In the Heart of the Sticky Stuff

In the heart of Glasgow a game jam is occurring. We’re here at Glasgow Calley Jamming 4 Small Change – developing games for young carers – and, as always, we’re already deep in ideas, concepts and the building of games.

For a few years now I’ve been reporting on the Gamer Jam’s at Glasgow Calley; as well as many other development related events in the industry. These events are there to allow industry insiders, students and newbies alike to work with others in a realistic crunch environment – looking at the last few days before a games release and understanding the frailties of the team unit and the strengths you all have. Teaching you all where you need to develop.

It’s a massive learning process, a healthy one, under the gaze and tuteledge of some industry regulars, lecturers, old hands – of whom Romana Khan (now of Denki) needs special mention for setting the Scottish Game Jam up – and helpful students; all trying to ensure that the teams achieve something. The process also being its own teacher. Testing the limits of endurance over a 48 hour cycle to better understand the human psyche.

Too much waxing lyrical? As a journalist I’ve slowly been engaging more and more in the Game Jam’s. Staying overnight, being awake for the whole 48 hours – longer realistically – and engaging with the teams, to hear their stories, talk to them and report on what happens…

So writing this, as the clock ticks past 7 a.m. on the Saturday morning, you may wonder what the hell I’m doing running a team?

It’s a good question, but really, this is how enticing the jam process can be. Having moved from industry reporter, to working within the industry, some of my agendas have changed and yet your journalistic juices still flow and, like any writer worth their true salt, being in the process is another angle to write about.

In January the fantastic Emma and I manned the video and social feeds for the Scottish Game Jam: Truly hard to try and be interesting for the public for such a long time, and absolutely knackering. Running a team is a different type of tiring. Nothing to do with the team members themselves – I’ve really been blessed with a selection of friends and new people who are already becoming friends – but to do with the numerous time calculations involved. Ensuring the team remains positive, focussed and as energised as possible to complete the task as exhaustion slowly takes hold.

Addressing questions about creative commons, where we got sound and art assets from. What we would need to ensure, if the game was going to be published. How much help each team member needs. Will the networking work, which early signs from Richard before he hit the sack are, “Yes”. And setting targets to ensure people rest… The list really is endless and, for me, I need to understand what to prioritise in that list, who I can push and who I should help and the best ways to do it.

Well that’s easy then! As David, my lead audio and I have a discussion about dinosaur roars and, as expected, he knows the precise detail of how they got the ‘raptor screams in JurassicPark;

“The velociraptor was a walrus and dolphin sound put together.”

It’s exactly this thing that’s needed. An interesting interlude from the norm, a chance to bookmark a few pages for later, so I can better understand audio requirements for next time, but also engaging the team in a healthy conversation. Having a laugh and maintaining comraderie, as I’ve seen previous teams struggle without the social integration.

Our game, Sniffing it Out, is about a robot dog P.A.T.C.H. hunting out lost treasures, ably assisted by his colleagues as his treasure sniffing device is broken. Only one P.A.T.C.H. will remain and so your colleagues can try to hinder you in your quest, potentially to their own disadvantage.

The game aimed at children between 8 – 16 meaning, as Lead Design, I have to consider age, attention span, categorising, scoring, positive reinforcement for the young – if they fail. A whole host to ensure the game does the best to fit the categories set.

Have we already had to drop concepts. Of course! My lead, and only, artist Ritatsu, is pushing himself to complete the art assets identified; as I took some time to find and develop simple assets to take our game forward. We still have to look at the General User Interface (GUI – or main game screen – for the uninitiated) for its look and style, decide on something achievable together and then I can only be supportive; art not my forte when compared to design.

Possibly sitting in so many Jams has let me see what’s gone wrong for past teams but from the inside the whole process this is a different type of hard. Enjoyable but exciting. Stimulating and hoping we have a finished product at the end of the process.

So to my team; Matt (Programming), Kirsty (Audio), Richard (Lead Dev), David (Lead Audio), Ritatsu (Art), Brian (Programming), I simply have to raise a glass. I can see us getting the job done and I’m proud to be amongst them.

To my readers, whether you have experience of the jam or not… isn’t it time that you had a go and saw what the fuss was about?

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