Here’s some things I did the month since the last update:
I completed my entry for the js13k2022, TenderGotchi, with great contributions by Ryan Malm on the audio side, and reusing illustrations from last year made by Mateo Robayo. A complete post-mortem post about it will be out soon.
We had a mentoring talk for Colombia’s Women Game Jam 2022 sharing our experience with Muyscamuy. (Spanish)
I am happy to announce we have been selected as recipients of the Global Game Jam X Endless Computers microgrant for Educational & Learning games, to further develop Muyscamuy, our Muisca community life and farming sim!
It’s the XVI Century in the Andes. It has been some years since the strangers from beyond the sea arrived in the lands of the Muisca. Slowly but firmly, the Europeans have risen into power, and the traditions and beliefs of the Muisca fade away as their cultures blend together.
The heritage of the Muisca is at risk of being lost… you must lead a Muisca community, farming maize, making offers to the gods, and crafting sacred gold works in preparation for a great celebration that might serve to keep their traditions alive.
We have already started working on adding more “life” to the game; you will be able to see the villagers moving around performing their duties in the community, we also plan to improve the game visually and add cutscenes for the events!
The new animations will reflect some of what is known about the farming techniques used by the Muisca. The goal for July is to have the complete farming cycle implemented.
A new version of Muyscamuy is released! You can play online at https://slash.itch.io/muyscamuy. Don’t forget to go full-screen using the lower-right corner button!
This is v0.9, the first one after the CHGJ. Here are some of the things we have done!
First off, the most visible change is the Full HD mode, this is something I should have done for the jam version, but mistakenly thought it would go against the accessibility of the web build and make it harder for the jurors to check out the game 🤦 in the end I think it worked in detriment to the experience and perceived production values of the entry. You never stop learning. (then again, this was my first Unity WebGL project so I guess I can be more forgiving with myself)
Second, the game is now multilanguage with a Spanish translation, which means it will now be enjoyable for a much bigger audience (in Colombia mainly)! Using Unity’s localization tool was an interesting experience. Took a bit to set it up but in the end it was worth it to easily push and pull from Google Sheets and keep the strings sync easily with the rest of the team.
There was a lot of Content work beyond (and in constant interaction) with the translation; we did a complete pass over all the game text revisiting it under the lenses of the muisca culture, adding many more words in the muisca language of Bogotá (muysccubun) to the in-game dictionary (accessible via the tooltips in the game events). Great work by Esteban and Manuel.
Also worked on improving the visuals of the game along with David, including a visual for deforested land, building in progress, a building for the depot where the villagers store the food, fixing the placement of the workers in the fields to accommodate to the isometric perspective, adjusting their scale, and displaying them in different jobs. We still want to improve how farms are displayed.
Improving the user experience was another thing we put a lot of work on, making the UI more readable and reorganizing the UI. It’s an ongoing effort. We still haven’t added proper nice visual UI elements to the game.
QuietGecko also put a bunch of work in the audio, adding a lot of UI SFX, improving ambient sounds, splitting SFX in different buses, and doing several mix passes.
I think that’s it for now! there are some things I didn’t manage to include in this version,but we wanted to put it out there (especially because of the HD visuals and the Spanish translation!) for people to enjoy it.
Also, the jurying period for the Cultural Heritage Game Jam is over; we didn’t get our email so it’s likely we didn’t win, but we still our greatest victory was to be able to create this and share with people that really values the muisca culture being represented in this media, for people of all ages and places to be able to learn about it.
The story of Muyscamuy continues, subscribe to the blog and follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss this epic adventure!
This is the third part of a summary of the development of Muyscamuy, our entry for the Cultural Heritage Game Jam 2021. You can play the game online here. Read parts 2 and 1 if you haven’t!
Saturday, November 20, 2021
I integrated the content designed by Esteban (events, onboarding tips, and intro), making the game experience more complete.
Also experimented with a change in the UI to select an area first, before adding or removing people into it. In the end, it was a bit confusing and I decided to remove it. One thing that did make it tho, was automatically returning all workers to the community center when it no longer made sense for them to stay idle somewhere (like when they finished working a farm or building a building.)
Gecko improved the AudioManager and added sounds for events such as adding workers to buildings or farms and depleting a forest.
