The Making of Muyscamuy – Part 2

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!

November 14

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.

November 15

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.

November 16

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.

November 17

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.

November 18

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.

November 19

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.

That’s it for now, subscribe to the blog and follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss Part #3, the grand finale of our journey!

The Making of “Muyscamuy” – Part 1

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.

November 5

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.

November 6

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.

November 8

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.

November 9

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).

November 11

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.

November 12

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.

November 13

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!