Sunday, November 21, 2010

Game Jam

So I went to my first game jam yesterday. It was a get together of about 12 people. We split up into two groups. Each had about 4 hours to come up with an idea and make it into a fully functioning game. I didn't even know it was possible to do that, that fast, but it is.

Ok, to back up a little. The site was the game studio of 5th Planet Games in Roseville. The guy hosting the event even bought us all pizza. Apparently, there was a never ending supply of soda and candy there too, though I passed on that. The two teams were pretty unbalanced. The host, who was a programmer who worked there, the guy running the event who was also a programmer and worked at a different gaming studio, and another guy(who I think teaches game design at a local community college) was there... yeah, they were all in one team. The rest of us that had never been to a game jam before, we made up the other team. There wasn't much thought involved in setting up the teams. It was the people that sat down on the left side were in Group A, the rest in B.

But putting that aside, we managed to put something together. As "the writer," I knew long before I signed up to go, that there was going to be nothing productive for me to contribute to a quickie game. But, I knew it would be interesting and hoped to maybe learn something and network a little. As it turned out, I was the only "artist," so I ended up drawing sprites for our 2D tank combat game. I mostly downloaded sprites off the internet and photoshopped them to fit what we needed--ie, the gun had to rotate separately. Well, our "programmer," wasn't all that experienced. So the best he could do is get the tank to drive around in all 4 directions.

The other team didn't have an artist at all, so they had a fairly(for 4 hours work) complex game with smoothly moving boxes and circles. The object was sort of like Pac Man. So our game has some cool sprites with limited game play and theirs--the opposite.

Not that I know much about the game industry, but it seems like Facebook and the Iphone created this revolution of simple, quick and dirty games that small teams can knock out in a week. So these little studios are popping up and making money cranking out silly games. I dunno. These aren't the kind of games I have any interest in playing or making. I only care about role playing / adventure games or puzzle/strategic games. Twitchy, fast paced games that rely on reflexes... I've never liked those. So neat revolution happening, but nothing I can really hop on. But, it is good practice to get in and brain storm with fellow gamers and work as a team.

I guess this is the dilemma on the job front. Do I diversify or intensify? I could diversify by teaching myself level design. There's a lot more companies looking for level designers than writers. A lot more. Or, do I intensify and just focus on trying to pad out my writing credentials? Maybe I can focus on some short stories, get them published professionally in some small markets, and add it to my portfolio.

In either case, I'm still plugging away at my novel. I'm pretty happy with it. The main character is also the narrator, and she's a young woman. She's still naive about the world. So there's some things here and there that she doesn't pick up, but the reader will. It's fun writing that way. I think people will really like her once I finish the book. She's a strong character with strong convictions and perseverance in a brutal and unforgiving world. But she's also very lonely despite being surrounded by people. That's probably something a lot of us can relate to. Speaking of that, I should go back to it.

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