Devlog 3: Planning Unearthed

GB Compo 21 had started, and we were ready to spend the next three months feverishly scrambling to plan out and manifest what we thought would be achievable in the allotted time. 

Our first step was to outline any and all mechanics that might fit well within the sci-fi Mech digging premise and pick what would likely yield some interesting game play from this growing pool of elements. 

Working as a team, it was imperative to document whatever we came up with so that both Ben and I would have a decent understanding of what direction the game was heading in. For this purpose, we elected to use Google Sheets to record whatever we came up with during our brainstorming sessions. Here is a snippet of our mechanics list from the Google sheet:

A very small percentage of the mechanics we came up with during the planning phase (If you're struggling to see the text, right click and open image in new tab)

As you can see, there's quite a lot of info just in this block of the sheet. This is only the tip of the iceberg too, we would continually add to this document even well past the completion of the jam version and on into the full versions development. 

To break down the major points in a little more detail; as we came up with ideas, we started to see that some mechanics would pair well with others, and soon began grouping those pairings together with the intention of building a 'world theme' around them. Sliding blocks would suit an ice theme, and from that ice theme other mechanics would present themselves. Mechanics like ice that the player would slide on when they stepped onto the ice underfoot, or resources that would be trapped within an ice block. And from there we would pair these trapped ice block resources with volcanic heat vents which would in turn melt the ice and free the resource for collection. You can start to see how the creative process would flow in this way, and what would eventually be named Gunpei (a planet of fire and ice) was born from the melding of these mechanics in world 3 of the Unearthed. 

A level from Gunpei, world 3 of Unearthed

Beyond the name and description of each mechanics functionality, we would also be thinking about how to code these elements. Would they need to have triggers, or actors? Or would the Player need to be piloting the Mech or have to get out of the Mech and use Max the engineer? Anything that was potentially tricky to code, we would include notes relating to their implementation so the other team member could look over suggestions and add their own.

Finally, in the right two columns, each of us would include notes on what we thought of the ideas so the other could read them when they had an opportunity and apply various colors to the cells that would indicate how excited we were for each idea or how difficult the mechanic might be to implement in GBS. 

Ben was also exploring what the mechanics would look like in game through a series of quick sketches and sharing ideas in this way too. 

A few sketches from Ben's notes on various mechanics

Looking back at it all now, our google sheet mechanics tab is quite messy on the whole. We were flying by the seat of our pants and rushing to get as much done as we could during the jam. I suppose that's as good a reason as any to justify such a chaotic document. But these days, I would be way more inclined to slow this process right down and approach it with much more care. These kinds of documents are an attempt to synchronize all the minds of a team into one well oiled machine, and the more clear and ordered it is, the better the results. 

Ultimately, this process was getting the job done in those early days well enough. You do what you gotta do when in jam conditions, after all!

In the next Devlog, we will take a look at how we handled the level production of Unearthed.

Happy Gaming!

Tom (Gumpy Function)

Want to conrtibute to Unearthed's development?

We're currently looking for people to playtest Unearthed as we finalize its many facets. If you would like to download a beta build of Unearthed and help us smooth out the kinks, please feel free to join Ben's discord here!

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