Luc Shelton, aided by sultry, smokey-ploom of a man Dan Griliopoulos, is showing me the fruits of his work over the last couple of days. He’s one of the incredible student coders who have travelled to London from the University of Derby to do all the real developer work at the Journo Dev Swap game jam.
So has he spent the last 48 hours pushing the slippery boulder of someone-else’s-idea up Wasting-My-Time hill?
Not at all. The team have made a game called Split Destiny. It’s a 2D puzzle platformer in which players just have get to the glowing yellow box at the end of each level.
I refuse to review this game further though. My task today is to pretend to be a journalist and learn all about how hard it is to talk to wonderful passionate people but then have a responsibility to tell the public that realistically they’d be better off buying X-Com than these people’s products. But reviewing the game – or even the performance of the people involved – is meaningless for a game jam.
Luc is showing me his game and although there are obvious failings that we’re both aware of, he’s actually been through a fantastic learning and creative process to make it.
He has learned Unity this weekend. He has developed an idea for a game. He’s worked through the processes of implementing that game. Built, across two nearly-sleepless days, a complex framework of interacting elements. He’s even devised a process to allow a dev-virgin to design and produce level plans that can be imported directly into the game.
These are things he should be shirt-burstingly proud of and that he has enjoyed doing. He knew when he came here that he would be leaving with a great experience not a flawless arcade hit.
While making the game, he and his journalist have been through the process of starting with an interesting concept, building it and discovering and incorporating other fun concepts along the way. The result is an unusual game where your character can spider his way up and across any surface at any orientation, embed himself inside the scenery and switch dimension from a Tron world of code to a page-riddled journalism.
This process is a perfect example of what happens at a game jam – a fast forward example of what happens in all games development. Planning a game to match a brief then assessing and cherry-picking the serendipitous side-products of implementing that plan and integrating them into the experience you want to deliver.
As a professional developer I could comment on how well Luc and Dan tackled the task. I could talk about how the character’s movement should be the next thing they investigate if they want to take the game further. I could even say Split Destiny is better than all preceding games combined.
But this would be like asking Simon Schama to review a village bonfire guy based only on the flem coughed up after inhaling the smoke it gave off when you burned it.
Luc’s experience this weekend has been a great opportunity for personal development and will have helped to keep his brain young by working his problem solving skills.
The game he has made is interesting. The ideas in it will reverberate in the minds of everyone who sees it and filter into their creative processes for every act of game creation they subsequently perform.
Putting it into competition with the other games that the other teams made won’t tell you anything about how much value it has to its creators. It won’t tell you how much they enjoyed being here and how meaningful it is to take on creative learning experiences.
I give this game X% out of Blue.
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