Wednesday 11 April 2018
Our designer Marocha participated in a 48h Game Jam. Her team had a special angle, focusing on storytelling and won awards for BEST GAME ART and BEST SOUND DESIGN.
I was not aware that there was such a thing as an event where you make a game based on a given theme in only 48 hours. But when I was asked if I wanted to participate in this creative rollercoaster, I had no doubt that I wanted to be part of it. So I said goodbye to my comfy bed and said hi to a self-inflicted deadline.
For those who are not aware of what the Global Game Jam is: “It is the world's largest game jam event (game creation) taking place around the world at physical locations. Think of it as a hackathon focused on game development. It is the growth of an idea that in today’s heavily connected world, we could come together, be creative, share experiences and express ourselves in a multitude of ways using video games “
We arrived to our location in the beautiful building of the Hogeschool van Amsterdam on a Friday afternoon and proceeded to the registration table. Once there, we got a cool badge with our team’s name, a sponsored t-shirt and took a seat where the presentation of this year’s theme took place.
Right after that, a one minute video was played to present the theme which for this year was “Transmission”. In this video they showed all types of transmission: cars, sound, space, animals, etc… the inspiration was limitless since you can make anything you wanted let that be abstract or literal as long as it related to the main theme.
I glanced at my teammates and we all looked at each other with eager eyes, ready to create something awesome.
Creating something awesome in such little time can be very stressful and, yes I am not going to lie, it was… Ego played a big part in this since my team was one of the four professional (non students and working in the biz kinda people) at our location. Because of this, people were looking closely into what we were going to produce.
We took our bags and looked outside for one last time as we moved deeper in the building to our given classroom. The one we got assigned was pretty big so we quickly arranged it into a working space/bedroom. Once we were all set up it was almost time to have dinner, but we managed to brainstorm for a bit.
One of my teammates (Mark) took the lead in this process and started by asking out loud what comes in to our minds when we think about transmission. Some of those words were: waves, lines, space, light, darkness, abstract, message, communication, flow and many more. We spent a good 10 minutes saying words and writing them on the board, creating a mindmap that we could use as guideline for our concept.
Mark then suggested that we decide on which type of game we were going to make. Will it be a fun mindless multiplayer game, a co-op puzzle, a strategic simulation or a more story based and immersive experience? After discussing some really good ideas for entertaining multiplayer games it was time to have dinner and we decided to focus on the food and pick up on the concept after we were back.
With a full belly we walked back to our room and, even though we could feel the after dinner dip + 5 full days of work week upon us, we quickly got into the concepting mood once again.
Right off the bat it was clear that 2 of us (Rutger and myself) wanted to go for a more abstract/immersive gaming experience while the others still had their minds set on a small addictive multiplayer gameplay. We explained ourselves and heard each other out and in no time (thankfully) we all agreed on making a story driven immersive game.
We chose to go this way because we figured everybody else was probably going to make a mindless multiplayer game, and we wanted something more interesting and challenging to create. We wanted a game where the user could disconnect for a couple of minutes. For this we needed a killer story, so we went back to our mindmap and picked some of the words to use as starting point.
The words we chose were "Message" and "Space", and decided to pair them with a love story. We thought out loud about what we could make and in one string of sentences managed to create our concept. "What if you are in space and you want to send a message? But you can only do it in parts, and only when you receive a signal? And maybe you can't really reach the person you're trying to send it to! Like.. a love message lost in space? An audio transmission where you have to do something with the joysticks of the controllers to match incoming signal waves?"
Within that short burst of words, we managed to get our input mechanic, the base of our story, our setting and even a giant plot twist: You hear a voice transmitted towards you, but the voice is actually your loved one from a hospital. The user has been in a coma all along! Armed with this concept, we turned on our computers and started to work.
As Stefan started setting up the project in Unity, Rutger and I started to look for inspiration and defining the overall style, Mark started making a draft for the story and René was creating the audio for the game.
This song served as our main inspiration for the entire vibe that we wanted to portray in this game.
At around 2 A.M. we had a solid story/script, a fully implemented interaction (using the joysticks on an xbox controller) that was stable and felt good to do and a defined vision for the overall style. With one man down and 3 others (including me) half energized we proceeded to record the voices.
In our story we had one female role and a brief part of a male. Since I was the only female in the group I went from UI Artist to a professional voice actress with no sleep and you’ve guessed it…ZERO experience. That was the shortest yet craziest education I have done if you ask me.
20 recordings later (4:00 A.M.) our game started to really take shape and we decided on a name.
"lost in transmission"
"Lost in Transmission is a game where you can experience the last moments of a stranded astronaut."
I think it was on Sunday morning when we all got the chance to play it in almost a complete flow for the first time, by that I mean: Fully implemented UI, sound design, 3d and interaction done. Every single one of us got goosebumps and we knew right and then and there that we had conveyed the feelings we wanted the users to feel. We quickly started to wrap it up and prepared the build for submission. I made a quick poster and a logo to really tie it all up and then waited till the judges came in the room to see our masterpiece.
In game visuals
In game visuals
The judges were very impressed with our work and everyone that got a chance to play it kept congratulating us for such an immersive and polished game. We were picked for a second judging round, where all the judges get a chance to play it, and then it was on to the awards announcement.
Even thought this started as a 'fun thing to do kinda thing', at this point we were pumped and ready for the award ceremony... We wanted to win. Period. I'm gonna make this part short and just make it visual... after all that's what I'm good at.
Best Game Art & Sound Design
Best Game Art Award
All the hard work payed off! Overall this was an amazing experience for me and I hope we will join again next year. I highly recommend anyone in the business to try this out as you can only benefit and grow as a designer/developer/creative.
If you are interested in knowing more about my design process and visual choices for this game, stay tuned. I will be writing another piece about designing UI while explaining my process in detail, from sketches to a final product and how I apply these into our museum exhibits.
Go here if you want to download the build for the game and give it a go!
Thanks for your time and have a kick ass day!