Infrared5 Developer Steff Kelsey featured on Intel Developer Zone Blog

June 20th, 2013 by Adam Doucette

Recently our own Developer-extraordinaire Steff Kelsey (@thecodevik1ng) was featured on the Intel Developer Zone blog with his post – Masking RGB Inputs with Depth Data using the Intel PercC SDK and OpenCV. Steff and our team here at Infrared5 took part in Intel’s Ultimate Coder Challenge in the building of Kiwi Catapult Revenge using the Intel Perceptual Computing SDK. Check out Steff’s article below as he goes through the approaches used, what to look out for, and he provides some example code.

Steff Kelsey Intel Blog Post

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Seven weeks. Seven teams. ONE ULTIMATE APP!

February 6th, 2013 by Rosie

Infrared5 and Brass Monkey are excited to announce their participation in Intel Software’s Ultimate Coder Challenge, ‘Going Perceptual’! The IR5/Brass Monkey team, along with six other teams from across the globe, will be competing in this seven week challenge to build the ultimate app. The teams will be using the latest Ultrabook convertible hardware, along with the Intel Perceptual Computing SDK and camera to build the prototype. The competitors range from large teams to individual developers, and each will take a unique approach to the challenge. The question will be which team or individual can execute their vision with the most success under such strict time constraints?

Here at Infrared5/Brass Monkey headquarters, we have our heads in the clouds and our noses to the grindstone. We are dreaming big, hoping to create a game that will take user experience to the next level. We are combining game play experiences like those available on Nintendo’s Wii U and Microsoft Kinect. The team will use the Intel Perceptual Computing SDK for head tracking, which will allow the player to essentially peer into the tablet/laptop screen like a window. The 3D world will change as the player moves his head. We’ve seen other experiments that do this with other technology and think it is really remarkable. This one using Wii-motes by Johnny Lee is one of the most famous. Our team will be exploring this effect and other uses of the Intel Perceptual Computing SDK combined with the Brass Monkey’s SDK (using a smartphone as a controller) to create a cutting edge, immersive experience. Not only that, but our creative team is coming up with all original IP to showcase the work.

Intel will feature documentation of the ups and downs of this process for each team, beginning February 15th. We will be posting weekly on our progress, sharing details about the code we are writing, and pointing out the challenges we face along the way. Be sure to check back here as the contest gets under way.

What would you build if you were in the competition? Let us know if you have creative ideas on how to use this technology; we would love to hear them.

We would like to thank Intel for this wonderful opportunity and wish our competitors the best of luck! Game on!

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Top 10 Boston Area Game Conferences, Festivals and Symposia You Should Know About for 2013

January 10th, 2013 by Elliott Mitchell

PAX East Indie Megabooth Developers - Photo Courtesy Ichiro Lambe

1 ) Pax East
Spawned from Washington State based Penny Arcade Conference, Boston’s three day PAX East Conference is debatably the largest game conference in the United States. Boasting over 70K attendees in 2011 and even more in 2012, PAX East has much to offer game enthusiasts, developers, students and the press. Some highlights of PAX East are: The indie Megabooth, panel talks, the expo floor and the multitudes of game enthusiasts.  http://east.paxsite.com/

2 ) Boston Festival of Indie Games
A vibrant offspring of the Boston Indies Group, the Boston Festival of Indie Games (Boston FIG) held it’s first event in 2012 at MIT in Cambridge, MA. Several thousand attendees from across the the region comprised of game enthusiasts, all manner of game developers, tech startups, students and supportive parents enjoyed the day long festival. Highlights include:  prominent industry speakers, playing local indie games while having many opportunities to talk to the game developers, cutting edge tech demos, screening films like Indie Game the Movie, participating in a game jam, local industry art show and amazing networking opportunities. http://bostonfig.com/

