Sunday, 28 April 2013

Ubisoft Montreal Game Jam 2013: Spring Break

2 weeks ago I took part in Ubisoft Montreal's first game jam. The game jam was 48 hours and held at the Ubisoft Montreal studio. The rules of the game jam were simple, participants had 48 hours to make a game with a maximum team size of 5 and following the theme of “Spring”. Games were also intended to touch on “high emotional impact” (whatever that means). There was the added bonus over other game jams whereby workstations and software were provided – this would have been extremely useful at the Global Game Jam.

The group we usually refer to as “Not Enough Laptops” (Anshul Goyal, Aidan Green, Scott Morin and myself) got together again to form “Titanic Conspiracy”. We decided to take the theme of “Spring” by creating a game parodying the American tradition of getting wasted and being a general douche over the Easter period. Thus "Spring Break” was born.

Spring Break Movie Poster
With our team small, we decided each of us was to craft a mini game based on a different spring break activity. This split didn’t go much further than brainstorming as Anshul had to focus on code and I had to focus on visuals, leaving Aiden and Scott to work on base mechanics and each double up on activities.

Chet Speedrider Dancing
We had a white board’s worth of planned activities ranging from driving to fighting (there was even an homage to hot coffee at one point). We settled on getting ready, surfing, dancing and fighting. We managed to finish the project with all activities in place each with their own unique assets, however a last minute bug prevented us from including the fighting mini game – arguably the activity that took the most time to create. We rolled with the punches though and presented the game without the activity. To be honest, it wasn’t really missed.

Chet Speedrider Clothing
We had an awesome time coming up with the design and quotes of the idiotic and debaucherous protagonist, “Chet Speedrider”. Chet SpeedriderCharacterised by his bouncing quiff and oversized head, he was one of our first attempts at eliciting humour – our own attempt at “high emotional impact”. I actually sketched the character on paper during the initial game jam meeting, and that was the character we “shipped” with. Scott and Aiden came up with the quotes that Chet would spout as he was rated within the various mini games (“YOLO” seems to be a popular one).
We stuck to a relatively consistent style that I feel gave us the tightest “look” that we’ve managed to achieve in the game jams that at least I’ve participated in so far. The idea was to keep the character sprites simple and colourful as well as maintaining a low frame count in the animations to ensure the project was achievable whilst providing a retro aesthetic. We juxtaposed the characters with photo realistic backgrounds treated with a simple “cut out” filter to minimise the workload and give the characters a “pop” on screen.

Getting validation from our peers was extremely satisfying on this project, because making something funny is actually rather difficult. It’s hard to know whether or not one’s sense of humour will resonate with other people. I was so relieved when others laughed and enjoyed what we had created - it meant we were successful in what we had set out to achieve.

Chet Speedrider Boarding
Although Ubisoft now owns the game and as such remains unplayable to the public, it has been immortalised on the Internet in the form of a trailer that I created one night before we released our game to the company.

There were a lot of awesome games created over the game jam; some single player, some multiplayer, some 2D, some 3D, some serious, some humorous… quite a range. We didn’t “win” but we were one of the judges’ honourable mentions, and as stated previously, we made people laugh – that was our goal, and we achieved it.

Not actually coming soon...
We were asked a couple of questions about what advice we might give to future game jam participants. This is what I said…


  • Ask for help if you're stuck on something. Your time is limited, d3on't let pride slow you down.
  • Have a contingency plan. Things often go wrong last minute. Having a group agreed, planned list of potential cuts will help if something unplanned occurs.
  • Have fun! Don’t take it too seriously.


  • Don't be too precious of your own ideas, enjoy and embrace the collaborative process!
  • Don't be afraid to use placeholders. Always make sure your game will be functional. Asset creation is a huge time sink.
  • Don't forget about areas of development that maybe outside of your team's experience.
Until next time, and look out for more Ubisoft news soon!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

One Game A Month: A Shadow From Beyond

So last month our little group that we refer to as “Not Enough Laptops” finished our second group game, “A Shadow From Beyond”. Like our first game, “Hjarta”, we created it in Unity, though this time it took over a month rather than a weekend. It started out as an attempt at the 7 Day Rogue Like challenge but the scope was too wide for that time frame, so we turned the focus more towards One Game A Month.

A Shadow From Beyond is a rogue like. The player takes control of an old man and must wander through randomly generated streets, filled with enemy cultists and monsters. The player’s goal is to dispatch cultists and unsummon as many monsters as possible. Simple, except for the fact that monsters are invulnerable to attack – the player must therefore piece together how the monster was summoned in the first place and oppose it’s elemental properties…

You can get a little more information about the game and give it a download, over at it’s indiedb page, here.


A Shadow From Beyond Shop

A Shadow From Beyond Notebook

A Shadow From Beyond Light Monster

A Shadow From Beyond Fire Monster

Personal Postmortem

I took a more “additional design” approach on this project and opted to work more on the art front - something I have a few regrets about. By taking a back seat on the design side I felt that I lost interest and focus on the project rather rapidly. At times it almost felt like I wasn’t working on the project at all, just polishing art that may or may not matter because the context of the assets that I was creating had become unclear to me. I’m not entirely sure if it was a product of working remotely or not, but I know the lack of face time definitely would have played a factor.

I feel that my motivation was nixed as I wasn’t able to keep up a consistent visual style across the project, simply because I couldn’t create assets fast enough. My selfish focus was more towards improving my skills rather than completing the project. I spent far too long trying to perfect the monster sprites and their associated animations – something that in the grand scheme of things wasn’t actually that important, though it was an excellent learning experience. I found that working with sprites that large and that complicated was easier said than done. If I was to go back I would have suggested working half the resolution and upscaling by double (or quadruple) – we could have achieved much more detailed visuals in a much shorter time frame (see the example below).

A Shadow From Beyond Sprites
I also feel that even the slightest bit of my input on design may have helped the game be a little clearer for new players, simply because more eyes on a project is almost always a good thing - especially where tutorials or signs and feedback are concerned. I was just too distant from the design when it really mattered. That being said, the resulting game is pretty cool and although I wasn’t happy with the quantity of my contributions, I’m glad to have worked on it and hope to pull off something of this quality in the future.

Here’s a bunch of assets I created for the project – I’m rather happy with some, but embarrassed about others. Either way, it was a hell of a learning experience.
A Shadow From Beyond OldmanA Shadow From Beyond RuneA Shadow From Beyond AttackA Shadow From Beyond Cultist
The attack animation didn’t make it into the final game on account that it was a little slow and we ran out of time to alter it. We had planned to have multiple colours of cultist, but again ran out of time to create and implement them.
A Shadow From Beyond Flesh MonsterA Shadow From Beyond Ice Monster
There were 12 monsters in all, but you’ll have to play the game to see them!