Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Retrospective: The 2011 Global Game Jam

It's been almost a month since the 2011 Global Game Jam, and I felt I should write something about it. For those who may not know, the Global Game Jam is a yearly event in which teams made up of artists, programmers, and designers come together to create game of their own in 48 hours.

My team members were Dan Dwire, Nicholas McClay, and Brandon Bittner -- all members of my team for the 2010 Global Game Jam. The prior two years, the Pittsburgh division of the Global Game Jam was held at the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC); however this year, it was being hosted by the Pittsburgh chapter of the International Game Developers Association (PIGDA) at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh (AIP).

Anyway, the event had a bit of a rocky start. There were many issues with trying to get Internet access through AIP's network due to strange anti-virus requirements. Then there was the keynote by Katamari Damacy designer, Keita Takahashi. I'm not sure what I was really expecting, especially after the underwhelming keynote from the 2010 Global Game Jam, but this, to me, was especially useless. I just didn't get it -- at least not completely. Maybe there was nothing to get? Overall, I wanted my 15 minutes back -- 15 minutes I could have used to clean, go outside, relax, focus, and all the other things Keita Takahasi suggested we do.

So, after the start we were given the Global Game Jam's theme: extinction. Personally, I didn't like this theme. I know a lot of game's deal with darker themes, but extinction, to me, is especially brooding and something I wasn't in the mood to spend the next 48 hours working on. To be fair, I wasn't even in the mood to be at the Global Game Jam since I wanted to finish Battle High: San Bruno before the XNA 3.1 deadline of February 7th that Microsoft set. Anyway, similarly to last year, we had about 30 minutes to come up with three ideas for our game. This was irritating. The main goal is so people can find people to team up with and express ideas, but since my team was already formed, we just felt like it was a huge waste of time. So, when time was up, Dan -- who is probably the best at weaving a tale from nothing -- showcased our silly idea involving dinosaurs, nuclear meteors, and plague bullets. In reality we knew this wasn't going to be our idea.

After the rough start, we setup "camp" and started designing. Originally we had this long, complex idea of using kinetic typography. This idea had excited Brandon's graphic design skills and my writing skills, but then we all realized: kinetic typography doesn't make for a good game or at least a game that could be implemented quickly in less than 48 hours. So around 2 am, after a disgusting dinner at a bar near AIP and hours of trying to figure out a game, we looked to Dan's silly picture of dinosaurs, bullets, and meteors. We started to giggle and laugh and realized it would be much more fun to just make that game, or better yet, a series of mini-games, that being one of them. There was some debate, and even a coin toss, but eventually this was the final plan, to design four extinction-themed mini-games and combine them into one game!

So, after hours of grueling design and art and sound creation, we had finished Apuncalypse -- misspelled as Apuncolypse in our final design -- just seconds before the final deadline no less! The four games were as follows: ARMageddon, a simple whack-a-mole-esque game involving a giant, communist-hammer-wielding arm smashing polluting buildings; Exstinktion, a callback to a retro game that I hold near-and-dear involving a wheeled nose collecting all the final scents he can before the planet is flooded; Dinogeddon, one machine-gun-wielding T-Rex's final stand against infinitely many hordes of hungry "pterroristdactyls"; and finally, Lolocaust -- which should have been called Memeclear Lolocaust -- the final innocent user's hopeless flee for survivals as trolls berate him.

There was then the judging and final playtesting sessions. There were other very interesting and cool games from catapulting sphinxes to keyboard twister. All those who witnessed Apuncalypse's ridiculousness seemed to enjoy it despite its many, many design flaws, which made me happy. I was disappointed though to find Apuncalypse didn't either of the two awards and was rather bothered by the "not a competition" rhetoric given to us before the GGJ started to then find out there were local prizes. Previous years didn't have any prizes and to add prizes, at least for me, adds an unwanted level of underlining stress that ends up stifling creativity, but I digress.

Anyway, will I participate in the 2012 Global Game Jam? Probably. Will I be on the same team? Probably. Overall, despite all the hiccups in the 48 hours and the stress of having other things to do, I enjoyed the Global Game Jam a lot!

Play Apuncalypse
More Info on The Global Game Jam

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Battle High: Elemental Revolt Approved!

The 2D fighting game I have been working on for over a year with PointFiveProjects has been approved on the Creators Club forums for release!

This fast-paced 2D fighter pays homage to many traditional games from the SNK glory days. The story revolves around students at a school just for kids with elemental powers as well as a vicious gang known as "The Rivals" that bully students in the school under the faculty's radar. Beneath it's flashy, 2D fighting game exterior, there's sibling rivalry, unrequited love, and other high school drama.

Described by some as the current "King of Fighters" of XBLIG, the other members of PointFiveProjects and I hope it is a big hit!

For only 80 Microsoft Points (or $1.00) this game can be purchased through Xbox LIVE or from this link.