3 ) Games for Health
Established 9 years ago in Boston, MA, Games for Health is an unique conference focused on non-traditional uses of game technology and motivational game mechanics utilized to facilitate healing, healthy practices and gathering data. The conference is attended by a wide range of professional game designers, tech startups, researchers, educators, healthcare providers and more. http://www.gamesforhealth.org/

4 ) MIT Business in Gaming
Originating in 2009, the MIT BIG conference was conceived as an event to bring together the best and brightest business leaders around Massachusetts to talk about succeeding in the business of making games. High profile panels and industry focused topics make this conference unique. Attendees range from entrepreneurs, publishers, investors, AAA studios, students and indie developers. http://www.mitbig.com/

5 ) Mass Digi Game Challenge
Initiated in 2012, the Mass DiDI Game Challenge is an annual games industry event and competition focused on mentoring aspiring game development teams. The goal of the conference is to boost the odds of new startups in Massachusetts to pitch, fund, create and publish successful games. Winners receive prizes, valuable mentorship, new industry connections and lots of publicity. http://www.massdigi.org/gamechallenge/

6 ) Boston GameLoop
Established back in 2008, Boston GameLoop is an amazing unConference where all walks of game industry people unite for an afternoon or self organizing talks, debates, presentations and networking opportunities. Indies, Students and AAA industry folks come together for a day of inspiration. http://www.bostongameloop.com/

7 ) MIT Game Lab Symposium
First held in 2012, The MIT Game Lab Symposium is a fascinating event focused on game research, education and non-traditional use cases of game mechanics and technologies. The all day event is highlighted with expert panel discussions and amazing networking opportunities. Attendees include industry leaders, top researchers, indies, students and other interested people from various external disciplines and industries.
http://gamelab.mit.edu/symposium/

8 ) 3D Stimulus Day
Conceived in 2009, 3D Stimulus Day is unique because it is the only all-day 3D game related event around Boston. Attendees network, watch professional’s speak, learn about new technologies, demo games, receive vital information on how to get jobs as well as show off their portfolios. 3D artists ranging from industry veterans to students unite for a day dedicated to 3D for games. http://greateasterntech.com/events-a-news/22-3d-stimulus-day

9 ) No Show Conference
Initiated in 2012, the self described goal of the two day No Show Conference is “to give game industry professionals a space to explore our skillsets, our motivations, and our limits as developers”. The conference is comprised in part by highly pertinent industry related presentations, networking opportunities, a demo hall showcasing local indie game developers and a game jam.
http://noshowconf.com/

10 ) MassTLC Innovation Unconference
This annual event held by the Mass Technology Leadership Council for C-level executives, young entrepreneurs, investors and students is not solely focused on the games industry. The Innovation Unconference is a great forum to network, exchange ideas, learn from the pros and gather fresh ideas from new innovators.  Although the conference is not solely focused on games, a high percentage of attendees with connections to the game industry do attend. http://www.masstlc.org/?page=unConference

Elliott Mitchell
Technical Director @ Infrared5.com
Indie Game Developer
Twitter: @mrt3d

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Top 10 Prominent Boston Area Game Developer Groups and Organizations That You Should Pay Attention To

December 14th, 2012 by Elliott Mitchell

Top 10 Prominent Boston Area Game Developer Groups and Organizations That You Should Pay Attention To:

Scott Macmillan (co-founder Boston Indies), Darius Kazemi (co-organizer Boston Post Mortem) and Alex Schwartz (co-founder Boston Unity Group) preparing for a Boston Post Mortem presentation July 2011. (Photo- Elliott Mitchell co-founder Boston Unity Group)

The Boston area game developer scene has a generous and open community that nurtures indies, startups, students and AAA game studios alike. The evidence of this is more than abundant. On almost any given day one can find a game industry event ranging from casual meet-ups, demo nights and intense panel discussions. As I am an indie game developer and technical director, I will focus more closely on groups that are indie game developer related. One thing can be assured, all of these groups are prominent, worthwhile and you should check them out if you haven’t already done so!

