Teaching 2 highschool students the ins and outs of game development during a 2 day game jamTell me more
Early 2023 I was approached by a friend of mine, a highschool teacher. He told me about 2 of his students who were very passionate for game design and asked me if I could show them the ropes. After one successful session, the boys wanted more, so we planned to meet up another time, for 2 whole days this time. The goal was to make an entire game in this short time frame. This was especially challenging since the boys were both 14 and unexperienced with game design principles or programs such as Unity.
Although I had prepared for the session a bit, my plan was to let the boys guide the creative process mostly, so that we could create the game that they wanted to make. The boys pitched a fighting game idea, similar to Mortal Kombat. We then brainstormed about potential player characters, arenas, and mechanics. I tought the boys a few core principles of game design, such as that each combat move should be divided into 3 distinct parts: a tell, the execution, and the follow through, and that each available move should have a valid counter, such that there is no one dominant strategy.
The main challenge here was not to become too ambitious, since 2 days is a very, very short time to create a full game from scratch. Especially for less experienced developers. My method for containing the ambition was a MoSCoW analysis. We categorized all of the ideas we came up with during the brainstorm session into ‘Must haves’, ‘Should haves’, ‘Could haves’, and ‘Won’t haves’. ‘Must haves’ include things such as “at least 1 playable character” and “a health system”. ‘Should haves’ include “2 playable characters”, “audio”, and “a coherent artstyle”. ‘Could haves’ include “multiple different arenas” and “dynamic environmental hazards”. And lastly, the ‘Won’t haves’ include things such as “2+ playable characters”, “in-game currency and upgrades”, and “finisher moves”. In the end, the game took the form of a local, multiplayer combat game in which 2 players fight each other using 3 distinct moves. The moveset follows a rock-paper-scissors type of design, such that each move has a fair counter, and is the counter to a different move itself. Each move has (roughly) the same reach, takes the same time to execute, and does the same amount of damage. The different moves are a jumping attack, a high punch, and a low attack. The jumping attack counters the low attack, the high punch counters the jumping attack, and the low attack counters the high punch.
The game has 2 playable characters, since both of the boys made one. First, there is the engineer. This character is based on the engineer from Factorio. The engineer wears a yellow armored space suit and a mask. His moves reflect his character and often involve using technology. Although his high punch is a simple punch, the flying attack involves lifting off the ground using a jetpack and then blasting fire at his opponent. The low attack animation sees the engineer creating a sentry gun and placing it on the ground in front of his opponent. Upon victory, the engineer even lifts a screwdriver and wrench in the air in celebration. The second player character is the hitman, who is based off of Agent 47 from the Hitman series. The hitman is a calm and collected character in a black suit. His moves include a jumping kick, a high punch, and a drop kick. Upon victory, the hitman pulls out his iconic silver twin pistols and fires them in the air in celebration.
These playable characters were drawn by the boys themselves using PiskelApp. The boys also made the arena themselves, but with a tileset from the asset store. Most of the programming was my work, since coding was still a bit challenging at the time. Overall, it is a surprisingly enjoyable game, especially given the short time available for development. In just 12 hours, the boys created a fully playable game, which is something they can be very proud of. After the game jam was over, I send the boys the files and I’ve been told that they’re still working on it, creating new arenas and playable characters.
Unfortunately, I do not have any gameplay footage, since the videos that I took contain the boys as well. However, the game is still available for download via the button below.Play the game