MolyJam, other game jam events come to the forefront

Chris Barylick at

In the early evening of Friday, July 5, they began to assemble in Oakland. More than a dozen Bay Area video game developers—as well as hundreds of others around the world—gathered at more than 30 sites such as the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment video game museum for "Molydeux Deux," the second annual game jam developer event in which participants chose from 60 inspirational quotes from legendary game designer Peter Molyneux and began a 48-hour process of making functional (and usually ridiculous) video games based on them.

Developers watch the MolyJam Deux introduction movie, which also outline the event's goals and challenges.

By 7 PM, the developers had formed into groups, assigned duties and begun coding. Some pulled out sketch pads, others, audio equipment or drawing tablets, and started downloading resources as needed and requesting art, music and code from team members collaborating from home.

By Sunday night, hundreds of new games had been completed. Many of them were showcased in a staggered, city-by-city webcast and were later posted for download at www.molyjam.com/games. The entries included:

• A first date simulator in which a man and a woman both used a time machine to travel back in time and improve their first date,
• A multiplayer sex simulator with supports for up to five simultaneous players,
• A dog walking simulator in which the dog is given a rocket- propelled grenade launcher,
• A flight simulator in which you fly an only semi-functional plane with various broken dials and readouts
• A game where you play as a Catholic school girl who must continuously adjust the length of her skirt to win the approval of her classmates.

Developers begin to hone in on code and ideas during the second day of MolyJam Deux.

"It's a great way to get quick ideas out, and prototype things, and work with different people," said Brandon Sheffield, one of the organizers of the MolyJam event. "When you've got other people to talk to about stuff, it sort of expands your brain in terms of how you think about problems, and what angles to attack them from."

Sheffield, who stated that he'd initially only intended to stick around "for about 15 minutes," wound up forming a group known as "Team Boring" with attendees James Hoffman and Scott Looney. The trio worked to create a game known called "Freedom Isn't Free," which modeled itself after the Molyneux quote that "Freedom can actually be boring, you've got to realize that." Team Boring sought to intentionally make a game in which the player had absolute freedom to do anything they wanted but no constraints to make the game's rewards challenging or worthwhile.

Across the room, Cecily Madanes and Tiffany McCoy formed an all-girl duo, the two quickly breaking down tasks: Madanes handling art and coding line after line of Javascript, while McCoy began to create sound effects for a text-based adventure modeled after a classic "Love and Rockets" comic book story in which a female engineer travels to an island, solves puzzles, and has a dinosaur fall in love with her along the way.

Cecily Madanes (left) and Tiffany McCoy (right) shoot photos to add into their text-based adventure game, "Dahg".

"It's still inviting and intriguing,” said McCoy. “You meet interesting people and hear interesting stories. And the workflow is cool," said McCoy when asked how she and Madanes felt about attending the MolyJam event. She then added that she was trying to pick up as many audio techniques as she could from the other developers around her. "I'm in sponge mode right now," she said, laughing.

Brian Murphy endorses Reese's Puffs as his art/code/sugar rush cereal of choice.

If you'd like to get involved in upcoming game jam events and dive into video game development, the resources are out there. Global Game Jam generally takes place in January at assorted remote sites. Like MolyJam, it offers gives developers 48 hours to design and complete a game. Ludum Dare, the second-largest development event, follows a similar 48-hour development model, but runs completely online. Roguelike offers developers a full week to create a complete game and other game development events can be found over at www.compuhub.net.

A dog takes a stroll with a rocket launcher in Jethro Bell's "A Walk in the Woods".

Initial character drawings for "Skirt Quest", a game in which the player takes on the role of a Catholic school girl who must continuously adjust her skirt length to win the respect of her peers and improve her self-esteem.

Brian Murphy adds detail to a character design for the "Skirt Quest" Catholic school girl simulation game.

Cecily Madanes shows her text-based adventure, "Dahg", on the final night of Molydeux Deux in Oakland.

Jethro Bell dines on Mexican food and mugs for the camera at MolyJam Deux in Oakland.