Tuesday, November 14, 2023

new jam game: Where's the beef

I released a quick little jam game about 2 weeks ago, but I realized I never posted it here, so here it is:
"Where's the beef is a silly little beef-finding web browser game made in zero hours for 0h game jam 2023 (http://www.0hgame.eu/) where we make games in "zero hours" when daylight savings time switches over (in Europe)"

"15 levels of beef finding; literally photorealistic graphics; can YOU find the beef???"

For all the zoomers / teens reading this -- "where's the beef?" was a popular catchphrase in a Wendy's ad campaign back in the 1980s...

Much of the appeal of the phrase was the gender performance in the TV commercial, where an irritated elderly woman demands something of real substance... Supposedly an earlier version of the commercial, with a middle-aged man, tested poorly. 

Which makes sense. Imagine a man complaining about a perceived lack of beef; you would immediately mutter to your dad to be quiet you're embarrassing me oh my god I can't go anywhere with you. ("Sir, this is a Wendy's...") But now imagine a mom complaining about a lack of animal protein -- obviously a real grievance that requires attention because she's probably right.

The gender connotations and central question ("where?!") then made me think of hidden object games, a genre with an audience that traditionally skews heavily toward women. 

This was a golden opportunity for my favorite game design trick: make a game that's literally about doing the thing, don't try to adapt it into a platformer or shooter or something! Just make the thing and let the activity breathe. 

So this is a game about literally finding beef and clicking on it. Very simple.

The concept is so simple that the Unity project has zero code / zero C# scripts. The "zero hour" jam left little time to waste on programming. Instead, I leaned heavily on Unity UI and Unity Events for all my game implementation, playing with different button sprites that would disable each game object ("level") in sequence. 

This speedy workflow actually gave me quite a bit of time to iterate on level design, which was a surprising luxury that I rarely associate with jam games. I tried to build up and pace out the jokes, I tried playing with different senses of "beef." Sometimes the beef is easy to find, sometimes it feels nearly impossible. But it's always there. And then, at last -- you find all the beef. As was foretold.

You can play Where's the beef in your web browser right now. It lasts a minute or two.

RELATED: The last time I participated in the 0h game jam I made Apollo 2, back in 2011. Which was... 12 years ago?! Jesus christ.