game jam

Malta Global Game Jam 2015

Note: This article was originally posted on GameDev.com.mt. You can see the original article here.

After the success of the first edition of the Global Game Jam held in Malta last year, it was no surprise that the event would be repeated this year! Between the 23rd and the 25th of January, the Institute of Digital Games hosted the second Malta Global Game Jam, an event where participants make games in 48 hours.

The global event drew around 25000 people making games this year, and Malta’s own local event had over 60 participants attending, a definite increase over last year’s attendance.

Participants were treated to a series of talks on Friday by Pippin Barr, David Chircop and Yannick Massa, and a keynote by Leigh Alexander, Editor-At-Large and former News Editor at Gamasutra. After watching the Global Game Jam keynote, the theme of the game jam was revealed – the question “What do we do now?” – and participants were free to begin forming teams and making games.

Here are the games that were made in 48 hours at the Malta Global Game Jam, in no particular order. Links to the submission pages on the Global Game Jam website have been provided, so feel free to download the games and try them out!

Vox DeiVox Dei is a storytelling game by Fleur Sciortino, Rebecca Portelli, Chris Zammit, Yasmin Cachia and Franz-Peter Manias, where you play as a news editor and must choose which news items you will feature. It’s an interesting game and the stories that emerge and hilarious and tongue-in-cheek.

What do WE do now? is a Wario-ware style series of mini-games packaged in one large game. It was made by Adrian Abela, Justin Cachia, Jesper Schellekens and Philippe Neguembor. The game revolves around the core idea of only using the buttons W and E from the keyboard.

The Lars Andersen SimulatorThe Lars Andersen Simulator was made by Jesper Taxbol and is a game made for mobile devices and Google Cardboard. Players must aim and shoot arrows and targets while moving around through a scene.

Monster in my Cupboard is a local co-op 2 player game where players must work together to escape a monster that is chasing them. One player controls the movement of the character while the other controls the mouse that shines a spotlight over the otherwise dark room. The game was made by Luke Aquilina, Solen Rullaud and Stefan Vella.

What We Did is a haunting game made by Rilla Khaled and Pippin Barr. Players follow the story of a person who seems to be trying to revive an ended relationship.

The MountainThe Mountain is a one player board game made by David Chircop, Yannick Massa, Johnathan Harrington, Matthew Agius Muscat,  Francesca Borg Taylor-East and Daniela Attard. Players play as a mountaineer that must come to terms with the possibility of reaching the peak of his life.

Selfolio is a digital game for tablets made by Tim Garbos, Rune Drewsen and Monica Crake. Players play in teams, and the first team must draw a chosen selfie or take a selfie that mimics it. The second team is then show the result and must guess which selfie was picked.

Ephemeral is narrative driven game made by Alan Duca, Mark Magro, Mark Scicluna, Moira Zahra and Jean-Pierre Brincat, with music provided by Westy Reflector. The game involves 2 beings following from the sky, and players must play a series of mini games in order to learn more about these characters.

Chaos Control is a two player platformed made by Jean-Luc Portelli, William Cachia and Gary Hili. Players must race to the finish line while grappling with constantly changing controls, both on a keyboard as well as on a gamepad.

SpaceBox is a board game made by Alexandra Mariner and Christina Fideler. Players play as crew members on a spaceship that’s been invaded by an alien fungus, and must work to stay alive as long as possible.

Rage Against Hipsters is a cooperative board game with a digital component where players that must work together to entertain hipsters while performing in a band. It was made by Dylan Abela, Nina Olsson, Sean Savona and Marco Vergantini.

Mad Atom is a two player board game made by Simon Cutajar and Bernard Brincat. Players play as mad scientists trying to create life, and must combine atoms to create molecules. It’s a strategic game with lots of interaction between players.

Party Pooper is a co-operative party game made by Dirk Schembri, Clayton Curmi and Malcolm Pace. The objective of the game is to pass the ball between players for as fast as they can for a minute and aim to get the highest score possible.

Remote Responsibility is a networked multiplayer 3D co-operative puzzle game made by Mark Andrew Azzopardi, Mariano Galea, Stephen Cutajar, Miguel Mizzi, Simeon Kirilov, Dylan Fenech and Gerard Said. Players can play as one of 3 robots, each one with a different ability, and must navigate through a museum to find and steal paintings.

Trauma is first person atmospheric puzzle game made by Andreas Grech, Cameron Saliba, Julian Farrugia and Nico Kamps. Players play as a young child who wakes up in the middle of night to find himself alone in the house, and must figure out what happened to his family.

This Mutant Life is networked 2 player choose-your-own-adventure game made by Gordon Calleja, Marvin Zammit and Thom Cuschieri. Players must communicate between themselves and share information in order to make the correct choices and progress through the game.

5 judges were chosen to evaluate the games and award them a series of awards. The judges were Leigh Alexander, David Mariner from Funrigger Productions, Jim Brown from Codemasters Malta, James Roadley Battin from Codemasters Malta and Dean Sharpe from 4A Games.

The awards that were awarded and the games they were awarded to were as follows:

  • Best Hybrid Game: Rage Against Hipsters

  • Best Digital Game: Selfolio

  • Best Board Game: The Mountain

  • Best Pitch: Selfolio

  • Most Unusual Game: Ephemeral

  • Jury’s Choice Award: The Mountain

  • Epic Fail Award: Chaos Control

  • People’s Choice Award:

    • 1st Place: Selfolio

    • 2nd Place: The Mountain

    • 3rd Place: Ephemeral

It was an amazing weekend with lots of interesting games being made by talented game developers, and we look forward to future game jams hosted here on the Maltese islands!

Nordic Game Jam 2014

Nordic Game Jam 2014 PosterIt’s time for the yearly visit to the Nordic Game Jam! I first attended back in 2012 (and wrote a blog post about that), and then attended again in 2013 (here’s the blog post). I enjoyed those so much that I decided I had to go back in 2014 for my third edition of the Nordic Game Jam.

