Last weekend I went to TOJam, and it was awesome. In this post I’m going to explain a little bit about what TOJam is, and then I’ll explain what I ended up making there.
TOJam is Toronto’s big annual game jam. This year there were over 250 game devs all making crazy games for 3 days straight. Everyone got there on Friday and worked through the weekend. Some people even slept at the building (or didn’t sleep at all!). It was held at the George Brown College Autodesk Building, and there were tons of great computers (dual quad core Mac Pros with 12gb ram) and great monitors (Apple 24″) for everyone to use.
Being at TOJam was a great experience. Everyone had a ton of energy and enthusiasm the whole weekend long. There seemed to be a pretty even mix of artists to coders, so I got to see tons of game art getting made over the course of the weekend. Lots of people were using Unity to make their games, although I think the most popular tech was still Flash.
One of the best things about TOJam was how much free food there was. It was completely free to attend, and yet throughout the weekend there was a TON of stuff being given away. There were bagel and pastry breakfasts, a chinese food dinner, a pizza dinner, and an unending supply of candy, chips, and drinks. I was given the opportunity to sponsor something at TOJam, and so I decided to sponsor the candy area, which was named “Trainyard’s Candy Yard”.
I didn’t dare do my first game jam ever by myself. I partnered up with Owen Goss and Whitaker Blackall. Together we formed Team RGB (Rix, Goss, Blackall). The plan was for Owen and me to do art and coding, and then Whit, who lives in Chicago, would do all the sounds and music remotely.
Alright, so what did we actually make? Well, the theme of the jam was “What Just Happened!?” and so we decided to make a gameshow style party game called “What Just Happened?!” (note the punctuation, hah). The idea was that something would happen, and then as a player, you’d have to answer a question about what just happened. The key was that each player would have their own device to play on, and so we could do things like giving different information to each player and making them work together (or not) to answer correctly.
Neither Owen or I had done much work with HTML5 Canvas stuff, yet we decided that it was the best option. It was kind of a strange choice considering that we’re both professional iOS developers, but it really just made sense. We wanted to make something that anyone could play just by going to a website on their phone, rather than having to download a specific app. Creating it in HTML5 also meant that it would work on all kinds of devices, including iPhones, iPads, Android phones, and even Playbooks.
The golden rule of game jams is that you should use tech you’re very familiar with, but we blatantly disregarded that. Luckily, we found a framework called EaselJS which let us get up-and-running with HTML5 dev pretty quickly. The backend multiplayer code is written with Node.js and Socket.io, which I had used once before when creating Nodetris.
We split up the coding work pretty evenly between us. Owen did the majority of the frontend UI work, and I did most of the backend stuff and minigames, although we definitely switched roles a few times over the weekend (the Goat minigame was 100% Owen, for example). All of the work on art was also split between Owen and me, with some small debates about what style to use for the buttons and the logo, among other things
We gave Whit the rough guideline of “create music that sounds like an old game show, something like The Price Is Right or Jeopardy”, and he did an amazing job. Whit also did all the announcer voices and other sound effects as well, all of which were spot-on.
Whit’s The Price Is Right style theme:
Whit’s Jeopardy style theme:
So after 3 days, TOJam ended at 8pm on Sunday night, and we finished right on time. The final game has six different minigame types (clock, robot, numbers, colours, penguins, goats). Each minigame has 3-4 possible questions that could be asked. For example, in the number game, it puts a different number on each person’s screen for a few seconds, and then asks a question like “which number was on the most screens” or “what’s the total of all the numbers that were shown”. Every minigame has tons of random variables, so no two games will ever be the same. Below is a quick quick demo video I made of the game:
Try it out
If you want to try it out right now, just go to WhatJH.com. It’s set up so that you can create a room at whatever subdomain you want. You can play it by yourself by opening up a few browser tabs, although it’s a lot more fun to play with real people. It’s worth noting that if you want the awesome sounds+music, the host should be run in a real browser with Flash, because HTML5 audio support is awful.
So that’s about it! Let me know what you think in a comment or on Twitter. I’ve also included Owen’s demo video of it below, because he does a great job of showing what it looks like to go through a full game.