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“Where’s Woodchuck?” Game

Posted: November 6th, 2014

Greetings once again, time to talk about something I almost forgot in the whirlwind of life, and it’s a game!

Prior to Jadecliff, I worked at a small marketing company called Stefan and Stephan of whom Jadecliff was a large client. When I started with S&S around April-May 2013 one of my first projects was to play with an idea for a mobile game relating to their nearest retail site, Marldon Christmas Tree Farm. I wanted to try and make a runner-type game in the tree farm, and over a couple months and iterations I think we came out with something kinda cool – although requiring more work to get to release than we had time to do. Work was ended on this project in the final days of July, about 2 months of work in total with some other tasks in between.

 


woodchuck

So what is “Where’s Woodchuck?”

The game was to be based on a narrative my boss created around Marldon which I probably still shouldn’t spill in detail, but suffice it to say something starts taking trees from the farm and the owners dog is kidnapped. Gameplay was divided in to levels each lasting a few minutes where the player would run through a location (only the tree farm ever got in to the prototype, but there were plans for caves and even a section driving a train) avoiding or destroying obstacles and collecting power ups. Points were awarded based on in-game activity (items collected less number of collisions) and amount of time you beat the set level time by, and your score was beamed to a leaderboard via some code I’ve talked about before – we were going to award a physical prize for whoever was top of the leaderboards each week. Power ups would give you a weapon, ammo and make you run faster, but collisions would massively impact your score; There is no way to die as such, after three collisions you’re struck by lightning and your score is basically reset.

We also experimented with a customization feature, or as I call it “dress-up time”… Maybe we could’ve had an online area that displayed your character? I’m not really sure if this was any more than a fever dream. A lot of the wearable elements are coloured dynamically via ColorTransforms in Haxe – everything old is new again!

Finally we have the minigames… Only one exists, “Beaver Blast,” which freezes you in place and only allows you to move side to side while beavers wander in and attack the Christmas trees. You can either shoot them for big points, or capture them in cages for a chance at invulnerability – I don’t manage to achieve this in the video below, but I confirmed it works in a subsequent play-through.

wheres woodchuck screenshot character createwheres woodchuck screenshot email confirmwheres woodchuck screenshot intro cutscene

The game itself is presented in faux-3D, which is mainly because NME had/has no support for 3D and I wasn’t about to implement that myself, so I hacked about with a parallax effect until I was satisfied it looked “ok”. The whole setup was pretty difficult to manage internally with variable speed and projectiles coming from both ends of the screen that needed to be depth sorted beneath new objects being spawned. There are still depth sorting issues in the prototype, along with a method that looks half finished called “_fixZOrder” which just made everything crash when I tried it.

You may also notice some graphical competency, which should immediately tell you I didn’t do the graphics. My coworker at the time – Lee O’Connor – drew a plethora of wonderful concept pieces and 99% of art in the game. He’s really good, you should definitely take a look at his stuff (especially Highly Questionable Santa). This was his first time trying to do anything for a game and I’d only had small dalliances with it so this was a steep learning curve, but I think the styling of the game turned out pretty well.

Here’s some of that concept art: Dream big or go home!

Marldon game concept image, woodchuck Marldon game concept image, zoo Marldon game concept image, forest Marldon game concept image, grannies

Plus some of my own messy scrawlings of possible settings and enemies for future levels, as well as the comic book level intros that you’ll see in level 2 in the video (level 1 also had a comic scene, but the fully animated intro was created at the last minute as an experiment).
wheres woodchuck game noteswheres woodchuck game noteswheres woodchuck game notes

Finally I present a full 10 minutes of me playing the two levels of the prototype, as well as spending some quality time trying on various hats.

 

— Ben