Making a game in 2 weeks: The Killmonday Winter Challenge

As game developers we are always hungry to learn, grow and evolve. No new project never looks the same as the last. We are constantly striving to push ourselves further – exploring what’s next, breaking new grounds, never quite comfortable in what we do but always learning something new. That’s what makes being an artist so beautiful!

So, after a 3 year long period of producing our beloved game Little Misfortune, we are eager to jump into our next big project: Fran Bow 2. And it will, of course, look nothing to what we have done before. We want to step it up – big time!

However, before we can go ahead right into production, we have this gap inbetween where we have to come up with ideas (both storywise and gameplaywise) as well as finding out how to solve numerous problems in terms of the technical part. Especially since we want to explore the possibilities of 3D and before these two recent weeks, neither Natalia nor Isak had worked with that before.

WIP, Fran Bow 2. This is how crazy it can go when you’re starting out in 3D, lol.
WIP, Fran Bow 2. Trying out how to make Fran talk and blink!

So, it is in the middle of this “inbetween” period that our recent project comes handy: “Mr Red’s Jolly Balls” – a Third person, single player platformer game.

Game Description:

Sneeble Snowball knocks on Mr. Red’s door for help! The Evil Gnomes and The Nutkraken has taken all the presents out of the Christmas Stockings! And The Snowball Family is very sad about it. Help Sneeble and the cute Snowballs to return all the presents into the stockings, for the children.

-Knock out Evil Gnomes with the Huge Candy Cane.
-Jump and double jump on places.
-Throw Sneeble Snowball and kickass.
-Push and drag the icecubes.
-Collect cute stars to gain extra life.
-Break the icewalls.
-Secrets to be found.
-All donations you give us for Mr. Red’s Jolly Balls, under december 2019, will be given away for ( The Water Project)

The game is free and available to play on PC. You can download it here.

The original concept for this game is based off a game we did a couple years ago: “Mr Reds adventure in The Missing Balls”. You can watch the trailer below.

The first Mr. Red game we did back in 2013.

This time though, we wanted to make it in 3D and in the time span of two weeks. We decided to call it “The Killmonday Winter Challenge”. And it really was a challenge – a super intense, fun and rewarding challenge!

Managing a small indie game company is about so much more than just producing games. The “creative” part of game development can actually feel very small in comparision to all the other stuff you need to do. After the release of Little Misfortune, we have felt especially scattered with work. As we’ve been overwhelmed with marketing work and also porting the game to mobile and consoles, we have barely had any time to start working on our new project.

These two recent weeks, however, have been different. Such short amount of time allowed no time for thinking nor planning – we just jumped straight into designing, sculpting, painting, animating, composing music, building and programming. It has felt so nice to take a step back from everything else and to CREATE, to do the things we love the most in the world!

WIP. The first concept art for the characters. Mr. Red, Gnomito and Gnomita, sweet Snebble Snowball (look at the snowball!) and The NutKraken, a.k.a The Final Boss.
WIP. A sketch of the first level.
WIP. Sketches for assets. Housing, ice bergs, ice cubes, ice decks, ice walls, icicle and trees.
WIP. Concept art for assets. Parts of assets can be combinated in different ways to create variations, a very good thing about working in 3D!
WIP. Testing out the block world and the gameplay. You can now jump, double jump, push and drag objects!

Above all else, it has been incredibly educational. The idea of Fran Bow 2 have honestly felt a bit intimidating, since our vision stretches far beyond our current technical experiences and knowledge. However, after completing this jolly little game and having allowed ourselves to play and experiment without aiming for perfection, our eyes have opened for a whole new dimension of game development. With our newly gained knowledge, we now feel so much less frightened to continue playing, experimenting and learning!

