Jam report: Castle Game Jam 2016

Finnish Game Jam awarded a scholarship for one jammer to join the Castle Game Jam 2016. We selected Henri Sarasvirta to represent the Finnish game jamming scene on the week-long game jam happening inside a castle in Sweden. Henri enjoyed the journey and shares his experiences with us in his travel report. If you are interested in the Finnish Game Jam scholarship program, you can now apply for the scholarship for InnoGames Jam 2016.

Week in a castle

CastleGameJam

Back in 2015 Newnorth technologies had this crazy kickstarter project of doing a game jam in an actual castle. I hadn’t noticed the kickstarter in time, but luckily for me Finnish Game Jam association had an extra ticket for their scholarship. Big thanks for letting me be the one to get to jam in a castle! The jam differs from usual jams not only by its location but also by the length of the event. Jam started on Sunday with a pre-party and continued with lectures and group forming on Monday. From that point on it was jamming until Saturday morning.

The actual castle where the jam took place was the beautiful castle in Örebro, Sweden. One of the prettiest castles there is. Getting there was the first challenge. Basically I had two options, either fly to Stockholm and get a train from there or enjoy some seas on a ferry. I decided to go with a ferry from Turku to Stockholm. Good time to relax for a bit before weeklong development. The ferry arrived to Sweden around 7am so I had plenty of time to get to Örebro. Got there around 1pm after a bus ride to Bålsta and from there a train to Örebro. Pre-party was to start around 4pm so I walked around and had a bit of sightseeing. Town seemed really awesome place to live in. Lots of small parks, river crossing the town and forming the water basis for the moat around the castle. One thing that surprised me was the amount of bikes and bike parking stations. After talking to one of the locals later on I found out that Örebro even calls themselves “Town of cycling”.

Pre-party was held in a nearby park. I got there a little bit late due to waiting for the rain to stop. I was a bit surprised when I got there, for there was only 2 other people in addition to me. Both of whom were also a little bit surprised that there was no one else there. After some chatting and checking if the spot was correct we found out that time tables were a little bit off due to last minute changes in accommodation. Not a long time after that a fourth member joined our merry little group. An hour after that a lot more people came and brought the sun with them. Pre-party had an amazing swordfighting demonstration by Örebro HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts). Real longswords and swordfightning is a lot different than what they portray in the movies. Afterwards it was hot dog time with some Coca-Cola and Swedish mellanöl.

Monday morning began with an awesome breakfast at the Elite hotel where I was staying. The hotel was just a stone throws distance away from the castle. I could even see it from my window when looking from correct angle. The lectures started around 10 and I was glad to see lots of people I had chatted with the day before. They had 3 different rooms for lectures and most of the time there were overlaps so I couldn’t see everything I wanted to. There were a few really awesome talks; demoscene talk by Troed Sandberg and Massive prototyping by Henrik Jonsson just to name a few. They were filming the talks so hopefully they will be available for public in the near future.

After the talks were done it was time for the themes. Castle Jam differs a bit from Global Game Jams in the theming aspect. In addition to main theme they had additional themes for each “part” of development: design, art, sound and programming. The additional themes worked a lot like diversifiers in Global Game Jams as they were completely voluntary to use. The themes were chosen by the jammers by filling a form before the jam started. The main theme chosen was “Dimensions”. In addition to this they had “Castle”, “Floating Islands” and “Inside strange object” for design. “Dynamic”, “Vocal sound effects” and “Chiptune” for audio. “Low poly”, “Minimalistic” and “Abstract” for graphics. “Alternative physics”, “Procedural generation” and “Rhythm based” for programming. Got a lot of ideas flying around when the talk was done and it was time to form the groups. Originally the group forming was supposed to be done online but the tool to be used wasn’t finished in time so groups were done based on peoples interests. Four rooms were assigned for people wanting to do VR, 2D, 3D and one for “everything goes”. This was one the biggest disappointments for me during the whole jam as I’m not really used to deciding group by people but rather by the idea. After a while in the general room and talking with other people I talked with Andreas Wilcox, whom I had met already at the pre-party and got an idea of bending physics like in the movie Wanted and combine that with Superhot visuals. Soon after Mateusz Pilski joined in and we formed a team of three programmers.

