Game Jam, Fun, Exhausting. Download Game at bottom of post.
Global Game Jam 2014
If you follow my Blog, you probably already know that i love Game Jams, and that i enjoy attending those.
My Love for Game Jams started about one year ago when i attended the Global Game Jam 2013 – so when there was a date announced for this years Global Game Jam, there was nothing that could stop me for registering and attending.
For those who don’t know what a Game Jam is, a Game Jam is an Event that is held for a specific time frame (for example 48 hours on a specific weekend, like the GGJ), where at the start a theme will be announced, and all attendees will try to make a game within that time frame that is inspired by that theme. Some of those events yield prices and are more competative, some are just for fun (like the GGJ).
The Global Game Jam is the largest of those Game Jams, and is held once a year, on thousands and thousands of locations all over the World. Here in Karlsruhe the Hochschule für Gestaltung is offering a nice Location for participants, and with their location and connection to the ZKM (Center for Art and Media) create a perfect environment for creativity. You can read more about what the Global Game Jam is at its Website.
Before the Game Jam
This year i arrived at the HfG about 1 1/2 hours before the Game Jam itself would start. After saying hello to those people that where already there (and that i knew), and talking to a few folks that i hadn’t met before, i took the chance to visit the ZKM_Gameplay exhibition and check out their exhibits.
The most interesting one (to me) was the PainStation, a two player pong variant that would punish the loser by inflicting pain to his hand. As much as i was tempted to try it out, i decided that i rather not hurt my hands before a 48 hours of programming.
Back at the area that we could use for the Game Jam more people that i knew had arrived so i spent a bit of time talking to a few.
at 17:00 we all sat down and watched the GGJ 2014 Keynote, then one of the local organizers went through a few rules and information with us, and finally we got the Theme.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”
my first thought was “crap” my second one was “seriously?” To me this theme sucked, and in the one hour that we had to prepare pitches, to brainstorm for ideas, i felt that this was the worst theme i’ve had seen in a Game Jam yet.
I know a lot of people will disagree here with me, but to me that theme seems pretentious pseudo-intellectual bullshit. (I gave a lot of thought of if i would want to use those exact words, or just mention that i didn’t like it, but i felt it is the right way of expressing how if feel about the theme, so forgive me if it offends you). In comparison – i really liked last years theme, which was basically playing the sound of a heart beat to us. Instead of some inspiring word, sounds, impression i found myself facing a platitude about perception – not really inspiring to me. Sorry.
During the hour we had to brainstorm i took the time to talk to a few people, and mostly talked to my later partner – we both didn’t really have a good idea for the theme, but where both interested in doing something with the oculus rift. After a while i came up with the idea of a physics based game, which would use parameters you put in (size, weight) (= as we are) within the gameplay, to give you a unique playing experience.
The Pitch & Group finding
Puring the Pitch, where we all where looking for people to build our ideas with, i waited quite a while, hoping that someone else would provide an idea that would sound like fun to build – while i had my own idea, i wasn’t to convinced of it yet. Well, it turned out that most ideas, while nice, where not really convincing to me either, so at some point is just pitched mine. Right after i pitched mine a great idea was pitched and i was like “damn, if i didn’t pitch mine before i’d join that group”. Well i had already pitched it, and since during the group finding phase the guy i talked to earlier came up and joined the team, ididn’t switch horse.
The rest of Friday
Now we where just two people, so we had to decide on technology and a few details for the Game. Since we where both experienced with Java, and i had used libgdx before, we decided to build the game as a 2d libgdx based game in java. Wilhelm and me split the work by him doing the physics, while i’d do graphics, ui, sound, and whatever else was necessary, but first we joined some of my friends in one of the other groups to go for some dinner at an american diner nearby.
After dinner Wilhelm left to get his laptop, while i created the basic project and started to setup the basic application. By the time he was back i had customized the basic libgdx graddle template, added a splash screen (which would also load the game assets). So while he started setting up his development environment (trying to get it to build with Eclipse), i started on the menu.
