Just in case you needed more proof that game jams are fast becoming the root of the majority of creative thinking for developers, RockPocket Games have pulled out a game called Shiftlings. This bouncy looking prototype turns what would otherwise be a pretty standard puzzle platformer into a humorous game for one or two players to co-op their way through. It was made for and announced as the winner of the NM i Gameplay 2013 5-day game jam on January 5th in Norway, which rewards them with a 100,000 kroner (roughly $17.5k) and an advertising deal on Norwegian gaming site spill.no for Shiftlings if and when they further the develop the game to a finished state.
RockPocket Games say that they re-used a few art assets (three in total) from their other in-development adventure game Oliver & Spike, which is one we’ve been keeping our eye on, with everything else you can see as well as all the programming and level design blasted out in the allotted time allowed for the game jam.
Unfortunately, it seems that none of the other entries from the 30 teams that took place in the game jam have made their way online anywhere, so we can’t see what RockPocket were up against. We do know that they jury who issued Shiftlings with the prize included Ellen Bright Einarsen, Nils Anderssen and Stein Pedersen. They, along with the rest of those present at the event, voted on the five finalists. Though the visuals themselves are very compelling, Shiftlings was judged on its adherence to the theme, which was “Size Matters”, and how they adapted the gameplay to fit around it. From what’s on display, the co-op play and quirky characters is what makes the experience something that could potentially be developed into a more interesting and fuller experience.
The nine-day development schedule (four for planning, five for the doing) of Shiftlings during the game jam was the first time the entire in-house team at RockPocket came together to work on a project as a unity. Usually they’re split between various freelance jobs and the multiple projects that the studio itself is creating, so they were excited to see what they could produce as a united team. So just what is it?
“Having an inflated suit provides more weight so buttons can be pushed down, it can also be used by the other player to bounce off to get better height.”
At the current moment in time, Shiftlings consists of six small levels that can be played either as single player or co-operatively between two people. There are two avatars to control in Shiftlings, both of which are wearing a suit complete with fish bowl helmet that allows them to travel around on the no-atmosphere planet they’re on; it might even be a moon, looking at it. Between their two suits is a conjoining tube which means that they cannot travel too far away from each other, but there’s certainly plenty of length for them to run around with. The funny part is that one of the shiftlings is always inflated in their suit to an enormous, wobbly size. Transferring this inflation between the two players provides the basis of both the game’s visual gag and its puzzle gameplay.
The puzzles in Shiftlings involve a variety of different physics considerations. Having an inflated suit provides more weight so buttons can be pushed down, it can also be used by the other player to bounce off to get better height. One level takes this further by having a seesaw so that players have to alternate between inflation to get the height required. The weight of the suit means heavy cubes can also be pushed. There’s also the size consideration too, as the smaller player who isn’t inflated can fit under small gaps, and as they’re lighter, they can ascend areas where a fast wind pushes them from underneath. Later in the prototype it appears that the length the two players have between them becomes an extra consideration as the level design limits where they can move.
RockPocket are continuing to develop Shiftlings with the money they’ve received, and they hope to release it soon across multiple platforms. They’re not sure which ones yet, but mention that they recently received an OUYA developer console and would like to test it on Android for fun as well. It’s being made in Unity so Windows, Mac and Linux are all quite likely, as well as iOS on top of the previous two platforms just mentioned.