Finally, worked on adding the tooltips to the conversation window, which involved setting up TextMeshPro, migrating the Text elements, and replicating and adapting some of the logic we have set up for NovaMundi.
I did some calls for testing; initially, we had planned to have something more complete ready to test on the 17, but of course, it didn’t happen. I wonder how realistic these plans can be in a short game jam like this. Still, even at this phase, we got useful feedback regarding the flow of the game and for improvements in the onboarding.
End of the day the game still looked pretty plain and incomplete, but that’s fine because David told us he was working full strength on the visuals, and we still had a couple days…
…or did we?
Sunday, November 21, 2021
Woke up thinking we still had one day and a half day and planning my Monday schedule to work towards completing the game. Alas, I was wrong. A 4am notification at the ggj discord channel warned about the impending deadline. Change of plans I guess… I started working early, we had until 3PM.
I let the team know about this (gecko was already aware). Up to this point, we were still pretty behind on the integration of the new visuals; David was still working on these, and he had to push forward quickly in order for us to make it in time.
I went on to implement a generic component for tooltips backed by a Dictionary and attached it to the components in the Events panel. Also added an “inventory” of the Tunjos you had made already, so the player could know which ones he was missing. Improvements in the onboarding and reintegrated the events data as Esteban continued pushing for it.
I figured out the ending text was still not integrated, ideally, we wanted to have better visuals for it, but time was just too short for that, we’d be lucky if we managed to integrate the basics.
This is when I got a notice from Edwin that he wouldn’t be able to jump into the project. By now that was kind of expected (and I didn’t even tell him we had one less day!) so I removed all the temporary UI and we were left with semitransparent flat color overlays.
Gecko implemented the missing sounds for UI and buildings and mixed the sound a bit.
David was finally able to send the long-awaited updated assets for the world. So it was time to integrate them! There was a lot of back and forth as we set on the best way to put them given the short time left until we finally settled on a way. I added the graphics and altered the scene to match the new layout.
Then I broke the game.
Clicking on the areas no longer worked. The clock was ticking, and stress built up in this fine Sunday I never intended to be working on, it was meant to be a family Sunday.
After much desperation, I found the cause: A single setting when importing the asset to be used as a mask for the click area threshold. Unity strikes again.
Spent some more time doing small UI tweaks, integrating the last changes in the audio made by Gecko, and updating the tooltips dictionary with last-minute additions made by Esteban. Did some final tests where I found the endgame was not being triggered (nice), fixed these, and we were set to submit.
The games were streamed a little bit after the deadline; they used the gameplay video you had to send along with the submission (which I became aware of 30 mins before the deadline, OBS to the rescue) and optionally a team member could talk a bit about the project. I was busy setting up Christmas lights so Esteban had to cover.
We managed to submit a worthy entry, in time, but this would not be the end of the Muyscamuy project.
After the rush of the jam, it was time to think about the future. I wanted to have an HD version of this game, and also take the time to polish and increase the content within it. So we set the plan for it. The whole team was happy with the results and we knew it just needed a little bit more love to really shine.
Another important thing on the list was the translation to Spanish (and possibly other languages in the future); Esteban suggested the use of Unity’s built-in translation system, which we had avoided so far to reduce dependencies, but maybe it was worth trying (especially since he mentioned it has a built-in integration with google sheets, which may reduce a lot of manual work we do currently for NovaMundi hmmm).
Manuel has started sharing the game in his channels (he is well known for his content about Muisca culture), and it has had a great reception (in spite of being English only for now!).
I also took the time to check the jam entries; I found out there were a couple more submissions from Colombian teams including Abya Yala, Oro, Guatika, and Norte de Aventuras. Interestingly, some of these were student projects for which the teacher had set up a matching jam.
So far our jam entry seems pretty solid; other than the fact that you can screw up by building two of the same type of building (you cannot tear them down) thus making the game unwinnable, and some audio bugs, I haven’t been reported anything game-breaking.
I talked with Nookrium, who was in the middle of a “Free Games” month on his channel. He said he had already noticed the game and it looked interesting… maybe he’ll take a look (hopefully by the time the HD version is public!).
I was contacted by Canal Trece; they thought the project was interesting and decided to write an article about it.
I did some progress in the HD version. Damn, this is how we should have shipped it for the jam, it was not a lot of additional work and it’s still completely web-accessible, but it looks 100x cooler.
