It’s a special day when a project that has taken over my life for the better part of the last couple years has let up enough to allow me to ‘play’ again with my game design. My work on Dialatron is evidence of this, and now allowing myself to make something for the Fantastic Arcade game jam Barfcade! You can play it online now, right here -> Polite Dinner Extreme
I admit, I didn’t actually finish in time. To my credit though, I didn’t actually working on it until two days before the jam ending (out of a two-week jam which ended the 14th, a few days ago), and most of the work being done on my laptop in an 18 hour car ride from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Austin, Texas for FA. My longtime project partner Brian Quarfoth jumped in to help and created most of the art for the game, which I absolutely love! I still adore pixels, and his choice to keep an original NES color palette makes me smile.
The idea for the game came to me pretty quickly, though differs from the last version in its core mechanic. Originally, the concept was to move your player up and down between table settings, and eating food either quickly or slowly with the action button depending on if the parent on your side of the screen was looking at you or not. If they were looking at you and you weren’t eating slow, they would be disgusted, barf, and your meal would get taken away. This would cause you to lose time, allowing the other player to take the lead by finishing more meals and getting more points.
As Brian and I discussed the concept, it became clear that without some sort of interaction between the players themselves, it lacked a competitive punch that is quite compelling. He had the idea that you can throw food at the other player which fit well within the layout of the game already. This made the game more head-to-head, instead of you versus your gazing parent.
Many variations of the food throwing concept were explored, but ultimately the deadline forced me down a simple path using this idea that I’m actually quite happy with. The parents are now just fun backdrop, slowly eating their food and shooting you nasty looks when you vomit from getting hit by the other player.
You still move up and down, slamming the action button to eat as quickly as possible (without fear of your parents gaze), but once your plate is clean, the next button hit will toss it across the table. If it hits the other player, that player is locked into a short barfing animation, and the waiter arms that shoot up from the bottom of the screen to replace food after being eaten also have to take away the barf filled plate, further delaying getting fresh food.
Although I wasn’t finished in the car by midnight, I got impressively close (if I say so myself). Being in Austin, I’ve been enjoying old friends and great food, so it took my another two days to actually complete it. I DID complete it though, and that is the important part. It was my first ‘traditional’ game in Unity, which helped me learn a lot of new tools that I didn’t have a reason to explore in the MysteryPhone game I made.
Brian and I may tinker with it more, at the very least to balance it more, but now that we’ve got the start of a new workflow, we’re both looking forward to making experiments like this more often. Once again, you can play Polite Dinner Extreme online now! Feel free to leave feedback!