Making Dark Magic At Global Game Jam 14 :D

This year I took part in my very first Global Game Jam. Like the name suggests, it’s a game jam that sweeps across the globe as quickly as light sweeps across timezones, with hot-blooded creative powerhouses everywhere bending their mind towards the same theme, creating love, magic, and games right around the world, around the world, around the world, around the world. #daftpunk

The Joburg #GGJ14 #GGJSouthAfrica was held at the Microsoft Joburg office – thanks Microsoft SA for their continual support of MGSA! Not only do they host our MakegamesSA monthly meetups, they also take care of us on our special needs occasions too, like this epic weekend.

It Starts

The event kicked off with some fluffingly inspirational keynote videos by indie figures such as Richard Lemarchand (Uncharted series), Kaho Abe and Jenova Chen (Thatgamecompany, my idol and heroes who made Flow, Flower, Journey). Then they jumped into the theme reveal, which was at different times in different time zones, so we were asked not to talk about them on social media until Hawaii (last timezone on earth) has had their reveal.

The theme was a mad one! So hipster! So meta! So psychological!

Three and a Half artists

After the theme reveal, we were let loose onto each other, free to discuss our ideas and poach/be poached into teams who want to work together. It was a frenzied piranha fest of people trying to get to know each other, of trying to find skills that you don’t have, and of pitching ideas/personalities at the speed of pitching machines. At this point, the 48 hour clock started, and the jam was away in earnest, without a team, without an idea, without a plan, and that didn’t bother anybody one bit.

Eventually, myself, Jonathan, and Hendré got together, three artists (Jonathan is technical art, Hendre is 3D art, and I’m… A generalist :P) cos we agreed with each others’ ideas during our mass brainstorm. We had a few throwaways, these are the ones I can remember:

  • Everyone you see has a dog’s head, because you’re a dog. When you become a cow, everyone will have a cow’s head, etc. We see the world as we are.
  • You come across an obstacle and cannot continue. You pick up a hooker and take her home, but afterwards you feel empty inside, so an obstacle becomes empty and you can progress. We see the world as we are.

In the end, this was the idea that captured all of our imaginations:

You’re a strange blind creature, and sees the world only occasionally through echo location – sonar pings. You explore your dark world, seeing occasionally, and have to avoid giant creatures to survive, while eating smaller ones to grow bigger, eventually conquering the subterranean food chain.

And that’s when Gian Luca joined us, as the only full programmer on the team. Thank goodness, we were gonna be going into this with just three arty types (though Jonathan was pretty good with code, honestly). And then there were four.

Fast Forward

I’ll post later about the adventures we had during the jam, it was bloody fantastic, to say the least, and a life changing experience. The first night I went home to sleep on the idea, and from Saturday 7am till the Sunday, I only slept 1 hour. But it was worth every can of oversized Monster and Rockstar I consumed.

Vital stats for #GGJ14 Joburg:

  • 65 jammers in all who registered
  • 14 games produced (3 were boardgames)
  • 1 all-girl team (colour me sexist, but I’m calling it special as I see it :P)
  • 7 round tables
  • Ok I can’t think of anymore numbers :)

And the outcome from our team is Echo: A Journey Within, Without.

You can download the game or play it online (poor performance as we obviously didn’t have time to optimise) right here

#GGJ14 was an incredible experience, and I’m so happy to have shared it with all of my incredible team! I’ll be writing more about the actual #GGJ14 experiences – there were many *superb* moments, and I loved the way our team worked and I would LOVE to show you how the game came together – the experience of learning was more than half the point of it all :)

 

Parting note:

There are bugs in the game, and the mechanic’s not fully resolved, but for the two day’s work it turned out to be a brilliant tech demo, ready to become a better game, which is what we will aim to do for Echo in the future. Rawr! Game Jam Forever! :D

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