Having talked a bit about the idea it became clear that we needed at least one graphics artist/modeler/level designer in the team. Trying to find people at this point was much harder as many already had a team, luckily in the 3D room things hadn’t gotten by as quickly and we found Julius Sandgren and Erik Häggström to fill the missing spots. The team ended up being very international with people from Finland, Poland and Sweden. At this point the castle was still closed due to table building and network cables being setup so we went to the nearby park to talk about the game and the themes. When the idea got to a consensus point we basically had the following: A fps game with puzzle elements having gravity fields that you need to operate in order to find your way from underground to topside of the planet just to find you’re under a dome and the whole part of the planet is basically a flying island. This changed a lot of course during the jam as is customary.

We got to the castle after a snack at the local Burger King around 10pm. After the computers were set up there was one big problem. Wi-Fi access points had reached their maximum capability and we were missing a few network cables. Swapping cables whenever someone needed internet was the solution and the next day Andreas brought extra cables so the issue was solved and development was on full warp speed. The roles for the development were easily determined. Erik is a graphics artist so he decided to do textures and other graphics needed and additionally did the sound effects. Julius went for the modeling job and that left me, Andreas and Mateusz to share up on the programming tasks. Mateusz took the part of creating support for gravity fields in the unity physics engine, I went for the visualizations required to show the fields and Andreas started on gameplay. First day ended great, after mere 4 hours of development we had a character moving with colorful bullets flying and the first gravity fields were forming up. Time for some sleep at this point.

Second day I started to visualize the fields. This proved to be a lot more difficult than I thought. After banging my head to desk for 6 hours we had a dinner and I decided to give a last try to getting the fields look cool. Luckily there was a great article in the Unity blog about a new feature in Unity 5 called command buffers. This was just the thing I needed to get the fields have this localized distortion effect. In addition to visualization efforts the first models and sound effects were also popping up around at this point and we could start to see how things would work. The alternative physics started to be in working condition at this point also.

Sometime during the second day it became pretty clear that the bullets wouldn’t work as they were traveling way too fast. Time for a meeting to re-evaluate some of the goals and figure out what Mateusz should do next as the physics were done a lot faster than anticipated. Went for a little bit quieter place in the castle deemed “Relax room” with lots of consoles and other games. Meeting ended great and common thought was to ditch the fps part of the game and go fully to puzzle mode. Next few days went on really smoothly with game starting to look a lot more like a game rather than generic Unity physics playfield.

In the morning of Thursday I was really proud to present a level I had made after most of the others went for sleep. The level was deemed to be too hard to be a first level so it ended up being the last level. Which was great for I had this vision of an asteroid hitting the ground in the game and I got to do something even better in the last level. Player pulling a moon to hit the spaceship. We had few people from other teams have a go at the level and got some really valuable feedback. Next up: puzzle designing and level building. Thursday and Friday consisted mostly of testing, iterating, building levels and bug squashing.

Development ended on Saturday 10am and the desks had to be cleaned for the presentations. This is something that differs a lot from how stuff is done usually in Finnish Game Jams. There were no actual presentations but each team took one computer and set it up to showcase the game. Then people from Örebro were invited to the castle to play the games. Also other jammers had the chance to actually have the time to go and play other games. One thing that surprised me a lot during this time was that many games looked really polished. It’s a wonder how much 60 hours more development time can do to a game. In total there were 65 games made during the jam. I had the chance to test around 15 of them. Helmetfall, Toran, Wizard olympics and Tortuga skies seemed really nice just to name a few. Of course our game Dave’s Theory of Gravity is also awesome!

This report ended up being a lot longer than what I had set for while starting writing, so here’s a TL;DR for those in a hurry:
– Castle game jam took place in a castle of Örebro, Sweden.
– Jam lasted for a week with actual development time of 4½ days.
– Main theme “Dimensions”.
– Jamming in a castle is as awesome as it sounds.
– We made a game called Dave’s Theory of Gravity.
– Quality of games surprised me as many were really polished when compared to 48h game jam games.
– Big thanks for FGJ and Newnorth technologies for making this possible for me!
– Jamming is awesome.

