April Game Developer Mega Month

The month of April has been unreal for game development events and news.   I’m here writing this article now and I still probably have a good week of things to do before I can truly say things are back to “normal”.  So lets get on with it!  ;)

“What would Molydeux?” Game Jam kicked off the month with an epic trailer we got to watch at the start of it…  Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab hosted the 48-hour game jam.  In that time eight games were produced in Boston alone, some 302 games were made over the course of the weekend across the globe!

MIT Business in gaming (BIG) was a one-day session full of panels and a “fireside chat” with Strauss Zelnick, which was really amazing.  I scored a last minute ticket thanks to the generous donation from MIT via the Boston Indies google group.  There were some great panels.  One of the earlier ones spawned this article about how steam has “devalued” video games.  They fed us, there was a post-event after party that we attended as well till it was time to run over to the NERD building and setup our booth.

I need to mention too that I had a complete stranger with me from London, ON, Canada.  He had good referrals from other Boston Indies who knew him personally so that was good enough for me.  Mike Kasperzak was in need of a place to stay coming down to PAX for the weekend so I offered our spare bedroom to crash for the weekend.  I was able to score him a ticket to BIG also, so it was great to have company, plus he was a gracious guest.  Was really cool to meet a stranger and part as friends.

Made In MA Pre-PAX Party happened that night, since MIT and NERD are pretty much neighbors it meant one long day out on the town.  The Made in MA party was a game industry-centric event with some 1200 tickets sold.  (Pro Tip, happens every year and there is a code to make the $50 event free, just him me up next year or any other Boston Indie for the code ;) I had a table there.

It was my first booth and it was amazing.  I did a drawing for a free iPod Touch for folks who submitted their business card for our email list (I still have to plug in the 100 or so cards I got to mail chimp).  I was also very fortunate to have several indie friends lend a hand and two great interns also help us man the booth because, man it was a whirlwind from 7pm-10pm.  I believe there was an after party there as well, but they all kind of blurred together over the course of the weekend.

PAX East this was amazing across the board.  There were so many industry events going on.  This is an amazing event that while is largely consumer driven, has a lot of panels and opportunities for game developers as well.  I found myself meeting a number of fellow indie developers over at the Indies Megabooth, which featured a number of local developers as well as out of towners showing off their wares.  There were also a number of other locals such as Hip Point and Lantana studios showing off their products as well.

I was also really happy to get the word out about www.bostonfig.com, which we are looking to do this summer.  It is a Festival of Indie Games where unlike IGF and others, will be a gamer-centric event where gamers will do the voting not developers.  We wanted to make something grassroots and transparent when it came to the judging process and allow developers to directly interact with the public.   So I handed out a bunch of these cards.

I was also really excited to meet with some of the folks demoing games, especially the guys from unknown worlds who were demoing their game “Natural Selection 2”.  The first game was (and still is) a free Half Life 1 mod.  It was one of those games that in its heyday a few years ago, I lost sleep playing.  I was very happy to see the new game really captured the core of what made the original great, but now they could make the game do things the original could do with the tech it was built with.

Tencent Boston and Greatestern Tech held a great pax party on Saturday, which showcased all of the art submissions from area game artists non-game development art.  There were prizes for the competition.  I was fortunate to be invited and really enjoyed seeing the works that were submitted which ranged from 3d stills to oil paintings.  It was a very diverse collection of work.

Later that night there was an awesome PAX party hosted by a number of indie studios such as TheTapLab, Viximo, Brass Monkey and more.  It was kinda funny because after about 10pm they had some kind of dress code.. which many of us didn’t fit so they moved us down into the basement which was awesome.  I got a chance to get to know a couple of other Londoners who Mike knew well known as Halfbot who besides just being two cool guys all around, they shared some really great stories like the time their game got completely cloned and released by another developer forcing apple to change their developer policies later that week.  Not every day you meet someone who does that.