The team met again for a retrospective. We agreed we need to push forward an improved post-jam version. Some of the top priorities we have on the list:
Increase the use of Muisca language
Improve use of wood as a resource, and add negative effects for destroying the forests
Make the effects of low favor more clear
Show how farms grow every turn.
Add more weather effects and plagues for the farms.
Come up with a fix for the unwinnable situation of building two of the same type of building.
Improve display of resources being used to build or craft.
Improve the underwhelming Game Over and Victory.
I went on to tackle some of these, producing a version with an improved user experience.
I decided to upgrade to Unity 2020.3 so we could use its fancy localization tools. It was not super smooth, but mainly because of a weird bug in Unity that causes issues when updating the dependencies while you have your IDE open. That was hard to catch!
I managed to start working in the localization and even did some tests with Japanese (just for fun). Stumbled against the issue with TextMeshPro requiring some work in order to support non-latin characters. It wasn’t a simple fix so I discarded that for now (we’ll meet again when it’s time to add Japanese)
The thing that pushes and pulls from google sheets works really well, so I guess it was worth going thru the hassle of upgrading. Esteban and Manuel are now able to work in the texts and translations, and the flow to integrate their changes is much quicker.
We keep discussing some ideas to improve the visuals of the food values, including the addition of a new building where you can see it.
Esteban completed the translation to Spanish for the onboarding.
I implemented localization for the events and extracted some of the data (it’s a lot of text!). Esteban said he will continue the work and do the translation to Spanish as well. Gecko worked on improving the audio for the weather effects and a lot of other small details.
I put a new version up on the unofficial website (from the perspective of the jam). We’ll update itch.io with this one once the jurying is over.
The story of Muyscamuy continues, subscribe to the blog and follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss this epic adventure!
This is the second part of a summary of the development of Muyscamuy, our entry for the Cultural Heritage Game Jam 2021. You can play the game online here. Read Part 1 here if you haven’t!
Worked in the “Craft” system, which is really pretty simple (once you’ve built a forge you can select what item you are going to build, and it consumes resources daily towards its completion).
Using input from Manuel, further defined the “favor” system and the actual rituals to be performed at the temple, as well as further establishing the preparation for the “biohote” or ritual celebration, as the victory condition for the game)
Despite still being tangled by his final university exams, Esteban has started writing some events to happen inside the game, with different levels of rarity and choices, and defined as sequences. Gecko has also started his ideation process for the audio.
I started the day doing a livecoding session with the addition of being able to Make Offers in the temple, based on the design made the previous day.
After the stream, I implemented the effects of the rituals (increasing favor and increasing the yield of farms as they are growing if blessed). Also worked in the weather system (or rather, the “Storm” events) and its relationship with Favor and the ritual to stop them.
Added simplified Trading in the town center, where you could exchange resources for the gold you need to build the Tunjos.
Other important additions were a victory and a game-over condition, thus completing a playable game that could be tested. Some initial tests led to balancing some stats including the initial food value, harvesting rate, and forest resources. I released this version for the team to give it a look, receiving some feedback mainly on User Experience, but also some ideas to include “fishing” as an additional source of food (that one didn’t make it either)
I continued improving the UI and added some more placeholder graphics to the scene (forests and buildings) to continue building on the feeling of the game.
One element we were not sure how to integrate was the “Climate Change” part. I researched a little bit and found this article about how global warming is affecting the “páramo” ecosystem (Andes high-mountain tundra). These places also happen to be sacred for the Muisca, so that was a possible angle: I thought we could add an activity where the player could visit these paramos to get important gameplay bonuses, but these would not be available in the “Climate Change Challenge” hardcode mode (which would also feature more harsh storms and climate). Unfortunately, we didn’t end up implementing any of that in the jam version due to lack of time.
This day we also had a feedback meeting arranged by the jam organizers, where the teams could display their progress and get valuable input from experts. There were lots of interesting entries, and for our entry, the experts recommended we thought on 3 possible takeaways people would have after playing the game, what makes the Muisca different from other cultures and why was Maize so important for them; these didn’t have to be big lessons, just small things people would know after playing the game.
