Building a game in two weeks with Animation & Game Art grad Daisy Brooks ’22

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Wednesday, December 20th, 2023

Part of the fun of being a game developer is when you can design, build, and tailor a game to what you love to do. 

That’s what a team led by Daisy Brooks ’22 did during a recent Cafe Dot Game Jam contest — and anyone can download and play the game for free (see more below). With four different endings, it’ll take you about 15 minutes to play through, and you can enter the world of an adorable little park ranger rabbit with big adventures. 

The Animation & Game Art graduate and their team had just two weeks to create and build Little Red Ranger. Here’s what that experience was like: 

Tell us more about the game you helped create:

Daisy Brooks: Little Red Ranger is a visual novel game … where you take on the role of Park Ranger Clover and are tasked by the mayor with investigating recent disappearances in your town. The game was created during the jam’s two-week time limit, with our team of four working asynchronously over Discord and keeping track of game files and developmental tasks with Google Drive and Trello respectively. Once the theme of the jam was announced, “animals with jobs,” we got to work pitching ideas and voting on them, agreeing before the jam that the person whose pitch we chose would be the director. 

How the team divided up what needed to be done:

DB: As the person who pitched Little Red Ranger, I served as director of the project who, on a team of four, ends up being the project manager as well. Based on everyone’s skills, the team ended up being myself, taking care of the vast majority of art and asset responsibilities from sprites to backgrounds to GUI (game user interface); Budder, who was our programmer, working the engine Ren’Py, and also did our cute little loading screen animation; Link, who was our head writer; and Emmett Kane, who was responsible for all of our audio and a bit of writing assistance. I also worked with Emmett for my senior capstone film, Godslayer

Sketch of protagonists in Little Red Ranger.

The story behind developing the game:

DB: It was driven by two questions: What can our team reasonably make during this jam based on our skills and the time limit, and “What would I want to work on for the next two weeks?”

We had two engines we were looking at … Ren’Py ended up winning out since it’s super easy to learn if any of us needed to help Budder code and provides a lot of basics for a game like save systems and GUIs. As far as the second question goes, I know I like dark and spooky fantasy stories, so on a walk with Emmett I floated the idea of, Little Red Riding Hood, but she investigates a mystery and is a cute bunny. In our case, though, we decided to make our protagonist, Clover, gender neutral since it wasn’t too important to the plot, and who can resist the pun “nonbunnary,” after all? I won’t spoil too much about the story in case folks decide to play it for themselves!

A pier sets a scene in Little Red Ranger.

Some design inspirations for the game:

DB: A lot of the game’s design is inspired by pieces of other games I enjoy — the dialogue by Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous‘ more roleplay-heavy segments, and the investigation itself by the Ace Attorney games. For the audio I mostly let Emmett do his thing, but Dishonored 2’s ambient soundtrack and the original Silent Hill theme were the starting points we used as inspiration. For the visuals, I pulled a lot of inspiration from Darkest Dungeon for our solid black shadows, with a touch of Don’t Starve’s simplified and sketchy style while trying to evoke some “small-town horror” vibes. Link was also set loose to work in his usual writing style… And, being that Budder was our resident expert on Ren’Py, I deferred to her a lot when it came to what was feasible to implement, and when to add little touches like when to play sound effects or move sprites around. 

Want to play Little Red Ranger?

It can be downloaded for free for Windows and Mac on itch.io