The Tale of the Extended Warranty - Retrospective (Juice Jam 2022)
Music: Bandcamp, Soundcloud, YouTube
Gameplay: Game link
After the crazy year that was 2021, I can already say that I've participated in a game jam in 2022 - in particular the Juice Jam. What a ride this one was but I'm so happy about the output from my partner this time around, David from Vidvad Games, and also how well we both worked together along the way. It was an extremely good fit and our skills complemented each other. The results show since this was the first time being at the top of the pile - first place.
I can't quite believe it and while I know there's always room for improvement and I don't want it to go to my head, it's nice to appreciate that all of the efforts of those involved paid off very well indeed. Also, we placed tenth in the audio category so there's still things I can improve upon for myself.
Anyway, enough about the results as the journey that was taken is the most important part of the process and the learnings to take forth with you into those future endeavours.
My previous work caught some attention via some networking as it was actually David's cousin, with whom I had previously worked with on the VimJam2 game jam title Wingless Workload or Her Majesty Dies, that got in touch with me about an opportunity to team up and I couldn't say no. I had a great experience working with Max last time around and didn't want to turn down the opportunity so we connected and I found out more about the plans and premise for the game.
The theme itself was "DON'T STOP" and at the start, a small Google Doc was shared outlining the premise of the game, basic mechanics and the story/background. These things help incredibly, especially at the beginning of the project, as it allows me to begin world-building in my mind and getting engrossed in what that world could be like and become, regardless of the genre or setting. The game was to be a retro twin-stick shooter, inspired by games such as Smash TV and Robotron.
Once again leaning into my strengths, I decided at an early stage to take the soundscape to the Sega Genesis era, allowing for some FM Synthesis to take the stage while adding a few more traditional chiptune elements along the way to complement that. It was a great excuse to lean on some beefy synth chords and try some new combinations in my tracker of choice.
An early build was shared, along with a short gameplay video outlining those core mechanics but I was completely taken aback with how much personality the game had at this stage. I could really feel the light-hearted nature of it all and could relate to those outlined experiences with sales representatives which I think helped a bit! I like the fact it was based on real-life events like you'd get with comedians, whose cornerstones of their routines revolve around day-to-day musings and life experiences, with some outlandish and fantasy elements thrown in there for good measure. After all, the main concept of the game jam was to produce something JUICY, with overblown themes and effects to match that.
A short sample that I sent over went down well so I knew I was on the right track music-wise and could feel that we were onto something with this title. Something else that actually helped me a lot (in hindsight) was the fact that David also streams on Twitch and I was lucky enough to catch one of them, a Godot development stream, while the jam was taking place. Being able to connect the person that you've been talking to over the internet to a real face, a real human being helped me to connect on a higher level to what they were trying to achieve. It was great to see their positive demeanour and work process in real-time, as well as seeing other chat members getting engrossed with the project.
Clear, concise and positive interactions were shared in the time leading up to the submission deadline and with an hour to go, I saw that while the game page on Itch had been updated recently, the game itself had not been submitted for review during the rating period. I could feel at this stage that I needed to keep my mouth shut and allow other team members to breathe as sometimes to inherently know that they have the situation under control. The last thing that they need is me sending a message to only double-check that they were okay and able to submit the project for the jam. You think that you might be helping them out but sometimes, you have to back off and allow events to play out as they were destined to. My instincts were right and David was just adding the finishing touches to the game page before submitting with half an hour to spare.
When you've done all you can, the best course of action, more often than not is to allow events to take their course. The music had been labelled, compressed and sent well ahead of time to avoid any last-minute implementation issues and to ease the load.
From those that commented, the game was incredibly well received, with a lot of praise being thrown out for the level of polish and how complete the game was for such a short development time and I can't help but agree myself. The game feels incredibly tight and coherent throughout, while still maintaining that level of juice and outlandishness that I absolutely love. I couldn't have asked for anything more when it came to the game premise and the eventual output.
I think that personally, I made a lot of progress during the short time I spent with the project. I focused far more on how my music could enhance the gameplay and mechanics that were already in place, rather than thinking about how it could sound standing alone. I reserved the high ranges for the sound effects that were implemented and kept my sounds and instruments in the low-mid frequencies. The step into another way of thinking about the problem paid off.
It's not jarring at all when paired with the fast-paced gameplay and doesn't detract from the experience at all. In a way, it's almost like you don't notice it until it's gone, with a vague sense of familiarity tied to the whole experience. Maybe that's because I prefer to create more atmospheric and passive tracks, which could certainly be my strengths right now but attempting to tie in a fast-paced track in this manner has certainly been a learning experience.
Additionally, this is the first attempt during a game jam to create something in the style of a game you would find on the Sega Genesis. While there is a lot for me to learn technique and instrumentation-wise, I think the chords and general feel that was created did emanate those feelings, albeit on a small scale. I always find it rather difficult to tie myself to one style when it comes to the composition itself. I never know where one of my songs might lead and because of that, I'd rather not restrict myself too much when it comes to structure and semantics. For me, it's more about the flow and feeling from bar to bar, beat to beat.
While some would ask questions such as "Where do we go from here?" or "You placed first, what next?", I feel that there is still a lot of work to be done and this is only the beginning of the journey. Yes, it's great validation and experience and a high probability this won't happen again for a while, I hope that I can use this as part of the stepping stones I need to keep the ball rolling towards getting that first foot in the door. I'm the one who is trying to balance on top of the ball, while keeping it steadily moving forward, if you can even picture that.
From one bizarre metaphor to another, I also hope that my brain still has the legs to keep up with those hands as I continue to input the notes on the keyboard. I've already begun work on my next project title for the Godot Wild Jam #41 alongside Dmitriy and Gabriel for our third title together, which I'm excited about and will share more after the submission and rating period(s) are over!
Take care, all the best and keep moving forward if you can.Tagged as: retrospective
Published on: Tuesday 18 January, 2022