I love Game Jams! I used to do so many game jams in my spare time! I have taken part in over thirty game jams which have been for; the Global Game Jam, Ludum Dare and Creative Assembly's Franco Jam. When taking part in the Global Game Jam I would usually work as part of a team to create the game. Meanwhile when taking part in Ludum Dare I would work alone to test my abilities, as you can always surprise yourself with what is achievable in a small amount of time.
Game Jams are always a great way to quickly prototype an idea to a theme, challenge yourself or just as a way to unwind from the working week. I used to force myself to be awake at all hours but I've found over time that although you'll limit your workload you can create if you have normal amounts of sleep, your body and mind will really thank you for not crunching over a weekend. As ultimately it's really not good to crunch or encourage it on others!
Beeees was created for Ludum Dare 38, after having taken a break on the last two Ludum Dare's due to life commitments I got back into the swing of it for 38, the theme this time round was "A Small World" and after a lot of thinking I interpreted the theme for that bees live in their own small world basically, just within our larger world. They have their own things they care about and tasks they need to fufil, making it their own small world. I loved doing this Ludum Dare as I learnt a lot about bees by doing a bit of research, it was the first time I'd used Game Maker since December of the previous year and after having used UE4 at work I was a little sloppy, but not too bad at all. I had really big ambitions for the game but implemented as much as I could.
You play a bee who needs to collect pollen for it's hive, but as we all know bees can get quite tired, especially when working overtime and fighting against the wind. You need to collect as much pollen as you can before you get so tired that you sadly pass away.
I really wanted to incorporate multiple bee types to play after researching on them, from being a drone, a queen or workers. Along with this I wanted to try and have a basic weather system, where on super hot sunny days the bees work overtime and on very windy days you get the day off. I managed to add in wind, but the wind speed doesn't really differ a huge amount in terms of strength. I then wanted to have the hazards bees face, along with other things you could do. However I think I created a really nice base game that I'd love to expand on in the future.
Flight of the Neon Pink Owls was created for the eighth Global Game Jam that I have participated in, and it took place in 2017. The team this time round was a mixture of new and old, and in a new setting this time in Brighton. With myself we also had Chris and Charlotte on our team, Gary ended up joining a different team as he wanted to use UE4 and we were swaying towards Game Maker. The theme was "Waves", and we wanted to steer clear of anything ocean/water related. It took us a very long time to decide on the game we wanted to make, so long that we only truly decided when getting food during the Friday night as we weren't returning until we had decided on a game. We went the real abstract route of making a game about a new wave band who are up and coming and are trying to get known. Charlotte took on scripting the game and myself and Chris were creating art for it, we also had a guest helper The Ejukashuner who created our amazing soundtrack.
It's the mid 80s and New Wave is where it's at, the Neon Pink Owls are trying to go from a bunch of nobodies, to amazing musicians on their rise to fame. You need to travel across your local city and spread the word of your amazing songs, while seeing your fans and money rise. So make all the tat you can and get singing and in no time you'll be millionaires! Also try to see if you can hear all the songs!
Flight of the Neon Pink Owls is so much fun, and it's all thanks to us having a cohesive design for the game, and the music just rounds it all off! First time in Brighton at the Skiff and it was an amazing venue and all-round great game jam.
Stranded was created for Ludum Dare 35, and the theme was "Shapeshift" I figured the best thing to shapeshift would be aliens, but from a non aggressive standpoint. Ultimately I had a go with making a game that was less about the gameplay and actually full on content.
You become stranded, your ship has a malfunction and lands on a planet, you then need to blend in with the race on the planet in order to find the piece required to get your ship up and running. Your ship is equipped with the latest technology for alien creation, you just have to make sure to get the right look for where you've crashed.
