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Global Game Jam: success for SA

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Global Game Jam was big this year – 450 locations around the world participated in the weekend game-making marathon. Celebrating the spirit of experimentation in gaming, the game jam gave opportunities for new and experience game developers to collaborate and make something special in 48 hours. Joburg and Cape Town took part, and the results were seriously impressive.

First up, though, the global part of the jam. Everyone around the world was given the same theme:

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

What an artsy and abstract theme! Here is the keynote address that was streamed to all the locations, too, for those who are interested. It features Richard Lemarchand, Kaho Abe and Jenova Chen.

Okay, now to the awesomely local part of the Game Jam. Cape Town saw 12 games submitted by the end of the weekend. 53 jammers registered, including some of the guys from Free Lives and QCF Design, as well as other established Cape Town studios. At that number, Cape Town was actually at full capacity in their UCT venue. Check out this video (with music that makes my ears bleed) of the Cape Town jam:

Our very own Nick Reay, aka the awesome Rincethis, was on-site at the Cape Town Jam. As our correspondent at the event, here’s what he had to say (note: Cape Town had actual game judges who gave out awards):

Cape Town’s event also boasted awards for certain categories. Under a Glass Bell won two awards for ‘most fun game’ and ‘best theme’ while Oculus Rift Dungeon Throne won ‘most daring project’ and features goblins being strung up on your throne room walls. Not that the prizes were any sort of motivation for the developers; while I was there, I spotted quite a few beds laid out just behind the owner’s computer stations proving that the bad smell was not just an imaginary stereotype. In fact some were so committed they spent the entire 48 hours plus working hard on their projects, taking breaks only when food was laid out. I was also impressed at how enthusiastic the developers were, sleep-deprived and mentally exhausted as they were. Each was more than happy to take time to show you how their game worked and listened to feedback in a positive and constructive manner.

That is the great thing about events like this, you are shown how professional South African developers can be; with support from people like Nick Hall (Chairman of Make Games SA) these events are guaranteed to grow year on year. This Wednesday (29 Jan) will see the monthly met up of the Make Games SA in Cape Town and will also showcase all the games that were launched at the event. This is a great opportunity to show off some games that suffered from technical glitches and also allows for some more ‘polish time’ for the creators.

I checked in on the Joburg Jam – what an amazing vibe. The room was filled with a bunch of first time jammers, as well as some seasoned veterans. Joburg saw 64 registered jammers making 14 games, some of which I got to play with. Most developers were using Gamemaker or Unity to forge their creations, although an all-lady team of crack coders actually built their Android game from scratch; this particularly impressed the group when they realized this was the team’s first ever attempt at a game.

Joburg Pan

Joburg’s jam was hosted at Microsoft, and I feel bad for those people going into those office this morning – there’s no more coffee, sugar or oxygen in that room. However, there were some radically creative games made, and you can play them for free. I was impressed by the Android game, Bit Cloud, that creates a Pokemon-styled experience of battling with creatures every time you connect to a new Wifi network. In Echo, the player is actually blind and must send out pings for echolocation as they try to consume smaller creatures and avoiding being eaten by the bigger ones – with some extra polish, I could see this game going viral. The Maltese Foursome is essentially a manic local multiplayer version of speed Clue(do) that you’ll want to play again and again. However, my favorite game of the Joburg Jam was Trivarient, a truly unique puzzler from the Celestrial Games crew. Play it for free and help me pester the guys to make it an even bigger game – I need more of it in my life.

Go check out all the awesome games from Global Game Jam – you can play them for free and some of them are really rather spectacular. I’m curious to see how some of the innovative ideas are utilized in future projects.

Last Updated: January 27, 2014

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