Seagulls Watcher postmortem

The Concept

 In the spring of 2018, I visited Helsinki for a couple of days. I was drawn out, tired from work and creative endeavors. I felt like a mess & needed some peace of mind, so when I saw a rocky, magnificent coast full of seagulls & other birds hopping around, I immediately crashed there, soaking it all up. There wasn't a lot of sun that day, but sitting on a giant slab of rock, I felt like a solar panel, perfectly rotated towards salty sea scent, thrashing wind, coarse rock texture and cries of seagulls.  

So when 7DFPS started, and I thought “something personal would be nice!”, the watch-seagulls-to-gain-energy idea came to mind.

The Process

At first, I had a literal beach location in mind, where the player has to engage in simple combat to progress along the coast. After each encounter, you'd need to rest near a seagull flock, watching them calmly, recharging HP points and/or ammo.

But, after scope consideration, the whole combat was cut. I wanted to focus on the seagulls more.
So the combat was replaced with wandering into an _office building_, again and again, in pursue of some simple task. And while inside - your energy is being drained(the metaphor for creative  work), just as you spend HP/Ammo during combat.

What went right

- Deciding to cut the combat out early was a good idea. Even if I would’ve used some Unity FPS Kit and managed to create a simple shooter with seagulls-watching on top, I don’t think it would’ve made the game more interesting.
- Using some 3D assets from Unity store lying around
- When I realized, that there's no way I'd make an "office building" look nice, I explicitly made it simpler and covered with graybox-style textures, so the building would be not just a symbol of a workplace, but also embody creative process itself. No one would get it on their own, but I think it is a nice fix to the problem, that also helps the whole message.

What went wrong

- Even though I managed to focus on the seagulls-watching mechanic more, I didn't focus enough. Even the smallest level iterations, minor mechanics(food collection was never crucial) took precious time. Gaze detection is very hacky, and birds movement is extremely erratic. I thought about making the observation more fun, rich and arcade-y, but didn't have enough time to think it through. 
- Because I didn't prepare for the jam at all, I didn't invite any 3D artists or musicians to collab with, I have spent a lot of time on level geometry,  lighting and such, neglecting design issues.


I’ve always been an advocate of “make the smallest version of the coolest thing” approach to jams, but, regrettably, failed to follow that this time. Also, I'm trying to make more systems-driven games, but my lack of experience in programming systems holds me back, so I'll try to work on that in the future.


Seagulls Watcher 32 MB
Oct 28, 2018

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