UE4 June Jam 2016 “Fire in the Hole” (Infernal Madness)

I’ve gone and done another game jam and I thought I’d make something silly this time round. So I made a game where you shoot chillies with milk to stop their evil hot ways. The game features 2 different enemy types and a boss: Cayenne peppers that walk around and shoot seeds at you. And floating Habanero peppers that shoot out chunks of themselves. There’s also a Lovecraftian chilli god with many tentacles, eyes and mouths. In addition to the story mode gameplay, there’s also an arena, where you rack up as many points as you can.

My primary goal in this jam was to familiarize myself with various animation techniques in the Modo 3d-application and making it function in UE4. (I swapped over from Maya, which I was using before, due to not being fond of a subscription only payment model.) Of course as well as having a whole bunch of fun making something somewhat ridiculous.

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The cayenne peppers were the first thing I tackled, which required a skeletal rigging/animation. I did the base sculpt, retopology, uv-mapping and texturing in 3d-coat. Then with the help of “Barry Zundel’s “MODO for UE4: rigging and animation” video on YouTube, I rigged and animated them. Now back when I was using Maya, I loved the simplicity of having the built in HumanIK skeleton and IK system, especially for doing quick animations in a pinch, like the kind you typically need for game jams. As far as I can tell, there’s no such luck in Modo. Meaning you’ve got to create your own skeletal rig from scratch. The process itself is definitely not intuitive, but if you’ve got a guide to reference to, it’s not that bad. The animation process itself is excellent though. It’s very easy to create multiple animations quickly and have a good overview of them. Could export different animations as separate takes in one fbx file, which UE4 imported properly straight away and split into different animation assets.

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I wanted to learn how to do morph targets in Modo as well, so that’s what I used for the floating habanero peppers. Everything up to the animation done in the same way as the cayenne peppers (like most other meshes that needed any sculpting). I’ve never used morph targets before in any program, but the process was extremely simple in Modo, only took a few clicks to set up and a sculpt move tool to re-position the vertices. Imported nicely to UE4 and I used timeline float curves to change the morph influence levels to make the habaneros open the mouth right before spewing out projectile chunks.

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The god-chilli of cthulhian nightmares was made by making separate skeletal meshes for the tentacles and eyeballs and adding a whole bunch of them to the main body, which had the mouth animations done with morph targets. I created 3 separate animations for the tentacles and had them loop in a random order inside the animation blueprint, so they wouldn’t all move at the same time in the same way. All of the eyeballs follow the same movement pattern, because there’s only one animation for them, but by rotating them they appear to be moving independently from each other. I was originally going to add more attacks or defenses to the boss, but when playing around with it, I realised you could sometimes jump onto the tentacles and they would lift you up onto the top. It was fiddly enough to not make a good mechanic, but I thought it would be fun to somehow be forced to go on top of it, so I added the only source of ammunition near the big mouth on top that throws out lots of projectiles. I made the intervals of projectiles just long enough that you could jump onto the boss and then time a dash through the middle to pick up more ammo without getting killed and adjusted the boss health to require 2-3 jumps.

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The weapon was really fun to do. I wanted to go for an almost steampunk design with lots of pipes and dials, but also make it unmistakably a gun that shoots milk. Pipes were already a good choice for a liquid dispensing gun, but I also added a metal milk jug at the bottom. I thought it was good enough, but the only angle you see the gun from wasn’t quite convincing me enough, so I added a dial that showed the percentage of ammo in it and painted a little cow face on it and added a separate little mesh/texture for the tail as the indicator.

I wanted to have more than one firing mode to give the player more options on how to tackle situations, so I needed something that felt different to the single shot projectile. You could snipe enemies from afar with the single shot already anyway, so I made the secondary fire a shotgun type attack. The damage output  for the shotgun was 5 points per projectile, compared to 25 for the single shot. There were 15 projectiles from the shotgun blast though, so the damage output would be much greater if you hit everything, so I adjusted the ammo cost per shot to use up more for the shotgun. The actual damage is the same per point of ammo, but the shotgun fire is faster at dispensing it.

I originally only had the milk pick ups give you more ammo, but as I was testing the game, it was a bit too hard, so I added a small health bonus to the milk. I also made the amount of health given adjustable per instance, so that I could adjust the milk on top of the boss to give more health, because it was very difficult to avoid all of the boss projectiles when jumping onto it.

