When life presents you with the silky smooth jam of opportunity, you must snatch it up and lather yourself in it. Yes, Global Game Jam snuck up on us to spread the fruit of game development across the globe once again. This year, I went in with a plan, completely disregarded the plan and ended up with a pretty decent game at the end of the weekend. Mind you, so did many others at the event, but that’s what the jam will do to you! If all this talk of jam and torture is painting me to be some kind of preserves addict, don’t worry, it’s not what it sounds like.
If you have no idea what a game jam is, it’s a bit like a game-making marathon. You show up, form teams and try to make a game revolving around a central theme within 48 hours, which also means you don’t sleep. After that time, you all congregate into a room, flaunt your barely functioning creation to people whose creations also barely function and then go home. And sleep. It’s a nightmare, but it’s a really fun nightmare. You meet new people, make some games, bond over how Unity’s a terrible piece of garbage while refusing to use anything else… Good times. This year was a little different for me, though, since it was the first Perth GGJ to be run at SAE.
I arrived on the first day to a new venue, new air con and a new theme. This year, the powers that be had decided to let us loose on ‘Waves’, which I thought was a great theme considering how tangible and conceptual it was. Sound waves, light waves, waving, anything you could imagine could be turned into a game… Which was also the problem. Because of the freedom of the theme, my group couldn’t pin down a single good idea until day two. Even then, we had some issues.
On the second day, we’d finalised an idea. Most groups were already well into trying to figure out how to make wave physics or mess around with crazy math equations, but at least we’d finally settled on something. Once we started getting into making the game, the new venue’s quirks started coming into play. SAE had a slew of recording booths that we could use, which was great, but everyone was displaced in several rooms, so you had to really go looking if you wanted someone’s advice. The amenities were superb, though, with computers and internet on offer faster than Barry Allen. Then day three came.
Day three was, as it is every year, a madhouse. We desperately tried to get the game into a playable state before our programmer had to leave, but we weren’t the only ones scrambling. Games don’t get made in under 48 hours, which is why game jams are so terrifyingly impressive. You start off confident in the beginning, get a little shaky on day two, then get a nice pounding from reality on day three. Despite this, almost everyone on-site managed to get something uploaded by the end of the weekend. While they were all valiant efforts, the following are the games which left the biggest impression on me.
The GGJ has diversifiers, which are like mini-challenges that you can do to make your game more interesting or give you some ideas. Pitch Imperfect took using a musical instrument as the input and ran with it. Think Flappy Bird but you need to whine at a certain pitch to get through the pipes. Now imagine what the demonstration was like. I will never unhear the crackling falsetto of Liam, but hot damn, what a game.
Check it out here: http://globalgamejam.org/2017/games/pitch-imperfect
While I gave up on learning Unity, the maker of Musical Rapids took it upon himself to take up the challenge himself. The game is something of a bullet hell that bases its projectiles off what music is playing. Depending on the frequencies of the song, different obstacles will come rearing towards you at different heights. Of course, this is mainly on the list because of the ol’ metal classic, Murdered Tadpoles. Yeah. Good luck getting through that one.
Check it out here: http://globalgamejam.org/2017/games/musical-rapids
The Whales Are Hungry
Oscar, one of the devs, described the process of making the game as, “We thought it was a bit pretentious, so we decided to go all out.” And all out, they did go. Predicated on the idea of phasing objects in and out based on the frequency of your radio, the game is jam packed full of genuinely good ideas. It’s also so pretentious that it hurts, but in a good way.
Check it out here: http://globalgamejam.org/2017/games/whales-are-hungry
A lot of people thought of trying out echolocation as a mechanic, but only one group managed to pull it off. Instead of using light or longitudinal waves, Pulse just used cool outshooting particles to light up the walls with a fluorescent tinge. The final product is something that looks cool despite not being able to see anything. It’s a nifty idea, and I seriously hope the team keeps working on it!
Check it out here: http://globalgamejam.org/2017/games/pulse-1
Battle Bouncers took the rare and legendary trampoline double bounce and made an arena out of it. In order to knock your foes off the trampoline, you’ll need to time your jump so that your resultant waves push ‘em off. There’s nothing particularly difficult to understand about timing your jump, but the combat can get pretty chaotic when you’ve got four people on the trampoline. Besides, who didn’t want to try knocking their friend off the trampoline with a well-timed jump?
Check it out here: http://globalgamejam.org/2017/games/battle-bouncers
Yet again, the Global Game Jam was one hell of a ride. The atmosphere of creativity and problem solving was a delight, even if the lack of sleep was a bit painful. If you’re wondering whether you’ve got what it takes to make a game, I’d highly recommend coming down to GGJ next year (or just doing your own!). Until then, you can see some of the games and meet their creators at the Playup Perth GGJ edition coming up soon!
(Oh, and check out my game here: http://globalgamejam.org/2017/games/flotsam-away)