Hat Jam 3: Thirteen Games

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.

Grand Prize: Masked [Play here!]

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.

2nd Place: Hell [Play here!]

Team Members (left to right): Emilio Pelaez (GD35), Emiliano Guerrero (GD35), Laszlo Pollack (GD35)
Theme: Hell, by Hans Memling
Award: 2nd Place

It was a close race for the top, and Hell just barely fell to 2nd. This game is also a platformer, but instead features the challenging ability to reverse gravity. The environment might looks rather bright for a “hell,” but the terror comes from the initial difficulty of orienting yourself to the gravitational switch. You think you’re falling past any viable platforms, but then you flip gravity, and suddenly you’re doing fine again. There is a huge breadth of possibilities in level design to explore here!

3rd Place: The Scream [Play here!]

Team Members (left to right): Adir Fakiro (GD34), Daniel Garma (GD34), Jose Maria (Chema) Leon Azpiroz (GD34)
Theme:  The Scream, by Edvard Munch
Award: 3rd Place

The Scream is one of the most well-known paintings in the world (based on absolutely no real statistics what-so-ever, just my own personal assumptions), and yet very few know the stories and legends behind it. I was in that camp, once. I think I’d like to return to that camp. After this team shared the history of it with me over the course of the jam, I found myself unable to sleep. Their interpretation of the Scream as a monster might seem to lean towards comedic, but it’s uncanny resemblance to SCP-173 gave me shivers instead. This team produced a huge array of animations for the characters, as well as their own combo sound effects! Bromantic. You should also pay attention to that beautiful and meticulously painted sky, so very close to the actual painting’s!

4th Place: Marranitos [Play here!]

Team Members (left to right): Semin Sim (GD34), Rafael (Rafe) Alfaro (GD34), Nicha Jaijadesuk (GD34)
Theme: The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch
Award: 4th Place

Marranitos is perhaps the cutest game to come out of a mostly horror-themed game jam. Ever. It has the most adorable pigs, most adorable animations, and addictively simple gameplay, similar to Simon Says. Press the right button, in whatever order the machine tells you to, or the pig will fall into the cauldron. The name means “little pigs,” and is also the name of a delicious cookie — definitely an earthly delight, though I’m not sure that’s what they actually intended. Best of all, you can play by yourself, or with up to 4 players! The judges loved the simple mechanic, as it translates well to a fast-paced party game.

Best Tech++: Big Electric Chair [Play here!]

Team Members (left to right): Rodrigo Lira (GD24), Nicholas (Nick) Gilbert (GD34), Dustin Williamson (GD35)
Theme:  Big Electric Chair, by Andy Warhol
Award: Best Tech++

Warhol makes me uncomfortable. Big Electric Chair looks uncomfortable. This game makes me feel uncomfortable — in all the right ways. I’m a huge fan of atmospherically-inclined creepy games (like SCP Containment Breach), and this game is perfect in that regard. The sound effects are appropriately eerie, and the gloom of the environment, combined with repeating geometry, is disorienting. On top of that, this team produced a great system of procedural generation for the levels — no two playthroughs are ever the same!


Best Story: The Temptation of Antonio the Vampire [Play here!]

Team Members (left to right): Carlos Danilo Reyes Martinez (GD34), Jaymee Mak (GD34), Guerric Haché (GD34)
  The Temptation of St. Anthony, by Salvator Rosa
Best Story

I’m not a huge fan of mazes, but the ridiculous and charming story behind San Antonio sold me completely. You play as a vampire with a terrible appetite for garlic — their greatest enemy. Will you fight your cravings, or will you succumb? Not only is there a well-written story, complete with voiced-over narration and NPC exclamations, but they even created multiple endings. The mazes are procedurally generated, and short enough to where they’re not frustrating. I especially like any take on vampires that doesn’t  sparkle.

Character Art++: Nightmare [Play here!]

Team Members (left to right): Jordan Lang (TA), Quinlaw Henshaw (TA)
Theme: The Nightmare, by Henry Fuseli
Award: Character Art++

Another atmospheric game from this duo of teaching assistants! It’s a simple platformer, but the focus is truly on visuals and experience. Just look at the grotesque and unusually animated creatures hanging out in the back! Observe the painfully slow pan and tilt of the camera! As a bonus, you can pop off your own Jack-o-Lantern head and make it hop around, leaving the body behind until you’re ready to return!

2D Presentation++: Ghost of a Flea [Play here!]

