This weekend from Jan 24, 2014 to Jan 26, 2014, I participated in the Global Game Jam in Tokyo University of Technology at Hachioji, Tokyo with other Kanagawa Institute Technology professors and students.
I was placed into a very international team consisted of Two Americans, one Australian, one French, four Japanese, and myself who is a Taiwanese. We named our team: Team Go, which in Japanese means Team 5 (we were assigned as team 5). We chose this name because we believe this name reflects the international nature of our team as it has meaning in both English and Japanese
During the 48 hours from 5 pm on Friday to 5 pm on Sunday, our team worked tirelessly and slept very little. We brainstormed for pretty much the entire Friday night, started assets building on Saturday, and on Sunday started putting things together in Unity. Our team as a whole actually did not come up with the name of the game until Sunday at noon.
Some of the problems my team faced including having too many artists (five of our team members are artists with no programming abilities), thinking too complicated at the beginning, and most critically having a language barrier that essentially divided the team in half. Because five of us are non-Japanese and two with very little Japanese knowledge (yes, I am one of the two), we had trouble linking the team together. It also happened that all of the programmers are Japanese while most of the artists are foreigners, thus splitting the team into the Japanese/programmer half and the artist\foreigner half. This communication problem continued to trouble our team until the end.
Our team addressed these problems adequately however, and was able to produce a decent product at the end. The overwhelming amount of artist in our team turned out to not be such a problem as each one of us specialized in different areas. We had a concept artist who can also do basic character modelling, an experienced animator, a good 3D stage designer/modeler, a sound designer who can also do GUI designs, and me who worked as the 2D background artist/model texture artist. We also had one game planner who can plan detailed scenarios. Our programmers are pretty good as well, with one gaming industry professional and two students.
Team Go was able to resolve the language barrier to some degree thanks to Wayne and Alexis who can speak good Japanese and English and these two eventually became the producers of the team thanks to their communication skills. We are later joined by Seth, a programmer who speaks fluent Japanese. With the help of these three, we are able to communicate with each other and able to make a finished product. It is evident though, that the Japanese population of the team felt somewhat neglected and we could have done a better job in including everyone in our discussions if our Japanese skill is better.
Because of the limited amount of time, our team was unable to put every single asset into the game (which is a very common scenario in any type of game making). We were planning on having a total of three stages but we ended up having to drop the mini-world stage built by Max and Seth and textured by me due to not having enough time. About four finished textures I made also did not make into the game. Wayne, who made four sound tracks and many other sound effects ended up only having one of his tracks into the game.
Our finished product is called Shifter, a side scrolling platform game where the player has to guide a size changing humanoid character to find his lost pig friends. The player can only control the size changing and jumping mechanics of the game however, as the character moves forward on his own and will change direction if he bumps into obstacles.
We presented our game on Sunday at around 6:00 in front of the other game jammers. There are a total of 24 teams and 24 games being made. It is very interesting to see the kinds of games every team comes up with as well as the different level of completeness in games. The games made in the jam include shooter, stealth, puzzle solving, reflex, and virtual reality.
Overall we had a lot of fun and I met many new people. It was also surprising the kind of connection and bonding one can have with one’s teammates in just 48 hours. I was also surprised at how little sleep I need to function when I am in a state of excitement. This is definitely an interesting experience and in the future I may join more Game Jams.
For those interested, visit the site below and click on Shifter to enter our site: http://globalgamejam.org/2014/jam-sites/tokyo-university-technology-tut/games