Sleeping bags were on the floor. The hums of computers that have been running non-stop for the past 36 hours reverberated through the auditorium of iAcademy. Also running non-stop were the young developers present. Those who weren’t hunched on their laptops were either slumped on the floor in slumber or keeping the others awake.
The scene was something akin to a relief center, but obviously with more tech. It’s not a pretty picture but beneath that veneer, and probably under a stack of emptied energy drinks, everyone in the hall felt the creative energy of every jammer at the recently concluded Global Game Jam (GGJ) 2018.
The Global Game Jam is an international event wherein programmers, artists, designers, and creators gather in sites around the world and try to create games within 48 hours.
This year’s theme was “transmission”. The games made during the 48-hour game development spectacle revolved around this concept, some a bit more creatively than others.
A good number of the games I’ve tried used echo-location as their primary mechanic. On Thin Ice was one stand-out among those who chose said mechanic. This first-person game is completely dark, so you can’t actually see anything. You’d have to send out a “ping”, by pressing SPACE, to be able to see for a few seconds. However, every time you send out a “ping”, the antagonist known as “The Red Entity” will run the shortest route towards you. One can tell that it’s inspired by the likes of Alien: Isolation and SCP-173. It’s genuinely scary because it also had some good sound design to amplify its mechanics.
Blind Archer also took the echo-location concept and took it to the VR Space. In this two-player game, the titular blind archer is on the VR kit, while the “guide” in on the computer. It is the guide’s job to click on monster to send out a ping to the blind archer. The latter will then have to aim the arrow at the monster and attempt to hit it. The guide may ping a monster multiple times to easier help the archer, but the number of pings that the former has per monster is limited, so they must be used sparingly.
Another twist to the theme was the concept of disease. Or, in the case of the game to be featured in the next sentences: a cure. Just Run is a fairly simple third-person game where you, well, just run. You are in a zombie-infested town. Armed with a cure, you simply have to tap the backs of any infected to return them to normal. The game ends once you’ve cured a good number of them. Yes, the mechanics are fairly simple, but it works and it was fun to play. The graphics were reminiscent of Gang Beasts and only sound of the game, a really badly voiced “Nyaaah”, is hilarious.
Winner, Winner. Chicken Dinner.
There were games that were ultimate winners in the game jam: one chosen by sponsor Synergy 88 Digital Inc, and another chosen by all the participants.
Lumi bagged the sponsor’s choice award. Aside from being the only game playable on a Mac (gasp), it was also one of the more polished games in the entire event. In this side-scrolling platformer, you play Lumia, a light spirit. Lumia’s goal is to light up the dark forest, and she does that by sharing her own light. Unfortunately, her light is a limited resource and running out of it will mean her death. It’s got a solid concept, great mechanics, beautiful art, and an amazing soundtrack. It’s exceptional for a game that’s made within 48 hours.
Meanwhile, News Flash nabbed the People’s Choice Award. The game pretty much whipped everyone into a competitive frenzy. It’s a two-player game wherein each plays a news anchor from rival channels. Aliens are transmitting messages to Earth (in the form of directional control inputs) and whoever delivers the Aliens’ message (by being the fastest and most accurate to replicate those inputs) gets more credibility. It was the perfect example of mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics all working together. Brilliantly simple competitive gameplay and adorable visual design simply made News Flash shine.
Out of the Cauldron and Into the Fire
The Global Game Jam first started in 2009 and has been a sort of pressure cooker for the jammers and organizers. According to Dr. Joie Sales, Program Chairperson for iAcademy’s Game Development and Design Program and organizer for the iAcademy jam site, it’s the perfect event for those who want to experience a condensed version of the industry.
She was also proud of the fact that the students the organized this year’s GGJ at iAcademy. “Last year is was [the International Game Developers Association – Manila] that organized it,” she said “Now it’s all students who handled everything.”
On the participant side of things, Dr. Sales also commended the over 200 participants that churned out more than 30 games at the event. “Even the professionals who attended [GGJ 2018] agree that this year had a lot of better games than the last,” she said.
She also believes that the results of the GGJ is reflective of the progress of the local game development industry. “We’re not just producing good games, we’re producing good people,” she said. “These kids also recognize the social relevance of doing games, and are more sociable. So when they join the industry, they have a lot to give,” she concluded.
For more information on the participants and the games that were created during GGJ2018 you may visit iAcademy’s Global Game Jam Site.