The fourth and final day of TIGJam, last Sunday, was a great ending to one of the most satisfying weekends of my game development life. For the game jam crew, it was a day of polishing games, showing them off, and having a dinner afterward to discuss all that we had done and become.
I went into Sunday delirious and noticeably tired from a very late-nighter. Over the course of Sunday morning the various jammers appeared and slowly collected themselves from having climbed over the hill. Now it was already lunch for most of us before people were ready for the final few hours of game creation. (As always, there were some people already working hard by mid-morning.) In an effort to be a human being I returned to my friend's house and showered and ate and then returned.
During the final hours of an art project, in the past I have tried to go big. This time, as most people did, I just went for cleaning. Game creation (and so many other things) are about that final ten percent. So I just tried to round out my project. I cleaned up loose ends, I added some nice little art touches, and I worked up til the last minute.
And then I got to see what everyone had accomplished, and it was impressive. Over the course of an hour we saw probably twenty different games, and even more were being worked on. Here are just a few unique highlights for me. (This is not fair and balanced and also ignores games I've already talked about. [also did not have time to grab information, so please update me with info/links about these games if you're aware])
Negative Spacecraft : This game was black and white. A simple space shooter that added a confusingly cool mechanic in which you and your AI opponent fire negative and positive space at each other (black and white). What this meant was that you could move and shoot in negative space(black) but be hurt by positive space (white), and then transition to the other way around. It was cool and confusing and I can't do it justice describing it.
Night Hike (a Carnegie Mellon University ETC student group): A procedurally generated night hike, this was a beautiful idea and showed the strength of non-violent interaction. Your goal, simply take a hike through starry fields and forests. The creators built a 2d-sidescrolling procedural system so that every hike you take will be through a different environment. A simple piece, but well done.
Desert Bus 2: Space Bus (Ben McGraw): Imagine flying to Alpha Centauri in a bus. Well, imagine no more! Because you can now experience the long, long, incredibly long trip in a game that simulates the realtime experience of flying to Alpha Centauri. A hilarious sequel to a Penn and Teller mini-game called Desert Bus from 1995, which involved driving straight from Tucson to Las Vegas in realtime.
Map Generator (Tyler Neylon): Though not a game, this deserves a mention for cool technology of the weekend. For his love of strategic games, Tyler sought to build a map creation tool that could create a Risk style map in a reasonable amount of time with a plausible geographic look and well-laid out territories. He succeeded. It was very neat technology for a weekend and I would love to see people play some Risk on one of his procedurally generated maps to see if it was balanced well.
In addition to the above, there were several games that felt very polished with their "feel". Kyle Pulver showed off a quick and crunchy 2d platformer with an impressive amount of art (I think he did it all this weekend). Phubans was working on a top-down exploration/upgradeable shooter that felt very satisfying to play. And Erin Robinson created a gravitational exploration game that allowed a player to change orbit smoothly between a series of planets with various gravities.
And now I'll briefly talk about the game I made (my blog, my soapbox). It is called Sarajevo, and you play a civilian living in the city of Sarajevo during the siege in the mid-90s. All you can do is walk around a small portion of the city in which there are other civilians like you and also buildings you can enter and exit. You can talk to people to hear their mood, but otherwise it is currently a static world. However, every so often, an unseen sniper fires at a random character in the game. It could be you, it could be someone else. They probably won't hit. But they might. All you can do is hope to not get shot. But if you play long enough, you will get shot.
I think the crowd was a little taken aback by my game.
But that was what TIGJam was for. To scratch the itches we all have. To try something new or different or work on something we've had sitting in the back of our brain. You could see people proud of what they had accomplished, amazed at the positive feedback they received, creating their own lighting systems, trying a game and failing and then making a new game, pounding out incredible music, drawing up beautiful art.
TIGJam was recognizing that being an indie game developer is a lifestyle. You have to care about it. You have to want to spend your weekend tackling that stupid bug that has been killing you. You have to redo that art, or create twelve unfinished songs to reach the thirteenth that works.
After we showed off our games we had a wonderful buffet dinner at a nearby restaurant and chatted about what we had seen, what we were going back to, and what we would be doing next time. TIGJam helped foster a community that mostly occurs online, a social gathering for those whose usual interaction is text.
I had felt like an outsider before this weekend, but over the course of four days, I grew a lot and learned a lot and was able to find a whole new set of developer friends who have to create. Creation. That is what the game developer is about. It is always humbling to ponder what we do and of what we are capable. I am just glad to see the love of the craft continue so strongly in this generation of game developers that is taking advantage of all of the tools we now have at our fingertips. It really is the time of the indie developer.