In this episode of Design Talks, Evan and Robbie chat about the jamming culture at Free Lives; why we jam; possible pitfalls; and how to get the most out of the practice.
Design Talks: Jamming Culture
SA Game Jam 2017
Free Lives hosted the second annual South African Game Jam in September, with over R15 000 in cash prizes and a spot at A MAZE JHB for the winning game. Here's a look at how things went at the Cape Town venue, and the winners!
Congratulations everyone! SA GAME JAM 2017 had around 30 entries made over the event’s weekend.
And congratulations to those that jammed together at the jam locations (and especially to those that organized the in-person jams). We hope you had a great experience, learned from those around you, and made some friends in the process!
This year had fewer games entered than last year, which made the judging job a bit easier, but there were still many games deserving of consideration, and it’s never easy choosing what to reward. (Next year we’ll start a discussion about how to make the SA Game Jam more exciting and accessible and see if we can beat the entry count from the first year).
Having said this, the greatest congratulations belongs to the winners. Those teams (and individuals) that spent a weekend building games, and created something spectacular.
- Student, Hobbyist and Diversity category winners each received R2500
- Best Art R2000
- Best Audio R2000
- Technical Excellence R2000
- Best Narrative R2000
- Overall Winner gets R5000
- Three entrants were exhibited at A MAZE JHB!
- The overall winner exhibited their game at Amaze 2017 and had a five minute hypertalk slot
- An additional prize of a trip to A MAZE JHB 2017 was awarded to the Overall Winner team (this included a flight to JHB from anywhere in SA and an entry ticket to A MAZE)
The “overall winner” was the game that we thought provided the most novel experience, and best embodied the theme.
OVERALL WINNER: Human Resource
by Ben McInnes, Adone Kitching, Nina Lewis and William Christian
Human Resource both continues the (mis)adventures in the world of Parasol Corp, as well as this team’s winning streak. Once again, impressive world building and writing is at the forefront of the experience. While the game suffers a little bit from an ambitious scope, all the details feel considered (right down to the design of the corporate letterheads), and given a bit more time we’re convinced this game would be amazing.
Human Resource interprets the theme in a novel way, with the player collecting evidence that allows them to fill in the blanks the report they’re tasked with compiling. The brilliant twist here is that the evidence is needed to not solve the crime, but instead construct a false narrative that suits Parasol Corp’s dystopian purposes. This forces players to adopt a role where they don’t “see what’s right in front of [their] noses” but instead find useful clues in the periphery, all the while filled with certainty that they’re on the wrong side and that the crime they’re helping cover up could happen to them if they don’t show obedience dedication.
On top of this, Human Resource is excellently presented, with a lot of love having gone into the construction of this wonderfully mundane office location, along with tasteful audio design that brings even more detail into the world.
Team Group Effort, behind the overall winning game Human Resource is being partly sponsored to fly up to Johannesburg and exhibit their game at A MAZE.
Honourable mentions for Overall Winner:
Blird Watching by @creative630, @bestnickname, @steamhat, @Ramperkash and Richard Ramsbottom
This was a particularly weird and novel experience. It incorporated the theme well, and while games where players collect animals in locations have been done before, this experience subverts all expectations. If anything it’s an anti-animal-collection game. If Blird Watching had some additional goals (like earning cash from photographs of rare birds that allow improvements that induce new rarer birds) this could be a really compelling experience (as well as being an utterly hilarious one).
The Student Prize and the Hobbyist Prize both had very strong contenders, and these were the same contenders (as the teams both were both comprised of students and hobbyists). It’d be accurate to say they are both equal runner-ups to the overall prize.
STUDENT PRIZE: Truth Be Tolled
by Andrea Hayes, Bracken Hall and Benjamin Crooks
Truth Be Tolled tells a story from the perspective of a gatekeeper in a medieval town. The fate of the town being at least partially dependent on the decisions they make, like who they accept into town and how much money they collect. This sets up some difficult choices, as the circumstances of the town begin to grow dire, as well as some enjoyably silly choices, like answering “What is my occupation here?”. While the story cut’s off early, presumably due to a lack of development time, Truth Be Tolled is a strong concept worth exploring.
