how to make a Metroidvania in 48-hours!
12 min read
Okay, so I said metroidvania but this guide may help with any and all games that seem to be just a little too big for a 48-hour game jam scope.
I've make quite a few games the are stupid large in scpoe myself and I think I have a pretty decent stragey for pulling it off cosistanly. that why I'm here, to pass as much of that on to you guys.
So without further adieu, I am Singleshot and this is my guide on how to make a metroidvania in 48 hours!
~ ~well everything that's not art and code!~ ~
and I'm not joking here, metoridvania are huge games that have a flow to exploration and progression. and under normal conditions it would be impossible to pull it off in a small time frame.
But luckily for us GM48 is nice enough to let us know ahead of time what the theme of the jam is. . . Kinda. normally its marked down to the top 10 - 15 choices. so that gives us time to brainstorm ideas. but we are going to take it a step beyond brainstorming and build a Game Doc depicting everything our game is going to do.
from how we will incorporate the themes, to the progression system, the power ups and even the map design.
now please note This is not full-proof, the chance that the game you put all this prepwork into is not granted to be chosen as the theme. so be warned that all this work can be undone by bad luck.
That being said, without taking gambles like this, it is impossible to pull off large games like this in 48 hours. so it's up to you if this is worth the risk.
but if this gamble pays off, you can make a game that seems impossible and baffle everyone!
Take my own Gm48 Metroidvania for example
go on play it, I'll wait . . . please . . .
Anyways, enough shilling, back on topic. so once you have decided if the gamble is worth your time, we must start the work!
-- Now I'm going to go over step by step how I prep for a game on this scale.
- First up we need to compile the potential jam themes into a list.
This is the easy part, just get your preferred text App/word doc and make a list.
- go over each theme one by one and pick which ones are suited for a Metroidvania
the sad truth is that not every theme can be used for this type of game, in fact I find few are, but that's just me so who knows. you could be a creative genius when it comes to this stuff.
- use the theme to inform the core mechanic of the game.
This Sounds obvious but it's so easy to get caught up in making a type of genre that you forget to include the theme, which is one of the most important aspects to a jam game! For example Terror Tower theme was climb the tower, and while that's not a gameplay mechanic, it meant that the whole game needed to revolve around the tower. So to make it work I made the tower a wizard's tower, all the power up's were wizard’s spells, and all the enemies were his creations. Every choice I made was influenced by the theme or the genre. as another example energy swap my first gm48 metroidvania the theme was colors are important, so the core mechanic was switching between a blue and red color to harm or not be harmed by enemies.
but I digress, even at this point keep the theme in mind.
- choice all the abilities the player will have.
now how the player interacts with the world is key in a metroidvania. and you won't have much time to figure this out once the jam starts. so make a list of every power/ability the player should have in the game.
just think of what all the player should be able to do by the time they beat the game. This can be as simple as a double jump. or as complex as a teleporter to wrap around the map. but I must say Keep it within your scope to program!! in fact everything you put on this list should be something you or your team knows you can implement within the first third of the jam. wasting time programming mechanics only to not have time to implement them is something that should be avoided at all cost.
- Design the map progression
now that we know what abilities we should give the player, it's time to take them away and scatter them.
First we should build a map. Now this sounds easy, but this is really one of the hardest parts of the prepwork. first thing to note is that You can not change this later on and I'm dead serious when I say this. This map will be the only thing guiding your design and changing it or losing it can waste large amounts of time you can't afford to lose once the jam starts.
Now that we are clear on this, let's start design.This is the map I made for terror tower.
it's quite small, but that was to make it easy to edit.
here let me blow it up.
Now I divide the map into squares. even at this point I'm thinking of the map size, because each and every square on this map will take up a 640X640 portion of the room.
That's how far ahead I was thinking when I was planning this.
Now while keeping in mind the player powers ups, I take away everyone that can be used for advanced exploration like double jump, wall jump, and dash. as well as improvement such as health increases and optional attacks.
then start planning out a path with the players current moves in mind. At this point they can only walk, jump and attack.
Then after leaving a stretch of map for a tutorial segment, I start to branch off into different directions. giving them a large space to explore knowing full well they can't go everywhere and there will be many dead ends.
The key to these dead ends is making sure the player can clearly tell they can't overcome it without some kind of upgrade or ability. but also to make them keep in mind the area for when they can explore it.