1 ) International Game Developers Association (IDGA) – Boston Post Mortem (BPM)

The Boston based chapter of the IDGA was founded in 1997 by Kent Quirk, Steve Meretzk & Rick Goodman at John Harvard’s Brewhouse. Boston Post Mortem is internationally renowned as an example of how to grow and nurture a game developer community. BPM is the seminal game developer organization in the Boston area. Currently held at The Skellig in Waltham, MA, BPM is a monthly IDGA chapter meeting focused around industry related topics. BPM hosts expert speakers, industry panels, great networking opportunities and grog.

Frequency: Monthly
Membership Required: No, but IDGA membership is encouraged
Admission to Meetings: Usually free
Web: http://www.bostonpostmortem.org/
Twitter: @BosPostMortem

2 ) Boston Indies (BI)

Boston Indies is, as the name would indicate, a Boston based group for indie game developers. BI was founded in 2009 by Scott Macmillan and Jim Buck as an indie game developer alternative to the large Boston Post Mortem group.  Boston Indies featured indie developer presentations, BYOB and chipping in for pizza. Meet-ups were hosted at the Betahouse co-working space at MIT in Cambridge, MA. BI quickly grew larger and moved locations to The Asgard and settling most recently at the Bocoup Loft in South Boston. At BI meetups, indie developers present on relevant topics, hold game demo nights and network. Boston Indies is notable because it spawned the very successful Boston Festival of Indie Games in the fall of 2012.

Frequency: Monthly
Membership Required: No
Admission to Meetings: Free
Web: www.bostonindies.com
Twitter: @BostonIndies

3 ) The Boston Unity Group (BUG)

Founded in 2012 by Alex Schwartz and Elliott Mitchell, The Boston Unity User Group (BUG) is a bi-monthly gathering of Unity developers in the Boston area. Born from the inspiration and traditions of Boston Post Mortem and Boston Indies, BUG events are Unity game development related meetups where members ranging from professionals to hobbyist unite to learn from presentations, demo their projects, network and continue to build bridges in the Boston area game development community and beyond. BUG is renowned by local and international developers, as well as by Unity Technologies, as one of the first and largest Unity user groups in the world. Meetings have been frequently held at the Microsoft New England Research Center, Meadhall and the Asgard in Cambridge, MA.

Frequency:  Bi-Monthly
Membership Required:  Meetup.com registration required
Admission to Meetings:  Free
Web:  http://www.meetup.com/B-U-G-Boston-Unity-Group/
Twitter:  @BosUnityGroup

4 ) Women In Games (WIG)

Founded by Courtney Stanton in 2010, Women in Games Boston is the official Boston chapter of the International Game Developers Association’s Women in Games Special Interest Group. Renown industry speakers present on relevant game development topics but what differentiates WIG is the it’s predominately female perspective and unique industry support. WIG meets monthly at The Asgard in Cambridge. Developers from AAA, indie studios and students regularly attend. WIG is an event open to women and their allies to attend.

Frequency: Monthly
Membership Required: No
Admission to Meetings: Free
Web: http://wigboston.wordpress.com/
Twitter: @WIGboston

5 ) Boston HTML5 Game Development Group

The Boston HTML5 Game Developer Group was founded in 2010 by Pascal Rettig. On the group’s meetup webpage, the description reads  “A gathering of the minds on tips, tricks and best practices for using HTML5 as a platform for developing highly-interactive in-browser applications (with a focus on Game Development)”. The HTML5 game development Group in Boston boasts an impressive roster of members and speakers. Attended and led by prominent industry leaders and innovators, the Boston HTML5 Game Developer Group is a monthly meetup held at Bocoup Loft in Boston, MA.

