Saturday, March 22, 2014

Procedural Death Jam 2014

So I participated in Procedural Death Jam this year. Having never made a procedural game before I figured it would be a good opportunity. It was pretty fun and I was happy with my results, you can play Prop Hell here if you want to give it a try!

I wanted to go through some of my favorite entries from the Jam in no particular order. My criteria for a favorite was a game that I kept playing to the end or over and over because I found it really compelling, versus an entry I just played until I “got it.” Do note: there were many PDJ entries that I couldn’t run due to corrupted zips or executables that just wouldn’t work, but I tried my best to play as many as possible.


This is a pretty straightforward sidescroller platformer, and the procedural layout of the art is quite nice, but the drone mechanic is what delighted me. I liked the idea of having this resource to use for both platforming and combat while my character himself was more or less vulnerable. I think the idea has potential worth exploring, especially if drones can be lost. You could get some fun choices about when to send a drone into combat and when to reserve them for fear of losing one forever.

Card Bard


A basic combat card game. Although it was a little unintuitive at first (I didn’t realize you didn’t have to go all the way around the wheel in order to attack) the whole idea of the spinner going around the wheel threw a nice twist in this game. It became not just about which cards to pick to buff up your character, but the order in which you chose them became important. Sometimes you had to hold back from choosing something to avoid a skull, which brought up different choices than I was used to in this kind of game. I also like how the bad things didn’t have immediate negative effects, but just put bad cards into your deck, so the outcome was still dependent on the draw. I really think they should keep developing on this idea.

Zombie Tactics


This is a fantastic yet simple little strategy game where you lead a zombie horde around a map to kill/convert humans and find upgrades. It has a day night cycle, and during the day you have to keep your zombies out of harm’s way and can use that time to pan around the map and plan your best move. I love how it captures the ambling, mindless nature of the zombies as they flock around your command point, and growing your horde feels really compelling.

Lamp and Vamp

This super-cute vampire game of “get safely to the coffin” had a lot of fun but simple choices. I particularly liked the post-level upgrade options each time you found your way to the coffin. It did some fun things with light/dark/line-of-sight mechanics that worked well with the procedural nature of the grid layouts.

Intel was Wrong

I’m normally not one for these space exploration games, but this one did a great job of making me want to keep playing each time I learned something new that lead to my demise. It has did a good job of having multiple modes (world map exploration, galaxy exploration with menu-based events, and realtime shooter combat), which often leads to scope death in jams, but they pulled it off really well. They kept things simple and clean and as a result had a nice whole package that worked really well together.

Enter the Square

This game did a great job of getting a cohesive look, feel, and design. It has great shooter feedback and sound design, and though the art is simple the aesthetic is consistent and works really well. My favorite part is the mechanic wherein you blast open the next section of level. It can completely change the gameplay if you’re trying to take out dudes in a narrow corridor and blast open the adjacent squares for a new level layout and new choices to make. Great work!

All in all, a fun jam with many interesting entries and takes on the constraints. Good job everybody!

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