If I had spent less time on the staging of the game and hooking up all the different alien body parts and having it save those across I would of then spent time on the planet that you land on, which is the main improvement I would of made. Unfortunately I left a few bits too late and it was a big failure on my part. What I did like was the comical nature of it all and the large amount of body parts I put in, ultimately with another weekend on the game I could have fleshed out the end and tried to mimic the experience in your ship when on the planet and added a bit more of having to blend in.
School Run Fun was created for the seventh Global Game Jam that I participated in, which was in 2016. The team once again was different as it had gone back to my original GGJ team as we took part in Guildford this year and sadly Chris and Gary couldn't make it. So it was myself, Charlotte and Tim once again. The theme was "Ritual" and you could of course easily guess the way that a lot of games would go. So we were trying to think of things that can be thought of as ritualistic in how they're carried out. And one of our ideas was the mundane nature of getting ready in the morning, but more specifically getting ready for the school run! As Charlotte was back on board I went to my usual position of artist with script support. Tim this year also took a different stance by being our QA, writing up test reports off builds and regressing bugs, which actually was an amazing addition to a game jam structure as it allowed us to just carry on with work instead of check for bugs.
You play the mum whom while doing her various tasks in the morning such as cleaning up and sorting out breakfast needs to shout at your child to get them to also do their tasks, like get dressed, pack their bag etc. You can hone in on what they're doing as a focus and then make sure everything is complete by the time the bus pulls up. Otherwise you've got to drive your daughter to school.
It was a fun game to work on, and our first game jam in Guildford at Rocketdesk's work space.
Everyone is a Suspect was created for Ludum Dare 34 and the theme was "Growing" and also "Two button controls" as there was a tie with the themes. My first thoughts were around animals that could repair themselves and re-grow limbs or other organs, but I started to move towards growing an idea. Then I somehow got attached to trying to create a murder mystery which I'd never done or thought about before.
The player can interact in the world with the right mouse button, and move with the left mouse button, so I could stick within the "two button controls" theme. Then everything else in the game is spoken dialogue, allowing you to have brief scripted conversations with characters in the world to find out a little more about them. People are scattered across the small town requiring the player to explore and then ultimately make the decision of who they believe the killer was.
After reflecting on the game there's a lot of things I can see that I could have added or incorporated, like a map to show the player where they are - as the movement between screens can be jarring for a player. There is also the lack of spoken introduction to the game, where maybe if the police officer and detective spoke when the game started it would have created a move involving start. Perhaps as well if I hadn't left the writing and recording so late during the weekend I could have put more thought into involving the characters in a more engaging story, and create more red herrings and interesting links between characters.
The Little Monsta was created for Ludum Dare 33 and the theme was "You are the Monster". I had a few ideas some of which were a monster wanting to look human and another where you chose how fairy tales ended. But I went with an eat-em-up style game where your aim is to evolve.
The player can only eat items that are smaller than, or the same size as them-self, and the items that they eat determine what your monster evolves to. A nice little addition I made sure made it in was a Collection page to allow the player to experiment with different types of objects to see if they can evolve to the other monster types. I wanted to make it easy to tell which went with which but the silhouettes weren't as distinct as I would have liked.
I was disappointed that I didn't have a large amount of time for placing the objects within the level. But one other thing I would have loved to of included from the original idea, which was the other half to the game that got cut due to scoping on the second day. Originally once your monster evolved you'd then grow larger and you'd see people and buildings in the world and you'd then be destroying as many things as possible. It was a nice idea but the time never would of allowed adding it sadly.
Birfday Pardy was created for Ludum Dare 32 and the theme was "An Unconventional Weapon". I had a few ideas which I was having trouble picking one of but I went with the best of the bunch. My unconventional weapon was a child with a cold, you were told you couldn't go to the party you were invited to because nobody wanted to get ill.
So instead you go to the party and try to infect as many kids as possible, if you happen to infect a lot it'll go into a special pox party afterwards which is almost the opposite to the first round as when a child has chicken pox these days parents will encourage them to play with children who haven't gotten it yet.