Membership Required: Meetup membership encouraged
Admission to Meetings: Free
Web: http://www.meetup.com/Boston-HTML5-Game-Development/
Twitter: #Boston #HTML5

6 ) MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge  - New England Games Community Circle (NEGamesSIG)

Originally founded in 2007 by Michael Cavaretta as The New England Game SIG, newly renamed New England Games Community Cirle  is a group rooted in greater MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge. NEGCC focuses on being a hub for dynamic games and interactive entertainment industries throughout New England.  NEGCC events are predictably very good and well attended with their professional panel discussions featuring a mix of innovative leaders from across the business of games. Events regularly are held in various locations around Cambridge, MA including the MIT Stata Center and the Microsoft New England Research Center.

Frequency: Regularly dispersed throughout the year
Membership Required: Not Always / Membership encouraged with worthwhile benefits.
Admission to Meetings: Depends on event and if you’re a member
Web: http://gamescircle.org/
Twitter: #NEGCC #NEGamesSIG

7 ) The Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI)

The Massachusetts Digital Games Institute was founded in 2010 by Timothy Loew and Robert E. Johnson, Ph. D.  This is a unique group focused on building pathways between academia and industry, while nurturing entrepreneurship and economic development within the game industry across Massachusetts. MassDiGI holds game industry related events not only in the Boston area but across the entire Commonwealth. MassDiGI also runs some larger events and programs like the MassDiGI Game Challenge, where prominent industry experts mentor competing game development teams. Mass DiGI also holds a Summer of Innovation Program where students are mentored by industry experts while they form teams and develop marketable games over the summer. Mass DiGI is headquartered at Becker College in Worcester, MA.

Frequency: Slightly Random
Membership Required: No Membership
Admission to Meetings: Mostly free / Some events and programs cost money
Web: http://www.massdigi.org/
Twitter: @mass_digi

8 ) Mass Technology Leadership Council – Digital Games Cluster (MassTLC)

MassTLC is a large organization that encompasses much more than games. The MassTLC Digital Games Cluster is led by the likes of Tom Hopcroft and Christine Nolan, among others, who work diligently to raise awareness about the region’s game industry and build support for a breadth of Massachusetts game developers.  MassTLC holds regular events benefit startups, midsized companies and large corporations across Massachusetts. With a focus on economic development, MassTLC helps those those looking to network, find mentors, funding and other resources vital to a game studio of any scale. One of my favorite MassTLC events is the MassTLC PAX East – Made in MA Party. The Party serves to highlight hundreds of Massachusetts game developers to the media as well as out of state industry folks on the evening before the the massive PAX East game developer conference begins. MassTLC Events are frequently held at the Microsoft New England Research Center.

Frequency: Regularly / Slightly Random
Membership Required: Not Always / Membership encouraged with worthwhile benefits.
Admission to Meetings: Depends on event and if you’re a member
Web: http://www.masstlc.org/?page=DigitalGames
Twitter: @MassTLC

9 ) Boston Game Jams

Founded in 2011 by Darren Torpey, Boston Game Jams is a unique group. Modeled after the Nordic Game Jam, IGDA Global Game Jam and others less  known game jams, Boston Game Jams is an ongoing series of ad-hoc game jams held in the Boston area. As Darren States on the Boston Game Jam’s website, “It is not a formal organization of any kind, but rather it’s more of a grassroots community that is growing out of a shared desire to learn and create games together in an open, fun, and highly collaborative environment.” Boston Game Jams is a great venue for people of all skill levels to come together and collaboratively create games around given themes within a very short period of time. Participants range from professionals to novices. Boston Game Jams have historically been held at the innovative Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab which has recently morphed into the new MIT Game Lab.

Frequency: Random
Membership Required: No
Admission to Meetings: Free / Food Donations Welcome
Web: http://bostongamejams.com/
Twitter: @bostongamejams

10 ) Boston Autodesk Animation User Group Association (BostonAAUGA)

BostonAAUGA is an official Autodesk User Group. Founded in 2008, BostonAAUGA joined forces in June 2012 with the The Boston Maya User Group (bMug) which was founded in 2010 by Tereza Flaxman. United into one 3D powerhouse, BostonAAUGA and mBug serve as a forum for 3D artists and animators seeking professional training, community engagement and networking opportunities. BostonAAUGA hosts outstanding industry speakers and panelists. It should be noted that not all of their events are game industry specific hence their number 10 slot ranking. BostonAAUGA is regularly hosted at Neoscape in Boston, MA.

