Dateline: The Internet, 201X.
The bit jockeys jacked in through the transdimensional cyberdeck. The megacorps had locked down Sector 4, and now their only escape was a quantum mindfeed across an unregulated sub-Arc. Their last hope was a warning sent out to the past. An awareness drive through the most powerful force known to humanity: the indie game jam.
That's one of the possible origin stories for the Cyberpunk Game Jam, a ten day competition that celebrates the many neon creations of a seedy futuristic techo-society. Alternatively, a bunch of indie devs remembered that they really love the '80s.
Dateline: The Internet, 201X.
Let’s just put this out there: creative people are bad at finishing things. This applies doubly to creative people with dayjobs, as their creative pursuits are chased in off-hours stolen from friends, family, and sleep. For every half-finished screenplay and novel taking up space in a desk drawer, there is also an unfinished game languishing on the back corner of developers’ hard drives. Enter: the Omega Jam, a game jam devoted to finishing some games already.
Decrepit psychiatric hospitals with Gothic architecture and their mentally ill patients still constitute a lot of horror fiction. The recently-released Outlast and Bethesda's upcoming The Evil Within both take place in insane asylums housing horrific monstrosities, but Lucy Morris dislikes those tropes and seeks to challenge developers to create a different kind of horror game.
The Oculus Rift has already been modded into every game ever in the history of everything, but the company behind it will soon be offering an incentive to make virtual reality games from scratch - or 10,000 incentives, to be precise. Oculus VR and IndieCade's 'VR Jam' will run for three weeks from the 2nd to the 25th of August, and there's a cool $10,000 awaiting each of the eventual top winners. Anyone can enter - well, anyone with a $300 Oculus devkit knocking about.
The Molyjam is back! MolyJam Deux, the second worldwide game jam where developers create games based on the tweets of Peter Molyneux parody account @PeterMolydeux, will take place from July 5 to July 7.
Did you know that there's a Nordic Game Jam? Well there is. I mean, there was, what with the 2013 one just wrapping up and all, crowning Knytt creator Nifflas' Spaceship with a Mace the Grand Prize winner, but with loads of other interesting games winning awards too. Several are available to play right now, although the Justin Bieber simulator remains tantalisingly out of my grasp. (Thanks a lot, IndieGames, for getting my hopes up.)
No, Double Fine isn’t creating some sort of crossover between our favorite horror game and Epic’s upcoming Minecraft/zombie hybrid. Amnesia Fortnight is the indie studio’s internal process for fast prototyping, a two-week period where Double Fine collectively drops whatever it’s doing, splits into teams, and sprints to build barebones versions of game concepts. The method was used to greenlight and develop Costume Quest, Stacking, and mobile game Middle Manager of Justice.
Today Double Fine is opening its once-secret process to the public. Partnering with Humble Bundle, a minimum $1 donation earns you the right to vote on Double Fine’s 23 pitches, which range from experimental to ridiculous.
Usually, game jams are about pure creativity, albeit with a theme; they’re to challenge developers to think outside of the box. Sadly, as most disabled gamers know, the biggest games companies are usually the ones who are the least creative about accessibility, if they think about it at all. This year’s Global Game Jam, the world’s biggest collaborative development session, changed that up, featuring an accessibility challenge, with aim of raising awareness amongst the development community of the barriers facing disabled gamers - and how straightforward it is to avoid them.
Designer & accessibility consultant Ian Hamilton co-ordinated the UK challenge on behalf of the IGDA and he explained how it’s a deceptively simple problem. “The common misconceptions about game accessibility are that it is difficult, expensive, dilutes the proposition and only benefits a small minority. In reality, 1/5 of the average gaming age population is affected by a disability, and the kind of considerations involved are often simple design decisions that make the game better for everyone, and cost very little time or money if thought about early enough.”
Though AAA companies sometime make one-off accessibility efforts, like Treyarch’s colour-blind mode for Call of Duty: Black Ops, Hamilton emphasises that events like these are needed to raise awareness; “The red/green colourblindness that Treyarch addressed affects 8-10% of males, meaning they were finally able to tell their team-mates from their enemies. Even just a few minutes thinking about each of the four types of disability - motor, visual, hearing and cognitive - at the outset of a project can make a huge difference, as all of the Game Jam games demonstrate very well.”
Here in the UK, designers, developers, sound producers and artists spread across seven locations were given advice and accessibility mentors to help throughout the event, and split themselves into 20 teams to come up with new, accessible designs for games. We caught up with five of the developers and mentors to find out what their top tips for developing for the disabled were.
The Stop Online Piracy Act took a blow earlier this week when Congress delayed the vote in the face of opposition from The White House, but its Senate counterpart, PIPA is still going. Many sites are planning a blackout tomorrow to protest against the bill. Ludum Dare are planning their own protest, in the form of an anti-PIPA game jam.
Their mission is simple: "Let’s protest! Make anti SOPIPA games on January 18 and make the internet crawl with these! It’s the best we can do, let’s abuse it and help the internet stay the awesome place it is now!" Heavyweights like Minecraft creator, Notch have already thrown their hats into the ring. You can follow the latest Stop PIPA chatter on twitter by following the #SOPAJam tag, and keep track of the latest entries on the Ludum Dare site. Thanks to Sosowski for the tip.
"Alone" was the theme of the latest Ludum Dare indie game contest. Anyone who fancied joining in had 48 hours to create a game based on the theme. Then, everyone got to play each other's games and rate them based on categories like humour, fun, innovation, graphics, audio. The game with the highest overall score takes the top spot.