And for those who cannot read or do not want to. Here’s a 360 timelapse video of my trip to Sweden:

And if someone wants to see some actual development progress. I took a screenshot every 60 seconds and composed a video from that. Check it out here:

Henri Sarasvirta

FGJ Scholarship: InnoGames Jam 2016 (Germany)

Finnish Game Jam ry is proud to announce our third jam scholarship! This time we are going to send one jammer to Germany to the first ever game jam organized at the Gamescom! InnoGames Jam is a three-day game jam in Germany organized on August 17th-19th 2016. The best projects of the jam will have an opportunity to showcase their jam game at the world’s largest game convention.

Finnish Game Jam organization is awarding a ticket to the InnoGames Jam and a 500€ travel aid to a prominent jammer willing to represent Finnish game jamming scene and bringing back the lessons learned to the community. The candidate for the scholarship is selected based on the applications sent prior to Monday 1st of August 2016 16:00 (GMT +3). Apply now!

InnoGames Jam is organized by InnoGames.com, independent from Finnish Game Jam organization. Finnish Game Jam Scholarship Program is founded to improve the mobility of the Finnish jammers and further enhance the international collaboration of the global jamming scene.

ASM Game Jam 2016

What would Assembly be without rapid game development? Finnish Game Jam brings jamming to Assembly once again! ASM Game Jam is a lot like other game jams with an Assembly twist. This year ASM Game Jam is collaborating with FIVR, so we expect to see a lot of VR games – but you can always choose your own platform and technology.

You can participate by buying the special ASM Game Jammer ticket from Eventbrite or by purchasing a normal ticket directly from Assembly. The ASM Game Jammer ticket will include a computer place and all the normal access on Assembly area. If you already bought a ticket but would like to move to the jammer area please contact vesa@finnishgamejam.com. You can jam wherever you want during the Assembly Summer weekend as long as you are at the Assembly area.

Join our Facebook event page to get all the updates to the jam. If you have any further questions on ASM Game Jam 2016, please contact the main organizer: vesa@finnishgamejam.com

banner_fb

FGJ Scholarship: Castle Game Jam 2016 (Sweden) to Henri Sarasvirta

Finnish Game Jam run a second round of our scholarship program with the Scholarship for Castle Game Jam 2016 (SWE). The ticket for the scholarship came from a private donor, as Rachel Ponce was not able to participate to Castle Game Jam and wanted to hand out the ticket to our scholarship program. We thank of this opportunity! In addition to the ticket, Finnish Game Jam will offer a stipend of 300 euros to cover the travel expenses.

henriWe decided to select Henri Sarasvirta from the applicants for his outstanding jamming background. He has participated in more than a dozen game jams and every Global Game Jam since the very first Finnish Game Jam in 2010. Henri sends his regards: “Jam jam jam! Castle jam sounds like an awesome possibility to take jamming one step further. Having one week to develop games means a total of 168 hours of active development time (Not…). Big thanks for FGJ for making this possible!”

We are happy to send Henri to represent the Finnish game jam scene, and look forward to hear how jamming in a castle feels like!

Castle Game Jam is organized by James Newnorth from Newnorth Technology. For more information, go to: http://www.castlegamejam.com/

FGJ Scholarship: Castle Game Jam 2016 (Sweden)

Finnish Game Jam ry is proud to announce our second jam scholarship! This time we are going to send one jammer to Sweden to the amazing Castle Game Jam! Castle Game Jam is a week-long event in July 4th-10th, 2016 where jammers and game developers around the globe gather to create games and party together – in an actual castle!

Finnish Game Jam organization is awarding a ticket to the Castle Game Jam 2016 (http://www.castlegamejam.com/) and a 300 Eur travel aid to a prominent jammer willing to represent Finnish game jamming scene and bringing back the lessons learned to the community. The candidate for the scholarship is selected based on the applications sent prior to Sunday 13th June 2016 16:00 (GMT +3). Go and apply now!