Also PAX (who just renewed their commitment to Boston for PAX East for another 10 years) was kind enough to donate space to the commonwealth to have a lounge to promote the game development scene in the state of Massachusetts.  Each day had a 3pm roundtable session to discuss topics related to the state of the industry, the future and other topics revolving around game development.  It was really great to participate.

MassDiGI Game Challenge finished on Sunday afternoon.  It was a three-day event where various established and aspiring game developers got the opportunity to pitch their games to industry folks for feedback and the opportunity to win some prizes.  I got some awesome feedback on several games I was considering proposing and opted to pitch a unique spin on the tower defense genre and won a runner-up award for best design so that was great, but more importantly was the chance to connect with some really great people.  I had a blast and learned a lot.

3D Stimulus Day 2012 is an annual thing that just happened to unfortunately land on the same weekend as the Game Challenge so I couldn’t attend it.  Fortunately both events were at the NERD building so we ended up joining forces for lunch sharing the same space and getting to catch up with developers where were there that I knew where were just there for the one day stimulus event.

BIG Expo (Brown University) Although I didn’t attend this I definitely felt it disserves mentioning.  Props to Nathan and his crew for pulling together their 2nd annual event.  It was a tough call to choose to speak at BIG or participate at the Game Challenge, but regardless, Ichiro and others attended so I know a good time was had by all.

Indie Game: The Movie was showing at a local theater for one night with two showings.  Needless to say they were both sold out.  It was an interesting movie watching these indie developers struggle with all too familiar problems many of us face.

Boston Indies Demo Night was one of the biggest turnouts I’ve seen in some time.  A lot of great games were being demoed.  I showed off a couple of recently launched titles and got some great feedback and know what things I may need to include in upcoming updates.

Boston FIG Planning is also in full swing at this point.  We’re working to get the web page fully setup as needed for the event thanks to Caroline, Dan, and Justin’s collaboration with others.  We are reaching out to any / all media contacts we have as well as potential sponsors to help us make this event classy from start to finish.

 

Whew what a month…

Climb A Rope: Post Mortem

by Chad Serrant

During the Molydeux Jam a few weeks ago, we were tasked with taking one of Peter Molydeux’s craz- er, ingenious ideas and making a game out of it in a weekend. Brendan McLoughlin, Jonathan “JR” Rubinger and I teamed up, and Rick Cody and Miles Flanagan helped with music and sound effects. Our challenge was to make a world where you could only travel along one dimension. We made a game called _Climb A Rope_, and it was made in Flash. Our challenge:

“Can you visualise a world where horizontal is impossible? You are forever falling or attached to verticals?”

What is the game about?

Well, you are climbing up a building. The protagonist is unnamed butwe called him Tracy, as in the comic book character Dick Tracy. The goal is to reach the top, where he can find his box of spare Blue Fedora Hats. In the meantime he has to deal with flower pots and birds. He’s a One Hit Point Wonder – Tracy has to climb all thirteen floors of the building without hitting any pots or birds.

We noted many mechanics from Donkey Kong Country. In particular, the climbing mechanics. By limiting your movement, it forces you to concentrate on moving quickly while dodging many attacks. One boss in Donkey Kong Country 2 is all about this. You hit the boss once, then it flees to the next part of the arena while leaving you in a death trap to climb through. From this we got Tracy’s moves. Tracy can climb up and fall down. He can quickly swing from side to side. That’s all we need to make a game.

We also took Mega Man as an inspiration. Those games are tough but fair – they will usually show you a preview of a trap before they spring it on you. So it’s your fault when you fall for it. In _Climb A Rope_ we drop a flower pot early on. This pot can’t hit you, but now you know about it. That way we can quickly throw three pots at you in a row and not feel bad. Everyone gets a chuckle out of the in-game hint, “Oh yeah, there are pots” AFTER we’ve thrown one at you, so this feeling came across pretty well.

