The Hammerzeit IV GameJam / Rack Wars

So this weekend was time for the Hammerzeit IV, an internal GameJam at my workplace. The Hammerzeit has a special place in my heart, so i was looking forward to this for a while.

Theme & The Idea

The theme this time was “growth”, which right away got everyone exploding with ideas. Personally I had the Idea that we ended up doing in our team quite early in the 20-minute idea-finding-phase, even though I still had a space setting for it on my mind.

As I didn’t really find an Idea that I wanted to do more, but some other teams mentioned a space setting already, I adapted and pitched the following Idea:

  • You are a Hacker.
  • You are fighting on a network with another Hacker over resources (Servers or Currency)
  • The Game is Multiplayer (Networked), Head on 1v1 PVP.
  • The Game is timeboxed, so the winner will be decided when the Countdown hits zero.

And since the Jams rules say a Minimum of 5 people, I opened the Team for 4 more, Graphics Artists and Sound dudes prefered.

The Team

I ended up with two students (this year for the first time we allowed a limited set of students to join our holy event), one who wanted to do code, and one who wanted to do graphics.

The other programmer did not have any game jamming experience, and no experience with any game engine. The graphics artist had done two prior gamejams, and according to himself failed at both.

Creating the game

Friday

We started of talking through the game idea, and roughly drawing the game out on a whiteboard so we all could have an understanding of the task in front of us. Then we split our responsibilities for the first day. Our graphics artist started drawing a few sketches, and while I created a basic scaffold for our game, and then approached building up the multiplayer-server-browser, our second programmer started out with watching a few tutorials about Unreal Engine 4. Once he had a basic idea about how the engine works we agreed that the next day he would take care of game logic, while i would see to the networking and the UI.

Saturday

With very little sleep (1.5h for myself) we started sprintin further to the goal, however at around 17:00 it started to become obvious that we where falling behind the time plan – while most of the UI and Network stuff was working, we where behind with everything else.
However when we ended the day at ~02:00 in the morning, things where looking better again – even though we didn’t have a playable level yet, and balancing was still on the todo list it seemed as if we would have figured out most problems. So we created a small todo list for Sunday and called it a night.

Sunday

When I arrived in our office we had roughly 5 hours (+1 hours for final build uploading etc) left, and we started putting pieces together. While doing so we discovered that there was multiple things not working, or only working on the host, but not on the client.
at about 15:00 (one hour before the final deadline), it looked like we could make it, we just would have to use up that one hour buffer a bit more, but the closer we got to 16:00 the worse it started looking. At about 6 minutes to 16:00, we had a merge conflict in one of our blueprint files, so the build did not work at all, even stuff that had worked before appeared completely broken.

We failed. we didn’t make the time, and there was no excuse for it.
I felt completely devastated.

While the other teams started presenting their games I went for a few cigarettes and had two beers.

The aftermath

I hate to fail – especially so close, so i decided that I’d at least want the game running properly before I’d go home. I moved my machine from the office that we used to the office I’m normaly working in, and started debugging.

As it turns out, it wasn’t really the merge which was responsible for the debacle. Well yes, during the merge something broke – but that was a very simple fix. However a lot of the things that didn’t work in that final build would still not work – It seems we didn’t test changes well enough, or we (again) only tested them when hosting a session, and not on the client.

About 40 minutes later, I then had a working version – not polished, not balanced, not in time – but working, which means even though we failed the gamejam, I will be able to sleep tonight.

I’ll put up a video, and a download link and some few more information on the game later / tomorrow.

Until then, have a good night.

Edit 1:
I’ve put a first video on youtube, enjoy

Edit 2:
I’ve build a version for Windows and Linux that actually works. Its not balanced yet, but, well at least its playable Downloads etc

Edit 3:
A “Tutorial” as the interface might not be very intuitive
tutorial

Edit 4:
One of my colleagues blogged about the Hammerzeit on the Making Games Blog

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