Membership Required: No Membership
Admission to Meetings: Free

Web: http://www.aaugaboston.com/

Twitter: @BostonAAUGA

Get out there!

—-

Elliott Mitchell
Technical Director @ Infrared5.com
Indie Game Developer
Twitter: @mrt3d

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GameDraw: 3D Power in Unity

October 5th, 2012 by Elliott Mitchell


At Infrared5, we are continuously seeking ways to improve the quality of our craft while increasing our efficiency in developing games for our clients. Our Unity engineers and creatives are ninjas, masters of their trade, and yet there are situations when leveraging the Unity’s Asset Store is extremely advantageous. Why reinvent the wheel by creating extra custom tools when there are relatively inexpensive, pre-existing tools in the Asset Store? GameDraw, by Mixed Dimensions, is one of those indispensable tools available on the Unity Asset Store.

I had the pleasure of evaluating a few pre-release builds of GameDraw after meeting the Mixed Dimensions team at GDC 2012 and more recently at Unite 2012. I was super impressed on both occasions. As stated by Mixed Dimensions, ‘The purpose of GameDraw is to make the life of designers easier by giving them possibilities inside Unity itself and cutting down time and cost.’’ GameDraw is not exactly a single tool, perhaps better described as an expansive suite of 3D tools for the Unity Editor.  Within GameDraw, one can actually manipulate pre-existing models, create new 3D assets, optimize 3D assets and a whole lot more.


Key Features Are:

Polygonal Modeling, Sculpting, Generation and Optimization Tools
UV Editor
City Generator
Runtime API
Character Customizer

Each of these features individually are worth the cost of GameDraw on the Asset Store. Drilling down deeper, GameDraw offers much more. It’s pretty amazing to see the degree of power GameDraw unleashes in the Unity Editor, offering features such as:

Mesh Editing ( Vertex, Edge, Triangle, Element)
Mesh manipulation functions (Extrude, Weld, Subdivide, Delete, Smooth,…etc)
Assigning new Materials
Mesh Optimization
UV editing
Primitives (25 basic model)
Sculpting
Boolean operations
Node based mesh generation
2D tools (Geometry painting, 2D to 3D image tracing)
Character customizer (NEXT UPDATE V 0,87)
City Generator (NEXT UPDATE V 0.87)
Warehouse “hundreds of free assets” (NEXT UPDATE V 0.87)

As a Beta product, GameDraw is slightly more functional on the PC than the Mac computers at the moment. Even though I primarily use a Mac in my daily routine, I was very impressed with GameDraw’s functionality on the Mac.


Being a hardcore Maya artist, I can’t see GameDraw eliminating my need for Maya anytime soon. I use Maya for more than creating Unity assets. However, I happily purchased the GameDraw from the Asset Store and use it on projects. I see a significant number of  instances when I want the ability to make changes to models, create new models, generate a cities, animate morph targets…all within Unity. For any of these tasks alone, GameDraw is a must have and very worth the cost.

-Elliott Mitchell

TD Infrared5
Co-Founder Boston Unity Group

Follow us on Twitter! @infrared5

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Is It All Fun and Games?

May 2nd, 2012 by Elliott Mitchell

Tommy Refenes of Team Meat in Indie Game: The Movie

Think making games is all fun? Watch Indie Game: The Movie and you’ll think twice about those leisurely indie game developers sometimes thought of as slackers. Although game design and development can be quite enjoyable, it also can be high-stress and difficult work. Many indies crunch long hours to design and build new and innovative video games. Making independent games is a labor of love.

