programming

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 – 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.

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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ICTSA Programming Competition 2011

I decided to take part in the ICTSA programming competition, which is renowned for having challenging problems to solve, along with a friend of mine. The problem that was released this year (described in full at the competition site) involved a robot that could traverse a map, containing different altitude values. The aim of the problem was to create a route for the robot to follow, maximizing the area of the map taken by photographs, while minimizing the energy costs encountered by traversing the map.

We approached the problem in a number of different ways, such as optimization algorithms and evolutionary algorithms (including genetic algorithms, harmony search, simulated annealing and others). We also considered decision trees, mimicking the way IBM’s Deep Blue played chess, by looking forward and considering each step. Other algorithms that we considered included Bresenham’s Line Algorithm and Bresenham’s Circle Algorithm (for the photography range and the line of sight algorithm), as well as the use of quadtrees.

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