MagpieFriday, 10th March 2023 ◆ Starts to recycling writing fluid and Parisian bauble (7) 7DRL Game jams
Magpie is my submission to 7DRL 2023. As appears to be my habit for this jam, it's another Broughlike. You play as a trinket-loving Magpie, navigating a garden full of worms... and various scary predators!
For the last two years in which I've participated in 7DRL I've taken a week off work, spending several days working flat-out, finishing only in the nick of time. This year, I didn't want to spend the annual leave, so I decided to work on the game only during evenings and the weekend. This was a mistake: no longer being able to rely on the energy of youth, I am completely exhausted.
Using the same Broughlike template which was the basis of the previous two jams was how I managed to make a game with this severely limited time budget. The core of the game is really simple, so, unlike with Mosaic, I didn't need to make many changes to achieve what I wanted.
The idea of the game is a seed which I'd been incubating since the previous year, and was originally going to be called 四壁 (Four Walls). The trinkets were going to be embedded in the walls of the dungeon, and when you moved, you would activate the trinket in the wall you moved towards. Having the trinkets also sub-in for your health bar came in the week before the jam, and I think it ties everything together nicely.
- Movement is interesting. I like that positioning is important for taking damage, picking up coins and attacking. It makes even mundane tasks (like picking up coins in an empty room) a fun puzzle.
- The respite room. Despite its simplicity, I think it creates a really exciting moment for the player. No enemies nor walls, and the first contact with a gold coin...
- No weapons. I find this quite wholesome, and I think it's much cuter to be holding a pencil and a marble, than a sword and a crossbow.
- Trinket art. Despite not having any artistic skills, I'm actually really happy with the look of the trinkets. A major discovery was that adding black edging makes the icons look a lot cleaner.
- Messy first impression. On first load, you are presented with so many icons and symbols that it's overwhelming. Although I like allowing a player to learn the unknown, ideally a game should present simply, but grow in complexity as you play.
- Confusing trinket activation. I will definitely get people thinking there are bugs with trinkets activating (or not) unexpectedly. Firstly, it's not easy to match the targeting diagram to the grid. Secondly, there are some trinkets which activate in difficult to predict ways (trying to run away whilst carrying glasses or a safety pin, for example). With more time, I would have loved to make this clearer.
- Empty slot. Initially, you were not able to attack if not holding a trinket, but it was horrendously difficult, and not fun! So, I made an empty trinket slot also deal 1 damage (a beak attack). But, I couldn't find an elegant way of signaling that you can still attack with no trinket, but are in danger. The glowing "danger arc" is my attempt at solving this, but I'm not happy with it.
- Sounds. I mainly used sounds from Mosaic and Escorial, but they don't really fit. I didn't have the patience to come up with some more magpie-sounding effects, but it would have been so much cooler.
When I had settled on the character being a magpie, I started seeing magpies everywhere.
- Whilst rereading Tintin, I was surprised to find in The Castafiore Emerald that the thieving magpie is a central plot point!
- Magpies are often hanging out on the rooves which abut our kitchen windows, and we get to see them flitting about whilst preparing breakfast.