Global Game Jam 2015, building airlock

If you follow this Blog, you probably already know that I’m a big fan of game jams. It all started for me 3 years ago during the Global Game Jam 2013, the first Game Jam I attended, so the Global Game Jam is something special to me.

Once again I enjoyed the atmosphere of the HfG, which provided the location in Karlsruhe. When I arrived, meeting quite a few people that I’ve met there in the last years as well, I already felt that this would become a great weekend.

This years GGJ started earlier, rather than 17:00 like in the last few years, the Time of 15:00 was communicated – and I made the mistake to assume this was mostly so people would be there in time. Well, I was wrong, the keynotes started earlier (at 16:30) and the theme was given at 17:00. Lucky, I had arrived early.

The Keynotes

(link)

The first keynote, by the woman behind Redshirt (a game I enjoyed playing a while ago) I liked, mostly because it didn’t tell me for the 100th time why I make games, no the speaker knew why we make games, and left no doubt about that.

The second keynote was spanish (or portugese? i don’t know, those two languages sound the same to me), and we had no translation, so I didn’t get much of the Message, but looking at the pictures and the credits at the end of it, it seems that someone tried to pick up on the FlamerGate affair, trying to force a pro-thirdwave-feminism spin on the Game Jam, so I guess i didn’t miss too much.

The third keynote by Reiner Knizia felt like an anachronism, not only had he chosen a visual style for his video that looked like it was made in the 90s, also his examples for connecting classic board games with modern technology made the impression to be years behind. In times where people are building augmented reality games, having a cheap looking plasic volcano that lits up under some conditions just doesn’t seem to cut it.

The Theme

(link)

After the keynotes the theme “What do we do now” was announced. To be honest, my first thought was “ok, those guys where pretty high when they came up with this”, but then my second thought was “well, still better than last years theme (We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are).

While discussing with some of the other jammers I basically formed the Idea of an game where someone would have set directives to various actors, whenever an event arises, and that actor would continue acting by that directive (repeating the same action that was set for this event if an event was known, or asking for an additional directive if an event was unknown), creating a system which would need carefull balance (in form of the directives given by the player) to achive a goal that requires the actors to collect resources, transport resources, build something with the resources and keep each other alive.

I still like the idea, but during the pitches, a few friends of mine actually pitched an idea which I found a lot more appealing for this gamejam, so I joined their team.

The Game

(link)

Together, we then build the game “Airlock”, which is basically a game that you can play in a group of 5 to 12 people, utilizing a mobile device as a game master. The players are put into groups of Scientist and Saboteurs, where only the Saboteurs know who else is a Saboteur. Then each round one player will be set to be the “Operator” and create a plan who is going to which room to repair crucial systems of the space station that the group is stranded on.
If the majority of players agrees with the plan, every player gets to act his repair action within the room he was planned for – saboteurs however can choose to commit further acts of sabotage instead. At the end of the turn, the Operator then can check the status of the room (how many repair / sabotage points it has), and is responsible for telling the group the result (but, well which saboteur would be telling the truth to the scientists?).
If the majority votes against the plan, the turn is over immediatly, and the next operator is chosen.
In both cases, whenever a turn ends, one unit of oxygen is used up, if the group runs out of oxygen, the saboteurs win.
If the saboteurs manage to corrupt all rooms, or corrupt a room that then gets repaired, the saboteurs win.
If the group manages to repair a room before it is corrupted, the scientists win.
A room is repaired / corrupted once all its repair or corruption fields are filled with the corresponding markers, which are placed through the actions of the players.

We started with a slightly different set of rules and ideas on friday evening, and the first thing we did was to play the idea through with some cards, just to see if it works. Friday night I then spend looking at what technology we would use to create the game. At that time I was thinking that using a HTML5 app build with AngularJS might be a good idea, and i spend 1/3rd of saturday to look into phonegap, so we could deploy this app to mobile devices. As it turns out getting phonegap to run on an windows machine was already more than trivial, especially if one is used to the linux, not the windows command line (like me ;), so saturday afternoon we made the right decision when we agreed on using Unity as the engine. Now while my experience with Unity was basically “nothing”, having worked with c# before made it easy to be useful. Martin N. took charge of the actual Unity stuff, creating our user interface, while I implemented a huge chunk of the Game logic. Meanwhile the others spend a lot of time play testing more with cards, and involving other people in those tests, to see if/how the balance can work. I’m not sure how (where they took the time for that, if I’d have done it it would have taken me ages), but Martin, Martin, Bjoern and Jana somehow managed to also create game assets (graphics, sound) while doing all the other things, which really impressed me.

Sunday morning we started kinda late, but we had most of the app working, and where able to use the time to tie it all together, do a bit more of testing and a few last minute changes. I think what held us up the longest was the search for the name. As there wasn’t much code left for me to write, i tried to make myself useful digitalizing martin’s hand drawn airlock logo, so we could use it in the game, and finding a nice background (stole it from NASA, thanks for making it CC you guys rock!).

When the deadline approached we had a working build, even though we hand’t managed to get all the sounds going in the game jet, but what we ended up with was good enough to show to others, and to actually play a round.

All in all this was one of the lesser stressfull game jams for me, but it still blew me out of my day/night rythm for several days (hence i didn’t post earlier about it).

The Future

Since the gamejam we have played the game (for example in an Irish Pub after the Game Culture Club, where 4 of us attended), and we have been talking about what we want to do with. There are still a few improvements to the balancing that should be made, and the app itself needs a bit further refinement before we can offer it in the app stores. Also Martin suggested that we might actually offer a card game version, as we had a lot of fun playtesting with cards instead of the app as well.

So, where to get it?

The global game jam site linking to the game, has an apk, that you can throw on your android device. Sadly as we where running out of time with the sounds, this 1.0 version does not include everything, and we can’t update the file there.. BUT you can download the 1.1 version for android here.

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