Jack was interested in studying programming from an early age but he didn’t get to learn about it much in school. Luckily his dad was a programmer and would talk to him about it, and bring home games which they would play together. At sixteen Jack went to college and studied computing alongside english, chemistry, and maths. He was also interested in and learning about cryptography and making Android apps, and made his first game, which was a text adventure.
Jack then decided to go to university to study computing and games development. He said that on his course he met many people from different backgrounds and with different skills, which is important when working together on projects. Jack explained how his course worked at university. Students would choose a module, study for six weeks, then be evaluated on their work. He met Will and Sam on his course and they became best friends, and realised that their different skills worked well together, so they formed So Good Studios and made their first project, Bath Tubb Pirates.
Three days after their final exam, So Good Studios set up their business in the Formation Zone, which is an “incubator” for start-up buisinesses. They made their first commercial product, a multiplayer game called Tap Tournament. Jack said that there are many business and tech networking opportunities in Plymouth, including SOUP crowdfunding events.
Finally, Jack gave us “Jack’s Super Cool Advice for Aspiring Game Developers”:
Work hard on your studies while you are under 18
Studying at university or college is not a necessary route to get into games development but it can be extremely helpful!
Learning to find information and teach yourself new things is a vital skill for games developers. You also need to enjoy learning new things.
Joining and building a community with other game developers allows you to show off your games and get support.
A community will also help you find people to collaborate with. This is important because different people bring different skills to a project and splitting work makes it easier and faster to complete a project.
Being part of a community can help you to promote your work.
Create a portfolio of your projects as you make them so that you can share your games, art, code etc.
A portfolio is crucial to your CV to show employers, colleges and clients what you can do!
It’s easy to make a portfolio online, for example you could share your work using WordPress, Patreon, YouTube, Tumblr, ArtStation and Scratch.
At the end of the talk Jack answered some questions from the audience. The room was almost full and I think that the talk was really good! I’m going to check out ArtStation and I want to get more involved with the Plymouth Game Devs and meet and work with more young games developers.
The event started with a video about the Global Game Jam. The video explained that the GGJ is a massive international event involving over 600 jam sites and more than 40,000 people across 90 countries! We saw clips of people working in teams all over the world. Most of the people in the video looked like they were in their twenties and I didn’t see anyone else around our age but I hope that there are others out there somewhere! There was a welcome talk by the Extra Credits team. Extra Credits is a YouTube channel that gives advice and has discussions about game development, and me and J really enjoy their videos.
The narrator explained some of the different reasons people take part in GGJ, like making prototypes for future development, to share their passion for making games, and because they love developing new games. They then gave advice on taking part in a game jam:
Keep It Simple!
Communicate with your team and the other participants. Being able to reach out for help from other developers is a benefit of doing a jam.
Keep brainstorming short and develop your ideas through the jam. A game could start with an idea that seems odd but could be well made and fun (e.g “Mario’s core concept is a jumping plumber on drugs.”)
Compromise with your team, and don’t dig your heels in.
Know what to save for next time! Stay focused on your main idea and leave some of your other ideas for another time. Try keeping a “For the sequel” file of ideas.
Get some sleep.
At the end of the video there were lots of short clips to introduce the waves theme. We weren’t allowed to talk about the theme on social media until the next day because everyone has to wait until the last timezone (Hawaii) is told the theme! It was just after 5pm on Friday when we found out the theme.
Me, J and our mum had a short brainstorming session together, and we talked about different kinds of waves e.g. sea waves, waves of monsters, sound waves, seismic waves… We talked about what ideas we had related to them and about different game genres, and decided to make a game where you had to save as many people as possible from an earthquake using a giant claw to take them to a safe zone before the timer runs out. We planned it out on paper and made a short video with our little sister. We would only have until Saturday evening to make the game because we had plans for Sunday (visiting the Eden Project with friends), also we couldn’t work on Saturday morning because me and J both have regular Clubs then. We knew that we had very little time so we worked for a couple of hours from home that night, I worked on the art for the main character and J started to code for the shaking background and the people to rescue.
