Last week, the fourth edition of the Mech Jam took place – a game jam in which entrants make games featuring all kinds of mechs. Ashley and Summer – dot big bang devs you might know from their Twitch streams – made a mech-building game called Mech-Over. We caught up with them to find out about the game jam experience, and to get some tips ahead of the dot big bang Summer Jam.
You created Mech-Over for the Mechjam IV recently – what drew you to entering the Mechjam?
Summer: Luke’s (aka Dungeon) jams are great, since the theme is in the title – Mech Jam, Kaiju Jam (and the forthcoming Cosmic Horrors and Samurai jams) are all exactly what they say on the tin. And the rest is up to you! There are optional secondary themes to them if you’d like – I think this allows you to start stewing early on the kind of game you want to make.
Ashley: I’ve been itching to do a jam lately and when I found out about the Mechjam I instantly thought of like 30 ideas for Mech games I wanted to make – so I knew it was the perfect jam to enter! I also loved that the jam took place over the course of two weeks. It gave Summer and I the opportunity to work at our own pace and take our time with each step of the game making process – from ideation to creation.
Mech-Over stood out from the pack by having a focus on building rather than combat. Was it an intentionally different take on mech games?
S: I think we originally set out to make a classic platformer where the player would pick up mech parts that would help them navigate to the next area, like ledges only reachable with super jump boots. But mid-stream on day one we realized we were in a cozy game mood – and making custom mechs just is perfect for a doll-maker game!
A: I somehow always gravitate to making cozy games, so although it wasn’t totally intentional, I’m not surprised we ended up making a game without combat! Summer and I worked on Pocket Garden, a farming game, together so it was fun to collab to make another cozy game. I’ve wanted to make a doll maker in dot big bang for a while, and that also led to the decision to make this type of game.
It’s a UI-heavy game – how did it go implementing the UI in just a week?
S: The week before, I was very lucky and appreciative to be in a workshop with dot big bang gamedevs Brad and Heather, where they demonstrated how to use their UI system. I hope Mech-Over makes a good example for how to use it! It’s a remixable game, so people can remix it to see how it works. I believe everything we used to make the UI can be seen when you stop the game, and zoom out the camera.
A: Yeah thanks to Brad and Heather’s UI system, creating all of the UI was super smooth! It was easy to understand and hook everything up, which allowed the game to come together really quickly. Once we had the UI layout designed, it only took a couple hours to get it all implemented in-game.
The game came out very clean and finished-feeling – was keeping a tight focus on scope important?
S: I try to stay flexible and re-assess often. If I’ve spent too long making one thing, I may have to ask myself if I can pare down somewhere else, and go from there.
A: For this game, I wanted to make sure that the game loop was super solid. Once I implemented the whole basic loop, I just focused on perfecting it rather than adding to it, which kept the scope of the game really tight. It’s a short game experience, and that gave us more room for polish.
Were there any features you wanted to include but didn’t have time for – or might add later?
S: More mechs! The more we add, the more replayability and challenge there would be to the game.
A: I’d love for the customers to have more variation, and for their requests to be a little more vague. I think it would be fun if it was a little more challenging to make the perfect mech for your customer.
We often tout dbb’s features as good for game jamming. What was your experience like using dot big bang for the jam?
S: We had a multiplayer session open for almost the entire jam, with Ashley being the owner of the session so that she could stop and start the game to test her scripts. Since I was doing art, I didn’t need that control.
A: Yeah, being able to edit in the same session together throughout the jam really made things go smoothly. I also loved that I could use the assets Summer created the moment that they were done. When making a game in a short period of time, it’s so nice to not worry about the logistics of collaborating, and to be able to focus on making the game.
Did you have to get creative overcoming any obstacles?
S: While making the mechs, I wanted each piece to be interchangeable, and still connect with the other doll parts, with little to no rescaling or rotating. So after making the first mech or two, I kept remixing their body parts and keeping their size and position the same, while editing them to be what I needed. If you wish to do something like we did, I recommend remixing Heatherctrlz’s body parts the same way and using them with the Template NPC. Click here and search ‘NPC’ to find them.
A: Balancing the grading system took a lot of iterations. The customers have things they “love” and things they “like”. I found out you could max out your score by only using the “love” items because they scored you the most points. I ended up adding a variation multiplier that gave you a higher score if you combined both “loves” and “likes”, to encourage players to mix and match and get creative.
Do you have any tips about using dot big bang for game jams?
S: If you’re new to dot big bang, don’t feel like you have to make everything by hand just for your jam! There’s a massive library of free, game-ready objects for you to drag and drop in to fill your scene with, and our template toys are objects that have a few scripts on them already – like a springboard, a customizable NPC, or a flower gun – that you can edit to be whatever you need. Or just use them out of the box for some quick interactivity!
A: Also don’t be afraid to use the remix feature! I’ve saved tons of time by finding scripts that mostly do what I am looking for, then remixing the script and adding my own bit of functionality. The remix button is your friend!
And any general game jam advice for people entering the dot big bang Summer Jam?
S: If this is your first time joining us for a game jam, you will probably have questions! We love answering them over on our Discord, where our users can look for a team to jam with, post their game dev progress, or just hang out!
A: Don’t be afraid to ask questions, make sure to take breaks, and have fun!