Like the Nordic Game Jam before it, it was held at AAU Copenhagen. As usual, I was planning on making a board game with the others from Kvasir Games. This time round however, half the team would be missing for at least half the game jam, since they had to promote Wanted: Igor! at the Danish hobby store Faraos Cigarer. This made design slightly harder since the team was hardly ever together in the same space.

The theme of this year’s Nordic Game Jam was privacy! There were many different takes on the theme: some made spy games, others made bathroom games or games involving toilets.

Sci-Fi SamuraiWe cycled through at least 3 different concepts for the game we wanted to make and started working on a game which we pitched to people as simply “You start the game naked in a bush”. After the first day however, we ended up scrapping that idea and going with something completely different, which ended up turning into Sci-Fi Samurai. A picture can be seen on the left.

Sci-Fi Samurai is a fast paced game where players play as samurai that must avenge their honour by killing the other samurais from the other clans. However, you and the other samurais happen to be immortal, and are cursed to fight each other for eternity. As the end of the world approaches, and the dragon appears to swallow the sun, you are only concerned with killing the rest of the samurai for honour. Players take turns attacking and hopefully killing other samurais for honour points, while the dragon slowly consumes the world and deals an ever-increasing amount of damage to all players.

Our take on the theme privacy was the fact that players could see how much damage the dragon could deal, as well as the health of other players. In other words, we played around with the amount of information that was or wasn’t private.

Although we didn’t win any awards this year, we had great fun making the game and learnt a lot about our design process and how we approached things (especially since Sci-Fi Samurai started out as a co-operative game and turned out into a competitive one!).

Better luck next time!
Better luck next time!

Nordic Game Jam 2014 was also memorable because of the fact that Google Play Games attended the game jam and gave all the participants a free Google Nexus 7 tablet for the participants to make games on. This of course resulted in a lot of people taking advantage of this offer, which I’m sure was the intended outcome!

According to the IGDA.dk’s official statistics, Nordic Game Jam 2014 had around 500 participants and over 110 games submitted, making it the largest game jam to date! It’s impossible to go through all the games that were made during the game jam, but here are the games that made it to the finals:

And rightly so, these games were really well made! Filth and No Privacy in a Bobsled were particular favourites of mine 🙂

Filth
Filth

Filth, made by Bram Michielsen, Stefan Schwarz, Steffen Dalbro Eriksen, Thomas Ryder and Eske Nørholm, is a game about the the destructive influence a paparazzo can have on the lives of celebrities. It’s a very touching game and the ending is particularly horrifying.

No Privacy in a Bobsled
No Privacy in a Bobsled

No Privacy in a Bobsled, made by Joey Hannes, Edgaras Benediktavicius, Daniel Johnsen and Mathias Soehol, is a game about 4 people in a bobsled. The game is controlled with 2 dance mats that players sit on, and players must lean left or right at the same time in order to avoid obstacles that are approaching them as they hurtle down a tube in their bobsled. I enjoyed the innovative use of the dance pads, and the game is really fun to watch!

After all the participants were settled down, the winners of the Nordic Game Jam 2014 were announced!

Honourable mentions included:

The jury awarded the games the following awards:

And Google Play Games also chose the game Parandroid as their favourite game!

It was a great Nordic Game Jam this year, and even if we didn’t win as Kvasir Games, I’m still happy to have attended, to have met new people and to have met up with my friends once again 🙂

Kvasir Games at NGJ14

Malta Global Game Jam 2014

Malta Global Game Jam 2014 Banner
Malta Global Game Jam 2014 Banner, by Nel Pace

This weekend (24th – 26th January), I attended the Malta Global Game Jam, organized by the Institute of Digital Games at the University of Malta. I was part of the organizing team, as well as a participant in the game jam, and my role as an organizer was to find people that could give microtalks before the actual game jam, as well as promoting the game jam around the island. We managed to sell all the available tickets we had, which was awesome!

The game jam kicked off with a public lecture by Patricia Pizer the day before, and a keynote by her on the 24th. Both talks were on the power of creating things and how to focus during a game jam. We then had 5 microtalks from people or companies in Malta that are making games (Neville Attard from SoftwareProdigy, Gordon Calleja from Mighty Box, Stephen Caruana from Pixie Software, Clint Mizzi from 5¼ Games, and Ryan Sammut and Anthony Demanuele from Barbagann Games), as well a microtalk from Ida Tofte from the Copenhagen Game Collective.

After a short break, it was time for some practical announcements and the Global Game Jam keynote, by Richard Lemarchand, Kaho Abe and Jenova Chen. The global theme was then revealed: “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are” and group forming could then begin!

I decided to partner with an old friend of mine, Bernard Brincat, in order to make something slightly experimental. We wanted to a game involving mobile devices in some way, and after some discussion, we settled on what would become Echo, the game we made at the Malta Global Game Jam 2014.

Echo Teaser Photo

Echo is a video game without video. It requires at least 2 people to play, and needs a mobile device and a laptop or tablet. One player plays as the bat; he or she is blindfolded and given a pair of headphones that are connected to a mobile device. The other player plays as the eyes; he or she is given a laptop or tablet that can send sounds to the other player, used to control his or her direction.

Echo was written in Javascript and HTML5. It involved lots of client/server socket programming, as well as the use of positional 3D audio. The server was written using node.js, while the clients were written using Phaser JS.

We actually only got the connectivity working at 4AM on Sunday, so there was a frantic rush to try and polish as much as possible. To be perfectly honest, our end result was more of a framework than a game, but that’s OK. Both Bernard and I intend to continue working on the project and streamline it as much as possible.

After the game jam was officially over, we were treated with the presentations of the games that were made.

And Then We Held HandsThe first game that was presented was a board game called …and then we held hands… made by Yannick Massa and David Chircop. The game revolved around the theme of a failing relationship and is a co-operative game.

The next game was Drosophilia, an interactive fictiongame made with Twine. It was made by Pippin Barr, Gordon Calleja and Sidsel Hermansen. The game is Kafka-esque; players must explore the life of an office worker, when something goes wrong.

After presenting our game Echo, the next game to be presented was Friend or Foea steampunk themed local multiplayer. Players fire bullets at each other, but the only way of knowing whether they’ll hurt or heal their opponents is to listen to the music.

