Boston Global Game Jam 2014 and Courtship

This past weekend I experienced my first Game Jam in Boston hosted by Northeastern University.  A Game Jam is typically a weekend-long event in which game developers get together, form teams, and make a video game in 24, 48, or 72 hours.  Sometimes there’s judging at the end and winners by categories but this one was just for fun so that everyone could have a good time and, most importantly, not be afraid to fail.

This was the theme we were given this year.  Deeeeep!

This was the theme we were given this year. Deeeeep!

Some friends from my previous job invited me to participate in this Game Jam with them, so we teamed up with some audio & sound engineers from Berkley as well as a Unity developer.

Our team formed and ready to create!

Our team formed and ready to create!

Before we started “jamming”, there were a few keynotes giving us all good advice on how to be unique, stay positive, and challenge ourselves.  And that every meal was going to be pizza.  The first night, we worked from about 7 to 12 brainstorming ideas, talking them out, figuring out what our roles would be, and widdling down a solid idea to start building on the morn.

Brainstorming notes and sketching in the first hour or so.

Brainstorming notes and sketching in the first hour or so.

We wanted to do something a little more experimental.   That is to say, a game without enemies, power-ups, and a lot of platform jumping.  We decided on a concept that would allow the player to judge others based on information and observation.  Our idea was never 100% solidified from the start, but we started to work as soon as we could and let the ideas flow and mold the project organically as we progressed.

Having never been to a jam before, it was exciting yet terrifying to think that we were going to create an entire experience using Unity3D (the engine we were proficient enough with and capable of using) in 48 hours!  But we believed in ourselves and each other… plus there was a lot of Starbucks coffee.

We got up every hour or so to stretch, do yoga, and make sure we were all well-fed and hydrated.

We got up every hour or so to stretch, do yoga, and make sure we were all well-fed and hydrated.

Our development process worked very effectively I thought.  This was our little productivity corner all Saturday and Sunday.  I sat next to our developer, Luke, and worked with him to build the levels, work with Unity3D, and get the animations and models imported properly.  Salil and David did amazing work coming up with themes for every level, foley, and sound effects for anything we needed.  We had so much sound, we didn’t even have time to put it all into the final version of the game we wound up submitting!  Adam, Brandon, and Michael put a lot of thought into the user experience and game design of the project.

The music and art corner, Saturday night.

The music and art corner, Saturday night.

 

More specifically, Adam acted as producer and checked up on all of us to see that we were reaching consistent milestones.  Michael developed the user interface for the in-game app mechanic and did some hilarious profile picture art that the players will (in a later version) be able to choose for their “dating profile” in the game. Brandon wrote the dialogue bits for the game and helped with recording as well as development of our final presentation video.

Sleep deprivation is your worst enemy at a jam, but it's good to try to get SOME shut eye.  I got about 30 minutes.

Sleep deprivation is your worst enemy at a jam, but it’s good to try to get SOME shut eye. I got about 30 minutes.

I forced myself to get up from this mildly comfortable sofa at around 5:15 when I decided I wouldn’t get any real sleep due to some relentlessly obnoxious jammers.  But that’s the name of the game and I had a lot of work to do before our deadline on Sunday at 3pm arrived.  I worked on making four levels in Unity3D and only managed to create and animate 7 NPCs even though we had around 30 or so planned.

Our developer Luke was a trooper, coding late into the night.  When I got up, he took a brief respite.

Our developer Luke was a trooper, coding late into the night. When I got up, he took a brief respite.

Four of us stayed in our little productivity corner through the night and headed into crunch time on Sunday morning to finish up as much as we could in order to create a video.  We thought it was pretty rough that we were required to create and submit a video by 2pm because at this point we were trying to get our levels tied together and the content imported.  It was like we had all of the puzzle pieces made, but very few put together to get footage for a proper trailer.  Yet, Brandon worked his magic and created a trailer for our game that made me sob with laughter.

It seemed like it all came together in the last hour or so but fortunately for us, the servers we were supposed to upload our game to were so busy, that the deadline was extended an extra 24 hours.  That was great news for Luke because he was able to finish up his last minute scripting and get all of the NPCs working the way they should.

Overall, it was a great experience and we all had so much fun working with each other to make a funny, fresh, somewhat politically incorrect game.  We liked it so much, in fact, that we plan to meet up again soon to work on it some more and get it to a point that we are truly proud of.  Right now, it’s in what I would call an “alpha” stage.

In Summary:  On your commute home, you decide to boot up your new app, The Courtship. While you wait for the app to send you your matches, you observe your surroundings with fresh eyes. Aren’t people’s behaviors strange?

You can play our game here: CourtShip Game

Courtship Screenshot: The opening scene at the first station of four.

Courtship Screenshot: The opening scene at the first station of four.

I look forward to my next Game Jam and to working with such amazing developers again soon at the QUILTBAG Jam!

Team Casual Unicorn: David, Luke, Brandon, Adam, Salil, Michael, and Elizabeth

Team Casual Unicorn: David, Luke, Brandon, Adam, Salil, Michael, and Elizabeth

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