In the morning we couldn’t do any work because J had his Code Club and I had my NatSatClub. I had a workshop on using Photoshop to make animations. I got back to ThinqTanq just after 1pm to start work on our game again, but my mum had lost the stylus for my drawing tablet! Luckily Viki (ALittleRedPanda) had one spare and lent it to me. J was responsible for the coding and music, I was in charge of making the art assets, and our mum supervised us to make sure we were on track.
The art assets I had to make included the character in peril, the claw to pick them up with, and the safe zone to drop them in. I made all of them in Manga Studio 5 in a pixel art style. The character has their hands in the air, and has a little animation which makes them look left then right, to give the impression they are running around screaming. The animation only uses two frames. I designed the first sprite, then for the second frame I flipped my design and edited the t-shirt on the flipped version so that it was correctly aligned. I only had time to design one character, which my family all say looks like me!
Next I worked on the claw, which has an “open” design while empty (and looks a bit like a propeller), and a “closed” design when holding a character. I did the “open” design first, inspired by the claw machines in arcades. This was another two frame/costume animation, for the second frame I erased the outer joints of the claw. I am happy with my design which does look like a mechanical claw from a birds-eye view.
I designed the “safe zone” as a white square with rounded edges and a big red cross on it like a cartoon ambulance. I also hand-lettered “SAFE ZONE” on the digital image using my stylus and big, black and blocky letters, to make it easy for the player to identify.
By then J had got most of the game code sorted out, so I sent him my finished sprites so he could add them into the game (he was using plain rectangles which my sprites had to replace). I still had to make the background and the start screen, but my hand had started hurting after making the first few sprites so I took a short break and tested the game. J had managed to also make the game music in BeepBox which he said he wanted to sound like an earthquake. We were laughing over the music and the little screaming characters running about because it was quite comical and ridiculous.
I got back to work and started making the background. We had decided to use a road and pavement setting and I dotted rocks and rubble all over it to give the impression of an earthquake. These small elements are also necessary so that when the background shakes or a character moves around it you can imagine the movement and it seems like a real space rather than a flat background. I learned about doing this when we made our last game, Infection! I designed one pile of rocks and rubble and I cloned it to dot around because I was short of time to make lots of different piles of rubble.
The last thing I had to design was the Start Screen. A Start Screen is important to explain what the point of the game is and what the player has to do. I chose a colour scheme that made me think of dirt/earth to go with the game theme. I chose not to use a ready made font but instead I hand-lettered the game title and instructions using my stylus. I didn’t want to use a font that someone else had made as I wanted our game to have its own original look to it. I tried to give the letters a messy but simple look. I wanted to also make a Game Over screen but my hand was hurting too much to do any more drawing and we were running out of time. Finally, my dad, my mum, me and Jenson all recorded voice clips for the game for when the player saves the little people. We used an Android phone to make these wav files (and the Hertz app) and we tried to make funny silly voices to fit with the feel of our game.
It was really fun making ‘Quake Rescue and being part of the Global Game Jam. It felt like I was part of something giant with all the other jammers around the world. The other teams at our site and Jack (SoGoodStudios) the organiser were all friendly and supportive. I think our final game works well and I would describe it as a fun minigame. I think we have definitely improved our skills since our first game jam and our teamwork is better too but it did get hard later on Saturday when we were tired and J wanted to finish up before I did. I am looking forward to doing more game jams through this year!
On the weekend of 30th September to 2nd October KitiJenGames (the games development team consisting of me and my brother) participated in the Games for Better 48 hour game jam. The game jam was organized by Jack from SoGoodStudios and Oli from Sizeable Games because they believe that games can be a good tool for educating people about issues in the world. The game jam theme was Antibiotic Resistance.
