Features: A branching story with NPCs, multiple endings
- Project started on: January 20, 2017
- Project completed on: January 22nd 2017
- Approximate time spent on project: 28 hours (Multiplied by four people)
Home Frequency is my second 'real' GameJam project where I went somewhere to physically work on a game for two days straight. This time, our team was already pre-made, composed mainly of coworkers from my day job. The feeling of not having to generate assets myself was as amazing as it was on my first game jam, since artists can truly bring the best out of a project really quickly, and we were pretty lucky with the direction we took as well.
It's easy to explain Home Frequency; It's a classical adventure game where you wake up in a weird mansion and need to escape. The theme of the game jam was 'Waves', so we focused on 'Radio Waves' and brought in a radio that you could use at will to scan frequencies and try to communicate with NPCs to solve puzzles. The player needed to complete certain things in a specific order to unlock the next step and figure out the truth.
About The Game
Waking up in a mysterious mansion, the unnamed protagonist is confronted by four locks surrounding a massive door and a radio lays next to him. Picking up the radio, the player finds a mysterious person tied up somewhere in the mansion calling them for help. After multiple puzzles solved, the player meets up three NPCs on the radio - and finds evidence that there was someone else there.
There are three basic puzzles to solve; Finding codes through the mansion and entering them in the right order, a library puzzle where you need to swap books around to find the right order and a frequency scanning minigame where you need to follow a signal with your radio. There are plenty of situations where the player needs to use the radio to discuss with NPCs to advance in the story and figure out the real truth behind the game. At least, that was our plan!
The jam started at 6 on friday and the theme 'Waves' was revealed. We went through multiple ideas and we oscillated between a wario-ware like minigame compilation, a card/board game with vague mechanics (vague means wave in french) and this adventure game with the use of a radio. We took a risk and decided to make the adventure game, which would mean a lot of focus on narrative concepts and puzzle design. Immediately, one of us - although he was there as a programmer - started writing the storyboard and dialogue for the game, another programmer went to work on creating avatar movement and rooms and I worked on implementing NPC dialogue systems, things like that. We also had tremendous 2D art from the artist on our team and it really tied up the game together.
On day two, we figured that it was a bit difficult to properly assign work to programmers since the game was pretty much one big scene with little opportunities to split work between multiple people. I think that we went about it pretty well and managed to divide integrating interactions and core game progress - which I did - and specific mechanics. The game designer kept generating more story and fixed issues we had figured out the day before. He also did a kick-ass snail. I kept integrating the story, but the amount of work was quite high. The dialogue system I had figured out for this wasn't really flexible and it was cobbled up together, so I feared that it would collapse on itself at the end of the second day.
On the third day, things went smoothly, we figured what was left to do, and there was hope to complete the game before the deadline. We managed to cram the whole story in there and fix a few things where it wasn't super obvious what the player needed to do to finally beat the thing and we fixed bugs as fast as we found them. It was a bit of a weak spot in our plan; We barely tested anything before the third day, and there were issues born of miscommunication or programming mishaps that we couldn't fix. Some of them were even game breaking!
It still was a pretty great thing, looking at people playing it was a bit rough, but in the end, making a story-based experience like Home Frequency wasn't going to be smooth sailing without plenty of playtesting and polish, two things that come at an extreme time premium during game jams. I'm super happy with the result, even tho I feel bummed out by each and every programming error I've made!