Sunday, December 8, 2013

Photos and Stories from the Fall 2013 Game Jam

This semester's game jam was pretty awesome! We had 13 participants, and we made four games in 48 hours. Most of the returning participants agree that this game jam was a lot more fun than last semester's, and we were able to make four games in 48 hours.

As usual, we started the game jam with an hour of socializing and eating before revealing the theme. For dinner, we served Cindy's amazing, home-cooked fried rice shrimp, chicken, and sausage, with pork chops on the side. However, the food didn't arrive until around almost an hour late because we weren't able to finish cooking in time, and so we had to delay the theme's reveal to 6:25pm.

The theme for this game jam was "Artificial", and as many pointed out, working with this theme was very similar to working with last year's theme, "Evolution." After the theme was announced, everyone split into teams:

Team Amazing was the first team to form, and it was composed of Hunter Haynes, Rachel Brindle, and Sean Stephens. They started out with a very ambitious game idea: they wanted to make some kind of real-time strategy game with online multiplayer, and the central mechanic was built around allowing players to hack into parts of the game. About halfway through the weekend, they realized that their idea was impossible, and they manage to finish in time by building a new game out of some code that they salvaged from old projects.

The Slightly Better Spinning Ducks team included Josh Djakaria, Carly Cappagli, and Tyler Wallace. This team decided to build a 3D game, because Tyler knew a lot about 3D engines and the others were interested in learning. Carly really rose to the challenge and was able to learn it all fairly quickly. Josh, on the other hand, felt like there wasn't enough work for him to do, so he ended up joining the Red Team for a bit during the second day of the game jam.

Team Asiana was made up of Youhao Wei, Zuoming Shi, Duy Huynh, and Ky Tran. Their team name was based on Cindy's joke about how everyone on the team was Asian. They ended up working in GameMaker, and they decided that their game would have an isometric perspective, which brought up a lot of interesting technical problems about how to render and program such a view.

The final team that formed was The Red Team, which was basically just everyone else: Cindy Trieu, Sean Grogg, and Livio De La Cruz. As the teams were forming, there was an attempt to steal Duy from team Asiana, so they settled the issue by having Livio and Ky arm wrestle while standing on rolling chairs. The Red Team lost that battle, but at least they were able to steal Josh from the Spinning Ducks team.

The fifth unofficial team were the club officers on duty: Dylan Clavell, Jonathan Wright, and Patrick Wilkening. They were in charge of watching over the event, and while they were supposed to be taking shifts so that they could each get some sleep, they all accidentally stayed up through the entire first night, which left most of them, especially Jonathan, sleep-deprived throughout the rest of the event. Dylan spent most of the weekend playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and he named all of his soldiers after each of the participants of the game jam, which resulted in a lot of hilarious stories.

The first day was spent mainly on brainstorming and setting up the basics for our games. Pretty much everyone (except from the officers on duty) went home during the first night, and then almost everyone (aside from a few members) stayed overnight during the second night.

The second day was where a lot of the real work started, and when most of the challenging technical problems were tackled. Not much work got done during the second night, but the third day was a big sprint to get as much of the game done by the deadline as possible.

We took several breaks throughout the weekend. We frequently went outside to go for walks, and we also found silly things to do, such as setting up the club's canopy in one of the rooms, or trying to blow giant bubbles. Many of us had also recently been watching a lot of Studio Ghibli films lately, so we were also playing many of the films' soundtracks as we worked.

Participants also spent plenty of time interacting with the other teams. Sometimes they would give each other advice on their work so far, look at some of the cool things that were being made, or simply just laugh at the hilarious glitches that they were getting.

Once the 48 hours were up, we presented everyone's games and then voted on which game was the best. The winning game was the Red Team's game:

Plants vs. Robots - by The Red Team

The central mechanic of this game is the ability to grow vines by clicking and dragging on them. Both the character and vine animations received a lot of praise, even though the rest of the game was surrounded by glitches.

The ironic thing about this game is that it's pretty much almost completely contradictory to the theme of "Artificial". If it wasn't for the one robot in the game (which was literally added in the last 20 minutes of the game jam), then the game technically wouldn't have qualified.

Humans Attack - by Team Awesome

When Team Awesome decided to abandon their original game idea, they took an old particle-based system that Sean had worked on sometime ago and turned it into a game about zombies. The premise is that the player controls the waves of zombies (in green) and tries to use them to kill the humans (in blue). It ties to the game jam's theme under the idea that zombies are artificial life.

Unnatural Selection - by Team Asiana

The premise of this game is to control an army of artificially created monsters. The game allows you to select from several different monster parts, and putting them together gives you units with different stats. The game is mostly functional aside from the fact that you don't have any enemies to attack (they were removed during the last few minutes before the deadline due to some glitches that couldn't be solved). Despite those problems, this game was perhaps the most well presented, since it featured a menu screen, music, and lots of great artwork.