For the music, we looked for a slow, 30s Jazz feel. JR mentioned the driving music from the _Dick Tracy_ game (NES). We wound up using the style of “Empire City(Night)” from _Sonic Unleashed_, but Dick Tracy was not lost. He became the basis for the main character, Tracy.

We decided on Flash as our platform for the project based on a suggestion. It was neutral enough of a platform and playable on many devices and OSes. JR thought of _Climb A Rope_ as an Android app, and showed a Frogger clone to prove it could work. This enforced our idea of keeping the screen and game mostly vertical.

We had a ready-to-play prototype on Saturday night, then spent Sunday working on finishing touches and incorporating user feedback. Like any game there were a million things we wished we could have done but ran out of time for. We initially wanted to force Tracy to climb back down to the ground level once he reached the top. We also wanted to use grenades to destroy obstacles. We also thought of multiple stages, multiple buildings or maybe climbing up a mountain. We wanted one more type of obstacle -a squeegee thrown by a window washer- but you have to know what to cut when time grows short.

What went well

1. _Flash is easy to learn and develop on._ The Flixel library was designed for making games and simple applications in Flash, and we picked it up very quickly. It is pretty mature and there is a lot of support for it. Also, the sample code is well explained and fits what we were trying to make. Too many times am I stuck with undocumented but “awesome” libraries, or I need to use it in an unconventional way. Any questions we needed, they were answered quickly. None of us knew Flash or Flixel, so this was a big help.

2. _Playtesting._ Initially, your falling speed was the same as your climbing speed. One of the floors drops a flower pot on you just as you climb past a balcony. The intended solution is to change sides as soon as you can. But a lot of players (myself included) would try to fall and hide below the balcony. We really noticed this on Saturday night, when many people would try to fall down and get hit. One player suggested we increase the falling speed. Hey, that’s a good idea, we thought.

In terms of gameplay, the move isn’t very optimal- it’s usually easier to wait or switch sides. But people enjoyed that freedom. It made them feel like a Ninja. I don’t imagine Tracy as a Ninja, but it makes people feel cool. And that’s what matters, right?

3. _Flexibility in Graphic Design._ The graphic design went through several phases. We initially weren’t sure if the game would be during daytime or nighttime. I gave Tracy several contrasting colors (yellow, black, orange and deep blue) so he would stand out no matter the time. This paid off, as we eventually decided the time of day didn’t matter – we placed him directly against a brick building. He still stood out thanks to his blues and blacks.

Using a brick building also helped us with another issue: How to render the balconies. My first render assumed they would hang out from an adjacent building. I thought Tracy was climbing between two buildings, each one off to the side. When I drew the art, JR and I were able to quickly notice our visions were diverging, and he suggested crawling up a building, with the balconies coming from the background.

What could have been better

1. _Weird Sound Issues with Flash._ We began adding sound and music late into development. Unfortunately we learned MP3s add empty frames on startup. We had delays up to 50ms when playing sound effects. Often this is your first warning something is onscreen, so that delay is huge. Luckily, JR had some familiarity with this issue, so we decided to change the file formats. Unfortunately we couldn’t get other formats to run. Flash doesn’t accept WAVs, and Flixel wouldn’t play OGGs. We tried to build resource files, but the engine wouldn’t utilize it either.

Another issue that came up involved hit detection and noise. Tracy freaks out, screams and falls when he is hit. When a pot fell on Tracy, it kept hitting him even as it broke. So Tracy winds up screaming multiple times. Very loudly. We added some one-time switches so his “death” would only occur once.
2. _Hit Detection._ I split my time between art and programming. I drew some prototype graphics so we would have something to use while coding. When it came time for hit detection, I learned Flixel has bounding box hit detection. Unfortunately, it uses the entire box, alpha layer included. Tracy is much smaller than his sprite box, so things would hit his transparent hit box and he’d drop dead. It’s not very fair.