There were a few issues with readability in terms of the different germ powers you had but overall I quite enjoyed making the game and the art style I went with.
Dowedo was created for the sixth Global Game Jam that I participated in, which was in 2015. The team was different this year as Charlotte was not available so we brought along Chris Reed to help out and this time round the theme was "What do we do now?". We had lots of different ideas and similar to last year it took us a little while to settle. But we went with a game that used the theme in its name while in game in a clever way. As Charlotte wasn't attending this year and prefers to do script as she doesn't like doing art, this time round I got to do the entire scripting for the game, with help from Gary in different areas.
Dowedo is an ex-sheriff in our cowboy game, roaming the wild west, solving crimes and righting wrongs. But our clever incorporation of the theme is if you mosey into a building where there are some no good bad cowboys the head of the room will say "What Dowedo! Now!" which of course separates into "what do-we-do now". Whenever the words are spoken a gun fight ensues. Not every building is full of gun fighting though as the rest of the game is looking for clues to find out what happened to the last sheriff.
Dowedo is actually one of my favourite game jams to date and I'm so happy with the finished product as it feels quite polished.
Like stealing candy from a child was created for Ludum Dare 31 and the theme was "Entire Game on One Screen". I had a lot of varying ideas as I usually do, but decided to go along the lines of the whole game being visible, in a security camera room. But instead jumble up the feeds so it's not as simple as it appears.
The game was pretty simple as it was stealing sweets from children however the difficulty I had was from the parents being a bit crazy with their movement. Creating the level was fun though as I drew it all together as one image and ensured it was at a skewed perspective so that the player could potentially read the level by looking at the angles of the road, which was the consistent tell within each camera feed.
Someone's gotta do it was created for Ludum Dare 30 and the theme was "Connected Worlds". I wasn't a big fan of the theme when I was voting in the rounds leading up to Ludum Dare, so I wasn't that thrilled when it was announced as the theme. However after a lot of thought I decided I want to make a game that wasn't about being in space, but instead used the theme as a means of getting around, as everything is connected.
Overall the game worked, it was just a little rough around the edges, so certain areas didn't look very pretty and then had I found a little extra time I wanted to do some balancing on the game to change timings/numbers for each level and home. The planets were also going to have a visual indicator on them for if they have available jobs but it didn't get implemented.
It was a fun entry though and I really enjoyed getting it up and running it was just a little on the unfinished side visually.
Under the River was created for Ludum Dare 29 and the theme was "Beneath the Surface". With the theme any game created for it could have a lot of meanings, I went through quite a few ideas before I decided to go under the sea, although more accurately under the river. The game itself was fairly tame and enjoyable to make. One of the best parts of its development was that I popped down to the local river with my partner to try and get some actual Foley of a river. Sadly the audio recordings of me swishing water around in a fishtank came out a lot more impactful, but we had fun and it was nice to have a bigger focus on audio for a change.
One of the main ideas of the game was when a fish was closing in on the player that the game would zoom in on the event when within a certain proximity. Very similar to how Pac-Man CE changed up the 30+ year old game by adding intensity when being chased by a ghost. The feature never really got to the standard I wanted so I cut it out but it'd be great to come up with a nicer way of scripting it.
Hot or Cold was created for the fifth Global Game Jam that I participated in, which was in 2014. The team was the same as the previous year, I was helping out by creating the art assets. The theme was "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are". The theme took us a while to decide on the best way for us to interpret it. We quickly had to make a choice and decided to go with a game where you have to decide what a customer wants based off their suggestions and what you think they may want.
This made the game a little hard to decipher but that was the idea behind it, you were an ice cream and hot drink seller and you had to serve each customer that came by, we had some big issues with the game on the last day which I believe were because after recently enjoying the use of parents in Warped I encouraged us to use them. But little did I know that this could cause adverse effects with some scripts and variables.
