Ludum Dare 26 Game Jam Entry

Ludum Dare 26 Entry: Minimalist Horror Story

Entry: Minimalist Horror Story

Minimalist Horror Story is our entry into the Ludum Dare 26 Game Jam.  The theme of the jam was “Minimalism”, and required our team at Minion Studios to create a game around this theme in 72 hours.  I am not sure what ideas we passed up for this one, but I know Sonny suggested doing a horror game at some point.  All of us jumped at the chance to design this game.

I was in charge of level design and the character controller.  Sonny was in charge of the monster as well as creating a random spawn system for pickups.  Eric was our amazing artist on this one, doing animation and all of the models.  Damon added the particle effects in the house and the candle lighting.

I began the first night by working on level design.  Eric had made a rough sketch of the house when we initially started the jam.  I took his sketch and mocked it up in Autodesk Homestyler.  I am not sure where we can up with the idea to greybox the level.  I almost feel like it just sort of happened without us thinking about it.

Once I had the floors laid out in Homestyler, I built the level in Unity using the default cube game objects scaled to the size of my walls and floors.  This was my first time doing this in Unity, and also only the second time we had used Unity to make anything.   The levels came together very quickly, and we found out some problems with our layout right away.  Once we had adjusted the layout and scale, I used a script I had found on the Unity Wiki to export the layout as an .obj file.  Eric then imported this into 3ds Max and cleaned it up to create the final levels.

He added the basement and the attic, then exported them back to me to place in the game along with all the furniture.  One problem I ran into is that all of the furniture was exported as subobjects of the house.  I did not know a lot about prefabs back then, and I royally screwed up by not using them to create all of our duplicate objects.  We use almost everything more than once in the house, but many objects do not retain their scale.  I also should have used prefabs to create more interactive items like the dressers, etc…  After this project I learned a lot about Unity and how to maximize your output with things like prefabs.

I created the character controller in an empty environment on just a plane, then move it into our level once the basic features were completed.   I messed up some math as some point, as I made it very unforgiving when trying to interact with the environment.  Often times, you have to be very far away to interact with an object, as up close it just doesn’t happen.  I did not have time to fix this before we finished the jam.

I wired up the scares.  I would have done a lot of these far differently.

  • The footsteps scare at the bottom of the stairs needs to happen sooner.  I was hoping it would be a queue to go back up the stairs to check it out.  Most people just ignore it.  As such, many miss out on the attic.
  • The rocking chair scare happens too far away from the chair itself.  With the limited lighting, players don’t often see the chair moving and can’t figure out what the sound is without the visual context.
  • The furnace needed to have sound added to it.  We just ran out of time to hook it up.
  • The bats took way too long, though they are effective.  I wish I would have known how to use the animator in Unity.  Instead, I hand coded all the vector points the bats should follow and interpolated them along the points.

There were a lot of other mishaps, like the candle burning sideways instead of down and the wrong control scheme being listed in the instructions, but I am still very pleased with how this game turned out.  We placed 7th in the Jam’s mood category, and received hundreds of comments, both positive and negative.  Eric posted an entry for the game on GameJolt.  We never posted the game itself, but discovered that even 9 months later a lot of people were still playing it and were interested in what we were up to.

This was the first game I ever completed.  We had a lot of false starts before this, but this game had a beginning, end, and a fun/scary in-between.  I am very excited about the feedback we got on this.  From comments on our social media channels, to youtube videos of people getting scared and jumping out of their chairs.  It was an incredible experience and sealed my pursuit of a game development career. 

Here are videos we’ve found of people playing our game: