Live at the Global Game Jam
The Global Game Jam is an annual event in which artists, animators, writers, programmers and other creative types get together to develop video games in just 48 uber-caffeinated hours.
This year I reported live from the Auckland event; this post contains my updates throughout the weekend. Also be sure to check out the pics on our Facebook page.
Not your first time here? You can jump to the final results.
-- Harley Ogier, Reviews Editor, PCW
Friday 28/01/2011, 9:15pm:A late start on my reporting; between brainstorming, consuming The Official Food Of Gaming (pizza) and getting connected to the Media Design School's Wi-Fi, a few hours have passed.
We now know the theme around which games must be developed: unfortunately for you, that's a closely guarded secret. The Game Jam tees off around the world at 5:00pm, locally in each time zone - therefore, I can't splatter the theme across the interwebs until 5:00pm tomorrow, when the last Game Jammers have begun.
There are great ideas abound, and various teams have formed - my favourite so far? A console-aided drinking game (being prototyped on PC). I'll be keeping a close eye on that one, especially when they begin beta testing on Sunday.
I've opted to work on my own, producing an oldschool text-mode game named "Zero". Details to follow -- trust me, the other games in development here will far eclipse mine. There's a lot of talent on the top floor tonight, and I'm just a long-retired code-monkey with a borrowed Alienware and a Nikon D90.
Friday 28/01/2011, 10:58pm:Starting to quiet down around here... the drinking game team has left the building. They've got the right idea... if they don't get some sleep now, they're not going to survive a weekend of testing.
Must get some interviews done tomorrow, and see what everyone is up to. I'm trying to remember how to write code quickly, functionally and without a constant supply of caffeine and alcohol. The former two are easier than the latter.
Friday 28/01/2011, 11:41pm:Only a few people remaining now -- I'm going to head off, before the city crushes my car into a cube or something. You can see my progress... yep, a whole lot of zero. Er... zeroes.
Check out the Facebook gallery for the final pics of the night - I'll be back tomorrow, live and caffeinated.
Saturday 29/01/2011, 08:24am:Arriving at 8:00am, the only peeps here to meet me were uber-dedicated Media Design School students; one chap's even conscious and working after a 4:00am baking session. Good job, I say. Sleep is for the weak.
(Note: The dude pictured was not the one baking, for the record. I just like watching the awesome imagery that covers his screen.)
Saturday 29/01/2011, 09:24am:Still not that many people here... another couple of teams have arrived, but nowhere near the numbers we saw last night. Without much to report on right now, I guess it's time to get some game programming done.
Saturday 29/01/2011, 11:28am:Still a few people short... the drinking game team is here now, though, and that's something. My own game is going well enough, the simple little text-based thing it is. Right now, I have a strong urge to play New Vegas, or possibly Minecraft. Neither of which I plan on doing today.
Saturday 29/01/2011, 5:08pm:I've been doing the rounds, taking some old-fashioned screenshots (the kind you take with a camera, over someone's shoulder with the flash switched off and a fast shutter speed). I know five has come and gone, but I'm going to hold off on unveiling the theme until six... let the last timezone watch their keynote and get started before I break the silence.
If, like me, you're particularly interested in the idea of a computer-aided drinking game, you should probably know that their team lead is walking around IN A PANDA MASK. Does this bode well for development? We'll be the first ones to tell you, here on the ground at #GGJ11.
More pics on the Facebook gallery. Until six, enjoy!
Saturday 29/01/2011, 6:16pm:Exactly 5:45pm, and all the lab machines shut down. No warning, no chance to abort. Sorry, y'all, hope you saved your work.
Cheers to Dell for lending me an Alienware M15x, so I was unaffected by the mass power-down. Would've been nice if it had been set up with video drivers so I could use the lovely GeForce GTX 260M GPU -- I can't download executables from via the Media Design School's Wi-Fi, so I'm stuck with a machine that thinks it has no graphics capabilities. Fortunately I learned this _after_ I decided to make a text-based game. Pro tip: don't trust anyone else to set up a mission-critical machine for you: let alone the last random reviewer to use it.
Anyway, if you've been waiting to hear... the theme for this year's Global Game Jam, around which all games must be designed is...
I'd expect to see lots of dinosaurs, asteroids striking earth, people polluting themselves out of existence... the usual fare. We seem to have some more... creative efforts on deck here, so I trust tomorrow afternoon's game roundup shall be an interesting one.
Drunken pandas? Now that's how you make an extinction-themed game without diving face-first into a steaming bucket of cliche.
Saturday 29/01/2011, 8:10pm:So I'm a journalist. A fair portion of the carbohydrates I require to be alive enter my body in the form of alcoholic beverages. This means I've been giving the drinking game a lot of coverage.
To indulge those of you with more traditional tastes in video gaming, I took a wander around the building and picked up a few more screenshots. The retro title "Dead Pixels" (or is it "DeadPixels") is looking particularly good... if only their collision detection worked for right movements as well as left ones. Ah well, surely they'll have that fixed by the time I post this.
