Biggest. Jam. Yet.
With 12 teams, Hat Jam 7: Meow Tales, was a boisterous and magical affair. The game jam brought together over 60 students and alumni from the VFS Game Design, Programming and Entertainment Business Management campuses.
After selecting their fairytale theme from one of our wondrous hats, jammers had 48-hours to create games from start to finish.
Another hat jam. Another amazing weekend filled with creative minds, prototyped innovation and much caffeine. All in the name of making a game from start to finish in 48-hours. This time around, we were lucky to have the support of East Side Games, IUGO mobile entertainment, Hothead Games and Fresh Bowl.
For those unfamiliar with Hat Jam, our game jam is named as such because jammers draw themes out of a hat. They’re then tasked with creating games based on these themes, with this month’s apt category being “Zentember” – pseudo zen koans.
July 4th, 1776. America declares independence from Great Britain. July 4th, 2014. Thirty-six caffeinated jammers band together over 48-hours to create nine amazing games.
Sponsored by local eateries, Fresh Bowl and Scent of a Sandwich, Hat Jam 5 was an amazingly smooth game jam. On Friday, at 5.30pm, the participants gathered in the TV studio to draw their themes out of a hat (all movies related to July 4th). They then had 48-hours with which to create their games from start to finish.
It’s difficult to explain anything that went right with our project without first explaining everything that went wrong. So for this post-mortem, I’ll be examining the major obstacles we faced in creating the casual action runner that is Misorderly – and what it took to overcome them. I should mention that all points raised here relate to soft skills – design, project management – so if you’re looking for a technical post-mortem, this isn’t it.
Problem 1: Mixed Vision
Misorderly wasn’t our first idea. Originally, our favourite concept was a god game where tiny people wandered around a rubik’s cube planet and each square was a different land form that evolved depending on the other land forms it touched. But at the time, the teachers felt it was more of a toy, than an actual game, so we shelved that idea.
All the other ideas we came up with, only most, and not all of the team loved. And at VFS (Vancouver Film School), you’re encouraged to only go forth with an idea for your final project if everybody loves it. So if I were to go back even further, I’d offer the notion that something that was done incorrectly in our class was team forming. Each person on our team had such different player preferences. To the extent where one of our teaching assistants, Brant Stutheit, suggested that we do an activity where we write down our top 5 favourite games and see which ones we had in common. It took us until our top 20 games to eventually reach consensus – Bioware’s Dragon Age series. We then explored what it was about the series that we enjoyed, and we realized we all liked playing as mages. This was the beginning of Misorderly.
We decided to make a game centered on being a mage. So we brainstormed what we each enjoyed about playing as a mage – healing, buffs, spells, support – and we deduced our mage would need a party. But given the scope of 5 months and 5 relatively inexperienced students – how could we manage to capture the essence of the RPGs we loved?
Suggestions were made for things we thought would make our lives easier in production, such as a side-scrolling camera to reduce environment art assets needed. Or a cartoony art style over hyperrealism, to invest in creating more characters versus polishing a fewer number. Or restricted, grid-based movement, to simplify combat. But not everyone was ecstatic about these changes in direction.
Everything I’ve mentioned thus far formed the basis for the mixed vision we had for the majority of production. We were so concerned with placating everybody’s wants that we A) wasted a lot of time in pre-production changing our game concept and B) ended up with a “swamp water” game concept that had too broad of a target audience (not that we were able to accurate pin point what our genre or expected player experience was for the longest time).
In Social Justice Warriors (SJW), the player takes on the role of an internet crusader, fighting trolls wielding popular fallacies such as “Argument from Self-Knowledge”, “Ad Hominem Attack” and “Argument from Incredulity”. Taking inspiration from traditional role-playing games, SJW features four player-classes: Paladin, Cleric, Mage and Rogue.
Each round the player deals one of four attacks to manage their sanity and reputation levels whilst simultaneously destroying those of their opponents. The game ends when the player’s sanity, reputation, or both, are destroyed.
Initially inspired by a picture of “social justice warrior videogame journalists to avoid” that was making the rounds on social media, the game is a satire on human interaction online and the pains of internet debates.
I spoke with Eric Ford (A.K.A. Nondecimal), designer and programmer of SJW, to find out more about the inspiration behind the game, the process of making it, and public reaction since releasing it and putting it on Steam Greenlight.
With Pi Jam coming up this Friday, I sat down with organizer Anna Prein, a fellow 2013 Women in Games Scholarship recipient and current Vancouver Film School student to find out more about the jam, as well as the history of Hat Jam.
So what’s this thing you’re organizing?
It’s called Pi Jam. It’s a 48-hour game jam. It used to be called Hat Jam, VFS Hat Jam, but now we’re doing this with Microsoft so we wanted to change the name.
Note: Ludum Dare is a quarterly game jam where participants from all over the world make a game from start to finish in 48 hours (competition mode) or 72 hours (jam mode). Guerric and I did the jam. The theme was ‘You Only Get One’. Entries are judged based on: innovation, fun, theme, graphics, audio, humor, mood and overall. Participants play and rate each others games. Results will be announced on January 5th, 2014.
‘Mama is Sick’ can be played HERE
My first Ludum Dare! And my second game jam ever.
This post will cover what mine and @GarrickWinter (Guerric Haché)’s game is about, a summary of the process we went about making it and the top 3 things done well and the top 3 things we could improve on.
Quick description of our game (taken from the instructions screen):
“Mama is Sick” is a resource-management, hard-times simulation game.
YOU ONLY GET ONE DOLLAR A DAY to look after your family (thanks to a generous family from overseas) while papa is away and mama is sick.
Buy food and water to make sure the food, water and health bars of you and your family don’t reach zero or death will occur.
If your education bar reaches zero, you won’t graduate high school.
You have to last 50 days until papa comes back. Will you manage to graduate? Will everyone survive?
You can work in a clothing factory to earn 50c a day, but be careful not to miss too much school. You also need to study at least three days a week or risk not being able to graduate.
*Disclaimer: This article may contain more questions than answers.*
Illustration by: Nicholas Gilbert
PROLOGUE: Why should we care about feminism?
The following is a recent conversation I had with a fellow Vancouver Film School student, Michelangelo Pereira Huezo.
Michelangelo: “You’re really interested in feminism, right?”
Jaymee: “Yeah, I am.”