Category Archives: Game Jams

Rocking Out At TOJam 8

TOJam 8 came and went almost a month ago and I wanted to post something about it while fleeting bits of that frenetic weekend still cling to my failing memory. This was the 8th year of the Toronto Independent Game Jam (TOJam for short) and the 3rd year that we participated. This year over 400 people attended the 3 day jam to make games, meet new people and remind ourselves why we love making games. This year we made a neon, medieval jousting game in hell which we naturally dubbed “Hell Joust”. Here’s a video of the game in action:


[gn_media url=”http://youtu.be/2_AFUIw5sl8″ width=”600″ height=”400″]

Some team highlights from TOJam 8: we drank gallons of coffee, ate a metric ton of Tim Horton’s donut’s, rigged and animated a horse and rider, made an 8 button controller out of a 2×4, played guitar, got interviewed by Post Arcade, recorded 7 music tracks, made over 100 sound effects and best of all had a great time hanging out with good friends and working our asses off for 3 days straight.

Rocket 5 TOJam 8 Team

One of the most amazing things about this years jam is that we had 9 people on our team! That has to be some kind of record, right… Right? Our attractive and talented team members from left to right are: Cathy Feraday Miller who handled all of the animations and character rigging, Max Feraday made all the level models, Christine Feraday was our art tech and assistant producer, Neil Gower wrote the audio and vfx code and helped out with gameplay, Catherine Hayday built and coded the custom game controller, Rachel Kahn art directed the game and designed and painted the main characters, Ryan Henwood performed and recorded the music (listen here), Tim Miller did the gameplay programming and project management, and Blain Kramer created the sound effects. Whew!

TOJam8 2x4 controller
There’s Catherine putting the finishing touches on the 8 button controller she made for the game!

TOJam 8 Rachel
Rachel having a good time panting the knight character on her ancient tablet.

TOJam Ryan
Ryan could usually be found behind his guitar jamming out riffs to his galloping metal soundtrack. (photo by Paul Hillier Photography)

For those of you who are interested in game design and production, I’ll talk a bit about the process that we went through while getting ready for TOJam. With a team as large as ours (9 people) and only 3 days to make a game, I wanted to make sure that we knew exactly what game we were going to make before we arrived at the jam.

Rachel and Cathy and I met one night over beers and hashed out a pretty ambitions design. Then I wrote up a first pass design doc that mostly focused on story and a little bit on the gameplay and game structure. The next meeting was with the entire team and Rachel and I presented the doc. Over the next 2 hours we basically torpedoed the entire design but came away from the meeting with a plan for a 6 foot long 2X4 game controller (yep, you read that right).

Over the next few days we discussed various gameplay ideas over email and then I took those notes and created the final doc that we used for the game. The design was a lot bigger than the final game – we wanted to create an entire medieval tournament complete with story and Sword stage and a Fisticuffs stage in addition to the Jousting stage. We knew this was too much to do at the jam, but it’s better to be over prepared than under prepared.

On the first day of the jam we set up our equipment and then went over the doc as a team to assign tasks and figure out what we thought we could pull of. We decided that we’d start with the Joust gameplay and then if there was time we’d move on to the sword fighting. As we all expected, we had just enough time to get the joust mode up and running.

You can download the Hell Joust (codename Project Rampage) game design document here.

TOJam 8 Design Meeting

I’m going to hold off on posting a playable version of the game until after the TOJam arcade later this year. But I might be persuaded to post a version of there’s enough interest – let us know in the comments!

We always have a great time at TOJam and this year was no exception! I’d like to extend a huge thank you to all of the organizers, volunteers and sponsors who always work their butts off to make every TOJam an amazing event.

Rocket 5 at TOJam 2012

Koloro: The World's Not Ending - Rocket 5 & Muj's TOJam entry.On the weekend of May 10, 11 and 12, I attended my first ever game jam: “TOJam“. TOJam is an indie game event where about 400 people gather together in one place to hammer out their individual game concepts in just 3 days. It is a hotbed of creativity, inspiration, innovation, cooperation and bacteria. Its a place where you can meet other game developers and eat too much junk food, drink too much caffeine and get too little sleep. If you are extremely organized and very very lucky, you can walk away with a fabulous little prototype to build from.

Caffeine, junk food and sleep deprivation.

Before TOJam I had my doubts about whether spending 3 days in a building with 400+ game jammers would be for me. I like my comfort. I think better in a quiet environment. There won’t be enough women there and it will be weird. I don’t fit in with the culture. I’m not a hard-core gamer, I won’t like it. I’m too old. It will be chaos! It will be a waste of time! After 3 days without washing, it will smell like a rhino cage in there. Gak! What possible benefit could I get out of a game jam?

After TOJam: Absolutely. Amazing. Experience. Craziest way to rapid-prototype a game – EVER. Got SO much accomplished! Incredible creative and energetic environment! TOJammers are inspirational! Hard working! Collaborative! Generous! Conscientious! Talented! Funny! Nobody wants to fit in, everyone is just doing their own thing, but together. With such a flux of positive energy and creativity floating around, one cannot help but be motivated. TOJam 2013? I’m there….can’t hardly wait! Even if it did smell like a rhino cage by Sunday.