Just under four hours left tonight. My own game, now titled "0++" (Zero-Plus-Plus), is in a totally playable stage... I just need to add the scoring system, menus and some on-screen instructions. I hope to get most of that done tonight; which I should be able to do, if I can stop eating my own dogfood and get down to work.
Saturday 29/01/2011, 10:21pm:Well, an hour and a half left for me. I have difficulty levels, but still no in-game menus or scoring. Partially because I'm still playing my own game, and partially because walking around and taking photos of the real games on other teams' screens is so much fun.
Once again, more pics on the Facebook gallery.
Saturday 29/01/2011, 11:45pm:In fifteen minutes it'll be Sunday, and we'll be closing down for the day. Got to get some sleep, after all.
All of the teams seem to have something functional, and pretty well polished by my standards. I'm hoping that by 3:00pm on Sunday when we start uploading games, everyone will have something finished [enough] to put their name to. We're definitely going to have some awesome indie games on April's PC World DVD. I'll have to get Siobhan to write the reviews this time; as a Game Jam participant, I really can't. Besides, it might ruin the whole "spirit of collaboration" thing if everyone thought I was going to review their games. Naw, definitely a Siobhan thing.
Final pics for Saturday are now in the Facebook gallery, including some awesome in-game screenshots of retro platformer Dead Pixels.
Sunday 30/01/2011, 11:50am:So, lack of sleep caught up with me and I failed thoroughly at an 8:00am start. Well damn. It's now twelve hours since my last post and - perhaps more importantly - since I made any progress on my own game.
With the odds stacked against me, it's time to don the MacGyver jacket...
...excellent. That should even the odds a bit.
I met the drinking game team downstairs as I arrived... well, two of 'em. No clue where their panda-masked leader is, but apparently everyone is still alive and of sound liver-function.
Sunday 30/01/2011, 12:35pm:Made my way around the floor and took another bunch of screen shots - you'll find those on the Facebook gallery.
Just learned that the shiny-looking planetary sim is a web game, currently running in Chrome (never paid attention to the title bar when I was snapping pics - I should have). It looked visually impressive before, but they've added a fair bit more polish and action since last night: now I can't wait to try my hand at it.
Still not sure what's being made out in the Apple Corridor... all I've seen to date are a lot of high-res models, and nothing approximating a playable game. Hmmmmm... apparently they do have a programmer on their team, so they must have something in the works.
Sunday 30/01/2011, 2:00pm:We're all back from a brief lunch in one of Auckland CBD's numerous food courts. Game Jammers need to eat, even on Sunday just two hours before the deadline.
That's right, we're submitting our games to the Global Game Jam site at 4:00pm NZ time. Originally that was going to be 3:00pm, but we've been granted an hour's extension to finish up, polish and test. I'm glad we were... I've got a working menu now, but 0++ still lacks a scoring mechanism, a way to change the difficulty level that doesn't involve editing the code, and some kind of friendly message when you eventually lose the game (there's no way to win, you see).
Sunday 30/01/2011, 5:22pm:And, 48 hours later, we're done. I'm going to pack up my things, go home, pour myself a drink and start uploading video. Want to see the games demo'd, followed by our local awards ceremony? Get your browser back here at seven sharp, when I'll be wrapping up our exclusive on-site coverage of the Global Game Jam's Auckland event.
Sunday 30/01/2011, 7:01pm:Check out the awards ceremony. It's not quite the Oscars, but at least you can tell it's not rigged.
Here's a little rundown of the titles to come out of this year's Auckland event:
- Catastrophe - Fly around a 3D city, saving people from rooftops before some kind of pink sky-beam blows the hell out of the building they're standing on. Some very nice building-destruction physics, with everything disintegrating into a shower of cubes.
- Chicken Egg - Kinda like Conway's Game of Life, but with chickens.
- ExDrinction - Computer Aided Drinking. Enough said.
- Tree Chugger - A two-player, single-screen game. One player plants trees, the other player bulldozes them. Neat graphics and awesome voiceover sound effects.
- 0++ - My little entry - a text-based game where you either stop ones from fading into zeroes, or hasten their extinction. Open-ended gameplay makes it your choice.
- Noah More Heroes - A split-screen multiplayer title where you collect wood, build boats, save and/or eat animals, all the while... fighting pirates?. A tonne of gameplay for 48 hours.
- Dead Pixels - An uber-retro platformer with a difficulty curve that might as well be vertical. Pixels "die" on the game screen as you try to finish the level - stop to get your bearings or line up a jump, and they die even faster. This makes it harder to see what you're doing, and will eventually kill you. Fun fact: None of the game's own developers have completed a playthrough without cheating.
- Purge - This network multiplayer game relies on extremely novel use of lighting to provide captivating and challenging gameplay. It's effectively hide-and-seek, in a world of darkness. Each player has a light source that only they can see, with which to locate their prey... or their predator.
- Ladders - A second-entry by a couple of developers with some extra time, Ladders is a computer-aided boardgame based on its namesake, Snakes and....