In 2012, Arkadium had an internal game jam called "Level Up!", where the entire company divided into teams and each team created a prototype around the theme of "symbiosis." Circle Town was our team's creation.
In 2012, Arkadium had an internal game jam called "Level Up!", where the entire company divided into teams and each team created a prototype around the theme of "symbiosis."
Our Game Jam team sat down after the theme was announced. We had two work days to come up with an idea and create a working prototype. After a few biology-inspired ideas (fish, bacteria) we came upon the idea that people living in a society are themselves in a symbiotic relationship. We decided that our game would be about a town.
Someone suggested bacon. Bacon was one of the very first things we came up with: a butcher makes bacon from a pig. Someone suggested concentric rings; we hadn't seen it before in a game, so what the heck. Worker, tool, material - it all fit into 3 rings. We had an idea; it was time to implement it. This was a couple hours into Day 1.
I used XNA to implement it because, frankly, I could implement a simple game in XNA in my sleep. I used totally placeholder art—red, green, and blue circles—and implemented 3 concentric rings as a simple match-3 mechanic: match 3 red gems on a spoke and they disappeared. Even without the context of townsfolk and recipes, it felt fun! Once my teammates had some artwork ready to go, we swapped it all in and the first version of Circle Town was born, with butchers butchering pigs, fishermen fishing for fish, and miners mining diamonds. By the end of Day 1 we actually had the basics of a game and it was actually enjoyable to play. Woo hoo! As the only programmer, I felt the pressure to deliver, and I was glad that everything came together and became playable fast, so Day 2 could be spent making things even better.
Day 2: We went to the whiteboard and started coming up with more recipes; more complicated ones with intermediate steps, like farmers farming wheat, and then bakers baking bread from the wheat. It all just fit together. We had townspeople that demanded the goods, and burned things when they didn't get them in time. Meanwhile, more artwork was being made, and I added a silly bounce-walk animation for the workers to move past to tools and the goods, which was just the absolute value of a sine wave.
One of our team members recorded hilarious sounds for things like an ominous "Give me bacon!" and the hilarious "Diamonds are a girl's best friend!" which, to me, just made the game that much more entertaining. When a townsperson wants fish and says "Feeeeeeeeeesh!" in the funniest way possible, you can't help but smile.
By the end of the second day, we had a progression, scoring, tutorial, lose condition—all the marks of a great arcade-style game. We were so proud, and everyone loved it! I ported it from XNA to Silverlight so it could be played on the web (at least on Windows and Mac); there's still a version on Arkadium's servers that you can play if you click here (opens new window; Silverlight required), at least until they notice and take it down.
Some time after the game jam, Arkadium's R&D team was looking for a new game to fully prototype and they chose Circle Town. They gave it a level progression, came up with awesome new recipe concepts (The fisherman uses steak to catch a shark! An artist chisels stone into a sculpture! A scientist clones sheep from lamb chops!), new puzzle concepts (A thief steals valuables! A bear steals food!) and proved that the game works in bite-sized chunks rather than an endless mode, and that the game plays best on a touch screen.
Later, after I had left Arkadium, Circle Town graduated to full development status and finally, 2 years after the first Game Jam prototype was created, Circle Town (now called Twisty Hollow) came out on iOS and Android (with my good friend Yury Pavlotsky as lead programmer)! I am so proud of having been part of Circle Town/Twisty Hollow's creation—it's such a unique puzzle/time management game, and the full version adds a great story and even more additions. There's even a trailer and a gameplay video. I highly recommend that everyone play it! Plus, bacon still factors heavily into the game.
Circle Town was originally created by an internal Arkadium Game Jam team consisting of Justin Kloc, Traci Lawson, Sam Ouk, Jon Simantov, and Chris Supino. A web-based version can be played here (Silverlight required) until Arkadium realizes it's still up and takes it down.
It was later fully prototyped by Arkadium's R&D team and eventually developed into a full game, Twisty Hollow, which was released by Arkadium for iOS on the App Store and for Android on Google Play and Amazon Appstore.