Home Putrid Home is a sidescrolling platformer that inverts the trope of good guy/bad guy. In this fantasy world, the ugly troll is actually the good guy, and is being persecuted by fairies. He must therefore escape and find his way back home.

How was your day?The next game was How was your day?an experimental point-and-click interactive fiction game where you play the role of a child talking to their toys. Players are meant to interpret the consequences of their choices in their own way.

Iudico is a game made by Andreas Grech and Richard Schembri where players play as a Roman emperor that must sift through the arguments of 2 characters in order to determine the potential assassin.

Permanence is a game made by some of the organizers and one of the judges. The game is based around the idea of solipsism, so objects in the game world are only tangible if the player can see them. The game is a cooperative local multiplayer game, and players must work together to find a path out.

Perspectron is a 3D runner with a difference, the size of the runner can be changed from large to small, allowing the player to avoid certain obstacles while encountering completely different ones.

Room 14Room 14 is a puzzle game based around the idea of a Rubik’s cube. Players can switch between first person mode and third person mode, allowing the player to escape rooms or shift the cube’s configuration respectively.

The last game to be presented was These Walls That Surround Me, a point-and-click sidescrolling adventure game without the pointing and clicking. The game was based around the idea of the the change you experience in your perspective towards your environment while growing up.

After a short break, the judges made their decision! …and then we held hands… was presented with the Best Board Game award, while Room 14 was presented with the Best Digital Game award. …and then we held hands… was also presented with the People’s Choice Award, posing with an awesome trophy made by Ida Tofte.

I personally felt that the standards of the games made at the game jam were very high. I was impressed by the amount of awesome artwork in the games too (particularly Room 14, These Walls That Surround Me and How was your day?). My two favourite games also happened to be the winners of the awards presented at the game jam, so I’m happy to say I called it 😀

All in all, I was very pleased with how the Malta Global Game Jam 2014 turned out, both as one of the organizers as well as a participant. The game jam was very cosy and friendly, and I honestly can’t wait for the next one to take place. It feels like the beginning of a great gamedev scene here in Malta. Thanks so much to all the participants, as well as the organizers and the Institute of Digital Games for such a great jam! 🙂

Exile Game Jam – Spring 2013

After the incredible experience that was the Autumn 2012 Exile Game Jam, I most certainly couldn’t miss the Spring 2013 edition of the jam! Hosted  by Kanako and the Vallekilde Højskole, the Exile Game Jam is a small 5 day game jam hosted at the Vallekilde Højskole in Hørve, Vestsjælland.

2010-07-19 13.31.51

I joined the mass of people all leaving together from Københavns Hovebanegård on Wednesday and caught the 15.30 to Hørve, stopping at Holbæk. After the usual delicious dinner provided by the Højskole, we were given the customary tour of the place, complete with an explanation of the history and the purpose behind the founding of the school. We also sat down and introduced ourselves to each other by saying who we were, where we were from, and what our motivations were for attending the game jam. As an ice-breaker, we were told to talk to the people next to us about what could constitute as a bad game idea. I ended up speaking to Nifflas and Peter Ølsted about bad game ideas (Nifflas eventually tried out his “bad” game idea in the sauna). I then spent the rest of the day playing basketball in the school’s gym, as well as spending some time in the sauna.

Playing basketballThursday was spent working on the “bad” game ideas or other relevant ideas, delicious food, more sauna, and finally, group formation for the game jam. The theme was announced as being Dreams, which could be interpreted in various different ways. To help idea formation, the audience was asked to write down ideas or themes on pieces of paper which could then be redistributed to other members of the audience.

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The game jam had lots of different hardware that could be used by the game developers to create a new, tailormade experience. This included the Leap Motion controller, iPads and other mobile devices, and the highlight of the game jam, the Oculus Rift. Although the Oculus Rift has not yet been released to the public, several people at the game jam had bought developer preview versions from the Kickstarter, and Unity3D also lent us two to develop on. Even though it’s still a developer preview and the quality can only get better, I was already impressed at how immersive it was. It really felt like I was in the game world.Oculus Rift

I decided to work with Anders Lystad Brevik on something Kvasir Games related: a digital version of Mussades. This was something that we had been planning for a while, but due to us working on our thesis project, we could never really find the time to get started. The original intention was to work with Haxe, a programming language capable of compiling to various different platforms, and with a port of the as3isolib library, a library capable of working with hexagonal tiles in isometric space, which is what we needed. We spent a couple of hours trying to get Haxe and the as3isolib port working, only to realize that the port wasn’t complete and could only compile the demo examples provided. We therefore decided to switch completely to ActionScript 3 so that we could at least have something to demonstrate.

Digital Mussades Prototype

Obviously, we didn’t expect to have a complete digital of Mussades by the end of the game jam. However, I completely underestimated how different it would be to work with hexagons (as most of the surrounding game jammers can vouch for). Anders managed to get a lot of the core systems down (such as state management, server analytics, card drawing and shuffling, and color selection), while I was busy struggling with rendering hexagons in a suitable order to form a Mussades room, as well as rotating the rooms.

Game Jam Presentations and Beer


DuskFinally, the game jam ended on Saturday at 6pm, and we cleared up (and brought beer and champagne) to make way for the presentations. The first game to be presented was Dusk, made by Christian Laumark, Jakop Kjær-Galle, Freja Paulin and Eyði av Hamri. Dusk is a platformer where you play as a plug and must collect lightbulbs, taking them back home while avoiding mosquitos.

Dick and Huppo

The next game was Dick and Huppo, a game made by Pernille Sihm, Morten Mygind and Peter Bruun.  It features a duck with a gun riding a walrus shooting balloons, and has a certain charm to it.

Up next was Cookie Arcade 2 – Massive Destruction, a local multiplayer game that was a mix between a real-time strategy game and an arcade game. It was made by Katrine Kiilerich Poulsen, Jakob Hansson, Peter Ølsted, Astrid Mie Majgaard and Niels Justesen.

