Sunday, February 9, 2014

Global Game Jam - MasqueRace

I love game jams. A game jam is a crazy creative mess, a high pressure font of ideas and collaboration. From constraints are the greatest concepts born, and fast prototyping allows outlandish, ridiculous things to be tried that you might never be willing to waste time with normally. Game jam games have even been released later as full games, such as Bossa Studios' Surgeon Simulator. And Double Fine have started opening their internal game jam, Amnesia Fortnight, to the public, selling the products and allowing the public to vote on games they like.

My Global Game Jam team Tiny Tales, plus some other shmucks

Recently, I participated in the Global Game Jam with a group of friends and fellow students of Abertay University. The jam theme was a sentence: "We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are." Our brainstorming session based on this topic resulted in tons of crazy ideas, such as "you are a fly", lots of ideas about perception, and even a murder mystery visual novel.

Team brainstorming session!

In the end we decided on a game about masks which change the character's perception of reality and alter the world around you. The game is a multi-player rhythm-based runner for the OUYA, dubbed MasqueRace, similar to Bit Trip Runner. The players changed masks to allow them to pass different obstacles. If an obstacle isn't correctly passed, the player slows down, meaning they cover less distance. The player who covers the most distance by the end of the song is the winner.

Level select screen, with three complete levels and
drop-in/drop-out for all four players.

This game was an absolute blast to make. I had never worked on a multi-player game before, nor one designed as a console experience. It was a challenge, but since it was local multi-player it wasn't technically too difficult. We did encounter a lot of unexpected problems - in particular, the scrolling background was a huge pain, being much more difficult to implement than we expected. However, we learned a lot, and we're all really proud of the result.

In-game, with four players, two with different masks active.

The best part about this game jam, for me, was the end. Seeing a large group of people gathered around our game, four players at a time, up on a huge TV, was an amazing experience. In the past all of my games have been single player only, and this one, while very simple, seems to be the most fun to play so far.

A crowd tries out the game.

We are currently polishing the game up in preparation for a game jam showcase on the 19th. If you happen to be in Dundee, stop by Abertay's Bar One and try out the game that evening! After that, we are considering releasing the game on the OUYA store on a donation payment plan.

J Quest

I'd like to start a new section at the end of my blogs - "J Quest", a challenge to my readers, and an invitation to conversation about the topic discussed in the blog.

This time, I'm inviting you to share your experiences with game jams in the past. Have you participated? If so, what lessons did you learn in doing so? If not, why not, and do you plan to in the future? What advice would those who have tried game jams have to give to those who haven't made the plunge yet?

My next post will introduce my next project, and my plans for my personal studio in the coming months. Look forward to it!

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