Next I start building a progression path for the player to take by choosing areas for them to find power ups, and gates they can't overcome without them.
This will take time, but at this point you can change, and morph the map until it's how you want it to be. and once you're happy with the layout and progression the player will take then it's time to finalize it!
- anything else you can think of
okay this is where I plan the rest of the game. I kinda lump this into one segment because while this is also important, this is closer to polish and sanding.
so things like enemies the player will fight, so the themes and designs of each segment of the map. to planning out bosses' attack patterns and designs. maybe even write a story for the game.
remember that you can't use any assets you make at this phase for anything beyond reference. so keep it simple, concept art and descriptions. NO cheating, making something by breaking the rules just sours the end result.
-- but that's basically all the prep work needed.
It's kinda a lot of work for something that's a gamble but hey that's showbiz!
-- So the jam just started and the theme you put all the prep work in to was chosen. The first thing you should do is scream and praise yourself for being super lucky. and next is start working immediately.
get your art team if you have any working. you have already decided everything from style to designs in the prep work. so the people making you music and art should already know what they need to make. but make sure you check upon them every few hours anyways just to be sure. It's crunch time baby, and you have everything you need to finish in time.
- you Should build your base engine
Time to make that player feel and control like you planned. and take time to play test and make sure it's going as planned.
Make sure you get this Done pretty quickly. If you can't finish the engine in the first third of the jam time you will have a bad time. and by base engine I mean all the platforming, movement, player abilities and ability to gain power ups.
also if you got anyone to playtest with you. get them to work, even if you have to beg. finding out how people like or don't like the controls will help you refind it so much better than you could ever do yourself.
- Get all your map art assets in order
before you start building your level, get your tile and art asset in order. Normally you are able to go back and add them after building the level, but you don't have time for that in a jam. so you need to have your tile set ready to go, as you're building the map. design and fill out details as you go. find places to place enemies, make it nice as you go along.
of course we will be going over it again later, but still try to make it as nice as you can while your building.
if your solo then this is the time to make the tile set you will be using.
- Build the level
now the next third of your development time will be building the map. Since you already make the big picture in the prepwork, it's time to fill in the details.
use your map as a framework.
I made a sprite to divide my room into 640X640 squares as a template so I know where to build the segment that will become my map. feel free to build it one segment at a time. whatever helps you keep things in order.
just make sure you follow your guide to make it before the jam, it's your blueprint and breaking from it will most definitely cause issues down the line. and those issues are not fun to fix.
fill in the gaps
Now that you spent all this time you should have a rough metroidvania. the game should be playable from start to finish. but that's not all, now it's time to add the extras like, a title screen, credits, sound effects, music and most helpfully a UI for the player to look at!
all the extra touches that make it full less like a jam game and more like a real game people would pay money for!
the closer you can make it feel to a full game the better! it will only help your chances in the ratings.
Bug-fix, bug-fix, and most importantly BUG-FIX!!!
you need to playtest, with the goal of breaking your game! try to do whatever you can think of that can cause issues. and then fix whatever single issue you find.
a Single bug can be the difference between top 5 and top 20
so to say that this is important is an understatement.
- Make sure to upload your game silly!
just as a single bug can kill a game, not getting it uploaded in time can be instakill. Even if you're still bug testing, as long as your game can be played from start to finish, upload it.
you can always upload a new version after fixing some bugs. and if you run into trouble contact peter on discord and see if he can upload it.
- Make that Game page look nice
and lastly, if no one looks at your game, then all that effort was wasted.
get a nice icon for your game, something that stands out and shows off your game is best.
an animated gif with a Bold text on it works great. This isn't an interview email. standing out and showing off is more important than looking professional.
but your game page should be the opposite.
- have a description of your game
- a list of the controls
- and *SCREENSHOTS of the game!
give them all the information they need to know whats the games about, what to expect of it, and how they can play it.
having these things before playing can easily change their reaction for the better.
no one likes feeling like an idiot, and the easier you make it for them to jump in and start playing the more favorable they will look at the game when rating it.
-- now sit back and look proudly at your game. you just made something that a lot of people think is impossible. with hard work, effort and a whole lot of luck.
Any ways thanks for reading this and I hope it helped you. and good luck with your jam games!
-- written by SingleShot