Technology, Culture, and Creativity

Game Jam: Afro-Futurism

Introduction

In July 2023, while working on the Disney Iwájú: Rising Chef game, Maliyo hosted a summer game jam. Although I had a lot on my plate, I saw this as an opportunity to do something “new”.

Tools

Figma
Unity

Role

Design, Dev (Solo)

Organization

Maliyo Games

Date

24th July – 31st July 2023

Game-jam Theme

AFROFUTURISM: Create games that explore futuristic African settings, incorporating elements of technology, culture, and creativity.

Outline and Analyse

I started by analyzing the game jam theme and description. Then I made a list of the process I wanted to follow – that way I would be organized and focused-ish.

Story and Design

Whenever I have ideas and I find myself struggling to write them down in full sentences, sometimes, I write in bullet points. And when I’m done, I rearrange the points – ensuring the idea flows from start to end. The idea/story for my game:

# It takes place in a futuristic Nigeria (sticking to the theme)
# The protagonist is dropped off at an abandoned train station
# The mission? Retrieve a stolen relic
# The enemies? Patrolling bots at different points
# Other enemy objects? Drones, blades, spikes…
# The twist? Coms were intercepted, and you helped the bad guys
# The end!

With the story done, I made a list of game genres.

Since I hadn’t worked in Unity for a while, I wanted something simple, something I could implement given the time frame. I decide to go with a platformer *side-eyes*. Then I made notes of some of the things I’d like.

I didn’t think I’d have enough time to implement it all – I just needed a list to keep me on track.

Simple Flow

With the story done and the genre picked, I mapped out the level, indicating where the robots are, and where the relic is. I wanted to keep the game simple so I just designed one level – as this is a game jam.

I made changes to this wireframe, especially the floating city part. I just couldn’t come up with a good enough (visual) design for it. I also did not have enough time to design the level better.

Visual Inspiration

Next, I gathered visual inspiration – similar games, colors, font choices, and vector art.

Then I started to design individual pieces from the wireframe – train, holographic computer, and platforms. I added some text on the trains to give a sense of “revolution and protests” – people being tired of the government. For the patterns on the buildings and floating platforms, I drew inspiration from circuit boards and African print patterns.

For the relic, I grabbed a free image from Clip Art Library

Character and Enemy Assets

Next, I needed assets and this proved to be a challenge. Finding the assets I wanted was hard and fighting with the perfection in me was harder. This cost me at the end and I will explain later.

Next, I gathered different assets for the robots. I did face a small challenge – being that the robots are suitable for pixel art and my main character has a different art style. I wondered if it would make sense to combine both but hey, it’s a game jam.

Pre-development stage

Before building the game, I spent a couple of hours *cough* days *cough* practicing on YouTube – watching crash courses and full game tutorials – just to help me remember.

Development – stage one

My plan was simple, develop the bare-bones version first. Make sure everything works – attack, jump, run, shoot, etc and then implement the art assets. I usually do the testing and building in a scene I call “playground”.

But I had a small problem at this stage – my character’s center point would shift when they attack. After troubleshooting in Unity forums, I discovered it had to do with the pivot points. While fixing the issue, I decided to find a new character mainly because I felt the initial character I picked did not fit the idea I had in my head.

After a long search, I found “Anime Hero 2” on itch.io designed by PushPlayArt. It fits the game theme better. I updated the character assets and animations.

I tested this new character in my playground scene; it looked better, and I did not have issues with the pivot.

Playground scene. I use primitives to represent different objects in the game.

Development – stage two

Time to implement the assets. I prepped everything and exported it to Unity. Now here comes the bad news.

Chaos

Remember when I said taking too long to find an asset cost me? Well, this is where I explain why. I had underestimated how long implementation would take. Normally, this should take me a couple of hours BUT I haven’t worked in Unity in a long time so I was a bit rusty – not a bit, I was rusty!

When I made the build, I had to update different modules and after installing the APK on my phone, I had a blank screen.

Everything had been going fine and suddenly – wahala upon wahala.

The game was 70% done but “Miss Perfection i.e. me ” will not submit anything that doesn’t meet her expectations. I sipped cold water and decided not to submit.

The Silver Lining

Anyone who knows me knows that I do not stop until it is finished but this time, I had to force myself to let go. I hadn’t slept all weekend and my mother started to worry. But this is the beautiful part, I had so much fun – designing, coding, and coming up with ideas. I missed this – the excitement of creating something. Turning an idea into reality. Making objects move. Writing code.

Even in my sleep, I was building the game. I loved that feeling – a feeling that had been lost for many months. For a while now, I became bored and wondered if I was doing the right thing with my career. I love making games but suddenly I lost that passion – that drive. After this game jam, I realized that I should have never stopped coding.

I don’t think I was meant to submit, I feel God wanted to show me that I had missed my way. I needed a redirection and this was it. I view the world differently and I have to make peace with the fact that my chosen path may not be conventional and that’s okay

Next Steps

Go back to the drawing board – become better at designing and building games.

Light Bulb Moment

There is a contradiction between the story/location and the character in terms of skin tone. I could easily get another character but I had to ask myself “Can I build the game idea around this character?”. Perhaps I could give myself a challenge and at that moment, I remembered one of my favorite series on Netflix – Altered Carbon. The main character could be using the only sleeve available. I scribbled down my new ideas.

Next, I needed a working title for the game. I decided to go with “Corrupted” for these reasons:

## Corruption at the agency hence the intercepted coms
## Computer systems corrupted
## A broken and fragmented mind
## ……thinking…..

This is the start of my next game. Wish me luck ♥️

Fin

Thank you for reading 🙂

Credits

Robots – CraftPix.net
Main Character – Anime Hero by PushPlayArt
Relic – African Mask Drawing from ClipArtLibrary
Game Engine – Unity
Design Tool for Game art, UI, and Wireframes – Figma
Initial Character – Swordsman by Overcrafted

LevelUP: Gamified Learning - 1 of 2
Archives and Collections