This past weekend, I was lucky enough to be a mentor / industry volunteer at the Vancouver site of the Global Game Jam. I didn’t know what to expect coming in as I have never had the opportunity to go to this event as I am usually out of town when it happens. I did, however, know a bunch of people who were planning on participating and was excited to see what they would do.
I arrived on Friday night just before the Keynote speaker, Kelly Zmak, went up on stage. The crowd was huge and the Great Hall at BCIT was very noisy and upbeat. Kelly’s speech was fantastic, which I expected as he is the consummate professional, and really got people fired up. He was nice enough to take a few questions from the crowd, and the one interesting tidbit I gleamed from it, was that he is trying to set up a small studio here in town. Anyone thinking that Vancouver’s dev scene is dying must be wrong if someone like Kelly, who has been all over the place, has decided to stay here. Moving on….
Up next, Robb Beggs of the IGDA got everybody to mix things up and socialize as a precursor to forming teams. He had people gather in areas of specialty, then favorite game genre, music genres, and finally super powers. It went over OK, though the last two were a bit too broad to get a good mixture, but it meant that more people got to talk up on stage. After that exercise, we finally found out the theme for this year: Extinction. At this point people gathered in groups and came up with some ideas which they then presented to the crowd at large and teams were created.
It was very interesting to see how fast teams were created and started working. It was obvious that some teams came in preformed, or at least the core was, while many of the teams were made completely on the spot. Unbelievably, there were 18 teams making games and all but one I believed finished on time. Even more amazing was the variety of software being used. Unity3d was the most popular, but there was also some flash games, a couple done in XNA, and one team was using Game Maker.
Saturday was eerily quiet, as everyone was focused on their work, so not much to talk about there. Sunday, on the other hand, became quite raucous once again. Many of the teams finished up early and were just polishing their games. People started to check out everyone else’s work, playtesting and giving feedback. Everybody was quite proud of what they were able to pull off in less than 48 hours (as they should be). At 3PM, all the games were submitted and the judges started playing each game. By around 4, the winners had been decided and everyone turned to the front.
The winning game was Dino Fling which was my favorite as well. It had a lot of polish and addictive game play and they had time to make a trailer for it which I saw on my way in. Some other games I though stood out are: Containment, which I thought best fit the theme of extinction. MDP Earth Defenders, which was, I believe, the only multi-player game at the show. Those were both finalists, but one game that was not and I was surprised it didn’t, was Invasion of Giant Planet-Eating Bacteria From Outer Space. The game is really simple and a lot of fun. I understand why it it didn’t make it, and that was due to missing one crucial element: no scoring.
Overall, I spent about 20 hours of the weekend, just hanging out, asking questions, and meeting some people. I enjoyed playing all the games and recommend everyone go and try them out. 48 hours is not a lot of time and we need to keep encouraging people to make games!
I can’t wait until next year, as I am going to join the fun.