Already far too long ago (15th of March) Tom van der Linden organized an in-house Gamejam and made his residence available to us for the weekend. After just having survived a gamejam in Januari and sworn to never do it again, this felt strangely familiar and comfortable. Like it was going to be like this every now and then :p So again I packed my energy-drinks, laptop and my imagination and went to Amersfoort to do some 48-hour programming.
It turned out I was the sole programmer during the jam. This bothered me a little, since we were a team consisting of 2 artists, 2 game designers and a sound designer working from his home. Michiel was there at the kick-off but then went home where he had all his equipment.
Once we started all fears of responsibility disappeared and I was loving the brainstorm. Instead of one, we went for two themes: Epiphany and Euphoria.
Having many cool ideas, we went for a world where the player would be in a constant state of euphoria and have an epiphany every time he would hit something dangerous. Because the player is so euphoric all dangerous things around him seem nice, until you figure out they are not so nice. This moment we made as dramatic as possible, making a huge difference between euphoric (happy and colorful) and real world (dark and dangerous).
The game turned out to become a basic platformer, with the focus on the visual aspects. I remember some great moments when we first saw the bear we created in-game, and the awesome shift to the evil bear when we replaced the graphics. It was moments like that, when everything just clicks and comes to life, during every jam so far that made the whole experience worthwhile. Its those moments you only experience once or twice in long projects (if you even experience them at all), which are almost inevitable during a jam. I think this is because the time between your actual idea and the creation of the actual game elements is so short. There is no time for other ideas to spring into your mind. Even after the few hours you do actually sleep during the jam nothing concept-breaking ruins the idea.
During the jam I had my moments of mental breakdown. Especially when after two hours I still just couldn’t get the character to land on a platform correctly and having no clue as to why. For the first time ever I actually told the team: “sorry guys, I don’t think I can do it”. I hope I didn’t bring down morale, because of course we did pull through. Luckily I had the support of my girlfriend at home, to drag me through those moments of darkness, back into euphoria, finally reaching the moment where the game was as finished as it could be in 48 hours.
Again with many lessons learned, especially about timing, planning and performing under stress, I went home. Completely exhausted, but with an awesome feeling of accomplishment. Thanks all!
It’s been so busy lately I haven’t even had the time to write a proper post regarding my visit to the Casual Connect in Germany! So.. here it is.
From the 12th till the 14th I was attending the Casual Connect conference in Hamburg, Germany. I was invited by Vlad Micu, who asked me to give a little talk about Rick ‘O Shea. So I bought a ticked and went on my way. Traveling cheap did cost me a few extra hours, but I arrived the 12th after lunchtime, which gave me the opportunity to have my first walk-around and attend a talk about investing and meet some former colleagues from Gamehouse, who were now starting their own business.
When I was making my way to the exit I encountered some guys from Ostrich Banditos, who were exhibiting their game Westerado. They were also invited to give a talk. Later on, we joined Vlad, who brought us all together, to move to an office/working area in Hamburg. There, during the Bradwurst party (a wurst case scenario), I met some guys from THREAKS, it was their office, who were almost finished with there game Beatbuddy (www.beatbuddy.com). It was interesting to hear how they got started and how much they were looking foreword to the launch. Furthermore there were delicious sausages, drinks and games and I had a great time.
After this party I made my way to the Meininger hostel a few blocks away. The second day passed by pretty quickly as I made some German friends with whom I exhibited. I had found out, that I had my own Rick ‘O Shea table where I could showcase my game, so I did and I had the chance to meet some very interesting people. I also had a meeting with Bigfish Games and I showed them one of my new concepts. It was very good to hear the pro’s and con’s of what I was creating and I could appreciate their advice.
That evening I spend rehearsing my talk for the third and final day. I thought I had a good story to tell, but was not sure how to present it.
The third day I spend some more time talking the people and then, around lunchtime I held my talk. I realized I was more nervous then I would have thought, but looking back at the experience I think I did pretty good.
