The Little Volcano that Could

This weekend, I participated in The Arbitrary Game Jam, a once-a-month game jam with randomly-chosen topics. My entry was The Little Volcano that Could, a turn-based strategy game where you’re a little pool of lava in a big scary world.

Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 6.29.53 PM

The jam started at 10pm on Friday night, at which point I was at a Halloween party. I checked my phone and the topics were lava, “love hurts”, and “be a stranger to fear.” I started thinking about making a platformer and then thought it might be fun to play the lava and try to burn as much as possible.

Saturday morning, I pulled out a pad and some dice and tried out some ideas. It turned out killing villagers was a lot of fun, so I decided to focus on that.


I created a new Github project for it and got a 3×3 square of grass with lava in the middle:

The beginnings of a game.

I implemented being able to “move” by placing adjacent lava:

Screen Shot 2013-11-02 at 11.58.10 AM

Next, I implemented the villagers who’d throw water at the lava to cool it and a “thermometer” to put a cap on how long the game could last:

Screen Shot 2013-11-02 at 6.12.14 PM

At this point things went a little off the rails. I was thinking I’d implement A* search for the enemies to find lava, but I started freaking out that I wouldn’t have enough time to do it. I ended up scrapping a couple hours of programming and just making the villagers random walk. I was getting pretty tired of programming at this point, so I took a break and worked on art most of the night.

First I came up with a palette I liked in ArtRage:

Screen Shot 2013-11-02 at 6.27.41 PM

It’s really fun using to the palette brush to mush around the colors. Next time I’m going to add a few more shades, I think, this was just too difficult to work with.

I used the palette to implement a bunch of pixel art in Sprite Something (which is a fantastic sprite editor for iOS, by the way).

The grass took hours longer than everything else (even the animations) and ended up looking more like tentacles than I really wanted.

I’m not sure why, but the grass took hours longer than everything else (even the animations). It also ended up looking more like tentacles than I really wanted.




I was pretty happy with this tree, but then I found out it was almost invisible against the grass.

I was pretty happy with this tree, but then I found out it was almost invisible against the grass.

Saturday night I started plugging the art into to the actual game:

Screen Shot 2013-11-02 at 10.14.22 PM

Sunday was mostly getting the animations to do the right thing. I had to slow them down, make the water throwing not repeat endlessly, and set up this nice chain of events:


It involves:

  • The throw animation above.
  • Fading out the lava to reveal the “cooled” surface.
  • Lifting and fading out the cloud of steam.
  • Once the throw animation is complete, the villager can walk away.

And the villagers have to be facing the right direction, which there are still some bugs with on the walking.

Deploying was as annoying as always, but around 4pm Sunday everything was set to go and I tweeted my entry to the organizer.

All in all, it was a lot of fun! It went a lot smoother than the last game jam did and, although there are about 50 things I wish I’d had time to add (ranged weapons, fog of war, lava lamps), I’m pretty happy with how it came out. Theoretically I could have worked on it for 6 more hours than I did, but I was pretty happy with it and tired.

Please give my game a try and let me know what you think!

kristina chodorow's blog