Design Talks: Jamming Culture

17 Oct 2017

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.

SA Game Jam 2017

Wrap Up!

17 Oct 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.

PRIZES!

- 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 WINNERS!

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).

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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.

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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. 

Honourable mention:

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.

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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.

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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.

Honourable mentions:

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.

Honourable mentions:

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 

by @creative630@bestnickname@steamhat@Ramperkash and Richard Ramsbottom

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.

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Audio

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

The judges who sacrificed their time judging the games, and who you should blame should you disagree with their decisions, are:

Evan Greenwood
Dawid Strauss
Francois van Niekerk
Jason Sutherland

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!

06 Oct 2017

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:

Tweet: @shatteredbrawl
Facebook: ShatteredRealmsGame
itch-io: shattered-realms