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Global Game Jam 2015

Another year, another Global Game Jam! This year the theme was ‘What do we do now?’ Not really as good as last year in my opinion, but a theme is a theme!

So this year my game jam experience was a bit different. Last year it was amongst 150 people or so, crammed into SAE Institute in London, passing out under the tables for a few hours a little bit of kip on Saturday night, and ending up with a very INcomplete game.

This year, since I was doing the game jam with my PhD programme, there were only 11 of us. Additionally, we were booked into a 4-star hotel (which happens to be part-owned by the Uni of Essex. Convenient!) and had a butt-load of pizza, sandwiches, red bull and coffee provided. This was as close to ‘Game Jam Royalty’ as someone can get I reckon!

Not only that, but together with a super-team comprised of Mihail, Andrei and Christian, we actually managed to finish our game (more or less!). You can play it here.

Crazy Cabbies is inspired by Crazy Taxi by SEGA, but in our game each wheel is controlled separately. This means that you have to work with your other team mates in order to guide your taxi to your fare, pick them up and deliver them safely whilst not running over people or crashing into cars.

Recommended for minimum 2 players, ideal with 4, for ‘testing purposes’ you can of course play it with one person with 4 fingers!

It is strongly recommended you spend a few seconds in the tutorial first!

Made in Unity 4.6.

I was responsible for the idea and the world design, level building and procurement of art and sound assets.

Enjoy!

Ludum Dare 28 – Post-mortem

So a couple of weeks ago I decided to put aside the weekend of December 14th and 15th to take part in the Ludum Dare 28 compo. Upon waking up early on the Saturday and logging on t’internet, found the theme was “You Only Get One” and set about brainstorming and designing!

Something I was really keen to avoid was going down the predictable route of only one life, only one chance, only one bullet etc. and try and make a game that didn’t involve violence/death/weapons. Since there are SOOO many of those and a jam is a chance to do something different, I thought I’d try something a bit out there – so I did! You can play my game, “Shades of One”, on the Ludum Dare site here (available in more or less all OS flavours 🙂 !)

Shades of One

Main screenshot for ‘Shades of One’

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(before I go any further, my stand out entry that I’ve played is this one –
“The Day the Laughter Stopped”. Hard hitting and very troubling to play, but by God it uses simple mechanics to make a strong point well. You’ve been warned….)
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So for this jam I used Construct2, Paint.net and Otomata. A restriction of taking part in the jam is that ALL resources must be created within that 48 hour period (unless you post the source code of a pre-made script to a blog post and thereby share it with the community), which was interesting.

This post is a brief post-mortem on my entry, now that it’s a few days post entry and has received feedback and I’ve played several other entries.

What went well:

  • I liked the theme of the jam. To be honest, I think I would like any theme set because I find that half of the fun is being creative and working out your own different spin on the theme. I was surprised at the number of people who complained about the theme and gave it as a reason to not finish/not get involved.
  • Using Construct2 was a good move since this is a drag and drop game making engine (similar to GameMaker and Multimedia Fusion 2) with better functionality, a good physics engine, solid modular design and all the export options you could wish for – meaning that more or less anyone would be able to play my game in the format most convenient to them. It also meant that I could get some core mechanics up and running in less than a day. Before day 2 I was onto blocking out levels, doing the graphics and generating the music.
  • People seem to have warmed to my spin on the theme pretty well. I was going for the more artsy take on things and wasn’t sure if people would be on-board with what I’m saying. On the whole, people have really enjoyed my take (which was about homogeneity within the video games industry – “You only get one viewpoint/kind of game”).
  • I was pleased with how the overall feel of the game came out. My main concern was how I put over the message I wanted to convey, but yet had some gameplay to get people playing the game and interested in playing to the end. Most feedback indicates that people really liked my little man on the unicycle.
  • Graphics and ambience was good. Construct2 has some great WebGL options for adding filters and Otomata was the right kind of music for the artsy, ethereal mood I was trying to invoke. Graphics were all the same 4 shades of grey with different colour filters on top to reflect much of commercial games design. Not sure if that got through though….
  • The game, although flawed, was complete. I had a title screen, the game transitioned from level to level well, it has a reset option and I actually told the player what they needed to do and the controls on the title screen! It had an ending that resolved and then exited back to the beginning. Having played through a number of LD28 entries at time of writing, I can see that some had some great mechanics but were not the properly ‘topped and tailed’ packages that I might have expected.

What didn’t go so well:

  • After playing several other entries (I’m going to try and get to 50), I found that I’m not the only one who’d used Otomata! Whilst I feel that the music actually suited my game and didn’t suit many (though not all) of the others that used it, this is the first and last jam game that I will use Otomata for the music!
  • The game was probably too hard for the kind of game it was trying to be. You don’t want a game with a message, which therefore requires a player to reach the end for the ‘punchline’, to be fiddly and difficult to navigate in the interim. Some of the platforming sections were, on reflection and further to feedback, a little tricky.
  • It was a difficult and potentially pretentious message to try and put across in a solo game jam of only 48 hours! That’s not a reason for not trying, but it IS a reason for why the message could have had more finesse. In particular, I could have worked more on getting the mechanics to mesh more tightly with the text messages placed throughout the game. 