Castle Game Jam is organized by Newnorth Technology, independent from Finnish Game Jam organization. Finnish Game Jam Scholarship Program is founded to improve the mobility of the Finnish jammers and further enhance the international collaboration of the global jamming scene.

FGJ Jam Jam 2016

Finnish Game Jam ry organizes the annual jam organizer get together, FGJ Jam Jam, at the Sappee ski resort during July 1st-3rd 2016. Sign up now!

If you are an organizer of FGJ affiliated game jams, planning to become one or an active member of the jamming community running your own jams, we would love to see you there! The main task for the weekend is to put together #FGJ17 and other game jams to come, but even more important, we need to chill and chat about the jamtastic Finland – create new ideas and share thoughts, join our forces.

Participating is free of charge, but includes a donation for the shared food and drinks budget. Minimum donation is 1 eur + expenses (Eventbrite fees). You are responsible of your own traveling costs, but if you are a student or unemployed traveling far, we have limited number of tickets that comes with a grant of 50% compensation (maximum of 50 eur) of your travel costs (reimbursed after your trip in return of receipts).

And the award goes to…

This year, Finnish Game Jam ry gave awards to games from different jams organized by FGJ, including of course our biggest game jam, #FGJ16. Out of over 250 games from the 2015-2016 season, these nine games stood from the crowd in one way or another – and their awards are as special as the games themselves. Check them out, enjoy the jam, spread the message!

Brotality Award
Bro Fist Simulator, FGJ Otaniemi
Lauri Rustanius, Kim Valori, Juha Ylimäki

Bro Fist Simulator is an accurate description of the dangers of the bro code. Even when you’re in a danger of losing your fingers, you never leave a brother hanging. Under the surface of silliness the game contains a genuinely fun gameplay and imaginative use of the Global Game Jam 2016 theme.

Alternative Pants Award
Shaman of Rituals for working games, FGJ Kuopio
Tapio Väisänen, Pasi Saastamoinen, Matti Saarinen, Ville Turunen, Joni Pekkonen

What is the best thing you can do with your pants on? What is the best thing you can do with your smart pants on? Shaman of Rituals for working games is a simple, yet oddly compelling rhythm game which you can play with smart pants. As you work your shaman magic, you get surrounded by your strange villagers dancing around you. The game combines the persuasive powers of a digital game, the appeal of alt ctrl and the benefits of an exergame. What else do we need?

Rotary Dial Award
Luurin Luikaus, ASM FGJ ‘15
Salla Huttunen, Timo Korhonen, Janne Koski, Joona Pääkkönen, Riku Rajaniemi, Pyry Takkunen

Remember the time when there were TV games and you couldn’t participate because you didn’t have a modern phone at the house? Now you can experience why you were not allowed to call in. Luurin Luikaus feels like a true trip to the past with flowery wallpapers, CRT televisions and simple yet unapologetically hard-to-play games.

Don’t Cook and Drive Award
Gotta Have Pancake, FGJ Tampere

Mikko Lasonen

Sometimes you just Gotta Have Pancake. This game is for all of you who get the urge while travelling and are considering to cook and drive. This incredibly ingenious game concretizes the fact that cooking and driving significantly increases the possibility of traffic accidents. If your friends are considering cooking while driving, offer to cook for them. They’ll thank you later.

Ultimate Cultist Award
Casually Cultist, FGJ Tampere
Eric Hartin, Matti Isotalo, Miikka Lehtonen, Juuso Mattila, Tony Sundell

Casually Cultist excels both in style and in the interpretation of the Global Game Jam 2016 theme. It uses two of the frequently used topics of this year’s jam games cults and everyday rituals in an unexpected way. When the cult comes to an end and everyday life begins, how can a single cultist migrate and survive within the loneliness of mundane?

