Escape Studios brought its second ever Game Jam to a close this year, and it’s safe to say the calibre of games was more exciting than ever.
In partnership with Gram Games, this year’s Escape Studios Game Jam ran with the theme ‘Contrast’ with participants hammering away at keyboards over 48 hours to create a game from start to finish.
Some of the games included a VR escape the room experience, a fun ‘Impossible Quiz’ type game and a game following the transformation of a werewolf.
Teams were busy, with some getting very little sleep over 48 hours – in some cases no sleep at all! As was the case for winning team – Team Indigo Duck, who won an Escape Studios/Gram Games swag bag, an exclusive mentoring day at Gram Games offering insight to their ‘Prototype Friday’ scheme where each Friday staff stop work at lunch and are encouraged to work on their own projects, and an interview with 3D Artist.
Team Indigo Duck, with Sara Silva on character design and art, Steven Upton on development, Luke Parlin on development, and Jason McKenzie on music and sound design, created a rhythm action game similar to the likes of Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero but with a cool audio twist. As players sounded off against one another, more and more layers of the music from their chosen character and genre would start coming through.
We sat down with Team Indigo Duck after their win to see just how they created such an awesome game with no sleep at all!
Where did the inspiration for the game come from?
Sara Silva: It was something sudden.
Jason McKenzie: We kind of all just came up with different ideas, building along.
SS: We kept adapting to each other’s ideas.
Steven Upton : We knew we wanted a heavy emphasis on music, as we had a producer and sound designer on our team and it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.
Luke Parlin : To piggyback off what Steven said, there were established guidelines early on. We saw samples of Sara’s work which was brilliant but we knew she was more of an illustrator rather than a 3D modeller so it would be awesome to get something stylised. Meanwhile we had the rare privilege to have a sound designer on our team, so we knew we had to do something where sound was important. Finally I said I wanted something with local multiplayer, especially at a Game Jam when you’re surrounded by other people who love games. So being able to play a game you enjoy with other people is really neat. The game we created is not the game we pitched on Friday night, but it’s all the better for it!
Did you know each other at all prior to the Game Jam?
SU: We didn’t pick our teams.
LP: Hats off to Escape, sometimes when teams are picked all the talent goes to one team but in the past 48 hours I’ve seen more balanced teams than anywhere else. There was a really good distribution of code, art and design.
How did you find working together?
LP: I’m going to out myself here! I got Sara redoing the health bars like 25 times, and I just felt worse and worse about it every time! So I’m sorry, I was an awful awful teammate, I’d like to think I made up for my nagging with some solid coding but…
SS: But we created the perfect asset for it, so…
JM: It was really easy, it wasn’t like ‘Hurry up and do this now!’ We’d just do it and mash it up together.
LP: This is going to sound self-serving, you can hear the audio but code is less tangible. And I think something that people who don’t programme might not appreciate is how differently two programmers will solve the same problem. Within the first few hours Steven, I knew that if I said ‘Hey you do this, I’ll do this and we’ll rejoin in two hours’ that it would work out. I haven’t met another coder with whom I could talk out a really complex programming problem in English and have us both translate the verbal communication into computer code.
SS: It was love at first sight!
JM: They just gelled very well as coders.
SU: We all did.
How did you find timing? Did you work up to the wire?
LP: Were we working up to the wire? Yes. Did we have minutes to spare? Also yes. The game was ‘done’ with three hours to spare. The game was complete, levels were playable, it had a menu, you could play it – it worked! But with three or four hours left, what are you going to do? Have a nap at 11am? I think it was the extra spit and shine of the last few hours that made a difference. Jason redid some of the character audio. Half an hour before deadline I was dragging around audio files.
What attracted you to the Game Jam in the first place?
JM: For me, I haven’t worked in games before. I’ve done voluntary things before that haven’t really gone anywhere. So I’ve been trying this year to get into the games industry, chat to people and meet people the same as me. I saw this online and thought I’d come to it and give it a go. Thought it would be a good experience to learn and grow as a composer.
SU: I’ve always wanted to take part in games jams. I love making games but often find myself doing it on my own so it’s nice to be able to do it with other professional game makers.
SS: For me, I kind of lost my passion after university. So I spent one year in London with a very bad job, just to make myself wake up. Then I saw the Game Jam and thought it was time to challenge myself again.
LP: There’s something very unique about getting to know people through working with them. And I don’t think there are many ways you can experience a similar opportunity, it’s ultraconcentrated productivity with total strangers who you have the comfort of knowing is likeminded. There’s just nothing like it. Everybody in the building here likes playing games and making games. London is a terrific city for an indie game developer, the concentration of young creative talent is unprecedented. The Game Jam is the distillation, the essence of that creative spirit so.
What have you learned from the Game Jam?
JM: Quite a lot – working as a team. Because normally I’m composing in my room by myself. Here’s it’s nice working with other people, being out of the house and composing for something. I’ve just learned to work with others.
SU: I’ve learned more Unity!
LP: I mean you picked it up crazy quick!
SU: I mean I do have a knowledge of programming, but it was nice to learn the game engine. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to creating projects but the main thing I take away from it is that we probably could have gotten more done if we got the core mechanics down first and then added the polish afterwards, but at the same time we were passionate about the idea so.
SS: Learning 2D animation for the first time, wasn’t really a matter of doing something new but more like remembering. I’m really grateful for finding the love for what I used to do.
LP: I think we all honed our skills. I don’t mean that as a copout, I think we took what we all already knew and made it better.
JM: I think because we were all calm and not panicky!
SU: Another thing I learned: Bring paracetamol!
Check out the video highlights below: