Detective City – Global Game Jam 2015!

I spent the last ~48 hours doing the Global Game Jam at USC, running pretty much on adrenaline and diet Cokes. I teamed up with Rosstin Murphy, Kent Sutherland, and Meagan Trott to make Detective City, a comedic, randomized choose-your-own-adventure game about a disgraced detective determined to clear her name. You can find and play our jam build here! Look at the bottom of the page for a download. The game is an .html file that will run in your web browser.

Detective City is one of the more-successful jam games I’ve ever worked on. It marks the first time I’ve ever written my own working macros for Twine, too. (A little bit of Code Academy Javascript goes a long way when all you need is randomization, ha.) I wrote the “engine” that controlled game progression and powered our randomization features, as well as a couple tools to help us stay out of Twine If Statement Hell. I guess this makes me the “lead programmer” on Detective City? Hey, I’ll take it.

We were lucky enough to win the judges’ choice “Writing/Theme” award. Here’s our awesome trophy:

We also recorded a “speedrun” of our game to make our jam page more exciting. Take a look at my mad clicking prowress:

Our team will be fixing some bugs in our game and releasing a more-polished, spell-corrected version sometime soon. I’ll probably also crap out a postmortem. But here are the major points about Detective City you should probably be aware of:

  • It is legitimately extremely funny. I was surprised at how good our jokes were with little sleep and very little time.
  • The art Meagan made is extremely rad. It fits the theme perfectly and is also hilarious.
  • There is an insanely huge amount of content in this game. There’s enough for four full playthroughs with no overlap– though you’ll get overlap from playthrough to playthrough thanks to the RNG, I’m sure. STILL, there’s a TON of stuff in here.
  • Like most collaborative writing games I’ve made at jams, we chose to split the game up into large regions and assigned each to a specific writer, with very little overlap. Although we wrote the beginning and end of the game together, we were mostly able to churn out this huge amount of content because we were each charging away at a different part of the story and combining them using StoryIncludes. If you ever do a text-based game with more than one writer, I strongly encourage splitting everything up and going as far as you can to reduce or eliminate interdependence. It makes the experience a lot more relaxed when you know that you don’t have to hit any content quota, or that your writing isn’t dependent on anyone else’s time or energy. We had a great ability to accommodate any reduction in scope, and even sliced out several entire regions right before the end. At previous jams, I’ve worked on narrative-based projects where extricating chunks of the game was a lot harder, and those projects have always been way more stressful and, in the end, less successful.
  • In fact, I’d go so far as to say that text-based jam games should basically never be linear. If they’re randomized, or select from a pool of vignettes or events, they seem to be a lot more fun and easy to finish over a weekend.

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