The Quincy IncidentThis was followed by The Quincy Incident, a psychological horror game involving non-Euclidean architecture set in a shipwreck that actively prevents them from leaving. It was made by Isaac Howie Brewerton, Hans Henrik Hvoslef, Alexander Evgenievich Nikulin, Nina Croitoru, Alina Constantin,  Kristian Romer and Morten Brunbjerg, and featured voice overs by Tommy Rousse, Amani Naseem and Julie Heyde. The game was intensely atmospheric, and I’d gladly play a finished version of this game!

Michael Dreams of Dinosaurs, made by Jesper Hyldahl Fogh, Anton Pilmark, Nina Cecilie Højholdt, Jonathan Trier Brikner and Emil Juul Clevin, is a 2D sidescroller where you control a fish that must pick up food. At some point, the fish turns into a pterodactyl that flies through space and crashes into UFOs and rainbows.

Paper Trail

The next game to be presented was Paper Trail, made by Ida Groth, Gøran Berntsen and Jon Werk Nielsen. Coming from a group that called themselves “game jam virgins”, this game really impressed me. The art was crisp and clear, and the gameplay was really interesting, involving tessellation and origami! I was also expecting the game to place in the top 3 games!

The President of the United StatesUp next was the game named The President of the United States, by Nicklas Nygren and Alina Constantin. Described as “a mixture of Battle Combat Fighters and chess”, the game is a 2 player game with tons of strategy, since you must coordinate your pieces. As is usual for Nifflas’ games, it is an atmospheric game. It also contains awesome artwork!

The next project to be presented was by Jonas Halfdan Jongejan and Tim Garbos. The project was a physical portal into another culture (quite literally, there’s a screen on the wall) that aims to connect two people from different cultures or locations through games.

Lasse Fuglsang Pedersen showed us the project he had been working on, which was a refractive light system. This was presented with live piano music in the background while Lasse tweaked different variables and settings in the code to show us the different capabilities of his system.

Shoot! Nightmare at Exile

Next was the game Shoot! Nightmare at Exile, by Anchel Labena, Gabriel Durac and Kristian Rømer. Considered “a spiritual successor to NGJ Fighters“, the game was partly inspired by games like Mad Dog McCree and Los Justicieros. It uses pre-recorded video footage of enemies shooting at the player, and the player must shoot back and kill them in order to progress. I ended up featuring in one of the level’s hardest bits along with Nina Croitoru and Astrid Sønderby Lamhauge.

The next project to be demonstrated was actually a digital synthesizer for the iPad called Voice & More, which looked really interesting! It apparently allowed for lots of different options to be tweaked.

After presenting the work we had done for the digital version of Mussades, Anders Lystad Brevik also presented Dark Muse, a toy where users could pick a colour and create a music line with the chosen colour, which corresponded to an instrument. The idea was that the next user to access the toy would find that colour unavailable, and once all the colours were unavailable, the music lines would be combined to create one track, which would have been saved using a server.

Heads

Up next was Heads, a game by Thomas Ryder. Described as a “super minimalistic puzzle game”, Heads is inspired by Tetris, where players must create black or white heads from the falling pieces in order to clear the screen.

The next game to be presented was Astrid Sønderby Lamhauge’s game The Wonderful Journey of Pepita the Pig. Since Astrid wanted to learn ActionScript 3, she figured she might as well learn the programming language while in the context of making a game. The game is a point-and-click adventure where players must help guide Pepita the Pig to freedom.

ULTRANOBLE WARRIORZ!! is a local multiplayer game created by Glitchnap and Henrike Lode. Similar in concept to their previous game LAZA KNITEZ!!the game focuses on intense hypercombat between four ultranoble warriorz swinging swords.

The next game to be presented was Puppeteer, a digital toy made by Marius Jigoreanu and Alina Constantin where the user could control a ragdoll with his or her hand using the Leap Motion controller. The ragdoll shown is actually a clay model made by Alina, which later imported digitally to be used in the toy.

After setting up the Oculus Rift to allow presentations, the next game to presented was Disunion, commonly referred to as “the guillotine simulator”. It was made by Erkki Trummal, André Berlemont and Morten Brunbjerg. Players had to assume the position the person being executed would (generally, on their knees and supported by another object), and with their hands tied behind their back. As the players look around the scene, they are shouted at by the audience, and only when the players look up do they realize their inevitable fate and the guillotine’s blade comes crashing down. In the presentation, this was also accompanied by Erkki’s hand on the player’s neck, which made the whole experience more visceral. This game also seems to have gotten a lot of attention from the press, since only a day after the Exile Game Jam was over, it was featured in multiple high profile game websites (such as Gamasutra, Kotaku and RockPaperShotgun), as well as mainstream news such as NBC News. A full list of press coverage for the game can be found at Erkki’s site.

The next Oculus Rift enabled game to be presented was Highland by Thomas J. Papa and Kristian Rømer. In Highland, you play as a Scottish bagpiper in the highlands, and can play the bagpipes using a PlayStation Move controller. The video above shows the presentation of the game, where I was selected to play the bagpipes in the game. The bagpipe must first be filled with air by pressing the back button three times on the Move controller. Then, while repeatedly pressing the back button every now and again to keep the bagpipe filled, the player may hold down the buttons on the front of the controller to play high pitched notes while the bass drone plays. Players may also change the pitch of the bass drone by pressing the centre button.

Jesper Taxbøl was next, and he presented the game he made for the previous Exile Game Jam (Herlev) optimized for the Oculus Rift.

Tim Garbos also demonstrated a game that could be played by the crowd through the various devices they owned. Each player could connect to a server, and if successful, was given a coloured screen with a marker that could go left or right. The idea was that the crowd could collectively control a plane flying through a level filled with obstacles.

Demonic Shotgun 2010Demonic Shotgun 2010: The House Warming was a game created by Martin Fasterholdt, K Ceiriog Shonibare-Lewis and Daryl Leon Hornsby. Similar in concept to Hotline Miami, players control a person wielding a demonic shotgun that requires the player to kill opponents. If not, the black bar at the bottom starts decreasing and eventually explodes, killing the player. I particularly liked the art style of the game, setting it within the plans of an architect.