Baby Face was created for Ludum Dare 28 and the theme was "You only get one". I spent hours trying to come up with something I enjoyed and I was considering giving this Ludum Dare a miss. It was only when it was around lunchtime on the first day that my partner made a suggestion which was very crazy so I then thought about doing something like it but toned down.
Having wasted a large portion of the first day I was deep into getting the game up and running. I intended on making it the first game I've worked on to include Facebook and Twitter integration, however it turned out what I wanted to do wasn't as fully functional as I thought when it comes to Game Maker. However with the fast paced nature of the game it was still fun to play and make.
My favourite quote about the game has to be "I disagree, I just made something like 25 babies and they all look like beaten up junkies. Made me laugh". Although my game was very simple and more a little app than a game, I really enjoyed this Ludum Dare.
Warped was created for Ludum Dare 27 and the theme was "10 Seconds". This was a theme I really loved, I wanted to avoid a game that lasted 10 seconds so instead tried to mix it up by having an event occur every 10 seconds which at random would change something within the game. This means enemies, the player character or the environment you're in. It reminded me of how off putting it can be when changing levels in Lumines while also having that familiarity with the game.
I had already made a shooter with Attack of the Tiny People so I thought I'd make a side scrolling shooter to ensure a difference between the two. Plus it's not a bullet hell style game and is slower paced. I really enjoyed learning switches and cases for when making the game, along with finding out how easy it is to change backgrounds for rooms on the fly. I also really maximised the use of parents in game maker while really enjoying the game I created.
moomieware was created for Ludum Dare 26 and the theme was "Minimalism". I really enjoyed the theme as it can encourage lots of different game types/styles and sizes, I went to go on to use it to describe the length of the games you were playing. WarioWare was an immediate thought that came to mind, but of course with my own style. Creating small concise mini games where you need to perform actions described on screen and hoping the player can decipher the game based off the description.
The game so heavily inspired by WarioWare I included the speeding up mechanic between games which actually confused players as they actually thought the game was loading and were complaining about how long it could take. It was really enjoyable to make and it's easily a game that could be expanded without much effort by just adding additional variables for checks and screens for minigames.
A Wise Choice was made for the fourth Global Game Jam that I participated in, which was in 2013. This year the team changed slightly as we now had Gary Napper on our team, I was helping out by creating the art assets and recording voice overs with Gary who was doing the same. The theme this year was the sound of a heartbeat which had to be integrated into the game. Not only was our game quite different but we tried to make our game as accessible as possible when it came to playing the game.
To make it accessible we ensure it was fully spoken, text was displayed on screen and we created detailed images which showed what was being described, so if you're deaf, blind or have trouble reading we have hopefully made it possible for you to play. As well as this we made it so the game only requires to be controlled with this space bar. The game is all about choice and you have to make a decision in order to continue on with the game.
A Wise Choice was so accessible when compared to other Global Game Jam entries across the world that we won the Global Game Jam 2013 Accessibility Challenge, which we were all immensely proud of.
A trip along the railroad tracks was created for Ludum Dare 25 and the theme was "You are the Villain". I really loved the broad theme of being the villain as there were so many possibilities for making an interesting game where you weren't just a generic villain. So I thought I'd take it back notch and go with a stereotypical villain from early film. The kind that tie up helpless people to the train tracks.
I wanted to give a different art and play style a go which led me towards using Game and Watch/LCD looks and player movements a go. Giving the player more staggered set movements, allowing me to learn a new way for scripting as I like trying to do something new and challenging for each Ludum Dare. It was also one of the first games that I managed to port to Windows Phone which worked and played well with a few adjustments. Those eagled eyed LCD game fans will notice there are a few inconsistencies in that some of my sprites overlapped, which I tried to avoid but it can be quite tricky. This was one of my favourite Ludum Dare entries to date.
