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.
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.
Another term, another Hat Jam! This one was held the weekend before Halloween, so we decided to choose 13 horror-esque classical artworks, and have the teams randomly draw one to work with. As is becoming standard for Hat Jam, we were blown away by the results. Instructors Bren Lynne and Victor Kam sacrificed some of their precious Sunday time to come out and judge — not to mention that Bren was also a sporadic Unity mentor through-out the weekend! Both have our utmost gratitude for supporting the Hat Jam cause. Prizes were donated by Microsoft, and included full licensed copies of Windows 8 for the top 4 teams.
Team Members (left to right): Spencer Goring (GD34), Willy Campos (GD34), Carlos Eduardo Da Costa Novaes (GD34) Theme:Mask Still Life III, by Emil Nolde
This team received one of the less classically-oriented paintings to work with, and turned out an exceptionally clever platformer, worthy of the Grand Prize. Each mask shows you the world in a different way, and use of all three masks is required to advance. On top of the great gameplay and puzzle elements, this team turned out some beautiful visual effects and stayed true to their theme, for a wonderfully cohesive game. Given more time, the judges believed the concept and mechanics behind this game could really lead to something great.
Following the success of the first Hat Jam, myself (Anna Prein) and classmate Michelangelo Pereira Huezo banded together to organize the second incarnation of this VFS game jam. Leaping Coyote Interactive also generously offered to sponsor this time, meaning that we could provide some food, snacks, donuts, and lots and lots of coffee.
If you already know what a game jam is, go ahead and skip this paragraph, but otherwise — a game jam is an event (usually over 48 consecutive hours) in which teams create a small game from start to finish. Game jams are increasingly more popular these days, with events like Global Game Jam, Ludum Dare, and Indie Speed Run! Some have prizes, but all game jams are fundamentally about the same core values of teamwork, creativity, and passion. They’re also a great way to learn, as GD34’s Daniel Garma will attest to: “You learn so much by jamming. People don’t even know. They don’t even KNOW.”
This time around, nearly 30 VFS Game Design students and TAs participated, creating eight fabulous games. Each team drew a theme from our fancy hat; themes were produced by the Video Game Name Generator. From there, it was a grueling 48 hours of work, work, work, and temporary periods of sleep-deprivation-induced madness.
GD34 students Semin Sim and Scott Thompson, looking pretty relaxed.
New Term 1 students from GD35 also joined us! From left to right: Emiliano Guerrero, Emilio Pelaez, and Matt Holland.
Hat Jam… 47 hours of frantic game design madness capped off by a show and tell.
We began shortly after 5pm on Friday, after everyone had more or less organized themselves into groups. After a brief introduction, each team drew two themes from the two respective paper hats presented. No one had quite anticipated the challenge presented by these themes. Our themes were Silver Abomination and Fire, and so we put our thinking caps on and set to work coming up with our design. A few hours later with sleeves rolled up and hats off, we began prototyping along with the other teams.
Over the weekend, everyone worked frantically, resting only as needed in order to get the most done in the small amount of time we had. The time flew by as we scrambled to get everything we could done within the allotted period. Even though the pressure was on, people were still willing to help others out as they plugged away at their work and there was a sense of camaraderie. Finally, at 4pm on Sunday we were forced to stop work so that we could show off what we had accomplished.
Our team volunteered to go first and so we showcased our 3D side-scrolling platformer coincidentally named Silver Abomination, complete with flaming cheese. Following us was the weird and wonderful first person experience named So F****** Relaxing, which featured a large open level and funky art style inspired by the words language flower and nurse. Up next was 2D sidescroller Vampire Dolphin, whose game came from the words vampire dolphin and macaroni. Their project had gone from being a 2D Flash game to 3D Unity game and back again, but they still managed to deliver in the end. Last but not least was Banana Error, which showcased an impressive 3D environment and hilarious soundtrack. It was an impressive display of skill and dedication and in the end it was a great experience.
Hats off to everyone who participated in the jamming and to the game design staff, particularly Dave Warfield for allowing us to hold our own game jam, and Andrew Laing for taking time to judge our games on his day off.
Peter Smith is a soon-to-be-alumni of the VFS Game Design program
Hat Jam is a game jam held at the VFS Game Design campus by students, for students of VFS. Not just for GD students either, but students from all programs at VFS.
What is a Game Jam?
A game jam is a period of time where small teams make small games, according to a theme. These games can be any kind of game, be it a board game, 2D side scroller or full 3D adventure.
When is Hat Jam?
Hat Jam will be taking place this weekend, from 5pm Friday, all the way to 5pm Sunday. Students from other campuses may only stay until 9pm each night, however GD students may stay all night if they wish. Friday night will be team forming, Sunday will be the awards ceremony, where people will vote for the various games made at Hat Jam.
So, What is the Theme?
Hat Jam’s theme will be individualized for each team by drawing the themes out of a hat, hence the name Hat Jam.
Cool, What do I Need?
Nothing! ….well except for your creativity, but we are art students, so that shouldn’t really be a problem.
Awesome! How do I Sign Up?
All you have to do is contact the lovely Anna Prein at gd33anna_at_vfs.com with your interest
What are you waiting for? Come down to the Game Design campus at 88 East Pender and make a game. Come and Have fun, and don’t forget to meet some new people.