The next game presented was Out of Body by Thorbjørn Erik Køppen Christensen. What seems to be like a simple top-down puzzle game turns out into a more complex game where players must change perspective from top-down to first person in a 3D environment in order to navigate through the level.

Fainted GoatUp next was Fainted Goat, a game by Julian Hansen and Rune Skovbo Johansen. Taking place in a dream-like procedurally generated world with voxels, players can challenge each other to races and seeing who arrives first.

ShaylaMazing is a local multiplayer maze game created by Julie Heyde, where players must navigate through a maze that changes its paths in order to escape.

After the last game was presented, we left to the Pejsestuen where the winners were chosen and announced by the previous Exile Game Jam winners. Demonic Shotgun 2010: The House Warming came in third place, The Quincy Incident came in second place and finally, Highland came in first place!

We spent the rest of the weekend celebrating in style at the game jam’s official party, in the sauna, jamming together in the music room, and waiting for the sun to rise at 5am.

All in all, it was an excellent game jam as I’ve come to expect from the Exile Game Jam 🙂 I really enjoyed working on a project in the company of awesome people, and I hope to be back for the Autumn 2013 edition of the Exile Game Jam!

Exile Fireplace

(Photos provided by Unicorn7, Johan Bichel Lindegaard, Henrike Lode, Anchel Labena and Nina Croitoru.)

Nordic Game Jam 2013

A year has passed since I attended my first Nordic Game Jam back in 2012, and suddenly, this year’s edition of the Nordic Game Jam has also come and gone. This year, the Nordic Game Jam was the biggest game jam in the world with over 470 participants. It also moved location to the Aalborg University’s Copenhagen campus. I took part as a volunteer as well as participating in the actual making of games.

NGJ 13 Keynote speakers Vlambeer and Dennaton
NGJ 13 keynote speakers Vlambeer and Dennaton. Thanks to Anchel for the photo.

Friday 18th started off with several different talks, which were separated into tech talks and indie talks. I decided not to jump between auditoriums, since I was more interested in the indie talks. I got to listen to Sybo Games speak about their journey from indie to iOS hit with their game Subway Surfers, Nifflas‘ very personal talk about his world view and how it related to Knytt Underground’s design, and BetaDwarf’s story from a small indie company to possibly one of Denmark’s heavyweights game companies. Lau Korsgaard also spoke about  folk games that inspired him when making Spin the Bottle for WiiU. After that, several people that were present took the opportunity to present some games that they were working on. Personal favourites included Mimics by Thomas Ryder, Rymdkapsel by Martin Jonasson, UFHO2 by Tiny Colossus, Environmental Station Alpha by Arvi Teikari and a point and click adventure called Shadow of Kharon amongst others. I also attended a talk about designing board games by Martin Neergaard Andersen which I found interesting.

After Vlambeer (Super Crate Box) and Dennaton (Hotline Miami) gave their keynote speech (where they told people to follow the 4:44 rule, 4 hours for making a game, and 44 hours for tweaking/polishing/playtesting/iterating/having beers/annoying people), we received the theme for this year’s game jam, which was grotesque. People then started going around and trying to form teams; either by looking for specific skill sets or by convincing people that their idea was awesome. Meanwhile, I headed to the board game room, since I wanted to make a board game again with my old team Sugarush.

Sugarush making games
Sugarush making games

By the end of Friday, we had come up with a couple of interesting ideas that we wanted to further develop. By Saturday morning, more concepts were presented and we settled on one game idea that we wanted to work on, which eventually turned into our final game Beast Builder. Anchel interviewed us in one of the Nordic Game Jam’s video blogs below!

Beast Builder is a family friend game where players play as Dr. Frankenstein’s would-be assistants in order to help the doctor build his latest creations. Torso parts are placed in the center of the table and form the basis of the creatures to be created, and players must find body parts that allow them to maximize their chances of claiming a point from the finished creature. Of course, some cards allow players to interfere with opponents!

Beast Builder
Beast Builder

The judges this year were Ole Steiness and Martin Neergaard Andersen, with additional input from Thomas Vigild and Kim Dorff. Beast Builder managed to score Best Sellable Board Game, and we even managed to play our game with a couple of young kids who liked our game! Other games that won awards were Made in China, which won Most Fun Game and Burlesque Grotesque which won Most Polished Game. There were some awesome board games being made this year, and I’m sorry that I didn’t have time to play all of them.

Sugarush with our prizes
Sugarush with our prizes

The winning board games were also nominated as finalists in the final round of judging. The top 11 games, in order of the amount of votes acquired, were:

  1. Spaceship with a Mace
  2. Press [X] To Give Up
  3. Stikbold
  4. Stalagflight
  5. Twisted
  6. Dragon Pussy
  7. 3:15 AM
  8. Shrouded Light
  9. Made in China
  10. Beast Builder
  11. Burlesque Grotesque

Out of the finalist games, here are my personal favourites:

Spaceship with a MaceSpaceship with a Mace, by Nifflas, won the Audience Award with his ambient multiplayer game. Players use Xbox controllers to maneuver their spaceship around in space, which also has a mace attached to it. Players must swing the mace at other spaceships in order to destroy them, but must avoid getting hit by other spaceships!

Stikbold, by Lars Bindslev, Jacob Herold, Martin Petersen, Anders Østergaard and Simon Vestergaard, won Most Fun game with their multiplayer mayhem game which takes a surprising twist as the game progresses!

Press X to Give Up

My personal favourite was Press [X] to Give Up, a game by Anders Børup, Bram Michielsen, Henrike Lode, Jonas Maaløe, Jonatan Van Hove and Mads Johansen. It’s experimental game where players play the role of a bullfighter that must stick spears into a bull. Each successful hit makes the bull grow larger and more menacing, while each hit that the bull lands on the player starts glitching the screen wildly, making impossible to see. Both the lose screen and the win screen contain haunting messages that hint at a larger message that underlies the game.