HOBBYIST PRIZE: Collecting Regrets
by Julian Pritchard, Romeo Molongoana and Sean Goncalves
Collecting Regrets is a simple game, but a good experience. The player plays a life of a person who must make a series of binary choices which affect the course of their lives. It’s a detailed and melancholy story which appears to have but one happy ending and many regretful ones.
Gravitron by Duncan Fraser, Paul Myburgh
Gravitron is a relaxing but challenging cooperative local multiplayer experience. The objective is always the same, that of using the various forces at your disposal to push balls into holes, but each level introduces a new complexity that has to be solved. Cooperation is essential in the later levels of this game, and so, coupled with the pleasant ambience that soothes frustration, Gravitron provides a lot of opportunities to learn to trust the person you’re playing with.
DIVERSITY PRIZE: Blob Eat Blob World
by Kirsten-Lee Naidoo and Rohun Ranjith
Blob Eat Blob World is a small but charmingly executed local multiplayer game where players attack each other with bits of themselves. The twist is that you if you fire off your last blob you will die, and as you collect more blobs you grow larger and become an easier target for your enemy to hit.
ART: Truth Be Tolled
by Andrea Hayes, Bracken Hall and Benjamin Crooks
Truth Be Tolled is beautifully presented. The pixel art conveys the mood of the game extremely well, and the slowly shifting lighting gives a sense of the passage of time. A lot of work has also gone into the character designs and their animations, and this work let's Truth Be Told stand out above the rest in terms of visual presentation.
Earth Prison by Ashley Sanders
Earth Prison also has some lovely pixel art, and is especially impressive for the whole project having been done by one person. The way the level comes alive once the portal has been opened is particularly well realized.
NARRATIVE: Human Resource
by Ben McInnes, Adone Kitching, Nina Lewis and William Christian
As has already been said, the world building and role the player takes on in Human Resource make this game really special. The writing itself is very funny, and feels like there were almost too many ideas to fit into just the one game.
Collecting Regrets by Julian Pritchard, Romeo Molongoana and Sean Goncalves
Truth Be Tolled by Andrea Hayes, Bracken Hall and Benjamin Crooks
TECHNICAL EXCELLENCE: Blird Watching
Apart from Blird Watching’s absurd premise (that of photographing what appear to be boneless flightless birds), where Blird Watching stands apart is in the number of technical tricks it pulls off. Photographs can be taken with a variety of graphical filters (parodying Instagram filters) and the resultant images can be saved onto the hard drive. Along with that the birds themselves are floppy and rigged, and while they don’t behave like blirds per se, their behaviour is surprisingly engaging to watch.
This year was a bit of a drought for Audio. In fact so much so that we’ve decided not to hand out an audio prize.
Agra the Agoraphobe by CrissOle had some lovely music composed for it, but the three stock sounds used for the rest of the game weren’t particularly fitting. And while the audio design in Human Resource was excellent, the sounds themselves weren’t custom made for the game.
Next year we’ll double the audio prize instead!
The judges who sacrificed their time judging the games, and who you should blame should you disagree with their decisions, are:
Francois van Niekerk
The judges tried the best they could to award the prizes in a way that rewarded the finest of the games entered, as well as trying to bear in mind the expectations of the entrants (which is always tricky). If you felt anything was amiss, or would like more transparency in some regard, please let us know your suggestions or thoughts.
Dev Log 6: Shattered Realms Update!
Free Lives has been incubating Shattered Realms since Feb this year. We caught up with Kopskop to see how the game is progressing, and how the team is feeling! Tell us what you think!
You can follow Shattered Realms for more here:
Developer Diary – Dev Log 5
The Consciousness Of The Penis
Genital Jousting's upcoming single player mode is making good progress, as Jon and Robyn Scott (voice of Red Bull) record new narrative. The GORN team show us some cool art processes. Then we try not to kill anyone while doing some real life GORN weapons research. With tequila.
GORN EARLY ACCESS: BADGERMANCER UPDATE!
Per-weapon score attack trials that you unlock alongside each weapon!
Test your skills with each weapon in the new TRIALS mode accessible by pressing the button by each weapon’s unlock display. Each weapon has a unique trial.
We’re testing out this idea, so feedback is welcomed! Which are your favourite and least favourite trials? Are they too long, or too short? Eventually we’d like to add some small unlockable for each, a harder mode for each, as well as leaderboards when the game is closer to completion.