I spent a LOT of time looking for a pixel-perfect hit detection engine. _Flixel Power Tools_ saved the day, once I figured out how to install it. Sometimes 3rd party libraries are a pain to install. Once you download Power Tools, then you get the howto instructions. At any rate, once Power Tools was added pixel perfect collision was easy.

Now we entered the follies of pixel perfect collision. Tracy’s coat flaps out as he climbs. Sometimes this will intersect with the balcony, which pauses his movement as he climbs. There were a few ways around this. I could have made a “core” hitbox that is stable, and map Tracy on top of it. Or I could have kept Tracy’s coat separate. But we were pressed for time, so we instead moved the balcony over so you can’t enter this situation. Sometimes Duct Tape is all you need for complicated problems.

There’s another problem, though. Tracy can climb up and get his head glued into the Balcony. Brendan pointed out that hit detection gets weird unless you can look at a system on the whole. If Tracy climbs into or falls on a balcony, we halt Tracy. We could push Tracy away from the balcony, but then Tracy would bounce his butt off the top of the balcony. We would have to calculate the direction Tracy enters and reply accordingly. This is too much effort for too little reward. Plus this can be an engine quirk we can keep for later.

We finished development Sunday afternoon and prepared for the presentaion. We aren’t workng on it anymore, but the codebase is open source, so feel free to add all sorts of additions. You’ll have to shrink the credits text a bit though – we took up the whole page!

Chad Serrant designs games as a hobby. Reach him at chad@chadius.net.

Global Game Jam 2012

This coming weekend, January 27th to 29th, 2012, is the Global Game Jam, the largest and most furious game jam event in the world. The GGJ spurs hundreds of game design groups all over the world to gather at various locations with a singular goal: to produce a complete game within 48 hours. Designers, Artists, Programmers, Sound Engineers, Musicians, Writers, Producers, Students, Professionals, Hobbyists, and anyone else with a skill they can put into a video game are getting their tools ready for this Friday, when the theme of this year’s jam will be released.

Boston is home to many venues for the event, and quite a few of our Indies participated at both the MIT Gambit Game Lab  and Creative Industries Northeastern University. Be sure to be on the lookout after the event, as games start to go up. We’ll be sure to keep you posted about the particulars of the event.

Can’t wait? Try some of the Games from Previous Jams

 

 

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April 2011 BGJ – CardBoard Jam – Jam Within A Jam Within A Jam

 

On the weekend of April 9 & 10th, from morning until night, about 30 game developers gathered into 8 groups at GAMBIT Game Lab on MIT campus to participate in a new type of Boston Game Jam. This time around, video and computer games were set aside for board and card game projects. Jeff Ward and Tim Volpe wrote up their enthusiastic perspectives on the Cardboard Jam shortly after. Check back with Boston Game Jams soon for more details and comprehensive coverage of all the Cardboard Jam projects.

Here we offer two unique perspectives in separate posts from members of the one jam team made up entirely of Boston Indies community members. Andrew Brockert’s post shows us the internal experience of the jam and provides a setting and atmosphere with its words; the other, by Chad Serrant, is a play-by-play breakdown of the mechanical and collaborative decision-making efforts that combine during the development of a board game in two days.


From contributing writer Chad Serrant.

Jeff Ward, Andrew Brockert, Tim Crosby and I came together during a weekend in April for a Game Jam. The topic this time: it’s not digital! We had cards, tokens and dice. It was quite a change of pace from other game jams, but it would be pretty boring otherwise. There were many newcomers to this Game Jam, too. Digital vs non-digital attracts different crowds.

The name of the game is what we wrote on the back of the cards. The name changed between Inception, Ensepshun, Inception 2: Incept Harder, Inception 2: Electric Boogaloo before Andrew chose the easiest pun graphic to represent on the back of a card. Now that’s executive action!

This game is cooperative, where four players try to build a path to the goal, pick it up, and head back to the start. They must also deal with Danger, which will boot them out of the game if they or their allies cannot help. The game should last for about 15 minutes tops, depending on how much the team argues.