A day to remember was created for Ludum Dare 24 and the theme was "Evolution". As what seems to be a common theme I wasn't a huge fan of Evolution as more ideas that spring to mind can end up being quite samey to what others will create.
A day to remember wasn't a great example of something different as it was dinosaur related which is a given when it comes to evolution. However I tried to do something a little different as their fate was of course already determined by the events that happened with the Earth. So you had a chance to try and evolve your line of descendants by encountering problems in the world. So you may have tried to jump over a rock as the first dinosaur, then meaning your offspring which you create with your partner may try and develop a way to encounter it. Which turned it into a game with a morbid overtone working alongside the idea of bettering yourself.
Attack of the Tiny People was created for Ludum Dare 23 and the theme was "Tiny World". The theme was a little hard for defining any ideas I had, so I decided to go with creating a bullet hell style shmup which was very different from what I'd done before in game maker. I had lots of fun trying to make something challenging but also playable with what ended up being very minimal playtesting.
It was lots of fun to make and it follows the theme by the people attacking you are very tiny people. The player character is a lady on an Octopus and I really wanted to create a cool image of her for the title screen but didn't have the time. It was fun also trying to add in a feature which is in a few shooters which was a warp mechanic as it helped change up the gameplay a little.
Will I always be Mollone was created for Ludum Dare 22 and the theme was "Alone". At first I found it a difficult theme, trying to choose something that others may not so I found out about how the American Coast mole is a solitary animal that only ever spend time with others during the winter when they find a mate, making them alone for quite some time. While researching this I also found out that moles generally have to eat every few hours, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year so I turned this into a game.
The player has the months leading up to winter to stock up on food while waiting for the winter and then when your potential mate appears track her down before she disappears, her presence is signified with a sound effect and then it's basically a race to try and find her.
A little Robot's journey for freedom was created for Ludum Dare 21 and the theme was "Escape". I had some big issues with this Ludum Dare and sadly it was the first game jam I didn't complete, the game at first seemed quite simple and I had it working from start to finish very quickly as it was just a simple adventure story where you had an inventory for any items you collected and you just had to escape from the house you were in.
However I hadn't anticipated the time it would take to get all the illustrated screens complete and even after using the Monday evening after work, allowing me to take part in the Jam instead of the compo I still only finished a few extra screens. It was then that I called it a day, I did however learn some new bits of script and walked away having started a new type of game that I hadn't gone towards before, as nothing is ever meaningless.
Legislate or bee extinct was made for the third Global Game Jam that I participated in, which was in 2011, once again with the same team we tried to make something totally different that would suit the theme. The theme this year was "Extinction" and amongst a whole range of weird and strange ideas we had come up with we ended up creating a game that was three mini games in one, all playing on different ideas from the theme, I was helping out by creating the art assets.
The game starts with you in a hearing where you had to propose a solution before the court over what you thought should happen with the endangered species. You then had the choice to be the good guy or the bad. This would then result in a little game where you were a bee trying to pollinate endangered plants if you were good, or if you were bad a whack-a-mole style endangered species game where you whack as many animals that you mentioned in your proposal.
We were very happy to have come up with something very different, especially compared to the other games created at Qantm College, It was also quite an achievement to not include dinosaurs or your average extinct items in the game.
Land Rover Discovery Challenge was created for Ludum Dare 19 and the theme was "Discovery. I was tied over a few ideas that I loved, all based around places called Discovery, and however with time frame I went with creating a game that is a Land Rover Discovery title, specifically a racing game.
I'd never created a racing game before but for ideas I looked back onto my old favourite Indy 500 (Atari 2600). So I based it around that with the similar slowdown when touching collision, simple tracks and the speed of cars, overall I feel it's one of the more fun titles I've created, especially with the up to four-player support. I am slightly disappointed though that I left the art till last which meant it suffered slightly along with a broken microphone so there's a lack of audio. Ideally I should have looked to games such as Hot Rod for the environment as I wasn't going for the complete Indy 500 look.