Overall, I’ve experienced another great game jam with friends, and had the pleasure of meeting new people and trying out other people’s games in a crazy and fun environment. If you want to try out some of the other games that appeared during NGJ13, feel free to check out the massive list over at Unicorn7. I look forward to attending Nordic Game Jam 2014 🙂

Team Sugarush!
Team Sugarush!

Exile Game Jam – Autumn 2012

Last week, I left Copenhagen to go to the Exile Game Jam – Autumn 2012 held at the Vallekilde Højskole in Hørve, Vestsjælland. The event started on Wednesday and finished on Sunday, and it was definitely one of the best game jam experiences I have ever had!

I arrived at Københavns Hovebanegård on Wednesday to catch the 15:30 train to Hørve together with 4 other people (Anchel, Karin, Tobias and Pernille). After a delicious dinner at the Højskole, the headmaster Torben Schmidt Hansen gave us a tour of the school which has a rich history and an interesting story behind its founding. It can also boast to have the oldest gym hall in Denmark!

After a brief introduction by the organizers of the game jam, Jesper Taxbøl and Tim Garbos, we had a 3 hour mini jam. The chosen theme was Ugly Games. Groups were formed by arranging people according to height, and then making games with the people around you. I teamed up with Anchel, Julian, Michael and Kasper to make an ugly drinking game which had a series of mini games around it. We took the definition of ugly quite literally, and had mini games made in Paint with lots of JPEG artifacts, a minesweeper clone made in Excel 97 and a main game document with lots of WordArt, clipart and jarring colour schemes.

Minesweeper Clone that I made in Excel 97. Click to view full size.

After the mini jam, a couple of people decided to go down to the sauna, where I spent from midnight till 4am. This was my first time in an actual sauna, and I don’t regret it at all! It’s an awesome social experience as well as physically and mentally relaxing. I spent the rest of the Exile Game Jam frequently visiting the sauna with tons of other people. Definitely one of the highlights of the Exile Game Jam.

On Thursday, after breakfast and an inspiring morning session with Torben about space and the Curiosity rover on Mars, we had an unconference where different people could present different things, such as projects they were working on and their own areas of expertise. Amongst other talks, Mathias spoke about haptics and their use in games, Morten gave an introduction to shader programming and Dave and Alex gave a short presentation on Ludo Libre, a massive multiplayer online location based collectible card game for kids for health. By far my favourite talk was Nifflas’ talk on his upcoming game Knytt Underground and the story behind its design and his becoming a game developer, his struggle with his changing view of the world and how it is presented in the game, and how he handles being a jack of all trades. The talk was inspiring due to the awesome design philosophy of the game and its interesting take of narrative. I could also relate to him being a jack of all trades, since I also consider myself to be one.

After dinner, we nominated a couple of interesting main themes for the jam and then went to the gym hall, where the main game jam themes were announced to be Uncertainty and the Passage of Time. We were also given pieces of paper and told to write or draw stuff on them. These were then distributed randomly to people in order to further inspire people. Here, I teamed up with Anchel Labena and came up with the game we made for Exile, Coin Knights.

Coin Knights is a local multiplayer game for 4 players for the Crime City arcade machine made by Redgrim. The aim of the game is to pick up treasure chests that spawn randomly in the middle of the map and return them to your castle. You can carry up to 4 different chests, so sometimes it might more advantageous to pick up more chests instead of going back and forth. However, some chests contain bombs, which make you lose all the treasure you’re currently carrying. Furthermore, players can push each other around, either to push them away from treasure chests, or to push them ONTO treasure chests, potentially making them pick up a bomb. The gameplay was designing by Anchel and I, the graphics and sound were made by Anchel and the programming and music were made by me.

Coin Knights Title Screen

The game can be played here. We’d definitely like to finalize the game, as well as add more things to the game, such as different powerups. The yellow player is controlled using the arrow keys and Shift, the green player is controller using WASD and Q, the third player is controlled using TFGH and R, and the blue player is controlled using IJKL and U.

The game jam ended on Saturday at 3pm, where we then presented the games we made. We then moved to the gym hall to vote for the favourite games by placing beer bottles on the associated game (only in Denmark do people vote using beer bottles!) Here are some of the games that were made during Exile Game Jam – Autumn 2012:

The Shower Game was a game inspired by the showers at Vallekilde Højskole and features art by Pernille. Players are meant to anticipate when the water will stop flowing and press the right button in order to keep the shower going. Players also have a limited amount of times they can activate the shower. If the shower stops at any time, the player is out of the game.

Magnetise Me is an awesomely quirky game involving the use of a bunch of Sony Move controllers and magnets. One player is strapped to a bunch of Move controllers, while the other player is strapped to a couple of magnets. They must then dance to music and combine the controllers and magnets together. After some amount of time, all Move controllers turn white and players gain points.

Privatised Presidential Ambulance Racer is a game made by Jonathan van Hove and Bram Michielsen. Players drive around a city in ambulances to pick up the president, and the first player to 7 presidents wins. However, there are lots of pedestrians in the way which slow the ambulance down. Players can activate sirens to make the pedestrians move, or plough through pedestrians.

Robo Runner Cow Gunner is a game made by Karin Bruér and Tobias Kärrman. It was made for the Crime City arcade machine and is a 8 player game. Players can either be robots, controlled using the analog sticks, or turrets, controlled using the 2 buttons. I enjoyed the madness playing the game, with people shouting at each other to get out of the way to collect stuff, or complaining that they got shot.

Ludo Libre is a game currently being developed by FunRigger Productions, and as CEO David Mariner describes it, the game is “Endomondo meets Pokemon”. Dave, Alex and Lars attended the Exile Game Jam in order to look for inspiration on how to make the game experience meaningful and fun and developed a small prototype involving actresses.

Gee Ball is a game developed in Unity where you must move a ball over strange levels in order to get the end of the level. However, different terrain interacts differently with the ball, and so you may get into situations where you must go underneath your original platform in order to finish the level.

The Sculpting Adventure is game made in Unity by Julian Hansen and others. The object of the game is to model different objects by carving out small cubes from a large cube.

!Snake is a game made by Lau Korsgaard which involves people playing what looks like a regular game of Snake. However, if 2 snakes collide, the snake splits into 2, and the player must then control both snakes at the same time. This makes for wildly confusing and fun games!