It begins with an idea (Photo by Rik Eberhardt)

Inspiration
Tim had watched the movie Inception for the first time that Friday and he wanted to make a game based on it. I wanted to make a cooperative game, because I never see enough of those. We banded together with Jeff and Andrew and aimed for a game where you tried to build a path and grab the MacGuffin while avoiding danger. If one person made it out with the MacGuffin, everyone won.

Add some Boston Indies in jokes, and the MacGuffin became Scott MacGuffin became the Viximo. Buy their stuff so they don’t get mad at us :)

Crafting
One big difference between this game jam and other game jams is that we spent most of the day crafting and refining the playable game. Usually you spend two hours designing the game and twenty hours programming it. But this weekend we were designing and tweaking the game play up until closing time. Andrew squeezed some time on Sunday to print out cards on card stock. Iteration is awesome!

As with iteration, we had lots of time to reject ideas. This part is always fun. Limiting resources to the minimum number (e.g. four). One idea was to give path cards unique bonuses and penalties for moving up and down. We decided to keep it simple and leave them blank. Jeff and Tim did not want dice and cards, so the deck served as a luck component. The Gear card probably went through the most changes and is now a risky yet necessary part of the game.

Playing Jam Within A Jam Within A Jam (Photo by Calvin Nelson)

Play Testing
The nice part about fast development is that we can playtest the hell out of our game. We wound up adding personal goals because we found an optimal solution that made the game too easy. We also added a timer to force people along because otherwise the team could Discard and Draw until they have the perfect deck – the Pandemic problem, as Jeff puts it. We used to have a “Move 2” card but ultimately folded it into the Path card.

Long ago when I showed my QBasic games off to people (QBasic for life!) I learned that the games I make are much easier for me than they are for the testers. So I wasn’t surprised when we invited other people to playtest and they had various difficulties playing. One team didn’t embrace teamwork and were wiped out. Another team tried the “Pandemic problem” approach but abandoned it when Personal Goals were added to the mix. Overall, teams were able to win very reliably but it was very tense throughout the game – the perfect difficulty.

Lessons Learned

Jam Within A Jam Within A Demo (Photo by Rik Eberhardt)

The difficult part about programming a game is that it takes a while to get the prototype up and running. You can’t really tweak the game or add new rules on the fly, and then you need to worry about bugs. (Unless you write bug-free code, like I do. Naturally.) There are no bugs when you deal with cardboard, and you get a lot more time to design and tweak your game.

Rapidly iterating a game makes it mutate very quickly. We began with a template close to the film Inception but veered away when we allowed movement in any direction. We use Secrets as currency to fend off Danger and pick up the Viximo, while in the film there is no physical Viximo to pick up – in fact they are searching for secrets.

I had a blast this weekend and can’t wait for the next Game Jam like this. It was good to give my design muscles a workout for once.

The rules for the game, and enough information to build your own deck, are available here:


 

Chad Serrant works as an Escalation Engineer at a computer data backup company. He lives in Arlington and designs games for fun in his rapidly dwindling spare time.

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April 2011 BGJ – CardBoard Jam – Looks Good On Paper

On the weekend of April 9 & 10th, from morning until night, about 30 game developers gathered into 8 groups at GAMBIT Game Lab on MIT campus to participate in a new type of Boston Game Jam. This time around, video and computer games were set aside for board and card game projects. Jeff Ward and Tim Volpe wrote up their enthusiastic perspectives on the Cardboard Jam shortly after. Check back with Boston Game Jams soon for more details and comprehensive coverage of all the Cardboard Jam projects.

Here we offer two unique perspectives in separate posts from members of the one jam team made up entirely of Boston Indies community members. Andrew Brockert’s post shows us the internal experience of the jam and provides a setting and atmosphere with its words; the other, by Chad Serrant, is a play-by-play breakdown of the mechanical and collaborative decision-making efforts that combine during the development of a board game in two days.


