Beaver Fivăr Game

This is the point-of-view story of four gamers who created a game in 24 hours, at the AmberJam gameathon—East European Comic Con May 2016.

Upon arrival, the 6 teams were awaiting the announcing of the theme for the gameathon.
Upon arrival, the 6 teams were awaiting the announcing of the theme for the gameathon.

The mentor

From focusing on innovation & user experience for our corporate clients to creating a game in 24 hours.

Not long time ago we accepted the invitation we got from Amber Studio to take part at #AmberJam2016 challenge: to be one of the six teams that will create six games in only 24 hours. And we did it. And it was a-f***ing-mazing.

“ in front of more than 40.000 people”

AmberJam  took place in the main pavilion of East European Comic Con, and the six teams had to get through the whole process of taking an idea and making it into a playable game, in 24 hours, under a lot of pressure, noise and in front of more than 40.000 people.  

Claudiu Jojatu, aka the mentor
Claudiu Jojatu, aka the mentor

For those of you that do not know what is a game jam, you should know: A game jam is like a hackathon, but for games. It is a gathering of people that have only one purpose: to create a game, in a very short amount of time. It is a place where you can geek out with other people who love games, technology, ideas, design and other related stuff.

Hope you’ll enjoy our story on how we felt our first game jam and what we’ve learned from it. We will try to create a 360 story on how each of us felt it. :)

 The design guru

Together with the team we first drew the basics of our game’s gameplay. At first, we designed the game as an endless runner where our protagonist had to reach the surface. Based on mentor feedback and analyzing the time and effort, we switched to a form closer to what we have today. A love story with a twist.

With our minds set, we got to work. Mihai (back-end developer) and Marius (game developer) set up the Unity platform, while I and Ely polished the gameplay and its mechanics.

Afterward, I moved to only designing the characters and story. I drew a sketch in a matter of seconds and then designed the final artwork using Illustrator.

Alecsandru Grigoriu in the designing process
Alecsandru Grigoriu in the designing process

Along the way, we encountered two major challenges. First, we had to align our ideas and designs with our experience working with Unity. It was our first major contact with the platform. Second, we had to keep up with the whole events and crowds that were around us. Imagine working for 3 days, 8 hours a day right in the middle of East European Comic Con. Our headphones were no match for the noise.

“Our headphones were no match for the noise”
“Our headphones were no match for the noise”

Another challenging thing, at least for me, was to keep the team on track. It’s easy for everyone to come up with feedback and put a 360 on your ideas. But when time is your enemy, people don’t want to hear the feedback we were chasing to resolve. They want to play a game… a real working demo. I showed my fangs and with the team, we prioritized only what was crucial. We’ve eliminated any nice-to-haves or sugar-coating.

Looking back, it was a great experience. We’ve managed to pull off a full demo experience. The feedback we received was spot on, constructive and motivating.

 The code master

AmberJam was an exciting experience. I wanted to participate both because of the Comic Con and for the game creation.

The Team: Alecsandru, Marius, Eli and Mihai
The Team: Alecsandru, Marius, Eli and Mihai

It was my first interaction with Unity and I was really excited about working with this engine. Besides creating an actual game, of course. I had been to hackathons before, but this one was different. The team was larger, the engine was new for me, the goal was to create something we had not done before.

“The greatest challenges were the short time and horrible noise.”

To be honest, I left home with a different mindset than what we actually did. However, I liked working with Unity because it provides a generous set of APIs and allows you to iterate much faster than other engines.

The greatest challenges, from my point of view, were the short time and the horrible noise around us, I could not focus well on well on the game itself. It did not allow us to make too many changes or add many new features changes that came from the mentors. When your time is limited, it is best to go straight for the initial idea. Our initial idea was nice: a runner type of game.  

Code snipets
Code snipets

 

In the end it turned into a miner game. It did not revolutionize the genre, but in the end we had a playable game and I was proud of my work.

To describe the experience in one word: Awesome!

 The hot-blonde gamer girl

The AmberJam experience was a sum of firsts for me and my team. Personally, I adopted my long-time efficient strategy of making no expectations at all. This way, there would be no way I could be disappointed or overwhelmed.

The Team: Alecsandru, Marius, Eli and Mihai
The Team: Alecsandru, Marius, Eli and Mihai

We established a game mechanic and a story then set off to work almost immediately. Some thought we ‘rushed into it’, others said we were right to spend little time overthinking it.

The truth is, our focus shifted many times during the process, after the mentors’ feedback. We set off thinking on the theme we received – “Beneath the surface”.

On the way, we focused on implementing all the challenges in the game. Later on, we tried to make our little beaver character as funny as possible. One goal remained constant and at the top of our priority list: creating a functional demo.

“ A game that people could play and win. Or lose.”
“ A game that people could play and win. Or lose.”

When creating a game, thinking like a gamer is paramount. Channel your inner nerd. There is little room for the original in a domain where pretty much every story has been told before.

The most challenging aspect was to adapt all the feedback from the mentors into our game. All their ideas sounded great and it seemed like they could all fit in the app. But the time was short and our main focus was rather more technical.

At the end of the 3-day marathon, we managed to create a game that people could play and win. Or lose.

For me the entire experience was amazing. It was intense, it was challenging, and with all the cosplay around us, it was so entertaining!

 

This is it

In the end, here are a couple of things that we’ve learned from the #AmberJam:

  1. Rest. Eat. Hidrate yourself.
  2. Keep it small and highly iterative. If you try to make it too complex, most likely you won’t have a playable game at the end of the gamejam.
  3. Do what you know to do best, but try to get out of the comfort zone. Always do something that you are not sure if or how to do it.
  4. Work agile and don’t overspend or underspend time on one stage. Always take short breaks to make status updates and see where you are in the time planning.
  5. Keep it fun. Really. Keep it F-U-N.

 

Beaver Fivar
Beaver Fivar

Did we say the game is playable, but offered you no links? You can download it onto your PC/laptop. The downloadable app is portable so all you need to do is unzip the pack and enjoy the game!

Download for Mac: grapefruit.ro/labs/downloads/BeaverFivar_MAC.app.zip

Download for Windows: grapefruit.ro/labs/downloads/BeaverFivar_WIN.app.zip

 

 

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