Last weekend was Utah Indie Game Jam 2015, which you can read more about at www.utahindiegamejam.com
and see posts about on the mailing list at www.utahindiegames.org
. I arrived early, ready to volunteer and help organize. The space was very nice, plenty of tables and chairs and outlets, but not many extra rooms. UVU
graciously hosted and even provided some snacks and judging partway through.
We had quite a scramble as things got started, since I was on the fence about joining a team or going solo again. I ended up joining Jed
's team, Katamari II, with another programmer, sirbrialliance
, and Kenneth
who would handle audio. We had the theme "Secrets" and the element "Hole". (An element, for Indie Speed Run, is something that has to appear in the game, while the theme is what the game is about.)
The design phase went through a typical brainstorm and headbutt phase common to teams with newer developers, but I think I managed to help keep the scope tiny while providing something that each team member felt some ownership of. The mashed-together idea left a lot to be desired in many ways, but I felt like I could make it work, and eventually we got to work.
Many hours of heads-down jamming ensued, with sirbrialliance quickly helping me get re-immersed in Unity, and even though he was only there the first day or so, he hammered together a lot of great work in a short time. We had the core loop done in the first 24 hours, and spent a bit of time fine-tuning it. I spent most of the rest of the time polishing the audio experience, which I felt would be critical, given that we didn't have a visual artist (the star scapes are procedurally generated).
The wonderful sponsors brought treats and one of the nights I went home for a full night's sleep. After this jam, I'm even more convinced that an all-nighter is counter-productive. One of the nights you can go ahead and cram a few extra hours, but you should still sleep at least one cycle during the night. I consumed Soylent during the jam, which may have helped keep my brain functioning towards the end.
I only had a couple frustrating points, and luckily sirbrialliance was able to deal with most of the bugs quickly and effectively. I'd recommend him for most any programming team. The most time-consuming points for me were getting the video and audio in and playing right, but it was rewarding learning some things about audio and video playing that I hadn't known how to do before. sirbrialliance did most of the portal work, and I handled game control and progress.
You can play the result here: http://vazor.itch.io/the-wishing-well
(firefox or opera or another browser may be needed)
Other games from the jam: http://itch.io/jam/utah-indie-game-jam-2015/results
The controls are explained in game, but if you want to beat it: after you have granted two wishes, look for your lover's wish (you'll see a note about it being familiar), and grant that to win. Kenneth did an amazing job getting six full tracks of audio and sound effects done all in the weekend for the game.
We presented with the other teams, with the judges sitting in the front row and everyone else attending in the audience. Kenneth cut the deadline pretty close and I barely got the audio and last few bug fixes in before we were up to present. Jed did the talking and our presentation showed very well. I felt like the audio and sirbrialliance's visuals and the easy-to-understand story and our gameplay loop all came together and formed an emotional experience that really impacted the judges. I shared a grin with the others on my team as we wrapped up our presentation. I knew I had helped make a polished and worthwhile experience, and it was enjoyable being able to show that we had realized our original vision and have people "get it". Say what you will about art games, they are a joy to make- it seems easier to push the boundaries of your art form if you aren't worrying about making it a typical button masher/shoot everything/be the hero game, or worrying about conversion metrics/price points/revenue models.
So how did it turn out? We won!!! https://groups.google.com/d/msg/utah-indie-games/6RdPg2c44t0/IUhFZqwGCgAJ
There were so many great games, I was surprised when we walked away with 3 prizes and the Grand Prize!! It was a great moment for me, and I was very happy to get recognition for our efforts. I felt like the above-mentioned emotional connection, plus sirbrialliance's epic portal technology, really sealed the deal for us. I like to thing I put my 8+ years of jamming experience to good use as well, guiding/trimming the design, and devoting nearly half my weekend hours on creating and polishing the start and end game logic and getting the whole experience packaged and uploaded.
Personally I would have given us Best Audio and given Narrative to Bag of Secrets, and probably Lumosity grand prize, but I trust the judge's decision and thought they did a good job overall.
I'd like to give Puddin' Paws a shout-out since it really was pretty marketable (for that niche audience that likes to mix bathroom humor with cute cartoon characters) and had a solid monetization design.
I'd also like to give Clan Destiny a shout out since it looked like the most fun to play with friends. I'd like to see that as a category next year, along with the judge's suggested "Technical Achievement Award".
Finally a big thank you to Nightghost49
for coming out and doing videos. We'll have them posted on the mailing list in the next few weeks. We learned a lot about mobile streaming challenges, including ensuring internet connectivity, time constraints, challenges of award ceremony lighting, event participant tiredness levels, and interview seating/camera arrangements.
Here's to another great jam and thank you to everyone who tested and had nice feedback for us!