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.
There were five awards to be given out: Best Mechanics, Best Visuals, Most Thematically Loyal, Most Offensive, and Judge’s Choice. The winners were determined by our five guest judges:
- Jonathan Falkowski, our own awesome VFS instructor,
- Craig Slagel, of Leaping Coyote Interactive,
- Alan Hazelden, developer of Sokobond,
- Kay Chan, GD22 alumni,
- and Malcolm Christiansen, GD15 alumni
Without further ado, here are the fabulous games our teams created! (And links to each one, so you can play them all yourself!)
Surprise Hobo Rangers [Play]
The Surprise Hobo Rangers team was the only one to not have been formed during registration, but came together so well that they won the Judge’s Choice award! TA Quinn Henshaw worked with GD34 students Spencer Goring and Joseph Earl (Keegan) Myra to make this hilarious side-scrolling beat-em-up, where 3 players each control a uniquely designed hobo ranger, out on a quest for money. It had it all — funny visuals, exciting action, and fitting audio effects. Play it for yourself here!
Hazardous Spatula Summit [Play]
Hazardous Spatula Summit, titled after their exact jam theme, was made by GD35 students Emiliano Guerrero, Emilio Pelaez, and Matt Holland in Unity. Featuring a spinning chef who collects grease to go into Grease Time (bullet time, but so much slicker), HSS won my heart with its fry-tossing enemies and bacon-tongued burgers. The judges awarded it with the Most Thematically Loyal. Play it for yourself here!
Elderly Lawnmower Kids [Play]
Saddled with the conflicted theme of “Elderly Lawnmower Kids,” TAs Calder Archinuk and Jon Tittley used Unity to come up with an entertaining two-player lawn-mowing competition… or, alternatively, a competition of running over as many seniors as possible. Unsurprisingly, Elderly Lawnmower Kids took home the Most Offensive award, and earned themselves some Android socks. Play it for yourself here!
Prehistoric Cat-Raté [Play]
GD34 students Semin Sim, Rafael Alfonso Martinez, and Scott Thompson (Team “Choco Pie”) worked off the theme “Stealth Karate Throwdown,” using FlashPunk for their game engine. The resulting game was Prehistoric Cat-Raté, where you play as a jungle cat trying to retrieve stolen cat statues. While collecting these, you find raptors prowling the grounds below — you must keep out of sight and attack from behind! The resulting yell and explosion were probably my absolute favourite sound effects this Hat Jam. Team Choco Pie took home the prize for Best Mechanics! Play it for yourself here.
Soviet Graveyard Voyage [Play]
With a team compromised of 90% of the Banana Error team from the inaugural Hat Jam, where they took Judge’s Choice, we already had high expectations. GD34s Adir Fakiro, Carlos Novaes, Daniel Garma, Jose (Chema) Maria Leon, and Willy Campos still managed to blow us away with a level of visual polish I’ve never seen in any game jam submission. Soviet Graveyard Voyage is a gorgeously-made world, with full character animation, procedurally generated levels, and even a final boss, set in a very… special area. To top it off, they had made a short comic to explain the backstory! There is no doubt of their worthiness to receive Best Visuals award this Hat Jam. Play it for yourself here.
Masters of the Cooking Revolution [Play]
Despite being in Term 5 and on the final project production floor, GD31′s Eric Shad Miller and Zachery Christie did their best to set aside some time and work together on a jam game. Using Construct 2, they produced a game named after their theme: Masters of the Cooking Revolution. Despite being a competitive laser-shooting beat ‘em up side scrolling kind of game, it was surprisingly poignant, with an interesting sequence of B&W photos as the backdrop. What do they mean? Play it for yourself here!
Cybernetic Tricycle of Love [Watch the video]
A large part of game jams involves last-minute troubleshooting and damage control. Sometimes things go wrong. Things will probably go wrong. What you do when that happens, however, is what really counts, and this team didn’t let us down! GD35s Marlon Franz, Kris Kamaruddin, Enrique Klien, Ethan Maddix, Eric Roslin, and Dustin Williamson were originally making a side-scrolling racer. Unfortunately, circumstances smashed that plan to pieces, and with only 2.5 hours left before their game needed to be submitted, a few members of their team stepped up to the plate! In that tiny frame of time, they wrote and programmed a hilarious racing text adventure, brought to life by Marlon’s illustration (seen above). Cybernetic Tricycle of Love is truly a monument to perseverance — and a markedly funny one, too. You can watch some great play-through videos here!
I, too, participated in the jam, but my theme of Awesome Surgery of Mystery left me feeling pretty uninspired. I turned to inanimate objects: in this case, chairs. While we were out eating dinner Friday night of the jam, classmate Janel Jolly joked that “surgeons are just failed carpenters,” which was unexpectedly fitting. It became the cornerstone of my design (or my excuse for why I had chairs and nothing even remotely related to surgery) for IMAGINARY, which is definitely the most thematically un-loyal game. Play it for yourself here.
Thank you again to Leaping Coyote for the amazing sponsorship, to Chris Mitchell for donating so many great prizes, to VFS for letting us use the campus, and to our judges for coming out on a Sunday! Most importantly, though – thank you to all of the Hat Jammers that participated! Without all of you awesome people, this wouldn’t be possible.
You can find more photos, information, and exciting news at the Hat Jam Facebook page. Keep an eye out for Hat Jam 3, and meanwhile, we’ll leave you with some wise words from Team Soviet Graveyard Voyage:
“We urge everyone involved in game design to take part in a game jam of any form. It’s a valuable experience and you build unforgettable friendships.”
Anna Prein is a Game Design Student and winner of our Women in Games Scholarship