Gaming

Game developers make 16 games in 48 hours

‘Jammers’ joined together to make 16 original games within 48 hours at the Global Game Jam

After the 48 hour time limit, each team presented and played their game.
After the 48 hour time limit, each team presented and played their game.   Haley MacLean

Developers showed off their stuff Sunday with games that required players to collect holy water, set funeral ships alight, battle their way to learn more about a dead god’s brain and more.

Volta Labs wrapped up hosting its third annual Halifax Global Game Jam this weekend, an event that encouraged participants to create either a video, board or card game within a 48 hour period.

The Global Game Jam is the world’s largest game creation event. Since its launch in 2009, 95 countries host the event around the globe. Each year the creators must incorporate a theme into their games, with the theme for this year’s games being “ritual.”

This was Volta Lab’s third time hosting the event in Halifax and the first at their new location on Barrington Street.  

Sarah Linders, public relations manager for Volta Labs and co-ordinator of the event, said they received a total of 67 participants, more than they were expecting.

“We were anticipating 50 with registration and we catered for 70, so it held really well in the middle,” said Linders.

Some groups consisted of larger teams, while others contained only one member. A total of 16 different games were (at least partially) created by the end of the event on Sunday.

“You can have a team that does something very small, like they take a game and they mod it,” said Linders. “Versus having to make absolutely everything from scratch. Making the music, making these specific characters designs, the textures, the environment they are in and then making it an actual game.”

Finished games

Some examples of the finished products include:

Team: Sacred Seeds Studio

Title: Ritual River

Content: 2D pixel art game where the player has to pray to a series of altars and collect holy water to return to a village while avoiding aggressive monkeys.

Team: Vanity Metrics

Title: Mournful Horn

Content: 3D shooting game where you use flamed arrows to light travelling funeral pyres before they transform into wraiths and attack the player.

Team: Alex Choiniere

Title: Brain of Bog

Content: 2D RPG (role-playing game) with an in-game time limit where you collect items and participate in turn-based fighting to learn more about a dead god’s brain that’s powering the island you inhabit.

Virtual reality

One participant incorporated virtual reality (VR) into his game. Réal O’Neil created a game entitled Balancing Prayer, where the player wears an Oculus Rift while standing on a Wii balance board. The objective of the game is to stay balanced as long as possible atop a cliff while factors such as wind and the virtual reality disorient you.

“I’m a strong believer in the user experience,” said O’Neil. Like in life, he adds, it’s  “fun moving people a little away from their comfort zone.”

O’Neil had been an animator in the past, and currently works in IT systems. He began playing with incorporating the Oculus Rift in the game development engine Unreal Engine a week before the Game Jam. He believes talking the player into virtual reality can make memorable experiences.

“The balance board was a very easy way to try and get someone’s motion into the VR, which right now isn’t the best at conveying motion,” said O’Neil. 

Other jammers tried out Balancing Prayer after the presentations.
Other jammers tried out Balancing Prayer after the presentations.   Haley MacLean

Steve Vermeulem, CTO at Modest Tree Media in Halifax, said the company is currently looking for a few programmers to work on educational games. Vermeulem has worked for Volta Labs and participated in the Global Game Jam in the past. He believes the Game Jam was a great place to check out local game creators.

“The work we do is a lot like game development, so these are the exact kind of people we are looking for. People that know how to make games,” said Vermeulem. “There’s definitely some talent here, a lot of passionate people.”

Game over

The purpose of this event was not a contest, but a way to create an atmosphere that inspired the meeting of fellow likeminded creators, allowing them to network within the local gaming business and provide opportunities for future collaborations.

Linders believes Global Game Jam 2016 was a successful endeavor.

“You have to look at these sorts of events [as] ‘What was I trying to get out of it?’ I wanted to fill a space full of people, make some games, and have some fun,” said Linders. “And I think we checked off all of those boxes.”

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