Global Game Jam 2011
From Friday the 28th until Sunday 30th of January, the global game jam 2011 took place. This time, there were 169 locations and 6557 ‘jammers’ all over the world where games were being build. Just as last year, I was present at one of the biggest locations: Hilversum, the Netherlands. The location was my old school: the Utrecht school of arts. During 48 hours the 140 people that were present had to make different teams, think up a concept around a theme and build a game from scratch.

Everyone had a great time while battling against time and fatigue.

Here are some short recordings of the event, compiled into a movie:

Looking back @ Alien zoekt vrouw
Right from the start everything went exactly how it should go: from brainstorming to prototyping to production to delivery. Looking back at the development and the time we got this was truly amazing.

Brainstorming
During the brainstorm session all ideas were welcome and everyone tried to be as open-minded as possible. The theme was Extinction so we tried to hold on to that, with concepts where entire races battled until death. Somewhere along the way though, we just decided to choose a concept that was most likely to provide great gameplay.
The final concept: you are an alien and must beam up humans from earth. If you beam up enough, the humans will turn extinct.
After choosing this concept our main focus was as it should be: ‘Now let’s make it as fun as possible’.

Prototyping
With this concept and focus we started prototyping. We wanted to create a mulitplayer experience where you had to ‘out-beam’ your opponent. Digital and paper prototyping went simultaneously, which was an approach that worked very well. Some of us made paper prototype to experiment with different rules and core movement mechanics/ restrictions, while others checked what we could do on a technical level and how long it would take us.

Production
Right after brainstorming we went into full production. We choose to build the game in Unity, since that would look somewhat nicer and we were confident we could do it within the time remaining. Looking back it might also have been a good choice to build the game in Gamemaker, but that would have been half as challenging and we would have missed a precious chance to learn from this experience.
During this project, when the game was at a low energy-point (after 20 hours without sleep), I tried to pick up the pace by planning the tasks visually on the whiteboard. I think this might have got the game just a little bit further, because it everyone an overview of what we were doing and how much features we could still add.
The title ‘Alien zoekt vrouw’ emerged when we needed to enter a name under ‘Project title’ on the GGJ website. After almost half an hour of desperate brain-farts (we were at the time, really really tired) we choose the one that got instant response: ‘Alien zoek vrouw’ *Alien looking for a woman. After this choice some of the missing pieces fell together and the story and even the visual representation we made up finally got meaning.

Presentation
After a huge amount of production-hours the moment of presentation was finally there. Although the jury did not look too thrilled when they played our game, the audience loved it.
One of the problems though, was that the control scheme was not really clear. We were also competing for the Winnitron challenge (for a slot in an arcade machine), but the controls that machine needed were really bad for playing the game on a keyboard. When the controls were clear though, all was good.
A great moment was the second big play testing of our game for real with two little kids. We really felt like we were on to something big: the kids screamed and wanted to play again and again. This was a great feeling of accomplishment for all of us after so many tireless hours of work.

Achievement
Another nice thing that happened when we finally found a name for our project, was that we could construct a ‘real story’ around it. Based on a real story was one of the achievements the Global Game Jam had set up for us. It was really a cool moment when we achieved this achievement as the first of all jammers!

Here are some pictures of our entire process:

 

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