The qualities of the other games in the jam are very varied; some of them look pretty basic while others seem to have mid to high production levels. Made me wonder why the jam was not more clear about the assets you could use. I opted for us to only use assets created during the jam timeframe, but it’s clear some other teams made extensive use of acquired assets, which doesn’t seem too fair but was still legal under the rules of the jam.
Esteban and Manuel continued interacting so that the narrative elements we created were spot on with Manuel’s knowledge about the Muisca culture.
Gecko sent his first revision of the ambient / music track, which I believe ended up being used in the game almost with no modifications. It is awesome but what else can you expect from The Gecko.
I implemented a basic “rain on the camera” effect, inspired by a game I saw sometime in the past (I think it was Frostpunk). Also started working in the support for the in-game events that Esteban was writing.
Added support for events, and loaded as game data all the ones that Esteban had created so far (knowing in advance they were bound to change, but needed to make sure we were supporting all that was required).
As Esteban and the team continued working on adding new types of events, I kept updating the engine to support what was needed.
Manuel was finally able to review Gecko’s track and he loved it.
In-between dead “adulting” times, I’ve been reading Jordan Mechner’s fabulous “The Making of Prince of Persia”. Maybe someday this devlog will be similarly interesting. I still haven’t made it to the point where PoP hits success. It’s fun to see his back and forth between glorious 80’s indie gamedev (was he an employee of Broderbund? I gotta check that) and movie making.
Another live development session, this time focusing on the design and implementation of the “onboarding”. I cannot stress how important this is even (and more so) for jam games. I explored and designed it out of the dark, and did a quick implementation.
Set up a Trello board (long time no use Trello!) to coordinate work mostly with Esteban, since both Gecko and David seemed to be knocked out of action by other stuff.
David was finally able to send some more art! I increased the base resolution of the viewport to 960×640 (bigger, but still good for web embed)
I also worked on something I was trying to about so far: being able to define a “mask” for clicking on UI elements in Unity; this is not supported by default and had to wrangle a bit with it (You need to use Image’s alphaHitTestMinimumThreshold, and the texture you use needs to be imported following some parameters). This was needed so you could place isometric areas side by side and for the player to be able to click on one of them even if the enclosing rectangle overlapped another area.
After the streaming, I completed the onboarding, and worked in the Events module to filter out options and events out of reach because you didn’t have the required resources.
Esteban continued working on the narrative as we wondered how abstract it should be, or if we should incorporate a more structured plot. There was a lot of back and forth mainly between him and Manuel, as the events were further polished.
Continued improving the UI, fixing reported bugs, and implementing support for the new effects as they were designed. Also implemented a stunning title screen.
Esteban is working on the intro and ending; we are still deciding if we want it to be addressed to the player (like “This is a game about the Muisca, you are going to learn about them, your mission is to do this…”) or be more of an “in-universe” thing. We chose to favor the second idea.
For the first time, I sent the playable build to a close circle of known testers, to get their feedback and bugs.
Today, Half-Life (1998) is now as old as the first home version of Pong (1975) was when Half-Life came out. As pointed out by idspi.
I didn’t get to work in the game today, but Gecko committed his first changes to the repo, adding basic audio support and some sounds, while Esteban reported the intro and ending were written as well as another revision for the onboarding; he also finished writing a nee sequence of “Negative” effects, based on the interaction with the Spanish and other tribes.
Seeing that we were running out of time and the UI visuals were still lacking, I tried to incorporate an additional artist into the team but the notice was just too short and we failed to onboard any of three different options I had in mind:
Paul Pereda, who did a lot of art for the Expedition project, had a lot of work and couldn’t help.
Mapedorr, fellow gamejammer who was already working in 3 gamejams at the time I contacted him
Edwin Saenz, a graphics designer with whom I worked years ago in the Flash version of ArcherFire, initially was going to participate, but in the end found out he couldn’t make it either.
So I had to take that role myself, which means we ended up with a minimal UI in the end.
Another important development made today regarding the theme and based on discussions with Manuel was how we were going to portray the game on the angle of cultural heritage conservation, since so far what we were doing was displaying some elements of the Muisca culture but not really putting them under the lense of being at risk of disappearing. We decided to highlight the role of the XVI Century catholic church in the persecution of the indigenous practices as one of the factors that contributed to them being almost completely gone. The game then serves as a tool to help that cultural heritage remain in time.
Continue to read Part 3, the grand finale of our journey!
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.