Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Buzz: Global Game Jam 2014

After all the excitement last week, we thought it might be fun to talk about this year's Global Game Jam. Jared Evans, one of our designers, was kind enough to share his experience at the GGJ.

Global Game Jam 2014 was, as it always is, a blast! We had a large group this year, made up of Steve Taylor (NinjaBee owner and programmer extraordinaire), Brandon Karatti, myself (both game designers at NinjaBee) and our friends and family Alex Taylor, Ethan and McKay Ransom and Brett Starks. On Friday afternoon we gathered up our laptops and equipment and headed up to our GGJ site at Broadview Entertainment Arts University in Salt Lake City.

Every year the Global Game Jam opens with a few keynote speeches to inspire the participants before we get down to the grind of makings games. Though sometimes I think the real purpose of the keynote is to build suspense while everyone is waiting for the theme to be revealed! In the past, themes have run the gamut from phrases, to images and even sounds. For 2014, the theme we were given was:

"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."

Armed with our theme, the team got to work. We had discussed a few potential ideas for genres and mechanics on the drive up, and after a few hours of planning, writing on white boards, and prototyping, we decided on the idea that would become 'Band of Others'. You may have played a quiz game that asks you to identify an image, perhaps one that you have only a few details of. But the same image or object could mean something different to someone else. A jar of peanut butter might mean childhood to one person, while to another it means certain death. Playing on those themes, we created a quiz game where you first pick a perspective, and then try to guess not only what the image is, but what it means from that perspective.

Once our game was decided upon, we split out the tasks. Steve, Ethan and myself took on most of the code-related work, building our mechanics, UI and data-structures. The rest of the team began to find and create content for the game, including the images used in the guessing game, all of our original art work, original sounds and writing every answer and ever hint. This year we were lucky that our vision was pretty clear from the start, so for most of our time we could just plow ahead and work. One particularly nice break was party-sub lunch, provided by our very own NinjaBee! Turns out we may have ordered a few too many sandwiches. There's currently a 6 foot long BLT in my refrigerator.

Having experience as professional developers really helped streamline our process, so even with a few last minute changes to make the initial user experience more clear, we were finished Saturday night, well before the deadline. 'Band of Others' easily feels the most polished, the most full of character and the funniest GGJ game I've had the pleasure to work on. There's always room for improvement, and we may not have pushed any boundaries, but its a product to be proud of. Take it for a spin, and think about joining the Global Game Jam next year! Whether you're an industry vet or a fan of games, it's never a bad idea to spend a weekend making something new.

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