I'm just wrapping up my attempt at my first game jam. I chose to join the Lisp Game Jam this spring for a few reasons:

  • Learn more about game-dev.

  • Re-investigate Wet Dogº, which I had tried building a prototype of in Godot, sometime in 2018.

  • Try the Tic-80º.

  • Try out Fennel.

  • Take a break from working on Firnº.

  • I'm currently social distancing due to Covid-19; so it's something new to do.

  • Feeling "bad" at something new is always a good, humbling experience.

Concept

Wet Dog Tic 80 Prototype

I'm not sure when I first thought of Wet Dog. It was probably around 2018. I think I might have started collaborating with a friend on a game in Godot when I thought of using Wet Dog as a means to learn Godot on my own time.

The concept of the game was very simple: a character has to find a dog, sitting in the rain, and cover it with their umbrella. Each level would be the same concept, but the means of getting from point A to point B would change. I had very few ideas for how to get there, other than that the umbrella the character had would slow their fall while jumping.

Because there are so few little mechanics to the game, I could only imagine it being made interesting when coupled with thematic structure, aesthetic and/or some kind of running motif/metaphor. I've also been someone more keen on stories and emotive experiences that can be delivered in a video game, so that would be fine by me.

I knew underneath any nascent optimism surrounding a new project / hobby lay a great deal of hard work. The lisp game jam was a good way to tinker with fewer expectations.

TIC-80

The TIC-80 is neat. A few years ago I bought the PICO-8 but never built anything with it. Some eight or nine months ago I learned about the TIC-80 from a co-worker who had entered a previous lisp game jam. I took it for a spin but couldn't get very far because, if I remember correctly, I couldn't get it integrating with emacs.

This time around was no problem. I cloned the latest v erion (0.80), compiled it, and got it working with e-macs after a little while. It was surprisingly easy to whip up a makefile that used the TIC-80's CLI.

Fennel

Fennel turned out to be fun and easy. I had to consult the documentation, which I found totally sufficient, throughout the project to learn the gist of it. At one point I had to dig into the source code to find how I could eval Lua directly (it uses (lua "..." )) for my version of Fennel. I never had a REPL going, but I think I saw a post about setting one up. I just used Clojure mode in Emacs for syntax highlighting and folding. It worked well enough. I didn't write any macros. I still have yet to write a macro in lisp, which I'm sure some people would pat me on the back for, and some would be aghast at.

Making games is hard

I barely completed a "level" (more so a scene, even) let alone a game. Frankly, I ran out of steam. Building collision detection was pretty frustrating. Building the rain/environment was probably my favourite part. Building a fully featured game is something that remains tempting, probably because there are so many moving parts that I would want to have a hand in: music, sound, story &tc. I would probably need to hire an artist(s), however, as it would take years to get good enough at doing art/design on my own (and my own attempts would definitely discourage me from finishing things at all).