From contributing writer Andrew Brockert

You are seven years old, on the playground at recess.

“The ground is lava!”

“But if I run to the swingsets, I’m safe!”

“OK, but you have to get on a swing, and then you can only swing ten times before you have to run back.”

Minutes later…

“This isn’t fair, there aren’t enough swings!”

“You can only swing three times now. If you swing more than that, you burn up and die.”

In our digital medium, it’s easy to get tunnel vision about what play is. At the Cardboard Jam, we stepped into the world of board games for a weekend and got a reminder of the full possibility space open to us as game designers.

It started, true to game jam style, with pitches. Here we were led by Jonathon Myers, as Darren Torpey, the Honorable Boston Game Jams Czar, was occupied for the morning wrangling three wildebeest. The ideas and coffee flowed. Play a senator in a game of pork barrel politics? Work together to deal with a superhuman AI that thinks it’s the Messiah? Be an advisor to the mayor in a SimCity-like government, and compete for the leader’s ear?

For me, the idea of a board game inspired by Inception resonated, so I joined up with Tim Crosby, Chad Serrant, and Jeff Ward to go deeper. We started from a simple premise: begin at the top, build a path to something at the bottom, then retreat back through that path.  The items you lay down on the way make your descent easier, but then they turn into hindrances on the way out. Based that idea, we labeled different index cards as “path”, “secret”, “move”, and “gear”. These cards gathered arcane annotations as we tried different variations, rejecting more ideas than we kept. Rule changes often took place in the middle of play: “You can only place gear on the path you inhabit or the path immediately below it.” We played variations of the same game for hours. I was on the playground again.

When we needed a break, we wandered around GAMBIT, listened to and played with the games of other teams. Of course, we also partook in the sublime results of Vickie’s food jam. I played one of Luther Patenge’s prototypes, which resembled a creative twist on the shell game. Walking through the halls and labs from time to time, I caught glimpses of the evolution of several other extraordinarily original games. GAMBIT’s label as a “game lab” is well-deserved.

It seems repetitive to underscore yet again how original and clever every game was, but the closing presentations of our work did just that. Everyone present (including a few people who showed up just for that — I’m looking at you, K. Adam) got to see the results of a weekend’s work. At the end, everything was still a little rough around the edges, but that’s precisely in the spirit of a jam. Regardless, the thought and effort that went into each and every game was plain to see, and it manifested in different ways. Swamped! had beautiful imagery in its pieces and cards. Light Fuse and Get Away had a deeply intense and fast-paced dynamic between its two players. Everyone there learned a little more about the craft of game design.


[Photos of note card pitches and demos by Rik Eberhard. Swamped! photos by Calvin Nelson]

All game development events in Cambridge must, it seems, end in beer. A pilgrimage to Cambridge Brewing Company was a foregone conclusion, and it proved a cathartic post-mortem. Even after the jam, much conversation was in the future tense (“we’ll have to try it with a larger deck and see if it becomes less swingy”). It wasn’t all about the games, though — there was much passing of a Nintendo 3DS for analysis, talk of current and future plans of the jammers, and, when I brought out our cards, a tiny bit of complaint about the amount of black toner used over the weekend (sorry, Rik!).

You — yes, you, reading this now — can learn something by getting together with friends and jamming on paper. Anyone who makes games, whether as a pastime or for a living, needs to know how to iterate, and going back to the absolute basics of pen and paper can remind us all of how to do that.

Until next time, I’ll be on the tire swing.


 

Andrew Brockert is an engineer, writer, dabbler. As a Massachusetts native, he is thankful to have an extraordinary game development community in Boston. He blogs sporadically at mercuric.net.

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Global Game Jam 2011


 

The premise of the Global Game Jam that took place during the final weekend of January was so mind-blowing that I asked everyone the same question at least once: “Are the games really finished by the end?”

And the polite answer, from everyone not too busy to speak, was “almost all of them, yes.”

