Let’s say that you attend a game jam and a theme is selected, and the theme is… I don’t know… “Portals”, for example. So, what do you do? What game do you make?
Some people draw inspiration from games they like. Games that they have played, or that are more or less popular, and they make something related. If the reference game is, for example, a puzzle first person shooter, they somehow get influenced by that and make a 2d puzzle platform shooter. And they borrow several of the game mechanics and take them for granted, implementing them moreless unaltered. Or they try to mix that with another game, “It’s X but with Y”. Or even a third option is to subvert some trope of the original game, make the player play the role of the enemy, or one NPC, or make him the hero and force him to behave as a villain, or remake the game without graphics, or play around with some rule of the game, like inverting gravity or the temporal sequence of events… But, true enough, the fact that some game comes to their mind instantly when they hear the theme is a huge influence.
Other people might seek for inspiration outside of the realm of games. Think about own experiences, or movies they have seen, or books they have read. In shintoism, a Japanese religion, the Torii are the portals to the realm of the spirits. Berlin has a famous landmark which looks like a portal for enering the city. The standing stones of Stonehenge look like ancient portals for the sun to pass through, even if that wasn’t the actual use of that monument. Or they take the theme in a more metaphorical way. For example, portals to the dream world. Or a game about taking the entry exam for a university, or about being a bouncer at a club, taking even more liberal interpretations of the word “portal”. This approach frees you from the constraints of known videogame genres, it tends to produce less “game-y” games and allows for more creative approaches to the subject.
Or sometimes you bring a couple of ideas for games that you already thought before the jam, and take the opportunity to implement them, more or less bending the meanings of words to adjust to the ideas you had in mind. All of these are valid approaches.
Game-o-matic is a random game generator. You enter some basic concepts and relations between them, press a button, and the thing generates a flash game for you. If you don’t like the result, you just press the button again and a variation is generated. It’s a curious tool that lets you do any game you want without requiring any programming or designing skills. At least in theory, because it’s actually pretty hard to guess what will come out of it once you press the button. Sometimes the games are unplayable (they kill you in a few seconds, or the goal is unreachable because of some problem with the way the elements interact with each other in that iteration), but once in a while a fun game comes out of it.
I entered the concept “A game where a plumber collects coins, saves the princess, kills turtles and eats mushrooms“. What game would you make if that was the theme of a game jam? What ideas come to your mind?
I generated eight different mini-games with this concept and slapped them together in a website. Eight different interpretations of the theme. Enjoy.
- The game (Flash, runs in your browser)
Note: I actually wanted the plumber to stomp on turtles, but the verb “stomp” was not available, thus “kill” was used instead.