Games [4 Health] Jam 2014 – It’s Mental

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SheepHerders trailer at the end of the Games [4 Health] Jam 2014


During the Games [4 Health] Jam 2014 it was all about creating games to support therapists in treating youngsters that show very dominant and aggressive behaviour. SheepHerders is the resulting game created by Berry Hermans, Martijn Prins, Corne Willemsen, Joeri van Ees and me as “Team FlipIt!”. It emphasizes that both players have equal abilities, and through an absolute dependency and common goal to achieve they will have to either choose to follow one another or communicate about who goes where and why.

Prototyping

The concept of SheepHerders felt very strong while prototyping. Two of our team would hold a string and walk around as the ‘shepherds’, trying to get the rest of the team (as the ‘sheep’) surrounded and lead them back to the door. The ‘sheep’ were walking by putting one foot directly on front of the other, making them not only walk slower than the ‘shepherds’, but also walk at different paces. We changed who would be ‘herding’ the rest of the team a few times and felt it to be a strong concept, and every time the ‘shepherds’ would communicate more about where to go and how to approach the rest.

When turning SheepHerders into a video game, we decided on keeping it local multiplayer. This is partly because networking would bring too much complications for the limited amount of time we had, and mainly because it also enhances the communication aspect of the game even further; Not only are you playing side by side, but communication happens on multiple levels and you communicate more directly.

SheepHerders

Building the game

My role in this Game Jam was mainly to make the sheep move in random directions and handle input from the players. For this last point we decided on mainly using XBox controllers, because the thumbsticks provide much more flexibility in direction and speed. I also implemented keyboard controls to make sure everyone would be able to play. Joeri suggested using XInput for simpler code, especially since the input axis of Unity for reading the XBox controllers regularly read input when there was none. The coolest part was that Corne made several animations and I got to implement them, along with the sounds Joeri made, to really make the game come to life.

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