ith the Global Game Jam 2011 still fresh in my memory, I wanted to write about making A-Pun-Calypse with Epic Game Time.
Global Game Jam 2011
The Global Game Jam is the world’s largest game jam where teams from all over the world try to make a game in 48 hours. This year, over 6500 jammers created almost 1500 games. I’ve been doing these since the first one in 2009 with essentially the same team. Our programmers this year were Nick McClay and Matt DeLucas, and Brandon Bittner and I were the artists. We usually end up picking different team names each year so this year we went with Epic Game Time as an homage to the excellent YouTube group, Epic Meal Time. Also, as a rule, we tend not to bring in any game ideas ahead of time and opt to create a game around the year’s theme. The site chosen to hold the Pittsburgh event was the Art Institute of Pittsburgh (my alma mater), right in the heart of downtown.
The Fake Pitch
At 5pm all the jammers at the Pittsburgh site were rounded up to watch the keynote followed by a 20 minute brainstorm session. The keynote video unveiled the theme of the weekend, Extinction. Everyone was asked to write one sentence synopsis of their extinction-themed game then give an elevator pitch to the group of over 80. My team didn’t have anything ready because we spent the entire 20 minutes installing anti-virus software on each other’s machines, so instead of writing a sentence, I drew this:
The pitch presented the idea that Plague Wars had been going on between the dinosaurs for years. As if plague bullets and climate change weren’t enough, a nuclear asteroid is hurtling towards the planet, which will all but guarantee its destruction.
Our team started the way anyone else would on a time crunch: we went to the bar. There, we began brainstorming in earnest. One of the first ideas we came up with was to use Kinetic Typography as a visual style and game mechanic. The game would animate and narrate quotes about the end of the world and extinction. We spent a while brainstorming on how we could use the Kinetic Typography theme but we couldn’t figure out a mechanic. Would it be a rhythm game where the player would make the video? It would be a nice reward to the player to see the playback from a level. Would the animation play without player control and they would have to keep up? We discussed typing mechanics similar to what you’d see on those teach yourself to type games.
Another idea we came up with involved growing a colony of cells surrounded by competing cells. There was a root cell that you could pivot a cursor around, and the player would control the direction of growth, while starving out competing cells in the level. It was around midnight at this point, and we weren’t any closer to deciding on a game idea.
We were sitting around the table in a brooding silence when Brandon looked up at our pitch drawing and joked, “We should just make Dino-pocalypse”