On the Friday evening before the jam we went to Plymouth University’s Babbage Building to listen to talks from experts. The first speaker was Dr Victoria Hurth (Twitter) who is an Associate Professor in Marketing and an expert in sustainability. She talked about sustainable consumption and explained how animals are being bred (for food) in poor environments and they are given antibiotics to keep them healthy. Because of this more bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics leading to the creation of ‘superbugs’. The second speaker was Dr Mathew Upton who is an Associate Professor in Medical Microbiology and he said that “Resistance Is Inevitable” when we use antibiotics and explained about bacterial conjugation. The third speaker was Dr Richard Ayres (Twitter) who is the Lead of Population Health at Peninsula Medical School and a practicing GP. He explained that sometimes doctors don’t get a lot of time to assess their patients and this can lead to prescription of antibiotics when they are unnecessary. The talks were really interesting and I didn’t know a lot about antibiotic resistance before them so I learned a lot.
As soon as the talks finished the game jam started. It was late on a Friday night so me and my brother J went home and talked about game ideas. We decided to make a game where you play as an antibiotic and you have to defend the white blood cells from bacteria. As you play, some bacteria would become resistant and you would have to power up with extra different coloured antibiotics, causing the bacteria to then become even stronger! The game would be impossible to win and the goal would be to get the highest score possible. We worked as a team to make a plan on paper and we decided that J would be in charge of doing the coding using Unity and I would be in charge of all the art. J didn’t know much about using Unity yet but he thought this would be a good chance to learn more. I decided to go with a cute pixel art look and that I would use Manga Studio 5 to make my files.
On Saturday morning J went to his Code Club (Twitter) and I went to my Art Club so we couldn’t get started on our game until the afternoon. The list of things I needed to design was the bacteria, the power-up, the white blood cells, the antibiotic, the background and the border. I began working on the main character designs, sketching on paper. My antibiotic character was a blue pill with a smiley face that would have a little rocking animation. My first attempt at a bacteria character looked too much like a little sun (very jolly!) so I redesigned to make it a bit more evil, and came up with a ball with angular spikes and a mean face, which would wiggle as it moved. My white blood cell characters were dopey-looking spheres,and in our game they wouldn’t defend themselves but would just hang around until they were killed by bacteria.
J asked if I could provide my designs as a sprite sheet. I learnt how to make one from a tutorial and then drew the different sprites for their animations using my Wacom Bamboo tablet and Manga Studio. After I sent a sprite sheet of the antibiotic over we needed a background. We used a basic plain one at first but it was difficult to tell if the character was moving around, so I made another background with rectangles of different sizes and similar colours, and for the border I used the same pattern but with darker colours. It was a simple design (supposed to represent the inside of a body) but I really like how it turned out. I created the sprite sheets for the other characters and sent them over to J’s computer for him to add in to the game, and I designed some ‘cover art’ to put on our itch.io page (and at the top of this post).
We had to haul our computers to the Babbage building on campus on Saturday night because J was struggling with making the animation work, and Jack helped us out with that and him and Oli gave us some tips. We arrived just in time to share the free pizza which we ate while listening to video game music and chatting. My mum had to start helping J with his side of the gamemaking and they spent a lot of time searching online for tutorials and help, but I think he learned a lot about Unity during this project. We had to give up the idea of power ups and new levels because we ran out of time, and there are a few bugs with the scores, but overall I think our game is fun and cute.
Jupiter Hadley played all the Games for Better games (including ours) for her YouTube channel Jupi Plays (support Jupiter on Patreon) and the judges sent us some feedback to help us improve our gamemaking in the future. J has signed up to a Unity course to learn more for our next project. I have signed up to a course on Pixel Art so that I can improve my skills and make more detailed sprites. Our courses are both on Udemy and if you look around online you can find big discounts on them. I am also researching game cover art because I would like to improve my cover art illustrations.
I really enjoyed this game jam and I’m looking forward to the next one, and though 48 hour game jams are really hard work they are well worth it because you have to push yourself and so you can learn and improve your skills a lot in a short amount of time. Follow the link for my post about our first game jam.