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.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.
We 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!
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.