After my talk I did a few more rounds on the conference, said goodbye, packed my stuff and went on my way back to the Netherlands.
A few pictures I took during the trip:
The Global Game Jam 2013 promised to be a very special game jam indeed. Instead of other years where I just joined a random group, this year I wanted to make a good chance of winning and had picked every member in advance making me the ‘sticky goo everything was attached to’ (Bart-Jan).
The crew consisted of:
Bart-Jan Bultman – designer/developer with whom I’d been working ever since GGJ 2012
Joeri van Ees – designer with whom I’d also worked since GGJ 2012
Maxine van Tongeren – a fellow designer, long time friend I knew since we were students
Timo Visser – an artist, colleague and also a very good friend
Angel Heerooms – a friend from outside the field who turned out having some lead sound design skills
With this awesome team I headed out on what I think will be my best and last Game Jam adventure.
Instead of other years, the kickoff was less than satisfying though. There was no inspiring talk by some game guru’s/legends, no motivational speech whatsoever. The only thing I can remember is an explanation of what the Game Jam is and that we must be retarded to participate in it (what we also already knew) and how much it has grown since the start (which is boring).
To me the theme was also quite uninspiring and proved to be quite the challenge. Instead of a word there was just the sound of a heartbeat what was just as the previous jam only a mere hint to what the theme could be. To me the best themes are just words. Not some image of a snake or sound of a heartbeat, that just leaves too little limitations to get creative with.
Apart from that, the jam was started and I felt good about the team and our potential. After some getting-to-know each other we went down for some diner and then off to work!
Creating ‘Elektropolis’ was awesome and by far the best gamejam game I’ve created. We started out with concepts that were taking place inside and on top of the heart (2d platformers). After a while we settled for a platform where lightning was coming from the sky and you had to evade getting scared (and raising your heartbeat). The heartbeat was getting less linked to the theme though and only added something to the game experience. What I was really looking for was a concept where the game would embody the theme and the heartbeat was part of the core gameplay. That proved to be very difficult and by the start of the Saturday morning I (as usual) doubted the game and the direction we were going.
All that changed as soon we added a ‘mechanical’ visual style, multiplayer and the fact that the player would play a + and – pole of a battery (some random remark/ idea of Joeri). At that point I clearly saw how this could fit into what we already had. The heartbeat would link both players and need them to cooperate: not get to far apart and be on the right positions at the same time. After some more experimentation and addition of great pixel-art the game really came to life (literally got a beating heart). For the theme’s sake I remember spending two hours on programming a visualization of a heartbeat between the two robots player characters which had become robots.
After some intensive crunching and engineering we came to a point where we could tweak the game with just one or two values. A great discussion I remember about these values was at the night from Saturday on Sunday with Joeri and Bart-Jan. Joeri and I had changed a value of the game: how much hitpoints would be lost for each heartbeat when players were apart from each other. When Bart-Jan saw the impact of this change he reacted very disappointed, arguing this was the complete opposite of what the game should be. It turned out that we had to find a value somewhere in the middle, but what I found very inspiring about the whole discussion is that we realized we had struck a point where we could focus on what we wanted to say with the game. What the game would ‘mean’ and how it was linked to the theme literally depended on one or two variables and we were talking about pure game experience and mechanic design. This, together with the loud bass-music noise of the neighbors (making it impossible to sleep) was one of the things that made the jam unforgettable.
After 48 hours of intense work I think Elektropolis surpassed all our expectations and became legendary stuff. Not so much a commercial product, but everything I wanted to create during a jam and embodying the theme perfectly. Great job team!
Today my post mortem on Rick ‘O Shea was featured by the Gamesauce website. Writing an article like this really makes me feel this awesome game is behind me, and I’m ready for the next!
The article: http://gamesauce.org/news/2013/01/29/post-mortem-kjell-t-hoens-rick-o-shea-ios-android/