Monday, 2 December 2013

Juicy Beast on Game Jams

As part of my dissertation proposal, I assigned myself to obtain at least one developer interview in which I ask their opinion towards the participation of Game Jam competitions for the purpose of up and coming games students.

If you are a new student on the course who is looking to develop your coding, design or art skills in Flash really quickly, then the games that Juicy Beast make should be setting a benchmark for you to strive to achieve and one day overcome. If you are looking to increase the odds of getting hired in the games industry after University, then the standard of work you should be aiming to achieve preferably should be higher than the best.

After many e-mails and no replies, I finally managed to hear back from one of my favourite Flash Game developers Juicy Beast! A small Canadian Independent team made up of 2 artists, 1 programmer and 1 designer. These guys have made a ton of well-known Flash Games that have been hugely successful on sites such as Kongregate and Armor Games - I cannot recommend these guys out enough!

Brief Interview
The interview can be also found up on the blog. I hope that 1st year up and coming students on the course refer to this as an incentive to start Jamming! Participating in Jams is one of your best opportunities in standing out from the rest of the crowd for potential employers.
I was fortunate enough to get chatting to Juicy Beast online after the participation of Indie Speed Run 2013 - we were competing in the jam alongside these guys, and so I managed to ask the question:

"How important do you think participating in game jam events is for students trying to pursue a career in the games industry?"

JB: "I think it's super important / useful, since you'll be literally doing the real thing, and not just learning theory about it. You can also afford to fail and learn from the process, since jams are usually short in time."

JB: "It's like a super condensed experience that really makes you learn faster than any school assignment. You have to deal with stress, teamwork, decision making, production, etc. The short time also forces you to keep it simple, which is a good thing. We usually tend to have big ideas with complex systems, but elegance can often be achieved in simplicity."

JB: "On top of that, you are usually surrounded by a bunch of people doing the same thing as you. That means that you can get almost instant feedback from fellow developers and visitors (if there's any)."
JB: "Bottom line is "it's super important". You should participate in as much jams as you can!"

Finding a Jam

 “Many Game Jams require that you register before the scheduled weekend. Some are held at University computer labs, others in office spaces or people’s homes, and many are only done over the Internet. Events with well-stocked computer labs, prizes, and catering cost money, so you’ll need to do some research. Others still are completely free, and the only prize is the finished game you’ll have at the end of it. Even these events require pre-registration in the form of signing up on a website or blog, so you have an account with them” (Kaitila, 2012)

If you are new to jams and you do not know where to start here is the list of some of the popular Jams you can look out for, many more exist can be found online. New jams come into existence all the time while other may not be held next year. Search around and find the ones that appeal to you – and do as many as you possibly can!

Modified list from The Game Jam Survival Guide (Kaitila, 2012)

The Global Games Jam -
With tens of thousands of participants, this yearly event takes the cake for being the best organised, most popular game jam in the world. It is held in late January each year and there are hundreds of local events synchronised to occur that weekend! GGJ is hosted every year in the games labs at UCS, it is a great opportunity to create something awesome!

Ludum Dare
With a ten year history, Ludum Dare (Latin for giving game) is the biggest and most popular non-sponsored community of Game Jammers around. Every four months over two thousand participants vote on a theme and try to write a game in a weekend. Mini Jams are held once per month, but these are more intimate affair with around 60 participants. Highly recommended!

The Experimental Gameplay Project
One a month, these freewheeling dandies pick an interesting theme and give participants 7 days’ worth of effort during the entire month to come up with a game based on it. Less competitive than Ludum Dare, there aren’t any massive voting phases or ranking but this Game Jam is perfect for people who can’t devote a single weekend to game development, and would prefer to space out the work when it better suits their schedules.

The Game Prototype Challenge
Smaller and more personal, this up-and-coming Game Jam generally results in between ten and thirty games being produced, and is held over an entire week, rather than just a single weekend. Friendly and informal.

The Super Friendship Club –
Super friendly Club is an informal and friendly place for people to talk about games they’re making and get feedback on them. They host “Pageants” every two months, where participants make games around a certain theme.

Indie Speed Run –
With an entry fee that allows you to randomly assign you a theme, Jammers have the freedom to begin a 48 timer whenever they like within the course of a month. Very competitive with a selection of industry veterans as judges and huge cash prizes of up to $3.500 can be won for the grand prize. In 2013, judges were Markus "Notch" Persson (Minecraft) Peter Molyneux (Fable 1-3, Godus, Curiosity, Black & White) Ron Gilbert (Monkey Island , The Cave) Brian Fargo (Fallout, Wasteland 1&2) Kim Swift (Portal, Left 4 Dead, Quantum Conundrum) Dan Pinchbeck (Dear Ester, Amnesia) Matthew Davis and Justin Ma (FTL) Trent Oster (BioWare co-founder, Baldur's Gate) Brian Provinciano (Retro City Rampage) Ian Dallas (Unfinished Swan) Andrew Spinks (Terraria) Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw (Zero Punctuation).
Klik of the Month Klub –
The folks at Glorious Trainwrecks have been hosting insanely fast two-hour Game Jams for several years now - frenetic, fun and fantastic.

PyWeek -
If you make games in Python, PyWeek is a popular Game Jam with theme voting, judging and some passionate fans.

Reddit Game Jams –
Held infrequently, game Jams at Reddit can be a great way to meet tons of your fellow game developers.

Newgrounds Game jams –
There are occasional Game Jams held at all of the major Flash game portals online. These can gain you a very large audience of players quickly.

TIGJam –
A yearly event held by the good people of TIGsource, an indie game development community. 

Drem.Build.Play –
A high profile one per year Game Jam for people who make indie games on the Xbox. Large audience, big cash prizes and a lot of really high quality games.

Blitzkast –
A small, informal and fun game Jam that is held almost monthly.

Brains Eden
Highly competitive, held yearly in the summer, this weekend jam is strictly students only. A number of prizes can be won that offer rare opportunities in industry.

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