a screenshot taken at 3:37 in the morning: the game's in real-time!
Our little team of developers consists of buddies from very different horizons. Alexandre comes from a movie background, currently working on a short film; Felix is an illustrator usually doing a lot of screenprinting, and Martin is an audio-artist and makes computer music with his band Salut C'est Cool. Florian is actually the only one who made narrative-focused games before the challenge. All we knew was that we wanted to make something together, having similar cultural references and what not. We decided to take the 7DFPS challenge as an opportunity to see how we would work together and what kind of stuff we would be able to come up with in 7 days.
The first challenge was to find an idea we all agreed upon. We wanted to do a game that forces the player to focus on its surroundings, since most of us were more comfortable with visual work. We wanted the player to have a clear and simple goal that is easily understandable, yet somewhat challenging to reach, without the challenge taking too much of the player's "processing power". We wanted to keep people engaged while getting them to focus on the act of contemplating their surroundings. And somehow, we thought of using public transportation. This allowed us to give the player a clear goal (going home), make their ability to achieve this somewhat of a challenge (learn to read the timetable & be there on time), while allowing some down time to walk around and check out the environment and story stuff.
Alright, so we were set, ready to start working. We all have different and complementary abilities, Felix worked on developing the 2D assets, designed the characters (we could make a pocket monster game with all the characters he came up with) and made some concept art. Martin worked on the music for the trainstations based off of very vague descriptions, in between concerts. Alexandre has some 3D modeling background and worked on the stations, though for rendering purposes, so some quick adapting to making assets for interactive media had to be done. He also worked on the narrative aspect of the game, writing all the text and (in the end unused) dialogue for characters. Florian did the scripting, helped out making the 3D assets and worked on the general feel of the "switching trains as narrative interaction" thing.
We hit some hurdles mainly because of the learning curve, as most of us have not worked for interactive content before. The integration of 2D art was also a little bump in the road, as it's not easy to get it to look right. We thought of fixing the camera rotation like is done in older-school FPSes like Doom, to allow for a correct angle of the characters from any player-controlled angle. We dismissed that idea in the end because we kinda play with verticality in some scenes (even more so during development).
We also worked on characters a lot. About 80% was sadly left out at the end of the jam version, because of the 7 day constraint. The characters are inspired by Yokai, japanese ghosts or metaphors of objects and events. We wanted to enable the player to interact with them, having them talk to you and stuff. There also was an idea for an in-game camera, so you could take pictures of the characters and have ghosts appear on the final pictures. These pictures were simply screen-grabs that'd be saved to the player's desktop in a folder bearing the game's name. In the end, we were not able to implement most of the characters, and the camera was nearly done but we decided against it as it would lose its meaning if the stations were as empty as they now are.
A collection of 2D assets, a whole lot of which we didn't have time to integrate for the challenge
Despite the fact that we barely touched upon all the ideas we wanted to put in this game, we're glad with what we have ended up with. The game's been talked about rather positively, and the people who are interested in this type of experience seem to understand that it's a game about "waiting" in order to make a game about "contemplating". We really think this game might become something interesting if we work a little more on it, and so we will. We wish to turn this more into an exploration and adventure game, and are now preoccupied with pacing and getting the story right. We'll probably redo the scenes seen in the current version of the game, and have learned for choices we made during the jam. We hope to work on it in February, as we'll all have some more time then.
Thanks for playing the game if you have, here's the link to it
if you haven't yet ;)