Hat Jam 5: July 4th ‘Murica Edition

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.


The teams started off brainstorming and solidifying their ideas, planning out their tasks for the weekend ahead.

Half the teams were pre-formed. Some joined Hat Jam in the hopes of testing out group dynamics ahead of their final project terms.

For others, it was their first time meeting their team-mates.

Some teams chose to stay up all night Friday, crunching early.

Others chose to rest up, choosing to be night-owls on Saturday instead, in the lead up to final submission and presentations.

There was a wide range of experience amongst participants. From alumni…

 …to term 2 game design students.

 But in true Hat Jam spirit, everyone was willing to help each other out.

Dani Kogan was doing audio for his team, but finished early, so he helped other teams with their sound.

By Saturday night, most teams had playable games and were using the remaining time to polish.

By Sunday, all the teams were ready for their presentations in the TV studio at 5.15pm. An incredibly punctual group. Super efficient.

Calder Archinuk, one of the Hat Jam coordinators, MC’d the presentations.

Participants were judged on 5 criteria: theme, innovation, art, audio and overall player experience.

We were lucky to have five industry judges helping out: Nick Yonge (Krang Games), Kelly Wright (Zeros 2 Heroes), Carson Steinman (IUGO mobile), Garret Randell (Indie Game Developer) & Christer Guillergan (Victory Square Games).

And without further ado, here are the games:

Team: Matthew Holland, Dani Kogan, Hugo Moraleida, Sandra Gersenowies Jasso, Dustin Williamson.
Game: Freedom Along the Mohawk [CLICK HERE TO PLAY]
Theme: Drums Along the Mohawk
High-Concept: Top-down 3rdperson physics-based tower defense game where you protect your pregnant wife from British-Indian Jon Tittley with the help of Falco-eagles, Calder-laser-bears & Abraham Lincoln riding on a 3-headed Rupert-bear.
What they learned:
Sandra: “I learned that I can draw very fast when under pressure.”
Hugo: “Source control is the most beautiful thing ever, because we had none of it. So it was basically flash drive, since because I’m from programming, I had no access to the game design shared drive.”
Dani: “How to control a track – going to different things in the track.”
Matt: “I learned more about AI, specifically targeting systems.”

Team: Nicholas Jennings, Cameron White, Matthew Kirby, Dylan Matthews, Erich Kohlweg.
Cage Rage
Theme: National Treasure
High-Concept: Players control the disembodied head of Nicolas Café and are tasked with destroying a museum full of Nicolas Cage memes and artworks.
What they learned:
Eric: “That we work really well together.”
Matthew: “I learnt quite a bit about key framing. Rigging was a bit too hard so I figured out another way to do it.”
Nicholas: “Working with meshes and animation.Properly importing meshes. The amount of 3D that I learned, having never actually done it before, was kinda scary but a lot of fun.”
Cameron: “Learning modular level design and placing everything, with the set dressing, was really helpful. Especially the auto-snap script in unity was amazing. The snap is so much better than having to move everything pixel by pixel.”

Team: Vitor Castanheira, Juan Daniel Alcivia Smith, Jean-Paul Peschard, Harley Stasiuk.
Game: Yankee Doodle Dandy [CLICK HERE TO PLAY]
What they learned:
Harley: “Level design is hard. There’s a lot to it that you’ve gotta think about and everything that I didn’t realise before.”
Jean-Paul: “It was really fun learning how to identify those [spotlight system] bugs, even if sometimes they don’t really make sense.”
Vitor: “I learned basically everything that I know. Because we just got to term two and I’d never used unity before. The only game I’d made before this was a text game in visual studio. I spent the first three hours of this jam studying, and then I actually started to make things.”
Juan: “I’d done 2D art before, but never in this short amount of time. It was good practice to make things a lot faster.”

