One week on from the 2011 Global Game Jam, it's time for a quick look back on how this year's jam went for RocketHands. It's was our third Global Game Jam so we knew just what to expect, and that seemed to have a calming influence on us; a contrast to some of the desperate, crazed all night programming sessions that defined the 2009 and 2010 jams. This year we were so chilled that we actually worked unbelievably sensible hours - finishing around 10 PM each evening and starting again at 9 AM the next morning.
This year's theme of "extinction" seemed far less directed than in previous years, which had an overarching theme along with three keywords and an additional restriction (e.g. a game has to last no more than 5 minutes). To me the theme felt quite narrow - I expected to see a lot of quite similar games at the end of it. SBoxle disagreed strongly with this and thought there was huge scope for variety of games. We definitely didn't have any trouble coming up with potential game ideas... in the end there were too many ideas and not enough jammers to make them all. It was nothing like the 2010 jam where we grappled with the "deception" theme for the whole of the first evening... and most of the Saturday morning too!
As the ideas were bandied around, teams started to fall out: Beetlefeet and SBoxle teamed up to work on a fishing game, Kranzky partnered up with an old friend Phil to work on a multiplayer platform/action game, and I joined forces with Dadams and Maxxor where we had to ditch our preferred "Bad Noah" game due to a lack of artistic talent, and instead we went with an anti-thesis to the 1 button game genre.
SBoxle and Beetlefeet used Flash to make their game "Plenty of Fish". That means you can play it right here in your browser! It is a game full of melancholy, fish, and a serious message to boot. It also shows off SBoxle's art style, with a beautiful and atmospheric scene.
Kranzky and Phil unfortunately didn't manage to finish their game, "Laggy Dash" - it was a very tech heavy game so they spent the whole weekend working on the multiplayer tech and ran out of time to make the actual game! I hope they continue working on it and finish it off because the premise of the game is so good and can't wait to play it... even though they chose to use Java due to Kranzky's (extremely) brief love affair with the flavoursome language.
That leaves Dadams, Maxxor and myself in one corner, and Bad Noah in the other. Bad Noah was going to be a hugely entertaining game where some kind of hijinks had occurred on Noah's ark with his pairs of animals... perhaps a crash into some rocks or a heavy night on the bottle getting drunk with his animals. The next morning, the animals are all messed up, with body parts interchanged to create crazy new creature combinations! Your job as the player is to breed the animals selectively until you can get back to the original, pure breed combination of body parts for each animal. And you have to do that before your ship reaches shore, and your wife who is tutting and waggling her finger, exclaiming: "Bad Noah!". This game had huge art requirements though, and since SBoxle was committed to the fishing game, we had to pick something that better suited our programmer-centric team.
So we made "The Worm Turns", a physics based platform game, developed using Python, Pygame and PyBox2D. The player controls a worm using EIGHT keys! Each key controls one segment of the worm's body. Ok, that makes it more of a caterpillar than a worm, but we started referring to it as a worm when Kranzky proffered the title "The Worm Turns" when we were scratching our heads trying to think of a name. Once you've come to grips with the controls, you have to tap out a rhythm to get the worm wiggling along over some obstacles and away from the encroaching lava that threatens the very existence of the worm, in search of your wormy partner and an escape from the fiery hell. It's a great spectator game, and you're sure to find yourself grinning like a loon whether you're playing it or just watching some else go head over heels and tying themselves into a knot. You can download The Worm Turns for Windows or Mac from the Global Game Jam website. Version 1.1 is recommended, as it includes an extra few days of improvements after the end of the game jam. There's also a work in progress video, thanks to Kranzky insisting on documenting some of the process:
This year's game jam was much smaller for Perth developers than in the previous two years, due to the limited space at the venue. For me, it was one of the best ever, with the chilled atmosphere seemingly allowing us to get more done this year with less stress and fewer frantic hair-pulling moments than in previous years (or maybe we are just better at limiting the scope to what we are likely to be able to achieve in the limited timeframe). As Beetlefeet says, maybe we are becoming seasoned at this!
Big thanks to Simon Wittber and Different Methods for organising this and all of the other game jams in Perth over the last 3 years. It won't be the same without Simon at the helm, but we all think he has done a fantastic job, so thanks for all the time you've dedicated to getting us game jamming, Simon!