ExPlay Game Jam 2012

I had a great weekend at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre in London, attending the ExPlay 24-hour Game Jam. Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way quickly; we weren’t allowed to stay there overnight. Ok, done. Moving onto the good stuff…

It was a really nice space to work in, and having all the other teams really close to each other made it much easier for me, as I was doing what I usually do at game jams; offering sound and music services to as many teams as possible!

At 7pm we got our theme: “Deception“. What made this jam unlike any other I’ve been to is that on Friday night a load of scientist consultants from various disciplines were present to discuss the theme and it’s potential applications in games. You could really see the effect of this on the subsequent designs, with some people taking the approach of basing their games on psychological experiments, or within a biological setting (one game was set in a kind of “bloodstream”).

I ended up working with eight different teams out of the ten that submitted in London. I can’t remember the names of all of the games, but here’s a quick summary of what they did:

The Art of Deceit: A game where the player had to make decisions to help spies deceive their enemies to carry out missions. Brilliant art style. Backing track:

Escape from Nashville: To escape from prison, you need to trade drugs with other jailbirds so they let you pass. You usually have the wrong ones, so you need to trick them with drugs that either mimic the effect, or stop them from caring. Great concept, and nicely made; it put me in mind of a really threatening version of the old Mind Maze quiz game. Setting the scene:

Nick’s morphing game: I forget the name, but you had to command units to acquire good packages, but sometimes they morphed into booby traps as your approached, so you had to be careful. Retro music to match retro visuals:

Steven’s Ninja game: Can’t remember the name, but this was a funky and well-made idea, where you controlled a ninja being attacked by other ninjas. The enemies were invisible unless they were throwing shurikens, so you had to go stealth to trick them into being vulnerable. He somehow set up a phone as a control pad for the computer; very cool. Some vaguely ninja-ish music to accompany:

Murari and co’s running game: This was a autoscrolling platformer which is difficult to describe; you needed to avoid obstacles with your dude and his reflection, with fake obstacles thrown in to deceive you. Difficult and very addictive. Here’s a demo of the music (the little stabs were coded to appear with obstacles, this is just an example):

Carl and friend’s shadow game: I forget the name of this game, and the other team member, but this was a game where you had to guess the shadows that certain shapes would cast. The music would loop, then go to a more tense version, then finish with a countdown style drum fill when the timer ran out:

Ben, Robin and Gorm’s virus game: This one looked very cool; you controlled little drifting triangles, which could squish together to form a square. You had to avoid viruses, which would only attack either squares or triangles, so you had to switch shapes at in the right places to survive. No music for this one, just background rumbling.

Alex, Pedros and Tudor’s strategy game: A great concept; you manipulate a flocking AI population into mining iron for you by implanting deceit into their society e.g. making them want food, then providing food so they like you and will mine for you. I love AI swarming games, and would love to see this one go further! I did do music, but it was a very simple drum beat, and not interesting enough to upload.

The two games I didn’t work on were interesting too, one where you had to verbally convince Mario to jump gaps for you (you actually had to yell at the computer to do this), and another in which you had to ignore all the instructions given to you by the game to get through the levels; it was great watching one of our hosts play through this one on the projector, with the crowd shouting vague advice like on the Crystal Maze. Great entertainment!

They also gave us free beer. This was fantastic.

It was a pleasure to work with such a creative and friendly group of people, and I hope to work with many of them again! I’d like to finish by thanking the hosts and organiser; the Science Museum, the ExPlay foundation, the Wellcome Trust and Pervasive Media Studios. This was a great event, and I hope to attend again! I now eagerly await the ExPlay festival in Bath in November!

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