Developing my first game with NPC behaviours (fireSALE)

pixel-art cat stood in laboratory with scientists (owls) and armed guards (wolves)
fireSALE gameplay screenshot


We (myself and Emmy) signed up for the UoP Game Jam this year with very few plans in advance, hoping one of the themes would inspire us when announced at the start of the jam. The university game jam was open to anyone, both remote and in person. I would have loved to have gone in person, however I was living too far away to commute in at the time so we competed remotely.  This did mean we missed out on most of the atmosphere but there was still a good sense of anticipation and community since every team's communication channel was public.

I wanted Emmy as my sole teammate since we had a wide skill set between us, with myself specialising in programming and them in art, however we both understood enough about each others work to collaborate effectively, as we had in Sins of the Squirrels (a past project).

Preparation and inspiration

The morning leading up to the start of the jam was definitely chaotic, with both of us throwing random ideas into a text document and hoping we would be able to adapt any to include one of the themes once they were announced later that day.
I had been going back through some of my old DS games at the time and so took much of my inspiration from them, especially the 2d birds-eye view games like the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series.
Something we needed to organise fast was what platform we would be developing the game for. Although the idea of building a Gameboy Advance game was briefly discussed we decided this would be too challenging to complete in a short timespan, so settled on targeting HTML5 with Unity since we were both very comfortable with the engine and related workflows.

Final brainstorming and picking a concept

Everyone had gathered in the livestream, patiently waiting for it to hit 9am, the Discord server was buzzing with people discussing their ideas, and most importantly we were all looking forward to starting!

The themes were announced for this year's jam (with help from Wikipedia's random article feature) and they were:

  • All Time Low
  • Immortality
  • West Bengal

Right away, Emmy and I started going through the concepts we had come up with, seeing which ones would fit into each theme best. Pretty early on we decided to avoid West Bengal as neither of us had any knowledge of the area and wanted to avoid accidentally supporting stereotypes with rushed research. While Immortality seemed like an interesting concept, it sounded difficult to include in a game while still making it a challenging / enjoyable experience, so we decided All Time Low was the way to go for our main theme.