As Global Game Jam 2021 rolled around, a group from work decided to put a team together. We iterated on ideas around lost and found and the team gravitated towards doing a pirate treasure game. The initial concept ended up being very close to what we shipped. Four players on an island, discovering pieces of a map revealing where the treasure was that they would then have to dig up.

I started on the initial game logic and hard coded a map using tiles. Stepan was keen to try out map generation so got stuck into writing the algorithm. Griff was having his first go at game development and learning how to make sprites. The first one off the production line was the pirate's three frame walk.

On Saturday we had the map generation in along with walking around. The generation is based off Perlin Noise and makes a nice range of islands that are all generally the same shape. To collect map pieces, we added destructible barrels and crates. We also added rocks to force you to move around a bit more. The rocks lead to a number of problems of getting stuck in between them and potentially locking you off from the treasure. Making a whole tile impassible also didn't feel good. We were iterating on them a bit until we came up with just making you walk slower when you were on a rock. This achieved the goal of making moving around the map more interesting and was much easier to implement than all the previous edge cases. Sometimes the corner cutting solution ends up being better for the game.

By Saturday evening there was a bit of a revolt against the game engine choice. "99% trying to figure out Phaser, 1% productivity". At least some of this was people getting used to the engine and they had a better opinion of it by the end. To actually find the treasure we needed to dig it up. Originally this was going to be a specific key but just digging when you stood still on a tile ended up being simpler. The map pieces showed you a selection of the tiles around the treasure, with more being revealed as you broke more barrels. There is enough variation in the rocks and terrain that you can match up where it is, while still having a few options to dig while you have incomplete information.

Once we had getting the treasure it was a bit of an anticlimactic end as you usually weren't looking at what the other players were doing so it just suddenly ended. To give it an intense end we made it so you had to carry the treasure to a waiting boat. The other players could run into you which stunned you and gave you the treasure. This second mode made it much more exciting ending. The audio of the game was a team effort. I sung a variation of 'The Wellerman' to give some story at the beginning and end. John took the tracks and made the final mix as well as getting sound effects for the digging and breaking barrels. Leon wrote the music for the core gameplay to give it that piratey feel. The end of the jam was a rush to get the remaining pieces in and fix issues that were cropping up as we squeezed in the final features. We managed to get screen scaling and game pad support for players 3 and 4 in right at the end.

Having a multiplayer game was great for showing people and the random map gives it a nice amount of replayability. Unfortunately we didn't spend quite enough time on the UI so it is not clear how the map and treasure work until you get the hang of it. Overall everyone was pretty happy where we landed with it and it is quite a cool package.

Lessons Learnt

A team of programmers has quite a different feel.
Local multiplayer is fun!
Random elements increase the replayability.