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.
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.
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.
We had an awesome time coming up with the design and quotes of the idiotic and debaucherous protagonist, “Chet Speedrider”. Characterised 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.
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.
- 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.