Team Members (left to right): Marlon Franz (GD35), Ethan Maddix (GD35), Asaf Markus Kazachinsky (GD35)
Theme:  The Ghost of a Flea, by William Blake
Award: 2D Presentation ++

Ghost of a Flea has one of the most unique visual presentations — it’s a side-scrolling, multiple track game with pixel art, where despite the 2D art, there is a very clear sense of those 2D elements existing as flat planes in a 3D environment, like set pieces. This is generally not the intent, but in Flea it works perfectly. The dialogue bubbles, which change when the NPC is interacted with, add a great layer of entertainment, and there’s even a final “cutscene” to complete the journey.

Best Mood++: Limbs [Play here!]

Team Members (left to right): Matt Holland (GD35), Jake Osborne (GD35), James Waston (GD35)
Theme:  Anatomical Pieces, by Theodore Gericault
Award: Best Mood++

Anatomical Pieces was a difficult theme — the painting is just a few severed limbs. It would have been easy to turn that theme into a violent, bloody, slice-y game, but this team took the high route and made the body pieces into horrific creatures inhabiting an underground dungeon. Their great use of sound effects to achieve atmosphere won them the Best Mood++ award.

Best Level Design++: Son of Saturn [Play here!]

Team Members (left to right): Enrique Eduardo Klein Garcia Godos (GD35), Maria Dushyna (Kwantlen Polytech), Travis Smith (GD35)
Theme: Saturn Devouring His Son, by Francisco Goya
Award: Best Level Design++

Son of Saturn is a terrifying platformer where you run from your father’s giant floating head — not just because it’s scary, but because he’s going to eat you if you don’t escape. Enrique, Maria, and Travis took the central story behind Goya’s painting and turned it into a platformer. The music is epic, and the level design was so well thought out that they won the Best Level Design++ award! Play this back-to-back with Limbs for a whole chunk of I’m-being-chased-by-dismembered-limbs time!

Best 2D Game: Portrait of Innocent X [Play here!]

Team Members (left to right): Steven Urbani (GD35), Kris Kamaruddin (GD35)
Theme:  Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Innocent X, by Francis Bacon
Award: Best 2D Game

The story behind the Portrait game reminds me slightly of Ib, which I similarly loved. Aside from some minor thematic similarities, the two games are incredibly different. Portrait takes you into the ghost- and zombie-filled museum-turned-castle, where you have no power to destroy anything on your own. Instead, you must wait for flashes of lightning to take out the monsters, and survive the intervals between. This is much more difficult than it sounds, especially with how the ghosts can briefly turn invisible.

Best UDK Game: The Spider [Play here!]

Team Members (left to right): Adam Gross (GD36), Joseph Belanger (GD36), Matthew Thomas (GD36)
Theme:  Smiling Spider, by Odilon Redon
Award: Best UDK Game

The Spider team decided to focus on creating a horror-game mood, using the art they received as a starting point for their game’s boss — luckily, you can avoid the giant spider if you’re smart. Despite running into some initial hurdles with the lighting, they figured out an extremely clever way of blocking areas from the player’s view! This game features a branching path, and some custom meshes, and a nice visual theme. The screenshot above is from the production phase; you should play the game yourself and see the final product in full.

Happy Ending++: Tempting Tower [Play here!]

Team Members (left to right): James Beasley (GD35), Dillon Richard (GD35), Ryan White (GD35)
Theme:  The Temptation of St. Anthony, by Hieronymus Bosch
Award: Happy Ending++

What better came to end with than the winner of Happy Ending++? No, there’s nothing scandalous going on here — just that Tempting Tower was one of the few completable games produced this time around. The monsters you see in it are all based off creatures seen in their theme painting. They also added what is probably the most ridiculous jump sound effect ever heard. The explanation of the coins was similarly amusing: see, the coins tempt you to go into dangerous places, but what do you get after collecting those coins? Nothing. It’s empty temptation, and you should resist it! Can you beat the game without collecting a single coin? (I don’t know.)

Whew. Each time, the list of games gets longer and longer! Hat Jam is growing, and it’s all thanks to the support of participants, instructors, and judges! You have my gratitude, truly. We have something great in the works again, but as my time on the production floor nears, so does the need for a successor. That’s right: Hat Jam needs you! If you’re interested in carrying the torch (hat) of Hat Jam for future terms, please contact me at gd33anna@vfs.com, or just catch me in the halls between classes.

As always, please keep an eye out for future events, and check out the Hat Jam Facebook page!

Anna Prein is VFS Game Design Student and a winner of the Women in Games Scholarship