Philadelphia’s Too Many Games Expo, held at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center about 30 minutes outside of the city’s limits, encompassed everything from a flea market for retro and rare games to an indie showcase for budding game developers. This year however, the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) incorporated a game jam within the event, where small teams had 48 hours to build the most creative work they could using a pre-defined theme.
This year’s theme was a picture of a down-ridden merry-go-round covered in rust and lost among a landscape of overgrown foliage. Upon exploring the two humid and sweaty rooms of developers teeming with creativity, I stepped over an individual passed out on the floor and covered in a sleeping bag before making my way over to team Gamma Gods. Comprised of programmers Alex Pizzini and Jason Morano in addition to artist Yanni Hajioannou, these recent Wilmington University graduates were already 24 hours underway before I came across them.
Surprisingly alert, despite the lack of sleep and dinners consisting of Top Ramen, they were kind enough to answer a number of my questions despite the tight time frame. Like nearly every other team in the competition, Unity was their tool of choice for putting their game together. Of all the other teams, I only came across one other who were using XNA, and a final team who compiled their project in Java. With little-to-no barrier to entry and an incredibly intuitive and easy to use UI, it makes sense that Unity would be a popular choice.
Their project is titled Estrellastray (estrella is Spanish for “star.”) “Our main character is lost emotionally,” Pizzini began, “and his childhood imaginary friend turns out to be an alien who sends the protagonist back through time to face his childhood demons.” While I didn’t have an opportunity to play this third-person action adventure game, I did get to witness how sharp the game was looking after just one day of work.
A lava-filled cave was the focal point of the environment, where the protagonist was shining light onto an apparition spawning from the body of his childhood friend as a means to attack it. Sharing completed games is encouraged after game jams, and the team said they have plans to place it online shortly after it is completed, so we’ll be sure to update you as they do.
As I finish writing this, all 10 teams should be wrapping up their work and headed home for some well deserved sleep. Is there a game jam in your area that you’d like us to see or cover? Shoot us a message and let us know! What has your experience been like at game jams? We’d love to hear about it below! If you’re interested in becoming part of next year’s Philly Game Jam, you can always visit their site here.