Week#1: Imagining Imaginarius: How Three College Students Made A Puzzle Video Game In Two Days

This week was a pretty satisfying one, mainly because of four reasons:

  1. First Game Jam: Participated in a 48-hour international game jam for the first time.
  2. Game Designer Role: Focused on game design tasks (mechanics, story, levels, direction, etc) in a 3-person game dev team, along with minor coding.
  3. Puzzle Genre: Tried my hand at the puzzle genre as a game designer.
  4. Implicit Story-Telling: Managed to deliver a story implicitly through the game’s mechanics and levels.

Being a fan of the puzzle game masterpieces Braid and Portal, I have always wanted to try my hand at crafting puzzles in a video game. Always have I wondered how these designers developed such genius but fair puzzles, and just this weekend, I (as the game designer), together with my friends Krisha (as the programmer) and May Ann (as the artist), managed to develop a puzzle video game in two days.

Braid, a puzzle platformer masterpiece by Jonathan Braid.

The Concept:

The theme was “All Things TheMeatly: Life of a Game Developer“. We were expected to create a game that somehow encapsulates the life of a game developer: its struggles and its satisfactions. I came up with Imaginarius, a puzzle platformer game about the fate and struggles of a creative boy named Imaginarius.
My idea was to develop a game that implicitly tells the story of a young game developer and his burning passion and determination to excel in the field of game development, along with its struggles and the realities of life.
Imaginarius, being a creative boy, is torn between the demands of the reality of life and his creative calling.

To represent this, I came up with a core game mechanic of the player being able to switch and interact between two separate dimensions located at the same space: the real world and the imagination world.

Real World
Real World
Imagination World
Imagination World

Imaginarius will have to switch between the two worlds in order to progress, collect motivation, and proceed to his fate, and in order to do so, he has to overcome every struggles and the puzzles of both his life and his imagination that he has to solve.

The Development in Two Days:

Having only two days of development, we managed to accomplish a few things on the first day namely the following:

  • Game and level design mockup prototype
  • Character, background, and sound assets
  • Getting the engine and core mechanic working

Being the game designer in the group, I did mockup prototypes of the level design that I came up with and made our artist the group’s faithful earliest playtester.

A mockup prototype of Chapter 2 made in Photoshop
A mockup prototype of Chapter 2

On the second day, we finalized and finished what we can in the game:

  • Implementation of the levels to the engine
  • Polished the engine
  • Implementation of sound and art assets
  • Additional visual effects and animation
Our programmer dishing out some Actionscript codes for the engine
Krisha dishing out some Actionscript3 codes for the engine
May Ann creating the artful background designs and character animations.

Overall, What Went Well:

  • Finished the Game’s Scope. I made sure the game’s design was grounded on the reality that we have to develop the game within 2 days only.
  • Core Mechanic. I am satisfied with how the core mechanic (dimension switching) worked. I find it interesting what more things can be done with it.
  • Satisfyingly Paced Level Design. Although the game is short and the level design is a bit cramped with just five levels, I am satisfied with the pacing of the difficulty curve
  • Sound Design. I received good feedback with the direction of the sound design. The initial plan was to have a unique soundtrack for each level, but time did not permit me. Anyway, the direction I decided to take is satisfying.
  • Implicit Story-Telling. I planned to deliver the story without cutscenes and narration for a more streamlined and smooth game experience. And with level design, the core mechanic, and the deliberately designed graphics by our artist (wall scribbles), we did it.

What Didn’t Went Well:

  • Bugs: We didn’t have enough time to fix all of the bugs.
  • Lack of Proper Ending: I am somewhat dissatisfied of how the game ended. I think the delivery of the story of the game could be better.
  • Lack of Levels: Being new at the puzzle genre, I had some difficulty coming up with more fresh ideas for more levels.
  • Lack of Polish: Again, lack of time.
Team Imaginarius from left to right: Me (game designer), May Ann (artist), Krisha (programmer)

Overall, it was a very satisfying experience as my first game jam, first experience as a game designer in a team, and first time at the puzzle genre.

Why won’t you try our game and tell us what you think with we’ve made within 48 hours? Play the game on your browser in the link below:

Click Here to Play Imaginarius!

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