To create the graphics of “Mr Red’s Jolly Balls” we used a mix of the programs 3D-coat, Maya and Photoshop. 3D- coat is great for sculpting the “basis” – we often use 3D coat for characters which have a more complex and organic form whereas simpler objects, such as environmental assets, are made in Maya. Maya is also used for rigging (meaning the process of creating a skeleton for a model that are later used as a foundation for the animation) and UV mapping (the process of making the models ready for texturing). To create textures for the models, we use a combination of 3D coat and Photoshop.

WIP. An evil gnome.
Sculpting the gnomes’ pointy feet!

Maya has a lot to offer and has shown to be a great tool for us. It can be used for many different things and as long as you are not working with very heavy and complex models, one could probably stick to only using it in a combination with Photoshop. But 3D coat is a good tool to ease up some parts of the process!

Mr. Red is being prepared for painting and texturing!
Turning into a knitted puppet.

It can feel overwhelming to learn a new software from scratch, but with a little curiousity and a great deal of patience, you can overcome the most. Thanks to Essi and her background knowledge in 3D, we have been able to get into it quite easily! Never underestimate the power of trial and error: if there is one thing we have learned, it is that there are always multiple ways to achieve the same result!

For the programming part we have been sticking to using Unity3D, which we also used creating Little Misfortune. Making a 3D game opened us up to new aspects of programming. It takes a bit longer to see a finish result in 3D compared to 2D – and it has definitely been challenging – but it has also shown to be very flexible to work with in many areas, especially in terms of level design. Lesson learnt: it isn’t as hard as you may think!

WIP. Level design in Unity 3D.
All the music is of course being composed by our very own Isak Martinsson!

Unity is also used for animation, with the help of a plugin called Umotion which has the basics for 3D animation. As this is Natalia’s first time animating in 3D she finds it a good tool that is simple to get started with, especially if you have worked with 2D animation with bones before. We’re still unsure whether we will continue animating in Unity for Fran Bow 2 but the newly attained experience made Natalia “fall in love again” with the process of animation.

During this project we have gained new valuable information that we’ll have a lot of use for in upcoming projects, and it has definitely sown seeds for new ideas based off everything we’ve learnt so far. If you know us, you also know that if there’s anything we don’t lack, it’s imagination. Working with one idea always initiates tons of other ideas! It’s the most efficient way to overcome artist’s block 😉

Working under pressure puts great demand on good communication and cooperation within the team, and for each project we do together we learn and grow new connections to one another as well as evolving better ways in which we can work more efficiently as a group. That is always such a nice experience!

Finally, but very importantly, these two weeks have been so much fun! It has been very enjoyable to cover the whole development process – coming up with ideas, concepting, producing and finishing – in just two weeks. As a game developer the process of coming up with an idea to actually see it finished is very long process, in most cases going on for several years. Sometimes you need to remind yourself that you actually ARE a creator and the things you do everyday DO make a difference – they become something, become life. It is refreshing, and absolutely necessary, to break up from your usual routine once in a while.

Except from the reasons stated above, we wanted to do this game for another reason. For a reason that lie close to our hearts – something that we would be very proud of if we could make it happen.

As you know the game is available to download for free, but it can also be downloaded from itch.io, where there is an additional option to donate money in any amount of your choice. In the loving message of Christmas, we would like to donate the money we receive to charity, more precisely, to an organistion called The Water Project.

The Water Project is a non-profit organisation providing reliable water projects to communities who lack access to clean water and proper sanitation. This is so important, since the water crisis does not only affect access to water itself, but also access to food, health, education and economical growth. By getting access to safe water families and children in these communities can get their lives and futures back. You can read about this here.

We are really proud of making this game in such a short time together, and we are now filled with inspiration and creativity for the time to come!

Now the Killmonday Team takes some rest over the holidays, coming back in the beginning of January 2020. We are so ready for next year and for all the things it will bring. We will of course update you on every step of the way!

As always, thank you for supporting us and keeping in touch. You help us keep going every day.

From us all to you all, merry christmas and happy new year! 🎄🎅💖

Love,

Killmonday Team.

PLAY “MR. RED’S JOLLY BALLS! Available here. All money that is donated for the game is given to The Water Project.

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