  • Would have been nice to introduce a little more variety into the gameplay. I’m not 100% convinced that everyone would have liked the Unicyle physics enough to stay through to the end (even if the game is only 5/6 minutes long).

Conclusion

This was the first Ludum Dare and the first solo game jam I’ve taken part in. I’ve learned heaps and loved every minute of it and I’m really looking forward to the next one in April. I’ve learned that I can really get A LOT done in 48 hours when I really focus – although I couldn’t do that every day! I love having that theme, running with it and putting in something for people to play – it’s been a fantastic experience and the first of many LDs I’m sure.

I’ve also learned a fair amount about other people. Many didn’t like the theme or couldn’t get inspired (or, at least, that’s what they used to explain non-entry), which I find strange. Restrictions are what gives rise to creativity, and I find that one of the big ‘joys of design’ to be had in life is working within restraints and coming up with something new and different, rather than be paralysed with the bewildering choice of ‘anything’. 

I also discovered that I time-manage myself a lot better than many others. Several had some REALLY promising game mechanics, but they got lost in the 48 hours and couldn’t adjust and adapt accordingly to get a fully functional product entered. That’s a REAL shame, because I’ve seen some fantastic ideas which would have come across 100x better if they’d had a bit more time spent on the right things. Where appropriate, I’ve communicated this to the author and encouraged them to develop the idea further.

Finally, I actually found that my judgement on people’s creativity were both warranted and unwarranted. Whilst there are many games that took a brilliantly oblique view on the theme, there are at least 10 times the number of games that are just about ammo, killing or lives – which is a shame.

Having said that, game jams are for all sorts – especially Ludum Dare. All levels, all kinds of creativity, all kinds of personal goals (such as trying out some tech for the hell of it) are accommodated by the jam’s rules and that’s what makes Ludum Dare what it is.

In fact, that’s what will ensure that I’m coming back for another go in April!

 

I was a London Global Gamecraft prize winner!

So Saturday just gone was the London Global Gamecraft game jam at Skills Matter (near Barbican/Old Street). My first game jam, and if they are all as well-run and have as nice an atmosphere as this one then I’ll be doing many more!

Being my first game jam, I didn’t really know what to expect and just went down with my laptop (and naively, a second monitor, as if I was going to have space for that!) to check it out and see where I could fit in. But it was all good – I soon found myself in a group with the wonderful and talented Robin, Yuji  and Luke.

Global Gamecraft is slightly different to other jams in that they are one day jams where you have 11/12 hours to make a game (cf. the more common 48 hours-ish/weekend format). So, after the theme was announced at 9am, we had till 8pm only to get everything sorted! Pretty damn tight restraints, but great to get you focused!

The theme was ‘The Impact of Prism’ – an interesting topical theme and well chosen in my opinion.

Our team decided to go with a variation on the classic ‘memory game’, where you match cards based on similar symbols or names etc. In our variation (called ‘Totally Guilty!’), you play the part of an NSA operative who is investigating the files you have on random people from around the US. As all are presumed guilty until proven otherwise, any matching criteria (such as interests, background etc.) is seen to link potential threats together and make them more suspicious. It is your job to connect these people together and flag them as threats and candidates for surveillance and/or arrest.

Whilst mechanically simple, our game used randomly generated faces and biographies to add extra interest. These faces and biographies were assembled using random combinations of pre-made facial features/characteristics and facts.

What we ended up with were some truly nightmarish faces and interesting/comical/disturbing/all-the-above personal backgrounds!

After pizza had been consumed, beer had been relished and judging was complete, we were chosen as the ‘Best Team Game’ which apparently meant it was the game that judges would most like to see be developed into a fully-fledged release! Cheers judges!

When I get hold of the code I’ll take some screen shots to show the full results, but for now I leave you with some photos of the ‘attract’ screen with our certificate proudly displayed by it!

Final Credits:

  • Design – Myself, Yuji  , Robin, Luke (with Pepe and Cristina tagging along and helping!)
  • Coding – Yuji  and Robin
  • Art and soundtrack – Luke
  • Writing – Me.

 

 

 

I wrote an article for edugames hub

So I forgot to mention the other day that I wrote an article for the launch of the website for the London Educational Games Meetup (LEGup).It’s giving advice to designers/developers on how to make their educational games from the point of view of a teacher.

The article is here.

So many times I see people putting some great effort into apps/games, having not really done their research on what is wanted or even viable in the educational market. So this is written from my experience as a teacher, saying what designers/developers need to keep in mind if they want their app/game to succeed, be adopted and sell well.

Hope it helps someone!