Indie Game: The Movie Directors Lisanne Pajot & James Swirsky Photo Credit: Ian MacCausland

Recently, I had the opportunity to watch Indie Game: The Movie at the historic Brattle Theater in Cambridge, MA. Adobe generously sponsored the film’s tour and gave away seats of Adobe’s full Master Collection of content creation tools. Local showings of the film were sold out to enthusiast audiences filled with local indies, AAA developers and their significant others. The award winning Canadian filmmakers Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky were on location to meet and greet the ecstatic crowds. Lisanee and James also treated the  game developer populated audience to time for Q & A at the end of the film.

Indie Game: The Movie paints a compelling montage of independent game developers as struggling artistic creators in a manner never before witnessed by the video game consuming public. Whether you make games, play games, are close to anyone who makes games or wants to make games, you must see Indie Game: The Movie. It’s truly a successful film about, by and for underdogs.

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Top 10 GDC Lists

March 1st, 2012 by Elliott Mitchell

GDC is approaching next week and I’ll be traveling to San Fransisco to participate in the epic game developer event. I’m psyched and here’s why:

TOP 10 GDC RELATED THINGS I’M EXCITED ABOUT

10  The Expo Floor
9    The History Of 3D Games exhibit
8    Experimental Gameplay Sessions
7    The Unity Party
6    Indie Game: The Movie screening & Panel
5    GDC Play
4    14th Annual Independent Games Festival Awards
3    Networking, Networking & Networking
2    Independent Game Summit
1    Unity Technology Engineers

TOP 10 GDC SESSIONS I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO

10  The Pursuit of Indie Happiness: Making Great Games without Going Crazy
9    Rapid, Iterative Prototyping Best Practices
8    Experimental Gameplay Sessions
7    Create New Genres (and Stop Wasting Your Life in the Clone Factories) [SOGS Design]
6    BURN THIS MOTHERFATHER! Game Dev Parents Rant
5    Bringing Large Scale Console Games to iOS Devices: A Technical Overview of The Bard’s Tale Adaptation
4    Light Probe Interpolation Using Tetrahedral Tessellations
3    Big Games in Small Packages: Lessons Learned In Bringing a Long-running PC MMO to Mobile
2    Art History for Game Devs: In Praise of Abstraction
1    Android Gaming on Tegra: The Future of Gaming is Now, and it’s on the Move! (Presented by NVIDIA)

If you’re going to be at GDC and want to talk shop with Infrared5 then please ping us! info (at) Infrared5 (dot) com

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Gaming Ouroboros at the Global Game Jam 2012

February 6th, 2012 by Elliott Mitchell

Now and then, as a professional 3D technical artist and game designer, I find it’s helpful to step out of my usual routine and make a game over a weekend. Why? Because it keeps life fresh and exciting while providing a rare sense of instant gratification in the crazy world of video game development. Making a video game over a weekend isn’t easy for one person alone. For this, Global Game Jam was created.

This year’s Global Game Jam was held last January 27 – 29, 2012. I registered with was the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Here is the lowdown of my experience.

Global Game Jam 2012 - Photo Courtesy Michael Carriere

The Global Game Jam (GGJ) is an annual International Game Developer Association (IGDA) game creation event. The event unites people from across the globe to make games in under 48 hours. Anyone is welcome to participate in the game jam. Jammers range from industry professionals to hobbyists and students. The primary framework is that under common constraints, each team completes a game, without preconceived ideas or preformed teams, in under 48 hours. This is intended to encourage creativity, experimentation and collaboration resulting in small but innovative games. To support this endeavor, schools, businesses and organizations volunteer to serve as official host sites. Several prominent sponsors such as Loot Drop, Autodesk, Microsoft and Brass Monkey also helped foot the bill.