Tim Garbos and Pernille Sihm worked on an atmospheric exploratory game in Unity. Players walk around a world and interact with objects such as towers, trees and flowers, distorting them wildly. The music also adds to the uncertainty in the game.

Jesper Taxbøl and Lasse Fuglsang made a game called Herlev, a crazy game which has the player trapped inside Herlev Hospital. Players can try to collect the blue pill but fail miserably as it jumps out of the way, but can watch the screen in front of them transform by taking the red pill.

Whose Penis Am I Holding Now? is an analog game where players must draw a picture of a penis on a piece of paper, then shuffle the cards together and distribute them randomly. Players then describe the penis they’re holding in one word, and must point to the person they think is holding their penis.

Tank Heaven is a 4 player game made in Unity which involves players controlling tanks that shoot at each other. However, the level beneath the players turns wildly, making the competitive experience even wilder.

Ninja Painter is a game made by Asger, Holger, Malthe and William. It involves players sneaking around a level as invisible ninjas. Other players can throw paint at them, revealing their location, and if players step in paint, footsteps are left behind, making it easy to track the ninja.

The Fall is by far my favourite game from the Exile Game Jam and was made by Bram Michielsen, Thomas Ryder, Julian Stengaard and Morten Mygind. It is a point-and-click adventure game set in reverse. The main character commits suicide, and players go through her life backwards in order to find out why she did so. The graphics are amazing and reminiscent of the early point-and-click adventure games, and even the music and voiceovers are in reverse!

Toilet Company is a multiplayer running platform game where players must find toilets to relieve themselves before exploding.

Bearadise Hotel is a game by Roman Graebsch, Jens Lauridsen and Rune Hilbert. It is a continuation of the game they started making at the Nordic Game Jam 2012 together with Petr Papez, Enric Llagostera and Jacob Ringbo. Players play as bears and are assigned roles randomly and secretly. Players assigned the role of vampire must go around killing bears before they are noticed, and players assigned the role of hunters must find the vampire before innocent bears are killed.

After the voting was over, The Fall was awarded first place, Herlev was awarded second place and Bearadise Hotel was awarded third place. Coin Knights managed to get one vote, although we don’t know who voted for us.

It was then time for an awesome dinner sponsored by Kiloo and then a massive Saturday night party, where we had a LAZA KNITEZ! tournament (where Nifflas was crowned champion) and a crazy music jamming session in Vallekilde Højskole’s music room, as well as late night sauna sessions.

Sunday was the final day of the Exile Game Jam, an awesome experience had finally come to an end. We cleaned up and returned our keys and sat outside in the sun eating ice-cream, kicking a ball around and going on the swings. On the way home, we also encountered a Julemarked, where we bought æbleskiver. I also bought a knitted elephant, who I named Torben after the Højskole’s headmaster.

I’m definitely glad I went to the Exile Game Jam! Apart from making a game, I met loads of new people, went into a sauna for the first time (and thoroughly enjoyed it too, so much so that I went into the sauna nearly every day. Thanks to sauna buddies Nifflas, Karin, Tobias, Marín, Anchel and others who visited the sauna regularly), as well as not sleeping for nearly 48 hours straight. Thanks to everyone for an awesome game jam experience, and I look forward to seeing everyone again in 6 months time for the Exile Game Jam – Spring 2013.

JamIT 2012

Although I was meant to be busy this weekend programming a Ms. Pac-Man controller using artificial intelligence techniques for the Modern AI in Games course at ITU, I found some time to drop by at the first game jam organized by PlayIT, the student organization at ITU. The game jam was called JamIT 2012 and was an awesome game jam!

We first all went into Auditorium 1, where we had the opening ceremony by Jonathan van Hove and Tommy Rousse, followed by keynotes speeches on How to Win a Game Jam by Tim Garbos, Lau Korsgaard and Nicklas Nygren, among others. Afterwards, we split into teams to make games based on the theme, which was this picture over here accompanied by the words “Not Possible”.

I teamed up with Astrid Sønderby Lamhauge and Casper Nielsen Voigt, and we all agreed that even though we were all busy and didn’t really plan on spending the whole weekend on making a game, we were still interested in jamming. We started trying to come up with ideas that had a small scope and we eventually settled on a game that was educational/serious in nature. The goal of the game was to try and turn on the projector at ITU, since it was widely acknowledged to be extremely difficult, with none of the buttons making sense.

The game, I Think It’s On?, can be downloaded and installed from here. It’s an executable file that will install the game and any other necessary files. It was made in C# and XNA and needs an Xbox controller to be played. Casper was in charge of programming, Astrid was in charge of graphics and I did the sound design.

There were around 18 games made during the duration of JamIT 2012. These were presented at the very end of the jam on Sunday afternoon. Anchel Labena and I, along with some others, provided a running commentary on Twitter using the hashtag #JamITU. Here’s some of my opinions of the games that were created during this weekend! (all submissions can be found here)

First up, we have Bert Baker’s Cunnilingus, made by Bert Baker, Virgil Tanase and Samuel Walz, which as they describe it, is an “educational game about cunnilingus” made for the iPhone. It also involves licking the phone’s touch screen, and recorded female vocals. I think you get the idea.

One of my favourite games made during this weekend was Don’t Hose Me Bro by Enric Llangostera, Jonatan van Hove, Marín Björt Valtýsdóttir, Jan Flessel and Tommy Rousse. It’s a 2v2 co-op game where the objective of the game is to capture the other team’s diamond. Each team consists of a wizard that can shoot jets of water at other characters, reducing their life and pushing them backwards, and a skull that can lay various different traps. First to 3 diamonds wins. It’s a well made game, the sounds are addicting and the graphics are awesome!

We then have a game called Impossibl3 Pong by Giuseppe Enrico Franchi. Giuseppe arrived late and didn’t plan on attending the jam, but decided to start making a game on his own anyway on Saturday morning. It’s a different take on the classic game Pong in the sense that it’s played in the dark, points are scored on the opposing axis you’re playing on, and there’s a third player who can affect the puck’s movement.