CUSTOM GAME MODE!
A “custom game” mode with dozens of settings to tweak!
After unlocking endless mode and obtaining at least 15 kills, a new floor is unlocked where you can tweak various game settings.
Game too easy, or too hard? Want to beat up on a bunch of tiny but giant-headed man-babies? No gravity? Immortal(ish) enemies? Want to see what life would be like as a GORN spectator and just watch gladiators go at it? Maybe experience what it’d be like to be the world’s deadliest ant? Now you can finally get the GORN experience you’ve always wanted!
Suggestions for new custom game options are also welcomed!
ASYMMETRIC LOCAL MULTIPLAYER!
Other people can play along using gamepads!
You can now take control of enemy gladiators in the Custom modes! Play with up to FOUR players, with or against the VR player as a GORN gladiator!
Simply press “START” on any XBox gamepad connected to the computer while in Custom to activate this mode.
We’re testing this out and will still make refinements to the mode, so feedback is welcomed. Our favourite way to play is “Crawl” mode - whoever manages to defeat the VR player gets the next turn in VR.
TWO NEW CHAMPIONS!
Face down the most nimble and elusive Champion to ever set foot in the arena, or cower in terror before the awesome might of the mysterious BADGERMANCER!
Hundreds of physics improvements to weapons and enemies!
Man, we don’t even know where to start…
- Two handed weapons re-designed and rebuilt from scratch. They should behave FAR more consistently, especially in the hands of enemy gladiators. The hammer has been buffed significantly and is now deemed OP by testers (just like every other weapon in the game)! This is the first time we’ve felt that the two handed weapons behave close to how they should, so we’re pretty stoked.
- The spear is now far more powerful as a stabbing weapon and can now be used to lift enemies off the ground!
- On a related note, you can now deal damage by smashing enemies against the terrain!
- All weapons have been tweaked to be less “springy”, and feel stronger and heavier. Flailing is slightly less effective than before.
- Significant but subtle changes to how damage and knock calculations are performed - hopefully to be a bit more consistent than before.
- Enemies are less jiggly, have more moveable parts, and have had their attacks tweaked.
- FAR fewer random physics explosions (though some do still occur).
- Arena knockouts behave more consistently.
- Should be easier to grab the thing that you intend to off the ground!
- Better combo potential with fists/nunchucks.
- Disarm enemies by damaging their hands!
- Stab consistency improvements.
- And plenty of other stuff we’ve forgotten...
MASSIVE PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENTS!
The game runs at a higher framerate overall, and the times when the FPS spikes has been reduced. In addition, there are some basic quality settings now to help address this.
- New options for easy mode - you deal a little bit of extra damage, and time slows down whenever you get hit.
- New options for locomotion - switch the GORN style movement to use the grip button for Vive users, and we’ve added an option to have a control to rotate your playspace for those without 360 tracking setups. The controls on Rift should also make a bit more sense.
- Quality options - If you’re still having framerate issues, these might help. If you do have framerate issues, let us know if these options help or not!
GRAPHICS OVERHAUL! EVEN MORE BLOOD!!
Our art team has been kicking ass and so we have new art for the enemies and a whole overhaul of the arena! Common theme here - let us know what you think. Early Access yay!
New blood! We initially changed it for performance reasons, but we really do prefer the new look! Also it allows us to have MORE BLOOD!
THIRD PERSON CAMERA!
Press SPACE to toggle camera angle and to check out your friend’s sweet moves in glorious third person perspective!
Use WASDEQ to control the motion of the camera.
DIFFICULTY AND OTHER GAMEPLAY TWEAKS
Although we didn’t have time to give the campaign structure a proper re-work this update, we’ve still addressed a few bugs and issues that caused later levels to be harder than intended. There is much more to do on this front, but it’s certainly much better in this update.
We’ve also addressed a few issues with the archer enemies that should make them a bit more consistent, and the arrows should be easier to dodge and counterplay (without a shield).
We’ve also re-worked how player damage and death works - now, if you get hit, you have some time to score a revenge kill to recover. Each hit makes your recovery time less, so you’ll still need to be careful! Hopefully this system feels less arbitrary than the two hit system, and scales a bit better so that single enemy fights aren’t stupidly easy and multiple enemies aren’t stupidly hard. Again, we are jonesing for your feedback and comments on this, so don’t be shy.