HOW IT WENT DOWN

Keynote -

Brenda Brathwaite and John Romero addressing the Global Game Jammers 2012 - Photo courtesy Michael Carriere

GGJ site facilitators kicked off the Jam with a pre-recorded video from the IGDA website titled How to Build A Game in Less Than 48 Hours. The speakers in the video were Gordon Bellamy, the  Executive Director of the IGDA, John Romero (Quake) and Brenda Brathwaite (Wizardry) both co-founders of Loot Drop, Gonzalo Frasca (Ludology.org) the co-founder of Powerful Robot Games and Will Wright (The Simms) co-founder of Maxis. They speakers all gave excellent advice on creativity, leadership, scope and collaboration within a game jam.

Global Constraint -

Ouroboros

Our primary constraint was revealed after the keynote video. It was an image of a snake eating it’s own tail. The snake represented Ouroboros, a Greek mythological immortal. Variations of the symbol span across time and space from the modern day back to antiquity. The snake, or dragon in some instances, while eating it’s own tail has made appearances in ancient Egypt, Greece, India, Mexico, West Africa, Europe, South America and elsewhere under a host of names. It’s meaning can be interpreted as opposites merging in an a unifying act of cyclical creation and destruction, immortal for eternity. To alchemists the Ouroboros symbolized the Philosopher’s Stone.

Group Brainstorming –

Brainstorming Global Game Jam 2012

After the keynote game jammers arbitrarily split into 5 or 6 groups of 11 or so and went into different labs to brainstorm Ouroboros game pitches. After an amusing ricochet of thoughts, references, revisions, personalities and passions each room crafted 6 pitches which were mostly within the scope of the 48 hour Game Jam.

Pitch and Choose -

When the groups reassembled into the main room it was time to pitch.

The Rules-

  • Pitches needed to be under a minute
  • Title is 3 words or less
  • Theme related to the Ouroboros
  • The person pitching a game did not necessarily need to be on that potential team

There were about 30 or so pitches, after which each jammer had to choose a role on a game / team that appealed to them. Each Jammer had a single piece of colored coded paper with their name, skill level and intended role.

The Roles-

Choose Your Team - Global Game Jam 2012- Photo courtesy Michael Carriere

  • Programmer
  • Artist
  • Game Design
  • Audio
  • Producer

Games with too many team members were pruned and others lacking members for roles such as programmer were either augmented or eliminated. Eventually semi-balanced teams of 4-6 members were formed around the 11 most popular pitches.

My team decided to develop our game for the Commodore 64 computer using Ethan Fenn’s Comma8 framework. We thought the game narrative and technology married well.

Time to Jam - Photo Courtesy Michael Carriere

Time to Jam -

Post team formation, clusters of lab space were claimed. Even though most of us also brought our personal laptops, the labs were stocked with sweet dual boot Windows 7 & OS X systems with cinema displays. The lab computers were pre-installed with industry standard software such as Unity3d, Maya, Photoshop… We were also provided peripherals such as stylus tablets and keyboards. Ironically, I was most excited by the real world prototyping materials like blocks and graph paper which were also provided by or host.

First Things First –

Our space at Global Game Jam 2012 at Singapore - MIT GAMBIT Game Lab

After claiming a lab with another awesome team we immediately setup:

  • Version control (SVN)
  • Installed custom tools for Comma8 (Python, Java, Spite Pad, Tiles and more)
  • Confirmed the initial scope of the game
  • Set up collaborative project management system with a team Google Group and Google Doc

Cut That Out –

We needed to refine the scope once we were all aware of all the technical limitations such as:

  • Commodore 64 from 1982 is old
  • 64 kb of RAM for system not much
  • 8 bit
  • Programed in Assembly Language
  • 300 X 200 pixels
  • 16 pre-determined crappy colors
  • 3 Oscillators
  • Rectangular pixels
  • Screen Space
  • Developing in emulation on a network
  • Loading and testing a playable on legacy Commodore 64 hardware
  • Less than 48 hours to get it all working
  • Our scope was too big, too many levels
  • Other factors causing us to consider limiting the scope further included:
  • None of us had made games for C 64 before
  • Comma8 is an experimental engine that was untested in a game jam situation and is currently in development by Ethan
  • Tools such as Sprite Pad and Tiles are very archaic and limiting apps for art creation
  • Build process would do strange things to art after build time which required constant iteration

