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:

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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.