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It’s always a struggle trying to figure out how to handle enemies dying. Do they just fall down, do you morph them into oblivion, animate some sort of death and then fade them away with materials… But this being an FPS and at least somewhat inspired by Doom, I wanted stuff to blow up. So I made separate static meshes from the enemy models and turned them into destructible meshes, which I used to replace the actual skeletal enemy meshes at the point of their death. This actually worked a lot better than I expected, couldn’t really see a jarring transition between them. I wanted the sound for them dying to be slightly wet and violent, so it’s actually a pitch shifted recording of two seashells being hit together in a bucket of water.

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I tend to focus on making assets or programming mechanics so much in game jams that I often forget to leave much time for level design and actually putting all the things I’ve made to use in a fun way. I made the arena map first so I would have something that I could create easily and have something playable at least. I mixed in some jumping puzzles to grab more much needed ammo in the arena to have more than just a circular room with enemies to shoot. A score screen on top of that and I had something that could be submitted as a game jam entry even if I completely failed to make anything else.

But luckily I had already made the chilli-god tentacle monster thing and it wouldn’t feel right in an arena, so I had to push on and make a playable level in order to not waste the effort spent on it. I wanted to have gated areas that get progressively harder, where you need to kill a number of enemies in order to proceed. After making two regular rooms you couldn’t really jump out of and die, I wanted to have a third one with a hole in the middle and some jumping required to get more ammo. But considering you wouldn’t have had to use any jumping up to the point, I felt like a relatively simple jumping puzzle would prepare the player for the next room. I removed all risk of failure in the jumping puzzle itself (which added a glitch when players would go back from the third room and jump into the pit, allowing them to go back to the previous area) and added a collision box underneath that would teleport the player to the start of the jumping puzzle if they happened to fall. Beyond that there is just the boss room, with a little ramp you have to walk over that prevents you from going back and picking up more ammo and killing the boss from afar. The boss room has infinitely spawning enemies and the boss in the middle, the tentacles preventing your movement somewhat and sometimes entirely randomly push you off the pillars. Because you could also see the boss from the previous room, where you had access to all the free ammo, I had to make the boss invulnerable until you have walked over the ramp and the boss health bar appears.

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The sound and music are usually the last things I do for a game jam. (Which explains the lack of any audio in at least one of my jam games.) Unfortunately, that means it’s usually 4 am and I haven’t slept too much the last few days either, which leads to some interesting decisions. Now I nearly always try to make absolutely everything myself for game jams as much as I can. Including music, sound effects and foley stuff. I use a midi keyboard and some bundled software that came with it for some of the sound effects and music. But I suppose what most people are wondering about the audio is “what the hell is that?” about the story mode music. Well, it’s played with a metal slide on a Fender Telecaster and a Digitech RP300A effects pedal with a phaser and some distortion. However, me being rather tired at this point and having the output from the guitar play really quietly due to it being in the middle of the night, I didn’t realize that what I heard was completely different to what actually got recorded. Electric guitars are usually not very loud without amplification, so it’s generally not a problem, but what I was hearing was the combination of nice bright clean guitar strings and the quiet effects pedal output, so the clean sound was overpowering the stuff that actually got recorded directly and the clean bits never did. I really didn’t feel like re-recording that though, so I left it as is. I knew it was somewhat questionable, but I felt like it added to the atmosphere of some crazy fever dream you get after eating too many hot chillies, so I thought it was better than silence. I even added a in-game menu option to turn off the music if it proved too abrasive for some people.

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As for things I didn’t really have time for, a victory screen better than this, was one of them. I also thought about making an ice-cream grenade and a Carolina Reaper enemy, , with a painted on skull face and wielding a scythe, which would have been a melee enemy that charged at you. Perhaps I could have made a few more levels if I had more time and enemy/weapon variety to work with. I don’t think there’s any real chance of making a proper full sized game out of this. I think the joke would start wearing off after 3-4 levels, even if the mechanics are solid. But overall I’m pretty happy with how everything turned out, I learned stuff and had fun making it.

Download link to the game: https://docs.google.com/uc?id=0B1TeXRLC3kR2WU5jUEF6NWl5Ykk&export=download

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