July 4, 1976
What dark secret hides within this strange house? As you visit each location, and touch objects you see, you learn about this family from the viewpoint of the child. If you are a fan of disturbing games this one will unsettle you as you explore every nook and cranny of this desperate situation. Find the hidden keys and unlock the mystery of July 4, 1976.
July 4, 1976 is a first-person adventure through a family's home. Creepy music and sound effects create the tense atmosphere that instills a foreboding feeling, an expectation of something bad about to happen. This game was created in 10 hours at Galway Game Jam 7 in Galway, Ireland.
Download the desktop versions of the game right here.
Created by John Romero and Ian Dunbar.
The Game Jam
Ian and I arrived at the Portershed in Galway at 8am to set up our computers and get ready for the 9am start. We were ready to go at 9am. We had our drinks and snacks ready, our directories and dev environments all set up (we used Corona SDK), and waited for the organizer to announce the theme for the game. We actually had to wait until 10am before getting the theme which was CHARGE.
Ian and I started brainstorming and figuring out what kind of game we could make with that theme. Brenda was texting me because she wanted to know as well. When she heard about the idea that we were talking about she called. She didn't like the idea and gave us a different idea which was the basis for this game design. In our game, CHARGE means CHARGED WITH MURDER. We really liked her new idea so we started on it immediately.
We decided that people normally do not go for a Content Play during a one day game jam. People usually go for procedural generation or a single-screen game. I thought that I could pull off a bunch of pixel art screens and it would look impressive for a game jam effort. Luckily, Pixelmator on macOS is an awesome photoshop-like app that acts like a tile editor when you're dragging graphics around.
First, we had to decide how the game should look. We decided on retro pixel graphics and opengameart.org was the best site with a nice selection. Then we decided on solving a disturbing situation that happens in a house. Brenda had the idea of making the viewpoint be the kid going through their house. We decided that I would do all the graphics, writing, and audio for this game while Ian did all the coding.
The first hour was spent finding all the graphics I would use while Ian was writing the first tool that could drag and drop items onto a background screen so the player could click on them and a message could be displayed. After an hour I realized that we only needed clickable regions on the screen for text to appear. Ian had already gotten his editor working with a palette and drag and drop, so he needed to modify it for this new functionality. That means we had a major change just after Hour 1. Not a biggie because we couldn't foresee any other huge changes.
From this point on until 8pm we worked like crazy. I got up to go to the bathroom two times and they both added up to probably 7 minutes away from the game. The entire 10 hours was spent absolutely slammed working on the game. In the end I decided not to do three additional screens that would have made the house feel bigger. Ian did a great job making an in-game editor that allowed me to create clickable regions, name them, and type tags or functions that needed to be called at that point. Then it was a simple matter of editing the lua files to do whatever I needed to do that involved key/lock puzzles. All the text was handled automatically. It's a cool little adventure engine we could use for something else later.
Everything went smoothly while we were cranking the game out. There were no cataclysmic problems or issues other than the very final couple text fixes and bug fixes we made in the closing minutes. It was a total blast. I wrote all the dialog as fast as I could and the audio was actually different than you hear in this version. The dev version had a great Quake 1 creepy song as the background, as well as the title song. I replaced them both since we decided to put this game for download.
When we were done, most of the game jam participants come over at some point to check it out and they all agreed the game was so creepy just sitting at the title screen – it scared some people out of playing it! Mission accomplished.
We decided not to make a nice, clean wrapped-up-package-ending. We wanted the player to feel uneasy and that maybe another play of the game will provide more answers.
The Easter Eggs
Actually, there aren't any easter eggs in this game. However, the character at the end of the game, Jibby, is an easter egg in three other games. It's kinda like an in-joke. Gunman Taco Truck has Jibby in the town scene. Tremble (can be found here) has the words from Gunman's audio easter egg as text in a hidden room. Finally, a game being made right now has Jibby hidden in it. There will be more. For us, it's the new Dopefish.
If you read past this point you will be reading the solution to the game.
The key/lock puzzles are very simple, you just have to do them in order.
1) In your sister's bedroom, click on the plant to get the small key
2) Go out the front door and click on the cop
3) Go into the living room and click on the video cabinet to get the piece of paper with the combination
4) Go back to your bedroom and click on your locked cabinet to get the crowbar
5) Go back to the living room and click on the chest to get the thick gloves
6) Go to the laundry room and click on the acid bath to get the rusty key
7) Go into the backyard and click on the shed
8) Wait until the timer reaches zero – the end
The title screen has a sun with flashing red and blue to suggest the bicentennial and American Independence Day. In reality it's the flashing lights of the police car.
If you've played July 4, 1976 tell us what you think. Remember: we spent only 10 hours on it!