If you’re a games developer or you study something games related, then you probably know what a game jam is! If not, that’s okay. A game jam is a time limited event that typically lasts from 24h to a week. All participants in the jam are given a set theme, and they must make a game related to it. It’s not much different from musicians “jamming” together and recording the result! This post is Scott’s experience of Global Game Jam 2016.
Global Game Jam 2016
Game jams are a great opportunity because they’re spontaneous, and time constraints force you to think outside the box. They make you realise what can be done in such little time if you commit. But that’s not to say it’s feasible to work to work at that level of intensity all the time – you’d just burn out.
A few weeks ago marked the 8th annual Global Game Jam, and the theme was “Ritual”. The Global Game Jam is a 48h jam and the biggest of its kind in the world. Every year breaks the record for the most people making games simultaneously. This was my 4th time participating in the Global Game Jam and my 5th game jam in total, and as per tradition I headed back to my old university to meet up with some friends and participate.
How we made our game
After hearing the theme, myself and three friends formed a team. Gav and Mark were programming in Unity, Dom was doing 3D/art, and I was on sound. Dom had brought a secret weapon: the Oculus Rift. We quickly took over a whiteboard and began to discuss ideas. One thing that I think that we all agreed on was to make something weird and abstract. Game jams are always great opportunities to do this, and the themes of the Global Game Jam seem to make this a lot easier.
So we thought to ourselves, what actually is a ritual? If you remove the religious connotation, it’s just doing things in a pre-set way in order to achieve a result. How can this definition fit other things? Do we have any rituals? Ideas were thrown about and we nearly decided on making an OCD simulator, but it didn’t seem very fun. We thought, perhaps work and life are rituals? That was the turning point. Dom came out with this bizarre idea where you’re sitting in an endless room of computers and you have to type to the computer. This evolved into what we ended up making, DoNotOpen.exe .
“You have opened a mysterious exe file, unleashing a dark power. Talk to the computer, do what it says and you might live”.
Horror is a difficult atmosphere to get right, and relies quite heavily on the right art, lighting and sound to create the immersion. We decided to use the Oculus as it places you right into the game world. But being in a game jam with the clock ticking, we were careful about making this decision as it would take some time for Gav and Mark to learn how to develop with it, however, they picked it up quite quickly.
As time was limited, the game was designed to be linear but feel like it’s not. We did this by having the computer ask you multiple choice questions that didn’t actually do anything different for each of the answers. As you progress through the game we made this monster appear, and the plan was to make you lose if you looked at it for too long. But time ran out and we had to cut this feature, as well as scrapping the win condition and leaving out some sound effects! So there was just one ending to the game, essentially a lose condition which was made to be as high impact as possible, where the monster pops up in your face
To call it a game in the state it was at the end of the jam is perhaps a bit of a stretch. But, due to the game asking questions it appeared more elaborate than it really was. We ended up creating a pretty good horror experience that people enjoyed. Check out this LetsPlay video we found not long after release, the jump scare seems to have optimum effect!
Play the game HERE or check out some game jam tips below:
Game Jam Tips
DO get enough sleep!
Don’t go in all guns blazing and stay up all night. You’ll be so exhausted by the morning that you won’t be productive. You’ll eventually go and sleep somewhere and you’ll probably need 10+ hours to feel bright again. What a waste of time that would be!
DO have breaks!
Your body and mind will get fed up of being in that “game jam position”. Get up and move around, do some exercises, or even better: go for a walk outside in daylight. You’ll come back to the desk creative again!
DO eat properly!
Game jams will be filled with sugary snacks and energy drinks. A little is fine, but have too much of that stuff and you might feel sick or crash from the sugar. Any anyway, what do you really need it for? You’re sitting in a chair. Have some proper meals to fuel that creativity!
DO maintain personal hygiene!
If there’s one thing every jammer knows, it’s that game jam smell. Don’t be the one who’s making it! Your site may have showers as it did in my case, but if not, perhaps you can use a friend’s.
DO NOT treat it as a competitive event!
Be friendly, don’t stress, and just have fun ☺