Cathy, Mujia and TimWe at Rocket 5 teamed up with superstar Mujia Liao to work on a simple adventure/puzzle game: Koloro: The World’s Not Ending. We started TOJam with a couple models built and rigged and Tim had done some ambient occlusion lighting tests for another game we’re developing. We had a rough game idea, narrowed the scope and came up with a tight game plan and asset list by Wednesday. Of course, we didn’t get as far as Tim had hoped, but I was thrilled to have a playable prototype to work with. From an animator’s perspective, the first time you see your character running around in the world is a HUGE thrill. She’s ALIVE!

Rapid prototyping requires a kind of cross discipline flexibility that I had never developed before. Coming to Rocket 5 as a character animation specialist, I had never modeled, textured, or rigged anything before. Switching gears to become a generalist is difficult after so many years as a one-trick pony, but it is super fun and motivating. And being a “specialist” also means being a perfectionist. It was hard to let that side of my personality go. I was working on the cat character and forgot to test the animations in-engine. This was a disaster! The animations wouldn’t export properly, so they look really weird and funky in the game. While this made me die a little inside, I had to let it go. They worked well enough to prototype with. We had to move on.

Here’s a look at the final game, TOJam edition. Our heroine is restoring colour to the world, one kat at a time!

Koloro: Restoring colour to the world!

TOJam: the most intensive game incubator I’ve ever seen – hurrah for Jim and Em! And a big huge thanks to everyone that made TOJam 2012 possible.

Rocket 5’s Unity3D “Flash in a Flash” Contest Entry: Jet-Skate Jo-Jo

Jet-Skate Jo-Jo logoHi everyone, this is just a quick update to tell you about our new circus themed web game called “Jet-Skate Jo-Jo” which you can play right here on our website.

The game came about because over the holidays, Unity3D hosted a game creation contest titled “Flash in a Flash” where developers could submit a Flash game using the new Flash exporter in the Unity3D 3.5 Developer Preview. With a $20k first prize and a bunch of really good 2nd and 3rd place prizes, Cathy and I decided to dive head first into the competition.

For our submission we wanted to make a new game from scratch that would take advantage of as many of the great features that Unity3D brings to Flash web game publishing as possible like physics, real time lighting and of course a 3D character and environment. Since the schedule was super tight, we knew we had to make a game that was small enough to finish in a short amount of time while still being visually impressive and fun. The contest time ran from December 22nd and ended on January 5th which of course conflicted with all kinds of holiday plans. In the end were able to spend about 9 days working on the game. We submitted the game at 2:30 AM Eastern time on January 5th which gave us about 30 minutes of padding before the contest submission deadline! We ended up having to cut a few things from the game like sound, high scores and there are a few little bugs that I wish we could have fixed, but overall we made a really great little game in a super short amount of time that we’re all really happy with.

A quick shout out to our team: Cathy Feraday Miller did all of the character animations, designed the logo and contributed to much of the game design. Paul Capon did all of the level and prop modeling and texturing, monkey textures and the skate model. David Huynh rigged and weighted the monkey character which was originally modeled and rigged by Shaun Budhram and Roger Liu. Tim Miller did the programming, game and level design and the UI design and art.

Jet-Skate Jo-Jo Screenshot

Jet-Skate Jo-Jo Screenshot

Jet-Skate Jo-Jo Screenshot

Play Jet-Skate Jo-Jo here and be sure to let us know what you think of the game in the comments. And as always be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date on all the latest news from Rocket 5.

Jet-Skate Jo-Jo

Jet-Skate Jo-Jo is a rollicking rocket-propelled ride, featuring loops and hoops and thrills and spills! Step right up and get your monkey action here! A quick pull of the pop-gun cannon is all it takes to get Jo-Jo rolling, then hit the jets to send our little monkey friend rocketing down the track. Jo-Jo goes bananas for …. bananas! And OH MY STARS! Collect them too!

We made the preview version of Jet-Skate Jo-Jo from scratch in only 9 days for the Unity3D “Flash in a Flash” game creation contest. It’s missing a few things like sound and high scores and you might find a bug or two, but we plan to do a whole lot more with the game after the contest judging is complete. We hope you enjoy it!

Play Jet-Skate Jo-Jo

We’ve had so much positive feedback from everyone who has played the game so far that we’re planning on brining it to the iPhone and iPod Touch sometime in early 2012! But you don’t have to wait for the iPhone version because Jet-Skate Jo-Jo is currently playable as a preview right here on our website!
Click HERE to play it now!

Jet-Skate Jo-Jo Screenshot

Jet-Skate Jo-Jo Screenshot

Jet-Skate Jo-Jo Screenshot

Download the Jet-Skate-Jo-Jo media kit.