The January 2016 Lisp Game Jam officially started earlier tonight. I haven’t participated in a game jam for several years, and I’m excited. Game jams are exciting (and stressful) in general, but I’m also excited because this is my first jam using a Lisp dialect, plus it is an opportunity to use the CHICKEN Scheme bindings to SDL2 and related libraries, which I have been working on for the past several months. (I’m also excited because at least two other people are planning on using my bindings for the jam, which is a nice feeling.)
This game jam does not have a prescribed theme, so I’m free to make any game. I’ve been pondering for weeks about what kind of game I might make for the jam. My goal is to produce another example game for the bindings, so I want the result to be clearly organized, well documented, and to demonstrate the capabilities of the bindings. In particular, I want to try to push the boundaries of performance. My previous game library project, Rubygame, struggled with raw performance, partly because of the performance limitations of Ruby in those days, and partly because I didn’t put much effort into optimization. So, I’m keen to see what I can achieve with CHICKEN Scheme and these bindings.
Thinking about what type of game I’d like to make for the jam, I had two main ideas: a scrolling space shooter à la Tyrian, or a platformer à la Mario Bros. I also briefly considered a Harvest Moon-like RPG, but decided I wouldn’t be able to make it fun in 7 days, and the laid-back gameplay style wouldn’t push any performance boundaries.
Between the space shooter and the platformer, the space shooter would be a more interesting example, because I could try to achieve solid performance while having hundreds of bullets and ships on screen at the same time, and it could use the function bindings I recently added for 2D accelerated rendering. But, those bindings aren’t actually released yet (they are scheduled for version 0.2), so it wouldn’t be as easy for people to install the bindings and play the game. So, I am going to make the platformer game for this jam, and then make the space shooter at some later date.
This game jam allows us to use preexisting free assets (images, sound, music), so to make things easy for myself I am going to use a lot of assets from the Kenney Game Assets pack. (You have to donate money to get the assets from the official store, but they are licensed CC0 public domain, so no doubt they are available somewhere for free.)
In terms of gameplay, I’m thinking the game will be a rowdy local multiplayer game, where players compete to collect the most treasure, like the old Super Mario Bros. Battle Mode. At the most basic level, it could just be treasure periodically appearing at random places on the level, and the players scrambling to reach it first, with no real interaction between players. If I have time, I could add various ways for the players to interact and interfere with each other: bouncing and bumping into each other, triggering traps, throwing items, etc.
This game design is simple and flexible enough that I’m confident I’ll be able to complete something fun during the game, especially since we have 7 days. I will probably try to include 2 or 3 built-in levels, and have a simple text-based file format so that people could create their own levels.