Pi Jam 2014: Microsoft, Math, and Madness

Microsoft and Vancouver Film School’s Hat Jam worked together to bring Vancouver a special way to celebrate Pi Day on March 14 – a Pi Game Jam. Over the course of 48 hours, participants worked together in small teams to create games celebrating the mathematical constant pi (π). The event took place at the Microsoft Vancouver Development Center, from March 14-16, 2014.

The Microsoft Developer Center was a great location for the jam, with an awesome rec room (a pool table that turns into a ping pong table!) and tons of big offices for developers to brainstorm and have meetings in. There was a lot of blank paper to scribble on, and big huge whiteboards to draw on. For a whole weekend, Microsoft let over 40 developers run wild in their offices, with never-ending pizza, coffee, and pie.

Pi Jammers lining up to refuel.

Pi Jammers taking a break from making games to play games.

The game jam started off great with tons of people showing up. Microsoft’s Technical Evangelist Tommy Lewis and VFS Game Design graduate Anna Prein led the commencement ceremonies and laid down the law – then, the various teams spread out and claimed their home bases for the rest of the weekend. Some stayed in the VDC to brainstorm on the large white boards, while others chose to simultaneously celebrate St. Patrick’s weekend and do their brainstorming in nearby bars.

Pictured from left to right: Kris Kamaruddin, Ryan White, Charles Adams

Microsoft was very accommodating and when a jammer had trouble with his laptop they lent him a brand new one. There were also Windows 8 devices for teams to test on and port their games to if needed. After a long weekend of hard work, copious coffee, and very little sleep, it was Sunday and time for judging!

Pi Jammers gather around to be judged.

Tommy, Game Whispering’s Alexander Mandryka, VFS Game Design instructors Andrew Laing, Calder Archinuk, along with VFS TAs Brant Stutheit, and Quin Henshaw all joined us for the final judging. Jammers gathered in the rec area to play each others’ games and eat more pizza & pie.

Pictured from left to right: Dustin Williamson, Tommy Lewis, Travis Smith

The prizes were fantastic: all members of the teams that placed first and second in the game jam received Acer Iconia W3 tablets with Windows 8.

GD34s Daniel Garma and Adir Fakiro took first place with Satispied, a procedurally generated endless game where you throw pies at the old ladies chasing you, and try to avoid the evil big boxes that act as obstacles. The game is a testament to the amount of work that two people can accomplish in only 48 hours.

Pictured from left to right: Weing Kai Wee, Quin Henshaw, Calder Archinuk, Brant Stutheit, Daniel Garma

The second place went to Jodon Karlick, Andrew Matecha, Vince Jewlal, Doug Insley, Silvana Rusan, and Ahram Lee, for their game Pi-Rats of the Bermuda Pi-Angle. This is a multiplayer, top down, third person arena battle game. The game is simple to learn, but takes great skill and strategy to master. Players roll around on a pie floating in an ocean of jam. If a player acquires the sword, they can slice the pie, and hopefully their opponents. The last remaining player on the pie wins the round.

Many bizarre and hilarious pie-themed games were created over the weekend. All in all, the biggest takeaways were fond moments and memories. A huge thank you to Microsoft and the Microsoft Vancouver Development Center for such a great weekend, and all their help in putting this event on! To check out other games created during the jam see here.

Michelangelo Pereira is a recent graduate of the VFS Game Design program