Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2012 Global Game Jam: Day One Recap

This is part 1 of 3 of my experience at the 2012 Global Game Jam.
Over the weekend I attended my second Global Game Jam ever, and this time in was in my home state of South Jersey! About 20 minutes from home, it was close enough that I could go in and out throughout the weekend, but still have enough time to make some games.

If you've never been to a game jam, it's a 48 hour event that lasts from Friday night at 5pm to Sunday night at 5pm. In cities throughout the world, designers, artists and programmers will all team up and make video games, apps, board games, etc… based on the theme decided by the coordinators. Last years theme was "Extinction", and I saw some great games come out of it. Out of Philly came the recently successful party card game LangGuini, and I've heard that Tyler Panian's hugely successful card game Creatures was a product of last year's event.

We all speculated on ideas for what the theme might be this year, and at one point I thought someone said it was "innovation", but that was not true at all. This year's theme was….

A snake eating itself? Otherwise known as Ouroboros.

We all quickly googled it, and most settled at Wikipedia.

The Ouroboros (or Uroborus) is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail. The name originates from within Greek language; οὐρά (oura) meaning "tail" and βόρος (boros) meaning "eating", thus "he who eats the tail".

The Ouroboros represents the perpetual cyclic renewal of life, the eternal return, and represents the cycle of life, death and rebirth, leading to immortality, as in the phoenix.

Groups gathered and started brainstorming. I just kind of stared at the image for a while, trying to undo my idea that I just came up with for "innovation". Shortly after, the project coordinator went around the room asking for everyone's ideas, and then we voted on each by a show of hands.

Within just a few minutes, there were some great ideas.

Everyone then split off into multiple different rooms and started working on their projects. I spent most of my time in the board game room, and worked on an abstract game idea with Kevin Kulp of Puzzle Piece Games. I was kicking around the title Heads and Tails, but Kevin had a ton of ideas to expand on it, and we settled on the title Twisted Tails. In a few words, it's a token placement game where you are trying to from complete snakes, once a token is played at a 90 degree angle, it ends that snake and starts a new one. When two ends have been completed, the pieces in-between are scored. Player with the most in-between scores a point for each token. Player with the least, must sacrifice their pieces. We added spaces on the grid that allow you to twist any snake token or add an intersection piece (nicknamed "Ouroboros" after the theme).

I had a chance to play a board game called Stay Ahead. It was created by Dan, Lauren and Steve. It's a spin and move game where you are trying to outrun a snake, who will eventually eat you or your opponents, or you and your opponents if you are as unlucky as we were in the last game we played. The mechanics worked, and by about midnight the group was in the balancing stage of the the game.

My brother George nominated a bunch of ideas (Silly Snakes!), then settled on something different (a resource development, civilization building game). They paused at about 2AM and planned to pick up again the next day.

I stuck around for a little while longer and recorded a Twisted Tails gameplay video with Kevin, and then called it a night. New ideas were brewing for the next day. I was looking forward to see what everyone else has done as well.

More photos from Day 1:

Camden County College, the host of South Jersey's first Global Game Jam. 

Microsoft was there with some great gifts and prizes.

Opening Keynote

The theme is revealed! ? ! ?

Sponsored by Rolco Games. Lots of nice bits!

Lots of Pop chips were consumed.

The video game artists

Island Officials working on their video game, Project: Samsera

Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of my Global Game Jam 2012 experience!

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