Rapid Iterative Prototyping -

Walking Backwards Prototype Global Game Jam 2012 - Photo Courtesy Michael Carriere

Physical prototyping was employed to reduce the scope before we went too far down any rabbit holes. We used the following materials to prototype:

  • Glass white board
  • Markers
  • Masking tape on the walls
  • Paper notes tacked to the walls
  • Graph paper
  • Wooden blocks
  • Pens

Results of Physical Prototyping-

  • Cut down scope from 9 levels to 5 levels as the minimum to carry the Ouroboros circular theme of our narrative far enough
  • Nailed the key mechanics
  • Refined the narrative
  • Determined scale and placement of graphical elements
  • Limited overall scope

Naturally we ran into design roadblocks and need to revise and adapt a few times. Physical prototyping once again sped up that process and move us along to completion.

QA-

Global Game Jam 2012 - Photo Courtesy Michael Carriere

We enlisted a few play testers on the second night and final hours of the game jam to help us gauge the following:

  • Playability
  • Comprehension of the narrative
  • Recognition of the lo-res art assets
  • Overall player experiences
  • Feelings about the game
  • Suggestions
  • Bugs

We did wind up having to revise the art, level design and narrative slightly to reach a better balance and game after play testing.

Deadline -

Walking Backwards - C64 - Global Game Jam 2012

1.5 hours before the game jam was to end it was pencilsdown. Time to upload to the IDGA Global Game Jam website, any other host servers and on to the site presentation computer. Out of the total 48 hours allotted to the game jam, we

only had about 25 working lab hours. Much time was spent on logistics like the keynote video, brainstorming, pitching, uploading and presenting. Our site also was only open from 9 am to midnight so there was not 24 hour access. With 25 hours of lab time all 11 games at my site were uploaded and ready for presentation.

Presentations -

Global Game Jam - Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab Games

The best part ever! The presentations were so exciting. Many of the jammers were so focused on their work they were not aware of what other teams were up to. One by one teams went up and presented their games in whatever the current game state was at the deadline.

Most were pretty innovative, experimental and funny. Titles such as The Ouroboros Hangover and Hoop Snake had the jammers in stitches. Fire farting dragons, Hoop Snakes, drunk Ouroboros and so on were big hits. Unity, HTML 5, Flash, Flex, XNA, Comma8 and Flixel were used to create the great games in under 48 hours.

Take Aways -

My teammates and I consider the game we made, Walking Backwards, to be a success.   We accomplished our goals:

Walking Backwards Team - Global Game Jam 2012- Photo courtesy Michael Carriere

  • Experimental game
  • A compelling narrative
  • Awesome audio composition
  • Most functionality we wanted we achieved
  • Runs on an original Commodore 64 with Joysticks
  • Can be played with a Java emulator
  • Got to work together under pressure and have a blast

Would have liked-

  • Avatar to animate properly (we had bi-directional sprites made but not implemented)
  • More audio for sound effects

The final take away I had, besides feeling simultaneously exhilarated and exhausted, is how essential networking at the game jam is for greater success. Beyond just meeting new people, networking at the jam made or broke some games. Some teams didn’t take time to walk around and talk to other teams. In one instance, a team didn’t figure out a essential ghost mechanic by the end of the jam. They realized at presentation time another team had implemented the same mechanic they failed to nail down in the same engine. Networking also provided mutual feedback, play testing, critique, advise, friendships and rounds of beer after the event ended. Many of the jammers now have a better sense of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, their performance under stress, their abilities to collaborate, lead and follow.

I, for one, will be a life long game jammer, ready to collaborate while pushing into both familiar and new territories of game development with various teams, themes and dreams.

Follow this link to see all the games created at my site hosted by the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Labs

——

Elliott Mitchell

Technical Director- Infrared5

Twitter: @ Mrt3d

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