As of 4PM Monday 16th July, I’ve concluded my first game jam! Four team members and I headed down to Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge for 3 nights to take part in the Brains Eden Gaming Festival and game jam. With the set theme of “unreliable”, we set to work on an approximately 30-hour build spread across Friday afternoon, most of Saturday, and Sunday morning to afternoon.
It all started with waking up half 4AM on Friday morning to make the meet up with two of the three other team members needing to go by car at 6AM. It took about 4 hours to get from Treforest to Cambridge. We picked up the fourth on the way, and meet up with the fifth there. Once we got there and checked in, we sat in talks from the COO of Frontier Developments, a successful interned employee of Ubisoft Massive, and a veteran Brains Eden jammer. I took away the aim to innovate with a social game and a no-word story, and that I most of all needed to have fun! When the jam started at 4PM that day, we spent about two or three hours spinning ideas and planning. We were mostly tired from the early start, but we had some good ideas. We first tried a pirate ship idea where players could form a crew on a ship midbattle. The game was to be online multiplayer based with tense action, fulfilling the social aspect of our aims. We had to abandon the idea due to Unity engine networking being blocked by the campus firewall, and we realised the entire idea wasn’t refined enough anyway. After about another hour of planning, we eventually formed the current idea.
“Fistful of ‘Nanas” is a Western-style multiplayer game – you play as a monkey about duke it out over a barrel of bananas. To satisfy the social aim, we tried to innovate by not having any of the players know which monkey they and the rest of the players are, but make it have incentives for the players to try and communicate through a limited medium. The game is played with Nintendo Joy-Cons, so we made it so you can press the +/- button to find out which monkey you are by making the controller vibrate your player number in an interval pattern. Then to communicate with the other players to either propose alliances or confuse them, you can use the analog stick to ‘nudge’ other players.
The monkeys were seen in game in a clockwise circle around the barrel that corresponded to players 1 through 4. The four ‘normal’ buttons on the controller are then used to select your target. Once everyone has selected (you can tell who doesn’t by seeing which player does not have a banana over their head), the game will reveal who shot who, show who died, and who won the round (shown by victory dances that include twerking)! Whilst the game did not win us any prizes on the last day there, it will be a good portfolio piece, and the stress and enjoyment of developing the game in a limited amount of time will be a fond memory and valuable experience for years to come!
Other notable things about our time in Cambridge include the after-party at the Centre for Computing History (sunday), and the final day’s (monday) talks from Frontier Developments, ARM, and HyperX. The Centre for Computing History was amazing! Having a soft-spot for older machines made the place feel like a dream home, and the free pizza and drinks provided by the Brains Eden! Below are some of my favourite picks from the place!
Other than some misfortunes with my teammate’s car back in Treforest, the entire time there was just about the best experience I have had in a long time! I deffo hope to make a return next year! Thanks to Brains Eden and Anglia Ruskin University for setting up and hosting such a wonderful event, thanks to our lecturer Dr. Mike Reddy for getting the band together and taking us, and thanks to the teammates (Jack Smerdon, Jake Passmore, Nicky Jones, and Steven Sparkes) for the collective effort and the bants we had!
Also, the game will be on my portfolio (http://khalidali.co.uk/fon) soon so you can read more details and see more images of it. I aim to have the page ready by the end of the week.