The sun falls over the Henry Hicks building on Saturday as the students within the fourth floor Shiftkey Labs of the Computer Science enters hour nine of the Computer Science Society’s Game Jam. This all-weekend event was hosted to foster student’s interests in Game Design and other related disciplines.
A game jam, an event popular among independent game developers the world over, is made up of groups of developers and programmers working together in small groups to complete a game (or at least try) in the allocated period.
This Jam was the brainchild of Richard Sage, the President of the Computer Science Society. He described the origins and process behind the event as such:
“A couple years ago, I said to myself, ‘Hey, it would be cool to organize a game jam here in computer science.’ This was not long after I joined the society [the Computer Science Society] council, and so I wanted to make something happen that I thought a lot of people would enjoy. Starting last May or so was when I was finally putting the plan into motion. I’ve been talking with both the faculty and specific game development studios around Halifax to help out.”
The game development studios included local developer Alpha Dog Games, known for Forgeworld and Wraithbone, and Orpheus Interactive, who released the game Sons of Anarchy in January, each of which had staff volunteering to help the students program their games and providing mentorship and advice.
The games which the students were programming varied. One popular genre was that of Simulator games, like that which the 1st year Computer Science student duo of Nick Burris and Liam Hartery was working on.
Their game, “University Simulator 2k15,” was a Java encoded university simulator, with a heavily pixelated art style. In it, they were hoping to give the player free range with running the university. As Burris put it:
“We’re hoping to program a university simulator, hoping to simulate the management of the university. You can run this university however you want, you can be very mean, very nice, however you want to be.”
At this point they were establishing the graphic display of their game. They tried to present the visuals from the game itself, but the code was broken – instead, they showed me some of the visuals they had drafted up earlier.
The kind of a hiccup wasn’t unexpected – for them, this was the first time they were programming a game in Java, and while it wasn’t an completely unfamiliar, it was one which they were still learning new aspects of.
This duo had programmed at an online Game Jam prior, making the game “Furaingu Kai” (Flying Trees), completing the game in 48 hours. The game consisted of a space ship, which would dodge around trees and laser beams flying through the screen.
Another group was made up of Anna Marie Leblanc, a King’s FYP student with an interest in Computer Science, Cuong Nguyen, a CS Master’s student, Peter Sousa, a third-year Computer Science Student, and mentors Jeffrey Fillingham, Cameron Hall, from Copernicus Studios / Dune World Collective and Orpheus Interactive respectively.
Their game, “Male Fantasy Simulator 2015,” a wrestling game featuring glistening male bodies, was mostly complete and was playable. As Fillingham described it:
“You use the left stick to move the left arm. You use the right stick to move the right arm. And you press A to thrust your pelvis, and X to back up.”
The goal of the game was to knock the opposing player off of the platform which the male forms were upon. The group was especially happy with the implementation of the hip thrust mechanic: “That Hip Thrust Mechanic is beautiful,” said Anna Marie.
Fillingham described how they had done this: “Basically, we just use a rag doll for the entire body. And for the hip thrust, there is a rigid body on the pelvis. And for the Hip thrust, we just add force to the pelvis. And we add for backwards to the pelvis to back up. Pretty much everything is done by forces.”
The team had also was working on a second game, “Fall of the Whales: Game of the Year Edition,” featuring Whāle, a robot accompanied by flying whales as spirit companions, navigating an obstacle course, which was incomplete at this point.
Earlier the Computer Science Society President Sage described what he envisioned success to be like:
“Some of them [the teams] might have something playable. But the purpose is to get them started, get there feet wet and get advice from local professionals. This is the starting off point for people that want to make games but that hadn’t had the opportunity or motivation to do this in the past.”
By all accounts, this seemed to be on track for the participants of this year’s Game Jam.