360 Elegance Award
Asteroids RedemptionQuantum Game Jam
Veli-Pekka Kokkonen, Timo Anttila, Atso Sariola, Boris Sokolov, Jaakko Vainio

Asteroids Redemption’s black-and-white, grainy graphics, distortion effects and simple arcade-like gameplay comprise an elegant game that you enjoy not only playing but also watching. Its true potential is released on the full dome projector. And this is not all: the game has a basis in the quantum physics, demonstrating the beauty of quantum tunnelling.
Asteroids Redemption

Survival Yogi Award
Ragdoll Yoga, FGJ Survival Mode
Jere Sanisalo, Antti Svenn

When the apocalypse begins and we start running out of power, it is soothing to know that game making will continue until the end of days. All you need is a couple of tablets and willing programmers. Amazingly awful graphics, mesmerizing soundscape and addictive as hell gameplay. With an odd interpretation of the theme “Ritual”, Ragdoll Yoga takes the player on a journey to the world of stretching.

Sinusoidal Oscillations Award
Come As You AreFGJ Helsinki Art Museum
Perttu Hämäläinen, Ville Seppänen, Joonas Häll, Jeremia Kunnari, Bahadir Gürkan, Serdar Bingöl

This is what we suspect the ritual of a sound designer might look like. You don’t have to be a sound engineer to solve the addictive puzzles of this game, but that might help. With a philosophical backstory, eery atmosphere and simple yet inventive mechanics, Come As You Are stands out not only from the multitude of other ritual games, but from the Global Game Jam 2016 games altogether.

Sauna Award
Sauna Simulator 2016, FGJ Turku
Aapo Peltola, Aukusti Manninen, Jami Aho, Jaakko Susi, Taisto Suominen

If you give a theme of “ritual” to a Finn, you cannot avoid sauna games. After all, the sacred ritual of sauna is important to us all. The Sauna Simulator 2016 goes a step further: It wants to spread the sauna love to those without the luxury of it. Just put on your virtual reality goggles, get naked, grab your beer and throw water on the stove. It’s almost like you’re there.

In addition to the game awards, Finnish Game Jam awarded Samuli Jääskeläinen as the Superjammer of the Year 2015 for exemplary and courageous jamming, Remedy Entertainment as the Jamtivist of the Year 2015 for their remarkable and continuous support for the Finnish Game Jam, Anna Permala and Minna Eloranta for their outstanding contribution for the game jam organizing in the FGJ’s graphics team, and Meanfish, Viope, and PlayRaven for their outstanding support as the sponsors of the #FGJ16 event.

Finnish Game Jam Awards 2016

It is time to celebrate the harvest of game jamming! Although Finnish Game Jam is not a competition, Finnish Game Jam ry wants to praise creativity and give recognition for showing courage of creating something different. This year the Finnish Game Jam Awards will be held at Steam Hellsinki and broadcasted for the whole world!

Join us at Steam by registering through Eventbrite or follow the broadcast – everyone is invited either way! The event starts at 18:00 on 9th of May, while the official program starts at 19:00. Dress code for the event is Steampunk/Fantasy theme – or anything you feel the most comfortable with from a ball dress to your everyday clothes.

The event Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1116056748447217/

2016-04-21 11.57.19-1

Jam Report: Train Jam 2016

To promote Finnish jamming scene, Finnish Game Jam awarded a scholarship for one jammer to join the Train Jam 2016. From many excellent applicants, Samuli Jääskeläinen got selected to represent us Finns on the third annual Train Jam running through the USA. Samuli has returned from the journey with a ton of new experiences and shares them with us in his travel report: 

Jamming from Chicago to San Francisco

I took part in the annual Train Jam before GDC San Train Jam 2016Francisco this year. The jam ticket was sponsored by Finnish Game Jam and I am grateful for getting this chance to participate in one of the most well known jams around the world. Train Jam lasted for 52 hours, traveled through seven states and hosted 200 fabulous jammers around the world. I have been part of various international game jams, but this was the biggest non-internet jam I had ever landed my feet on. It was crazy to have ⅔ of a train to be dedicated for game development filled with professionals, indies, students, academics, press and other gamedev loving people.

