Tuesday, February 3, 2009

London Global Game Jam 2009

Last weekend, I took part in an event called the "Global Game Jam" in London. As the name suggests, it was part of a much wider, global event. Basically, you go along, teamed up with some people and then have 48 hours to make a game. This time includes time for sleeping (heh! like anyone did any of that) eating etc. Despite this, the quality of the games produced was incredible. It was a truly fantastic event and I am so pleased I went along, everyone was nice and incredibly talented.

Here is how it went:

Day 1 (Friday)
We arrive and meet up. There is a lot of expensive equipment just lying about, it was stunning. There were TVs, 360's, piano/keyboards and obviously hundreds of laptops. I have no idea how these people got this stuff here on the tube. We then received a couple of interesting key note speeches. The key message: Keep it simple! I have (some what embarrassingly) forgotten the names of both the speakers. One worked in a game development company where he programs console games. The second speaker talked about quick turn arounds and then admitted that "quick" normally meant three weeks rather than 48 hours!

Then we got a third keynote speech delivered by the wonders of Youtube. The speaker was Kyle Gabler who created the successful indie game World of Goo.

Then, we were given the restrictions and theme for our game. These were:
  1. A complete round must last no longer than 5 minutes
  2. Your game should use this theme: "While we were together, there shall always be problems"
  3. Your game should use on of these three adjectives: "Grow", "Hurry" or "In-between".
Then it was discussing ideas. This was possibly my favourite part as it really was just a crazy brainstorm. Looking back at out post-stick notes later, it was difficult to believe that we didn't have a completely disjointed conversation.
In the end we settled on a fish based game. I would like to point out, for my egos sake, that it was me that originally, right at the start, suggested the idea of a chain linking two things together. None the less, most of the credit for our idea goes to Yanhua, an undergraduate at Metropolitan University of London. From there, Jon, our genius programmer, showed us some actionscript physics type thing which was awesome, and we went from there.

Day 2 (Saturday)
Day two was largely spent programming away. Or in Chris's case, our musician, coming up with the amazing sound you find in our game. His trust worthy bucket and him spent many an hour recording sound effects to give the impression of the tranquil underwater. We also prototyped some of our sea creatures - in plasticine!

Day 3(Sunday)
Crunch day. What was really frustrating was at about 2 o'clock, Jon had got the game pretty much working. Then, in an attempt to do some minor change, he some how managed to break some other, unrelated, thing (so often the way with programming). In the end, the three o'clock deadline was a bit of an anti-climax. The upload failed (and did for a number of people) So, we carried on working on it till about 4. Then we watched, demonstrated and played the games. I videoed the demonstrations of all the games (except one - I ran out of memory) My personal favourite was a game called "MA", built in Unity (a 3D game making bit of software costing £A,Lot). In essence, it was a maze game. The clever part was, you couldn't actually see the walls of the maze at all. Instead, you had little particles which you could send out which would bounce off the walls. I liked it because it was a neat mechanic and it just worked really well. Anyway, here are the videos:

I strongly recommend that you check out these games (especially ours - the Deep) If you can't be bothered to download the zip, you can also view it here. You may want to restore your web browser, it can be quite processor intensive (there is a lot of physics going on!)

Finally, just want to say a huge thank you to all my team, you guys were awesome! It was amazing to be in such a talented and nice team, thanks for letting me get involved. I hope all of you do it next year. If you didn't do the Global Game Jam this year, make sure to do it next year. It doesn't matter what you do or even how good you are, come along it is great fun and you will meet some really cool people!

Until next time Game Jammers!

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