Houdini Game Jam 2020 (itch.io)

How to do a Game Jam in a (maybe) not too efficient, but interesting way :)

Here is the one week long Houdini Game Jam. We have participated in several Game Jams already, but all of them was 2-2.5 day long and looking back from now, we did a lot in those relatively short periods. From this perspective, one week is a very long time.

Unfortunately, right now we don’t have the whole week because we have a lot of other work to do, but we also don’t want to miss this one out, so we made a rule for ourselves:

We won’t allocate more time for this project than two days.

On the 14th of August, the theme of the Game Jam was announced: Don’t Panic. We had a 2-3 hours brainstorming chat on Teams about it, but we didn’t come up with a good idea, so we froze the topic that day. The one thing that we agreed, that if we can’t find a game idea which all of us like, then we just start something in Houdini and we will see what turns out.

On Monday the 17th of August most of the team was in one place. The second wave of brainstorming had started, this isn’t easy when a part of the team is not there. We decided to create a split-screen multiplayer, so we ended up with two game ideas:

An infinite runner where the two-player running on an evermoving platform full of obstacles and it’s sometimes separates to two ways. Every way has a character-specific barrier so the players must choose the right way. Also, sometimes character-specific things appear, which scare the player’s character. In this case, the character starts to panic and we cover it’s part of the screen with something, so the player can navigate only on the other player’s screen, forcing them to stick together, because any player falls, the game ends.

houdini game plan

Have to start somewhere

The second one is taking place in a maze, where the players have to cooperate to escape, but they only see a portion of the maze around them, and the maze contains a lot of traps and "enemies". The enemies are scaring the player's characters, which makes them panic and they are not controllable for a short period.

We decided to go with the maze game. At this time, we had a half of a day gone, so we needed to speed things a little up. As we want a nice casual game, we bought a pack of animated animal characters as the playable characters and we create the level props to match their style.

The pre-almost working menu :)

Finally, we started creating something. One of us creating the maze in Houdini, one importing the models (unfortunately the models with the different animations had different hierarchies, so this process was burned way too much time than we thought) and the menu, and one started to implement some code.

At the end of the day, we had a nice working maze pattern almost filled with props, almost working animated characters, and some code for the levels “fog of war” effects, teleports, doors to open, character controlling, and handling of multiple players.

Now we're getting somewhere

Tuesday, unfortunately, is off due to other things to do, but on the next day, we continue the development.

What can go wrong, will go wrong…

Sometimes things don't go to where they should. Or at least where we want them to go. Unfortunately, that is what happened to us.

I wrote about struggling with the animation. That took about 6-8 hours of work to one of us. We had several issues with Houdini also (I don't want to blame them, these bad stuff just happens, no matter what).

Animation web

Alpha state character selection

characeter selection menu

Character selection concept

The really big mistake that we have been made, that we ask for the Houdini license key too late, but we started working with it, and when we activated the given license, Unity rejects the Houdini files because you can't use uncommercial files with the Indie license. The files are compromised, and we needed to recreate them from scratch.

On top of that, we couldn't make Houdini working with Unity. Sometimes sh!t happens. What worked, now don’t. We used Houdini with Unity in the past several times, recently on the Global Game Jam 2020, but now things just didn’t appear in Unity when they should and we couldn’t find out why. This was all on us. We have not tried things out before the event, because we were so confident.

In the end, we had a little game with an in-Unity dummy level working, but without the Houdini created maze, we couldn't participate in the event. A lot of gameplay elements wasn't implemented, because these have a dependency on the output of Houdini, so I can't represent them to you, but this little demo with the dummy level and some concept images:

level blocks

Level blocks

level concept

Alpha level

The blue blocks are teleports that teleport the player to a random another teleport (in the video there are too many of them for testing purposes), and the red ones are the triggers of the brown gate. When the two players stand on each one, the gate will open.

Pre-gameplay with dummy level