NO NEW WEAPONS?!?
Yes, unfortunately, no new weapons in this update.
We felt we wanted to address some underlying issues and lack of endgame before trying to “widen” the game by adding more content. Rest assured that we’ve already started some work on new weapons, and the next update will be very much focused on new weapons and champions.
FEEEEEEED US WITH FEEDBACK!
All of the changes in this update were driven by fan requests and feedback (except the honey badger, which probably wasn’t requested only because everyone already knew it should be the dev’s top priority). So please, if there are things that you like and dislike, let us know! You can post on the Steam forums, the subreddit, or even chat directly to us on the Discord.
Steam forums: steamcommunity.com/app/578620/discussions/
SALUTE AND DO BATTLE!
Genital Jousting Fan Art Competition: THE WINNERS!
Since we launched Genital Jousting on Steam Early Access late last year, the game has been purchased by well over 200 000 players, which is pretty amazing! We decided to celebrate by holding a fan art competition between June and July 2017, with over $2000 in cash prizes up for grabs.
The quantity and quality of fan art received completely overwhelmed us. Thank you to everyone who participated!
We may use a few of our favourite submissions for trading cards, other Steam Art, in promotional material or in game.
"STEAM TRADING CARD" CATEGORY WINNERS
Winners of the "Steam Trading Cards" category will each receive $50:
Cael Fernando Saraiva Pinheiro
Nathália Belzunces Bernardelli
Lucas Fernando Lima Bastos
Gustavo de Assis Bringel
Denilson Tomoyuki Sato
Pedro Duarte Damasceno Pereira
Patricio Clemente Dantas de Oliveira
THIRD PRIZE: $250
Congratulations Roman Dubina!
SECOND PRIZE: $500
Congratulations Simone le Roux!
GRAND PRIZE WINNER: $1000
Congratulations Luke Horowitz!
WHAT WE'VE BEEN UP TO...
It's been a little while since our last Early Access Update (Wet Hot Summer Update 30 May). We are working ever so hard on a major final installment to the Genital Jousting experience, and we can't wait to share it with you! We want to keep it as much of a surprise as we can...but in the meantime, here's a sneak peek at what's in store to whet your appetite:
Thank you, as always, for your support! <3
Genital Jousting Fan Art Competition Judging: Day 2
Find out who makes the shortlist in Day 2 of the Genital Jousting Fan Art Competition judging!
Genital Jousting Fan Art Competition Judging: Day 1
ALL THE ENTRIES!
The Genital Jousting Fan Art Competition ran from June to July 2017, with over $2000 in prize money to be won. We received over 200 entries!! In day one, we show you the incredible scope of artwork received.
Join us tomorrow to find out who makes the shortlist!
Genital Jousting Fan Art Submissions!
GORN LAUNCHES ON STEAM EARLY ACCESS!
GORN is launching on Steam Early Access today! It's on SALE for one week, at $14.99 (usual price $19.99).
GORN is a ludicrously violent VR gladiator simulator, made by Free Lives, the developers of Broforce and Genital Jousting. Featuring a unique, fully physics driven combat engine, GORN combatants will be able to creatively execute their most violent gladiatorial fantasies in virtual reality.
Savagely strike down an infinite supply of poorly-animated opponents with all manner of weapons – from swords, maces and bows to nunchuks, throwing knives, massive two-handed warhammers or even your blood-soaked bare hands. The only limits to the carnage are your imagination and decency, in the most brutal and savage VR face-smashing game ever produced by man.
Get GORN on sale for $14.99 on Steam Early Access now!
If it's been a while since you last played an alpha build of GORN, you might want to do some warm up stretches.
GORN LAUNCH TRAILER
It's been awesome hearing all of your stories about accidental destruction during GORN play (we've bruised a few team members and broken more than a few things, ourselves).
Your experiences were largely the inspiration behind the shooting of our "live action" trailer.
If you enjoyed the trailer, check out our Behind The Scenes (ahem, "Screams") video where we take you through the making of it:
THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
As always, a massive thank you to everyone who has shown us support - if it weren't for you, we wouldn't be making this game.
WE LOVE HEARING FROM YOU