By the time that i was tired enough to decide to leave, which was arround 2 in the morning, i had the menu done and also a credits screen working. Wilhelm was still trying to get the project to build from his Eclipse environment (Personally i think Eclipse is a pest, and in idea it worked perfectly fine).
When i arrived at home i actually got out the Laptop, and fixed some of the graphics for the credits / menu / splash screen to work better in a proper solution (so far we had targeted a 800×600 one, which i bumped up to 1280 * 720).
Saturday morning, after about 4 hours of sleep i went to the supermarket, got a few energy drinks, a few sausages and some sweets, and then made my way to the venue where i arrived at about 9:30 +- a few.
I had a bit of breakfast, and then started working on the graphic and sound assets (usually something that i prefer when others do it). So part of my Saturday was actually learning a few things about Photoshop that i didn’t know before, and another part was googling for music that we could use (copyright etc.).
I must confess that in the morning i wasn’t certain if Wilhelm would show up again, i mean i hadn’t gotten his environment to run, i didn’t know him well, and well, he slept quite long, so when he finally arrived it felt like a huge weight lifted from me. Sadly he still didn’t get the Game to build in his environment, and it took him till about 17:00, when he decided to kick out Eclipse and use the same IDE that i used (intellij idea). And all of a sudden stuff was working. Yay.
At the end of Saturday i had added a gamescreen, graphics for the starship, the 3 planets, the sun, added music, added an input manager that allowed to map different types of inputs (allowing to use Xbox 360 Controller as well as keyboard). Wilhelm had the basic physics working, the planets turning around the sun and managed to stop them from falling into each other. He also managed to get some basic real movement going for our ship, opposed to the faked movement i had put in to test the controllers.
When we called it a night we knew we would be able to get most of the things done, but we where also already certain that we would kick out the option to add own size / weight etc to the game. Balancing that shit while still having it make a difference would have been hell and not possible within the time.
We took the same tram home, and in the tram we talked about making a guide system that allows the player to see in which direction he is really going.
Sunday morning i started by building the guidance graphics, and when Wilhelm arrived he started to implement the math that was required to have the guide system to make sense.
I had a bit of a “this can’t be true”-angry hour when i stumbled over some weird behavior of scene2d within libgdx, and the trolls on its IRC channel pointing me to non-existing classes and telling me not to use scene2d didn’t really improve my mood.
When all the guidance stuff was working we split up the rest of the tasks left – adding a score system, adding a fuel system, adding the end-game conditions. We knew we could make the deadline, and knowing that my mood finally started to improve. Once we where almost done, we where told a few rules about submitting the game, which where different from last year, and required a lot more preparation, so the last hour i spend preparing the Release, while Wilhelm started to fine-tune some of the physics.
we managed to upload in time, just the upload of the youtube video seemed to take ages. once stuff was uploaded we enjoyed a moment that we could take to breathe, and then all of the groups demonstrated their games to each other. It turned out there where some interesting games build, a lot more than i would have expected with the Theme that we had.
Monday i spend the whole day in bed. i got up at around 17:00, went to buy some food, and went to bed again. Somehow game jams can be quite exhausting.
Now that i had some sleep, and some time to think about the impressions that this game jam made on me, i can say it was one of the most fun game jams i have taken part in (despite the theme), i’m really grateful for the folks who have organised & sponsored it, i’m glad i had a good partner for this game jam, maybe learned that i shouldn’t doubt strangers that fast. And believe that from all the game jams i’ve taken part in so far, this one was the one where the time management worked the best.
Can’t wait for the next.
Downloading the Game
you can find a working download here
on most systems, if you have Java installed, a doubleclick on the desktop.jar after extracting the zip file should work – if not (and you have Java installed) you have to go to your command line and run it by “java -jar desktop.jar” within the directory you extracted it to. If you don’t have a Java Runtime installed, well you better do.