Team: Yang Lui, Melvin Kwan, Rafael Andrade Santos, Donovan Stasiuk.
Theme: Independence Day
High-Concept: 2D shooter where you shoot hordes of Aliens to save ‘Murica. You are the last hope to stop the alien invasion.
What they learned:
Melvin: “To pump out art as fast as I could, so they had assets to work with.”
Rafael: “It was our first time programming something, so we spent the first block of time just learning how to do this. It was quite a big challenge but I’m glad that we made a game.”
Donovan: “I’ve never done digital art before. And I did not know you could animate in photoshop, so that was handy to learn. I’ve never done anything game-related before this so the whole thing was a learning experience.”
Yang: “This is the first video game I’ve ever made. I enjoyed the process and it confirmed my choice to come here.”

Team: Wesley Sarafin-Keeling, Taylor Voth.
Theme: Johny Tremaine
High-Concept: 3D hacking game where you prevent the British incursion of drones by destroying their tea.
What they learned:
Taylor: “I learned how to create random systems for AI – so wander aimlessly and detect the player within a certain range.”
Wesley: “For me it was actually more a team thing. This guy is an awesome guy to work with, hands down, so I really liked the teamwork that we had.”

Team: Korbi Pachmayr, Jeremy Katsumata, Sebastian Pachmayr, Christopher King.
Game: Rocky 6: Freedom Edition
Theme: Rocky
High-Concept: Top-down 3D communist-killing simulator where you play as the cutest rock ever.

Team: Scott Thompson, Adir Fakiro, Daniel Garma, Chema Leon Azpiroz.
Theme: Jaws
High-Concept: 3D top-down boat game where you control a boat, tilting it to roll fat Americans to safety while avoiding a leaping killer shark.

Team: Leonardo Salgueiro, Conrado de Sá.
Game: Revolutionary War Bunker Simulator 2015 [CLICK HERE TO PLAY]
Theme: The Patriots
High-Concept: 2D mini-games where you support the revolutionary efforts by knitting, cooking, assembling weapons and catching ammo from your bunker.
What they learned:
Conrado: “I learned that I can do pixel art. We learned that we were too ambitious. It was our first jam.”

Team: Jean Escalante, Nicholas Gilbert, Jean Fernando da Silveira Leite.
Game: Wheelchair Simulator 1968 [CLICK HERE TO PLAY]
Theme: Born on the 4th of July
High-Concept: 3D 1st person social commentary simulator where you control Tom Cruise, a fireworks gatherer, during purple haze flashback of the Vietnam war.
What they learned: 
Nick: “You can only have 32 sounds playing in unity at once.”
Jean Fernando: “I’d only used unity for 2D games previously, not 3D games, so I had to learn the source for this.”
Jean Escalante: “This was my first time in unity so doing the level design was new to me. Nick showed me how to do some texturing too, so that was awesome.”

Judges scribbling notes.

Time to announce awards!

First, the categorical excellence awards:

Freedom Along the Mohawk collected Best Audio for having a completely polished set of sounds, as well as Best Use of Theme for integrating several plot elements from Drums Along the Mohawk, and encapsulating the spirit of the American Revolution.

Most Innovative was awarded to Blood and Tea for the tech behind their drone system.

Best Art went to Revolutionary War Bunker for their beautiful and cohesive 2D pixel art.

 Cage Rage received Best Overall Player Experience for the absurd fun of rolling around an animated Nicholas Cage to smash as many things as possible.

Calder took to the stage to announce the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners, which were decided by tallying the overall points teams received.

Third place went to who also received a $25 gift voucher from Fresh Bowl.

Freedom Along the Mohawk achieved second place, earning a $50 gift voucher from Scent of a Sandwich.

The grand prize went to Shark Overboard. The judges were impressed by the high level of overall polish. The team received $75 worth of gift cards from Fresh Bowl.

At this point, I’d like to thank everyone who was involved in Hat Jam 5. Thanks to Michelangelo Pereira HuezoCalder Archinuk and Anna Prein for being great co-coordinators, to Fresh Bowl and Scent of a Sandwich for generously donating prizes and sponsoring the event, and most of all, to all the participants for their hard work and sacrifices of sleep.


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Happy jamming everybody!


Jaymee Mak is an alumni of the VFS Game Design program