This is a summary of the development of Muyscamuy, our entry for the Cultural Heritage Game Jam 2021. You can play the game online here.
Here’s a sneak peek of the final results, but read on to learn about our adventure!
October 19, 2021
I received an email from the Global Game Jam newsletter announcing the “Cultural Heritage Game Jam”. I don’t have any time for jams, of course. Still, I label the email with a Star and move on with my life.
As I check the “starred” emails, I wonder if maybe it’s worth participating in this jam. I share info about it with the SlashwareKnights ring (cool people that have done projects with Slashware), to see if there’s any interest. David Florez, the lead artist of NovaMundi, gets excited and thinks this is a chance we cannot miss. Some initial ideas included minigames ala WarioWare, as well as something around Muisca crafts like goldsmith, mantle making.
It seems we are going to jump in, so I come up with a name for the team: “Nyiaoque” (grabbed it from NovaMundi’s dialogs created by Manuel, it means “Figure of Gold”).
The jam has officially started, but we are far from jumping full into it.
Juan Carlos “QuietGecko” seems to be interested as well. I met with Manuel to discuss some pending tasks for NovaMundi, but I also pitch him the idea and he was very interested, a potential ideal would be making a game around the tradition of the “chicha”, a traditional fermented corn beverage whose preparation could be traced back to the Muisca. It seems we have a team.
The team meets. Initially, I had the idea of leaning more into the educational and narrative aspects, but David thinks we should shoot for a game with deeper mechanics and gameplay. We decide to go for a strategy/simulation/tycoon game where you lead a Muisca community toward a still unclear objective. All we know for starters is it’s going to have some farming, building, and crafting elements, that we want to teach about the Muisca culture and language, and that we will stick to a single screen map with mouse interaction, for desktop.
Deciding what technology to use for the game. Based on the constraints we set, the short time of the jam, and the technologies I’m more familiar with, I considered JS + phaser2 (very familiar with it) or phaser3 (gotta do a project using p3 someday), or Unity (which I had used to create the board game prototype for Expedition, a lot of past 2D client work, and NovaMundi of course).
Another thing to consider was accessibility; since this is a jam I believe it’s always important to put as few barriers as possible for both the jurors and the players, so browser-playable was a must. My experience with Unity’s WebGL player was limited, but I figured if I kept the game simple, it should work fine (I recall I’ve seen people try to use it for huge games over 200MB).
I decided to go for Unity, and it was only 4 minutes into dev that I had to do my first StackOverflow lookup. Hit a wall with the rendering order of things in Unity2D, since it is decided by default by camera distance instead of the order of the components in the hierarchy, which was quite a shocker at first but then made total sense.
I ended up using a complete Canvas/UI-based approach, which worked perfectly well being similar to the scene hierarchies in phaser or DOM; since we were not using cameras or any kind of movement, this was a good fit.
On this first day of development, I added areas where you could put people, and the foundations of the day-based simulation system with the effects in farming, lumbering, food consumption, as well as a simple construction system consuming wood. Most of what the core of the game was going to be in the end, was set from the first day.
I also talked about the jam with Esteban Martinez, a narrative designer who will be joining Slashware next year, he said he was interested to join but was unsure how much time he could invest due to his final university exams.
Captain Toonhead, a VR game created by Colombian company Teravision games, was out today.
Another team meeting! Esteban joined for the first time and we continued polishing the ideas for the interactions to be had in the game and the way we were going to handle the narrative aspects. We also reviewed some references for graphics and gameplay.
Following Manuel’s suggestions, Esteban read a transcription made by Clara Inés Casilimas and Eduardo Londoño, of a procedural document (see what I did there) done for a Spanish trial against the Muisca chieftain of Ubaque. “[…] a key item which shows the Muiscas adopting another culture, religious repression, and the forming of a new identity in what is today the centre of Colombia“.
From there, he extracted some ideas for the setting, the types of events that could happen through the development of the game, some possible ways the “religion” system could work, and the final goal of the game being the preparation of a great celebration.
We briefly discussed the idea of having continuous instead of day-based simulation, but that would have been a costly experiment and may set more expectations from the players of seeing animations and more “real-time life” in the portrayal of the world.
David sent the first assets for the phases of the maize farms, which were promptly integrated. I also changed the test background to something closer to the perspective and appearance I visualized for the final game, so that communication with David could be easier and the team could get a better idea of where we were heading.
I also added the “area inspector” bar, uncluttering the map so that the info of a given area was displayed on the bar instead of all around the HUD, and did a lot of UI tweaking.
Continue to read Part #2 of our journey!