Jamming at Videogame Extreme Workshop 2014

vgew_logo

Last weekend, I went to VGEW, Chile’s most important annual gamejam. It’s my first time going (and my first time going to a jam ever), so it was pretty exciting. It was great experience, so I’m going to tell you about it now, although I’ll try to avoid boring you with the details.

Morning

I got slightly lost on the way, and I arrived slightly late, but I didn’t have any problems with the inscription. They were giving out IDs where they wrote down your name and speciality, so I entered as a Programmer/Artist (the guy who was doing the inscriptions warned me that like 80% of the people that had arrived were programmers though, so I was likely to end up as an artist).  While I waited for the inaguration ceremony to start, I talked with some people I had met before at Videogames Chile’s meetup a while back and their friends. And after a while, it started! It was late because the president of VG Chile (who was supposed to open the event) had spiked a tire and couldn’t arrive, so the people that were there had to make an emergency PPT to replace his. The cermony was fine nevertheless, and they were followed by a couple of talks on mobile monetisation from Funnke and AdMob.

So, it was time to finally start doing something! The theme of the jam was astronomy. I didn’t want to fall into a random group, so I decided to see if the people I was talking with before were interested in having my in their team. Luckily for me, they were! Besides me, there was two other programmers (Flash and Construct), a 2D artist, and a 3D modeler/animator. First up was the brainstorming session.  We started talking about a kind of puzzle game where you had to form constellations, but we quickly derrived into something more action oriented, at some point deciding it would be cool if it were a competitive multiplayer game. So, we finally decided to work on this: a 2 player action game where you played as titans whose only weakness was stars, so you had use a grappling hook to pull down stars from the sky and then throw them to your enemy. We jokingly dubbed it “Star Wars”, and went to the casino for lunch.

Lunch

Lunch was some tasty chicken with mashed potatos, which we munched up quickly before heading back. It was time to finally start, so we decided our roles. We couldn’t really decide on which engine to use, so we decided to experiment and have the two programmers each make their own prototype, and depending on how that went we’d decide our final engine. Me and the other 2D artist worked on art assets, while the 3D artist worked on the characters. So we worked, but… the programmers weren’t doing very well. The thing is that the Flash programmer needed some libraries he hadn’t brought (for controller support), and the Construct programmer needed some tutorials, but what they both need to get this was internet access, and they didn’t have it (seems like the event’s wifi got wonky with so much people). Here’s a asset I made in that time:

estrella_small

By dusk, we didn’t have much more to show besides a few art assets. We went to get some food before the casino closed up for the night. Things weren’t looking so bright, so we decided that I should also try to make a prototype to see how it went. So yeah, we had three people making three prototypes in three engines… And guess what? Once we were back, they announced the first deadline: show a playable prototype of your game, in 1 hour and a half.  I was kinda stressed by this point, so I worked hard to have something for the deadline. With a lot of effort (and a lot of chocolate),  I managed to have something playable for the deadline, and the rest of the team had something to show as well. This really relaxed me, so I started to enjoy the process more. As expected, the first feedback we got from the judges was that we really had to decide on an engine. We finally decided to use Unity (luckily the Flash programmer  knew C#), partly because I had got the base of the gameplay done, but also because  there was some unexpected problems with rotation collision boxes in Flash. Thus, with a clear destination in mind, we started the next stretch.

vgew_firstprototype

 

Night

So, while the Flash programmer worked on porting the controls he had coded to Unity, I fleshed out the gameplay. We hadn’t eaten any dinner (the casino closed early so we only had a little snack), so we ordered some pizza. Lasaña flavor pizza is… interesting, but food was great anyway. So… we just worked through the night. I can’t say I was working as quickly as I normally would, but it was a relaxing pace I could keep for the whole night. The only deadline for the night was to present a mockup of the GUI, which we passed without problems thanks to the work of the artists. It was raining outside, so there were dogs that kept on entering the room some way or another. It was kinda funny actually, but they had to kick them out since wet dogs were kinda dangerous in a place with so much electricity. The couple of cats that made it in stayed though (probably because they didn’t do much more than sleep and try to eat our pizza).  I can’t say I had much problems staying awake (doing gaming all-nighters has served me well), but either way I went to the potty (AKA go outside and and walk a minute in the rain to reach the bathrooms) many times to keep myself fresh. Once the control code was done, I took it and integrated it to the main project.  By then, the rain had stopped, and the sun was rising.

titanwarsgameplay.mp4_snapshot_00.53_[2014.08.31_04.28.54]

Dawn

It was time for the final deadline before actually having to present your game in the closing ceremony. With some hard work, we did in fact manage to have the game basically done by then, although I’m not sure the judges liked it… Nevertheless, I was satisfied, and we went for breakfast. Wasn’t the best thing I had ever eaten, but it was satisfying. By then, I still didn’t really feel like I was tired, but I did feel kinda like a robot just walking and coding automatically.  For the final stretch, instead of trying to start one of the other planned features,  we decided to polish what we already had. We had a few last moment difficulties (like my laptop getting a blue screen of death just as it was compiling the final version), but we managed to finish… something that was playable, and it was fun! Really, whenever I asked for help testing something, everyone from the team wanted to play, and we all enjoyed watching who would win. Here’s some gameplay:

 

 

It was time for the final on-stage presentation of the game. My laptop’s battery was strangely almost dead (even though the charger had been connected all night), so we had to leave it charging while we waited for our turn to present our game. It wasn’t going take long though, since each team had only a minute to present, but the wait felt like forever… I was tired, but I was also nervous. It’s not everyday when you have to stand in front of 200 people and show them a game you made. And yet, when it was actually time to go onstage… it passed in a blur. We got up, and before I knew it, we were done. I was demonstrating the gameplay with the 2d artist, so to be honest, I didn’t really notice the audience or what the rest of the team said. Was kinda disappointing to get so nervous for something that turned out to be so simple, but oh well. Once the ceremony was done, our team parted ways, and I headed home, took a nap, ate some pizza, watched Doctor Who, and then went to bed. It was a very, very nice slumber.

PS: Can you guess where am I here?

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