My journey started one day before the jam, arriving into Chicago munching a Chicago style pizza and sleeping for 13 hours to eliminate any jet lag left from flights across the Atlantic ocean. There was a pre-party organized by local indies behind Bit Bash. I missed the party by being too tired, but the following day I bumped into the party organizer at the jam’s opening breakfast. Local indie scene seemed vibrant and lively, I would definitely recommend not missing on the pre-parties.

After the breakfast was over, team forming began and the theme was announced: Maximum Capacity. Theme reflected the overly crowded restaurant perfectly. I made my way through crowds looking for a perfect match. I met all kinds of fun people on the way and discussed about many crazy ideas. Game jams usually have a very nice and welcoming atmosphere, here it was even better and it only got better once we jumped onto the train.

There wasn’t a lot of time to form teams before the train left, so many, including me, waited for the train to form their final team. I already had a possible team in mind, but I wasn’t sure if the team’s game idea was interesting to build. As a jammer, for me, the making process of the game is way more important than the final product. Usually the best outcomes come from ideas that are enjoyable to work with. That said, just before I physically entered the train, I met my soon to be team on the line.

Ben Burbank and Emily Dillhunt were trainjam2doing a narrative-driven first-person exploration game with puzzles in it. Ben’s coworker Sean Vanaman was doing the story, so I was excited. It is very rare to get dedicated storytellers in game jams, even more rare to get ones that have as much experience as the guys behind Firewatch. We divided tasks on the train: Sean was handling the story, Ben did majority of the code, Emily was responsible for art assets and I was patching everything together in Unity doing level & puzzle design and helping out Ben and Emily when more code or art was needed. Later we were shortly joined by Lindar Greenwood as well, on the audio department. Lindar did audio for various games on the train so we only borrowed them for a few hours.

We didn’t encounter any major setbacks. The game development went smoothly and the team worked together extremely efficiently. We ended up with a decent game called Discharge. You can read more about the actual design behind the game from Ben’s blog post.

There were three unique, train gamedev specific challenges that I encountered. Firstly, moving train makes accurate mouse movements hard. Using a drawing tablet is even more trickier. It was lucky that we went with art deco style so we could utilize vector-like art with Emily. Secondly, the sun glare at my screen during days was horrible for doing level design. We wanted dim lightning for the game, so I had to do most of my light placement during nights or short tunnels. Thirdly, there was no internet or connection was spotty. At one point I had to open up Substance Designer from Steam, but I had forgotten to enable offline mode for the program, so I had to quickly hijack a public wifi during one of the stops to log in.

After 51 hours we arrived to the final destination. Yes, you read it right, 51, not 52, the train was one hour early. You can imagine the last minute development panic that happened when everyone lost an hour of critical polish time. Games were publicly playable at the GDC, now you access them from itch.io. 200 jammers resulting 63 games, team size averaging at 3. The jam was success in numbers and those statistics don’t lie, it was the best non-internet based jam I have had the pleasure to take part in. The gorgeous views definitely didn’t hurt either.

Samuli Jääskeläinen

trainjam3

Thank you, Samuli, for bringing back valuable experiences and promoting the Finnish game jam scene! The Train Jam had a good representation of Finnish jammers, as Annakaisa Kultima and Timo Nummenmaa from Finnish Game Jam ry participated in the event as well. 

FGJ Train Jam Scholarship to Samuli Jääskeläinen

Finnish Game Jam launched its scholarship program with FGJ Train Jam 2016 (US) Scholarship. We got 12 applications, and with many excellent applicants the selection process was a hard one. We emphasized the jamming experiences of the candidates when making the selection.

Samuli JääskeläinenSamuli Jääskeläinen was selected for having an exquisite jamming background. He has been involved in the Global Game Jam since 2012, and has participated not only in the Finnish sites, but traveled across the world to jam in different surroundings. With already a couple of dozen jam games in his portfolio, he’s not afraid of taking risks and experimenting when jamming. Samuli says he is “excited to get dizzy programming on a moving train, meet lots of people and see the beautiful rural landscapes of Northern America!”  We are proud to send Samuli to the Train Jam 2016 to represent the Finnish jamming scene, and can’t wait to hear his experiences from the trip!