 encompasses the 4 sprints of the Greenlight Jam and highlights the finished product.
For the first week, the team utilized Miro, Trello and Github for brainstorming, organization and version control. I began helping to define the gameplay loop, refine mechanics, and design some of the major systems the player would be utilizing during moment to moment gameplay.
My main hurdle was the weapon system, which I drew inspiration from Breath of the Wild to include destructible weapons and weapon drops from enemies. Durability would encourage the player to pick up and use all of the six unique weapons and run into fun combinations with slightly randomized stats.
Above is a GIF of early weapon switching and display of stats. In order to minimize confusion for weapon stats and simplify the system for players I devised a plus and minus system that would determine the exact number for each stat. Depending on the weapon type, each stat would start with default values that then were affected by a randomly chosen attribute.
Each stat had a different probability to be rolled, with it being much more common to have a neutral modifier (50% chance) and the least common to have a double negative (5% chance). I made it more favored to have a positive stat than a negative one just to limit the chances for a player to get a horribly rolled weapon.
Another possibility when rolling for stat modifiers was the inclusion of an Elemental Modifier. Elemental modifiers would add extra effects to any of the six weapons. Those modifiers were:
Briefly stuns any enemy hit
Deals damage over time on enemies that were hit
Chance for weapon to repair durability on hit
While I am proud of the outcome of the modifier system and it's use of weighted random, this style of randomized weapons didn't mesh that well with the game, but I'll go into more detail in the postmortem. The end of the Prototype sprint left us with a good feel on how the game would control and the foundation for setting up complex interactions between the player, enemies, weapons and eventually a final boss. Collaboration and communication were truly key in this section due to multiple systems having to interact and mesh together for the final game.
The majority of the work for inventory as well as implementing attack patterns for each of the weapons was done during this sprint.
The debug UI used for displaying weapon stats was streamlined into icons, as well as models and sprites being used for showing the current weapon in the bottom bubble and in the player's hand. A very rudimentary version of the Sustainability Meter was also implemented, displayed on the right of the screen.
The Sustainability Meter was used to track how many fish the player was killing, with the idea being that the more you kill the harder the final boss, Poseidon would be. I developed and designed the system, implementing three "fish limits" that if passed would unlock a harder version of Poseidon. The difficulties were to increase health and damage, spawn more enemies and unlock a new attack pattern. After playtesting with a production sprint build, there were many questions surrounding the meter that we realized were never explicitly stated. Playtesters were confused on how it worked and what exactly it did, so in the following sprint we addressed some of the issues. The number of fish to kill to reach a limit was a bit high, and I ended up tweaking a lot of the numbers surrounding the meter.
With this build came the inclusion of death, making the game infinitely harder compared to the previous sprint.
Also shown is a full inventory of weapons, and the player could now pick up and rotate between three weapons at a time. Swapping weapons would change the stats display to the appropriate weapon and adjust which weapon sprite was in the main bubble.
The inclusion of Attacking as well as hitbox adjustment was done during this sprint, and to the left shows the attack animation, range and hit effects that were added to give solid feedback that the player killed a fish. Although there were six unique fish, each fish shared an attack pattern with another to save resources. Yellow fish and swordfish attack the same, Hammerheads and Blobfish the same as well, and finally Squid and Jellyfish were the same.
Durability was also indicated by the green circle around the main bubble, showing players how much each hit was chipping away at their weapon's life. This indicator, like weapon stats, would also change to match the current weapon.
Preparing for release, we all worked together to playtest, polish and fix as many bugs as possible before the end of the sprint. While hectic, this sprint helped me with my collaboration skills as I spearheaded the programmers in the final moments of development. Each member of the team worked very closely together and many hours were spent on call just to keep everyone motivated and consistent with our final plans.
This jam was such a valuable experience, and while I feel that my programming and design skills were put to the test, our team really came together like a real studio to set goals, meet deliverables and collaborate on multiple moving faucets of the game simultaneously.
Postmortem & Version 2.0
After the jam ended, we all agreed that there was more work to be done in order to launch the game on steam. Overall the feedback was very good, but the main complaint was the repetitive nature of levels, as well as combat having less depth than player's desired. With this feedback, there was multiple team meetings to determine what the future of the game would look like. With a new design in mind there were three core features to be changed for 2.0:
Changes to Level Design
Due to the rapid development and lack of a true level designer, levels were mainly large stretches of land filled with randomly generated cosmetics and enemies. 2.0 would include a more fleshed out level with points of interest to guide the player toward the final boss. The level of fish needed to exit will also be removed, and instead be replaced with environmental puzzles that are used to complete the level.
In it's current state, combat was more hack n' slash but we all decided it would benefit to have a more action-style combat with hit combos and chain attacks. With 2.0 it is planned to change enemies from large swarms that are easy to kill to fewer, beefier enemies with more interesting movements and attack patterns. We believe this new combat system will be more engaging for the player, as well as provide more satisfying moment to moment gameplay.
Weapons are currently randomly generated with randomized stats, but for 2.0 I am looking to remove randomized stats, as well as making weapons each have a unique three-hit combo. Randomized stats were not as impactful as I would have hoped, and the removal of them is purely because I feel like it would not fit well with the direction the game is moving in.
While I am happy with the product we created, the systems did not mesh as well together as I would have liked. If I were starting from the beginning, I would have make the scope of the systems a bit smaller in order to focus in and have more time to balance and polish the core of the game. For the future we are still working closely as a team and look to polish Pescabearian before it's eventual release on Steam!