Anders Lystad Brevik made a game called I Think. I AmIt’s a platformer made in Flash where the game comes to life and actively wants you to play the game, in a rather creepy and overbearing way, to such an extent that it will resort to disabling controls if you fail to follow its commands. I also made a short music track for Anders’ game.

Jackalope, by Daryl Leon Hornsby and Giulia Trincardi, is an interesting point-and-click adventure game of sorts which contains 2D graphics in a 3D world, which I found quite innovative. The game idea seems to be quite narrative heavy, and although only a short demo was made in 48 hours, they plan to continue working on it in the future.

Kiss Kiss Bam Bam was made by Andrew Borg Cardona, Ioana Marin, Hans Henrik Hvoslef and Wen Xiong. It’s a game set in the 60s where you control the faces of a girl and guy and try to align their lips together to get them to kiss. It’s an awesome idea, even though the game is slightly difficult, with ratios of kisses to failures being somewhere around 1: 200. Still, it was very entertaining to watch!

The next game is called Major Lack, made by Nikolaj, Magnus, Emil, Niels & Alexander. It’s an interesting take on platformers, since in this game, you control 3 characters simultaneously that navigate through 3 different obstacle courses.

Photo Shooter was a game made by Valentin Mihalache, Alex Savu; Federica Orlati, Marta la Mendola and Jesper Taxbøl. It’s a real world spin off of first person shooters, but in this case, players take pictures of people that are tagged with QR codes.

Up next is another erotic game called Sex Roulette, made by Jannick and Adonis. The mouse is used to pleasure women seen on screen, and the player can make use of voice control in certain parts of the game.

Space Monkeys! was made by Andrea Distler, Jan Flessel, Lasse Knudsen and Peter Ølsted. It’s a multiplayer platformer / runner similar to Canabalt, but each player’s controls keeps changing over the course of the game, forcing players to scramble to find their appropriate keys as they struggle to stay alive.

Stuf was made by Martin Fasterholdt and Julian Hansen. It’s an interesting take on real time strategy games in the sense that one player’s land is another player’s void, and vice-versa of course. Players must try and take as much terrain as possible, and the aim of the game is destroy all opposing bases.

Super Battle Combat Fighter Pre-Pre-Pre-Alpha 0.0.0.3.6.36b revision 3691726316 (iteration 36, sub-iteration 872) was a game made by a massive team of 7 people: Anita Simonsen, Nis Bjørn, Marco Scirea, Aleksander Nikulin, Morten Frederiksen, Nicklas Nygren, Federica Orlati and Frederik Klovborg. It’s a top-down shooter of sorts with a really interesting twist: it’s turn based. Basically, you have the option of shooting at objects or simply moving. The game then executes your action while the environment responds, and after some time, everything freezes and you get to take another action. Something that I found novel in the game was the fact that when you died, you were allowed to save your gameplay and replay it at normal speed without time stopping, allowing yourself to watch the ship blaze desperately through the level.

Super Original was a game made in 2 hours during the actual presentation of the JamIT games by Casper Friis Farsøe. For something made in 2 hours, it’s really fun to play; you’re being chased by a horde of stained glass alien things that slowly speed up while you slowly start to slow down. In the mean time, more enemies are being spawned, and you must do your best to avoid them!

Up next is another one of my favourite games made at the game jam: SWEDISH GARDEN by Tim Garbos and Niklas Aberen. It’s a quirky and artsy platformer that starts adding different layers of music as you progress through the level. The environment is also reacting to the music, making it a very immersive experience!

ThrowIT was made by Mattia Fiorio, Cristinel Patrascu and Leif Bjørn Rasmussen. It’s a top down game that allows players to fight against each other by throwing pictures. The interesting thing is that players can upload pictures to be thrown, and everybody can use any of the uploaded pictures.

T-RAGE was a game made by Achim Wache, Nikolaj Settnes and Oliver about why dinosaurs really went extinct. It’s a two player game that could be co-op or not depending on the players. Players must fight against dinosaurs on an asteroid, and the game features orbital physics which I was impressed by since it was made during a game jam.

T-REX HIGHFIVE was made by Tim Garbos, and is a two-player game where each player controls 4 different limbs of their T-Rex, and must run towards the other T-Rex and high-five them. It’s fun to watch the game being played, and it reminds me a little of Sumotori Dreams and QWOP.

Last but not least is the game When Pigs Fly by Nina Croitoru and Andrei Livadariu. It’s a 2D puzzle/platformer where the object of the game is to roll a pig to a cloud shaped platform, where it can grow wings and fly. I really like the way the pig rolls throughout the level, and the graphics are very well done!

Winners haven’t been announced yet, but they should be up soon. This game jam was small and comfortable, and I’m happy to have taken part and watched cool games being made!

No More Sweden 2012

Mindwreck at No More Sweden 2012

I recently attended No More Sweden 2012, a game jam held in Malmö, Sweden. The game took place over a weekend and apart from the game jam itself, where people had to make games in 48 hours, the event also featured talks by indie developers as well as massive barbeque. Unfortunately, I missed the talks due to work, and also managed to arrive late at the game jam itself, and therefore ended up without a team. I decided to participate alone and create a game on my own. With the help of an online game idea generator, I settled on the concept of a black and white shooter in somebody’s imagination, which quickly changed into a cyberpunk styled arcade shooter as development progressed.

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Molydeux Game Jam 2012

Amidst all the university related work I have to do, I also participated in a worldwide event called the Molydeux Game Jam. This event is similar to a game jam, in the sense that participants must create a game in 48 hours. However, this particular game jam had a special twist, since the game idea had to be based on one of the tweets by @petermolydeux, an account on Twitter parodying the famous game designer Peter Molydeux. The parody account is known for posting outrageous game ideas. A few examples are given on the Tumblr that Molydeux himself set up.

I decided to create a game called Zâmbesti. The word is Romanian, and it means smile. The game was based around this particular tweet from Molydeux:

“Imagine living in a world where all anyone can do is hurt each other. You on the other hand, your only ability is to hug those around you.”

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