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20 November 2013

TIGA Game Hack: The Making of Timmy Bibble's Friendship Club


We attended the TIGA Game Hack last weekend with our friends and artist teammates Clockwork Cuckoo. As always with game jams, this one was a blast! It was by far the largest game jam we've ever attended, and given it's size, perhaps the most well organised too. So many fantastic looking games produced! We're elated to have won, so we thought to share our brain-thoughts with you.


The TIGA Game Hack this year had multiple categories of awards, consisting of "Best Game", "Most Awesome Game", "Hacktacular Award", and "Best Endless Runner". Each have their own judging criteria and sponsor/s, but the main / best game category set the overall theme for the jam: "childhood".


How would we make a game about childhood if our childhoods were spent mostly-indoors playing video games? (I can only speak for myself of course...) Let's see!

Ideas Generation

Following some tips we included in our last post-jam blog post, we knew we would want to keep things super simple, and not try for anything beyond our reach.


The first hour or so was brainstorming around the theme. Nick (with his Producer hat on) decided, what better way than with a mind-map?


The Brains!
The "kids are pretty much just tiny drunk adults" idea didn't make the cut...


We wanted to include multiple elements of childhood in the game - imaginary friends, bases / dens (making the a house into a playfield as you do as a child), childrens stories, and the feeling of everything being so big when you're so damn small.


The game in brief summary is a local-multiplayer bullet hell arena shooter. It's only with hindsight that we have the priviledge of calling it that.


Loose ideas:

  • Quick rounds
  • Fast gameplay
  • No AI
  • Simple gameplay, but deep complexity, exaggerated by multiple round system.
  • People ganging-up, but didn't notice it in first to 3 round matches.

Gameplay mechanics:

  • Bullets that bounce forever.
  • Bullets can be caught for reuse.
  • Stand on other players bases to get more bullets, but this will give that player a protective shield. Trade-offs ahoy!

Somebody tweeted this during the jam. It deserves to go here.


We used our internal tools to create the game. A cross-platform C++ framework for 2D games which can export to Windows, OS X, iOS, Android (including microconsoles) and Flash Player. We thought the guys at ARM (one of the sponsors) would like to see some low-level stuff, and well, it's what we know best.


The Brains!
A game about squares. Not a Mike Bithell game...


We tried to identify the big problem areas that would need to be done first, incase any of them would not be feasible, or possible in the time frame. The biggest two time sinks were the procedural level generation and the tile-based automapping -- two things I've never had to implement before.


Luckily there's a super great post over at Vlambeer's blog about how they did content generation in their Steam-early-access game Nuclear Throne. The algorithms posted there helped a ton and really informed my approach. That's not to say it was easy - it still took quite a few hours and had to be tailored to fit a multiplayer single-screen arena.


Procedural Level Generation
Red is solid, blue is the back of a wall, green is the front of a wall, and pink is a standalone object.


Other problem areas would have been controller-based movement and back-to-front scene rendering, so the player can go behind walls. I say "would have been" because these are things that we've done before during other game jams; the former in The Agent, and the latter in Alien Laser Bunnies.


You might notice the tile mapping in the game isn't perfect. Some edges aren't filled in, some corner pieces aren't correct, and sometimes single-height blocks don't render at all. This was one of thoses cases where moving on to the next feature was the best thing to do, much to the chagrin of the artists!


If there's any other specific aspect of the game you'd like to see discussed from an implementation point of view, do let us know! Time for some stats...

Game Code Statistics:
  • Total Files: 39
  • Total Lines: 6015
  • Code Lines: 3987
  • Average Line Length: 28

Retrieved using the Code Analyzer tool.


Our initial idea was to use characters and locations from nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Little Red Riding Hood, Three Blind Mice, etc. The idea we went with in the end was the idea of having imaginary friends as characters. On the list were Easter Bunny, Cowboy, Robot, Magician/Wizard, Monster, Soldier, Princess and Accountant. The final characters in-game are Chud (Monster), Canardinal (Religious French Duck?), Old Man Ricketts (Cowboy) and Shakey Jake (Skeleton).


Initial Designs
The Accountant, Chud and Old Man Ricketts.


The visual style is influenced by Mary Blair, blending comic and gothic styles. The characters have a high constrast to make them stand out from the background, and to make them more recognisable.


We wanted to make more complex rooms, with wardrobes, chests of drawers, windows, curtains, Timmy Bibble asleep in his bed (it is his room after all!), and more, but we were short on time. We went with something a lot simpler - toys and books on the floor and picture frames on the walls!


A screenshot!
The start of a game of Timmy Bibble's Friendship Club!


Clockwork Cuckoo will be writing a post of their own detailing the art style, inspirations, and process. It'll be posted shortly so keep an eye out. Bookmark their page!


We wanted to use music as a device for differentiating the real world from Timmy Bibble's sleep/fantasy world. When you open the game and flick through the intro sequence (the real world) the melody is played using a music box. When the game starts (entering the sleep/fantasy world) the music box stops and a mostly percussive track starts to play. The nature of this second track allows the pitched game sound effects to better cut through the mix. Nick - of course - wrote and produced all the music.


The four characters in the game each have their own voices for dying, winning a round, and winning a game. We wanted to add as much juice, humour and identity as possible to each character -- The Canardinal is my personal favourite. Little things like this go a really long way, we've hilariously caught people re-inacting the voices of the characters! Ahem. The voices are all voluntarily (definitely not forcefully) voiced by Tom, one of the artists in the team. (Aren't they brilliant? Hire him for silly voiceover work!)

Shout Outs

Many thanks to the organisers and hosts of the event, TIGA and Pinewood Studios. Thanks also to all the sponsors, it wouldn't have happened without you, so thank you. Cheers also to Creative England Games Lab for footing our travel expenses, much appreciated.


Massive props to Tom & Sophie, our artist buddies from Clockwork Cuckoo. Big ups our friends at SFB Games, Mutant Labs, Opposable Games, and everyone else who entered. Special shout out to the guy who didn't show a game at the last jam, but was intent on showing one this time (that's what it's all about).

Stop Talking, I Want to Play!

Good idea! Unlike The Agent: Glory To Moscow (which works on a single controller), this time you'll need 2 - 4 players and an equal number of controllers.

A few changes have been made since the jam. Shakey Jake's win game sound wasn't playing and his shield wasn't rendering properly either. Buggiest character ever! We updated the window/application icon too.


Anyway, it's sort-of a party game too, so let us know if you play it with friends, or even with strangers at a party! :)



- Ashley

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Final Pictures

Ganging up!
Players clearly didn't want Chud to win here...


Jam Checklist
This was buried under a pile of Xbox 360 controllers for the most part!


Weird Certificate?
A little odd that it's ripped in half, right?