I’m not so clueless that I didn’t think it was possible.  I mean, I know how many hours it takes Cactus to make a game, but it’s the sheer volume of content that blew me away.  The intense ratio of playability (or at least entertainment) to time was stunning.  In fact, I could have sworn there were more games at the end than at the beginning, but then again it’s because of that kind of math that I’m a journalist.

The Global Game Jam showcased a lot of Boston Indie talent.  Some participated on the design side, while others like Darren Torpey and Tim Volpe came out to give a helping hand with programming and production. They worked on the flash game Punk is Dead, written in HTML5 platform Akihabara.  The team effort included art from Caroline and Jeff Himmelman, with music from Daniel Perry and Lawrence Lee, all of whom frequent Boston Indies meetings.

This year the space filled up enough that organizer Rik Eberhardt was forced to turn people away lest the Gambit Game Lab become too clogged with developers to actually produce any games.

And what games they were.  Last year saw eight titles, this year 14 with a 15th team participating off-site. The theme of the jam was “extinction” which, as you might expect, meant scoops of death, death, and more death on the banana split of global apocalypse. A few choose to examine extinction in its psychological definition as the unlearning of a conditioned response; they were outnumbered by meteors, zombies, and the grim reaper.

TwitApocalypse Team

That last one featured prominently in a social game (and I use the term loosely) called Twitapocalypse.  You play as the grim reaper, late for his own apocalypse, who must kill the people on his list in the right order, for some reason. This list comes from the player’s Twitter account, but the catch is that their names aren’t displayed; only their last tweet and profile picture are visible. As you slaughter them, the game asks “How well do you really know who you’re following?”

Ryan Kahn, Darius Kazemi and Imran Malek were the programmers,  Shervin Ghaemmaghami voiced the grim reaper himself and handled design. Vytenis Krukonis and K. Adam White were the artists, Akash Thakkar joined the team on day two to add in sound and music. A silly game about a silly service, it is still one of the few social games I can think of that uses a social service to create interesting gameplay rather than use the social aspect merely as a recruitment tool.

Conway's Inferno

Another favorite, which might win the award for most complete, was Conway’s Inferno.  Created by Feras Iskanderani, Alec Thomson and Arshan Gailus, the game is based on Conway’s game of life, though slanted (given the theme) more towards a game of death, with the objective being to eliminate all of the yellow faces populating each level. Arshan Gailus described its thus: “very simple rules ends up being incredibly complex results, so we made more complex rules with more simple, and hopefully more fun, result.”  It’s still a relatively simple game, which left them with enough time to create a plethora of levels for players to massacre the population with fire, ufos or zombies. The simple puzzler that got picked up by a lot of sites, including Indiegames, and it’s playable now on Newgrounds.

A nice little bonus feature of Conway’s Inferno’s sound design is that the game has procedurally generated music that looks at the state of the game board and changes according to what it sees. As the tiny creatures are consumed in fire, expect a slightly darker melody to play, if you can hear it over their dramatic death screams.

I was impressed at how legitimately fun the games were, even the ones that were still rough around the edges. All of the games are up on the Global Game Jam website, and each one is totally worth a go, from the honeybee flight sim by Amanda Cosmos’ team to the reverse space invaders concept by Kirk Israel’s team to the game where you run over cars and are killed by pedestrians.  Enjoy playing, and if you are a local Boston developer, be sure to sign up in advance for a spot next year when Global Game Jam takes place January 27-29, 2012.  If you can’t wait until then, try an upcoming Boston Game Jam.

A few of the other GGJ games that feature the work of Boston Indies include Candescent, Gravity-Got Blues, Lazris the Bunny, Running is Optional and Ice Breaker


 

Andrew Vanden Bossche is a freelance writer and columnist.  His column, Design Diversions, runs on GameSetWatch and Gamasutra.  His blog, MammonMachine.blogspot.com has occasionally been updated.