Bac-Attack was created for Ludum Dare 18 and the theme was "Enemies as Weapons", I was trying to stay away from having some sort of gun or projectile as a weapon so I went for bacteria. The idea behind it is a little wrong scientifically, but as an infected bacterium you have to infect the healthy bacteria and spread the virus. The healthy bacteria that you infect then infect those who come in contact with them.
It was a simple game where you just needed to come in contact with other npcs as much as possible to up the infection while having randomised disinfectant spray that could kill you, the randomness of the spray is extremely harsh and could have used a signifier to inform the player it was coming. Otherwise I could really imagine it working on a larger scale instead of how zoomed in I made it. Overall I was quite happy with the game, as always I have ideas on what would improve the game and fix some of the issues.
Attack of the Canvey Island Monster was created for Ludum Dare 17 and the theme was "Islands" and I wanted to stay away from the norm of creating a game about islands. Instead I felt I could create a game based around the cryptozoological creature that is the Canvey Island monster, which originates from Canvey Island in Essex.
I decided to make a game for if the monster hadn't washed up on the shore and instead grew a bit and wrecked havok, the game was inspired by Rampage and other monster smashing games. You controlled the monster and could smash cards and kill people, another aspect was to be the smashing and climbing of buildings but it didn't make the cut.
I spent a bit too long on some aspects of the game and other areas not as much, meaning it was lacking some features it was originally intended to have. It was my first game in Game Maker where you control the avatar and despite obvious flaws was a success as it was a finished product.
Rex's Junk Hunt was a game created for Ludum Dare 16 and the theme was "Exploration". Ludum Dare is a 48 hour game jam I stumbled upon and it turns out lots of other people had already been taking part of course. Having previously participated in the Global Game Jam 10 I was really looking forward to giving Ludum Dare a go, especially as its always a challenge making a game in a comfort zone like your house.
Similar to the GGJ you are given a theme when the competition starts in which you have 48 hours to make a game based around it. The biggest difference is you must create the game all by yourself, so programming, art, and sound all done by yourself.
Rex's Junk Hunt, officially stands as the first game created solely by myself in Game Maker in 48 hours. There were slight issues with the game itself, involving the flow of gameplay, repetitiveness and lack of accomplishment, but for 48 hours' worth of work I was happy with it and know where I could improve for future game jams.
Pikabu was made for the second Global Game Jam I participated in which was in 2010, once again with the same team we tried to make something different. This year we were at Qantm College in London and it was the same team working together again, myself, Charlotte Woolley and Timothy Wayman, I was helping out by creating the art assets.
The theme was "Deception", and amongst a whole range of weird and strange ideas we had come up with we ended up creating a game based around the children's game peekaboo. In the game you'll have adults walking down the street. You then have to use any good hiding places to send a child behind it to give the adult a scare. All the scare locations in the game are visibly understandable to create a clear and concise level of readability for the player.
The game was a lot more finished than our first game, however there were some issues of balancing that weren't addressed as well as they could have been.
The Global Game Jam in 2009 was the first game jam I took part in and it was definitely a new experience having only made small games in my spare time or for university at the time. The theme was "As long as we have each other, we will never run out of problems" so we went with a game where there were character relying on each other. Our team was made up of myself, Charlotte Woolley and Timothy Wayman and we took part in the GGJ in Newport, Wales, and I was creating the art assets.
Lash La Rue was a game where you had to work together with your friends (a squirrel and a duck) requiring you to use them to get past certain obstacles, requiring the player to decide on who would be best based on the animal's characteristics.
After being the first game created by the team in such a time frame we were very happy with what we created, even though it was in quite an unfinished state. It made us realise how it's very wise to scope out if a game will actually be do-able in the timeframe, also accommodating for if any members had to leave for a few hours, and for allowing sleeping and eating times. It was a great first experience which has now lead all of the team to take part in other 48 hour game making sessions.