GDC 2016 Personal Highlights

This year was the first time I’d been able to attend the Game Developers’ Conference in San Francisco. I went primarily to talk on the subject of women-in-games initiatives and how they make a difference. This panel session – in which I was joined by Zoë Quinn, Rebecca Cohen-Palacios, Sagan Yee and Stephanie Fisher – will be made available on GDC Vault in the coming weeks.

Photo credited to GDC / Trish Tunney
Delivering my micro-talk as part of the “Ripple Effect” panel. Photo credited to GDC / Trish Tunney

I also attended in order to seek inspiration and some new direction, and to meet people working outside of Europe. Although I skipped past many talks in favour of the sorts of activities I couldn’t simply catch up on online afterwards (a strategy I’d recommend strongly to future first-timers), I did nevertheless come away with new insights – some whimsical, and some practical.

What follows, then, is a collection of personal reflections on the talks I saw, along with my tips for recommended GDC Vault material.

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Splash Jam (part 2)

101 jammers, one cruise ship and 1,043 miles of Norwegian coastline – this is part 2 of my Splash Jam recap, recalling a long weekend aboard Hurtigruten’s M/S Finnmarken, travelling from Tromsø to Trondheim. Part 1, recounting the jam itself, can be found here; this post focuses instead upon the game we made, entitled Ardo.

Hello Stranger

  • Game design & UI assets: Gemma Thomson (UK)
  • Programming: Skully Brookes (UK)
  • Art: Rikke Jansen (NO)
  • Sounds: Bendik Høydahl (NO)
  • Music: Almut Schwache (DE)
  • Demo download available at Itch.io

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VideoBrains at Nine Worlds 2015: “Zones 1, 2 & Green Hill”

The third annual Nine Worlds Geekfest has now passed, and as well as sitting on panels with esteemed and talented individuals like Katherine Cross, Maki Yamizaki, George Buckenham and Mary Hamilton, I was also invited to give a short talk as part of a VideoBrains evening at the event. As these talks were not recorded on video, I decided to re-record it myself post-facto, with slides.

Here, then, is my 7-minute talk on public transportation in games, entitled Zones 1, 2 & Green Hill:

Links

After Antholojam

Antholojam was a month-long, remote game jam on the theme of golden age science fiction. The resulting anthology of some dozen games – curated at the point of application by Zöe Quinn and Alex Lifschitz – is due for release in January 2015. As the jam has wound up and the bug-free games have been submitted, I thought I’d reflect upon my time as designer, writer and UI artist under my team’s collective name, Wonder Games.

An edited version of "A Planet Wakes' title screen
A thrilling tale of civil engineering

This was my first time participating in a remote game jam, having preferred to work in the same room even during Boob Jam in 2013* – my only other effort in such a format. I still harbour a strong preference for physical-location game jams, however I learned a lot from working in this fashion for a change. My overall conclusion is that A Planet Wakes ended up being a much more professionally-handled project, precisely because we had to co-ordinate our part-time efforts across national boundaries and a 6-week development period. Put simply, there a line quickly became blurred between hobbyist game jamming and the experience my team all have as contract game developers. Credit definitely needs to go to the other individuals who made up Wonder Games, namely:

Prel Mattis in "A Planet Wakes"
Prel Mattis – the player’s point of contact at as a terraforming contractor

* Coincidentally, also working with Delia. Sadly we were unable to finish Boob Jam, for reasons truly worthy of anecdote. By the time the weekend was over, a router had actually exploded.

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My Oddball DreamHackathon

Last weekend I took part in my first competitive game jam – the inaugural DreamHackathon, at Stockholm’s Ericsson Globe. This 24-hour game jam had a 100,000kr pize pool and counted eye gaze hardware manufacturer Tobii amongst its sponsors. It brought together some 90-odd jammers comprising 27 teams, and it sat right alongside one of Europe’s biggest esports tournaments. In the middle of all that, I teamed up with 4 other people to make a game in which you play as improbably fat cats, lusting after surströmming.

Team Oddballs, 5 hours into jamming
Team Oddballs, 5 hours into jamming

Given that I’ve attended game jams before at settings including a museum, the headquarters of Mind Candy and a boat moored in København, it didn’t feel quite so strange to bring my laptop and game controllers along to the world’s largest hemispherical structure; home to ice hockey matches, major concerts and of course, this major esports gathering. The venue was still impressive, though – replete with banners, posters and merchandise from the likes of World of Warcraft and Counter-strike: Global Offensive. I made my way past all of that, wearing a green “competitor” wrist-band, in order to reach the colourfully-lit bar which would be home for the next day.

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