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! 🙂

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