Here’s what went down at Philly Game Jam 2016

It’s unusually warm outside for November 19th, and most of Philadelphia is seizing the opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy it. Instead, a slew of developers and creatives are packing their sleeping bags and laptops and cramming into the office space of Webjunto in Northern Liberties. This is the weekend of the Philly Game Jam: an annual 24-hour marathon jam organized by Philly Dev Night.

Their task is deceptively simple: draw a word or phrase from a hat, find a group, and spend the night creating a game based off of the themes they receive. As many newly formed teams crowd into their work spaces, setting up stations elbow to elbow, the air begins to thicken with a droning symphony of clattering keys and hushed design work.

In the midst of the serious, intricate work of writing code, the monotony is occasionally broken by a passionate argument:

“every day, you just eat a random body part!”

“You’re just a random torso.”

From the other end of the room, an exasperated voice admits: “farts are the most difficult sound effects to capture.”

The process of making games often involves veering into the silly, surreal, and abstract. Perhaps that unpredictable energy is what keeps Steve Pettit focused on his computer monitor at midnight, building 3D models on one screen with a Google image search of “Manifest Destiny” sprawled across the other. His team is inspired by the story of the Donner Party, and are developing a multiplayer survival game with a somewhat morbid concept of competitively eating your fellow players’ body parts.

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Alex, Steve, Chris, and Corey hold group discussions on story and game mechanics.

Other teams wrestle with the difficulty of multiple teammates writing code over a wi-fi network at brimming capacity. Part of the challenge of a marathon jam is finding creative solutions for the seemingly small hangups that lead to disastrous consequences in a race against the clock. Christian Plummer, an experienced jammer, advises: “USB Thumb Drives are worth their weight in gold when the wifi is FUBAR and all you need to do is move a texture from point A to point B.”

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Cody, David, and Andrew are developing a game about filling a field with colored circles.

Plummer’s wise words went out to the Philly Dev Night Google Group, where curious newcomers were encouraged to jump in on the fun. Another essential element of a marathon jam is the experience of teaming up with creative people you might not know very well. There is lots of potential for learning and making new friends. Who knows–maybe a teammate from a past jam might prove useful down the line, when you’re looking for a sound guy to capture your cat throwing up for your new videogame, and he knows just the way to get it done. Generally, no matter what kind of work you do, it’s always valuable practice to tackle something challenging and unfamiliar in a time-sensitive environment.

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Greg and Rob have a foray into VR!

Although jams happen every month at Dev Night, the entire group typically only meets for the kickoff and judging. The audience gets to evaluate the sparkling final version of every game created, and skips the gritty, behind-the scenes details of how it came to be. By doing all of the work together in the same space, jammers have a chance to observe the actual process, and see how different teams reach solutions for their unique problems.

When the clock hit 2 PM on Sunday, the various teams had produced 7 games. The winning title, selected by a panel of professionals: Manifest Destiny!

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cannibalism for the win!

Honorable mentions went to Dead End for impressive use of VR, as well as Combodrop for beautiful design.

You can check the games out, and even download them to play, here!

Philly Dev Night will hold another marathon jam in January 2017: the worldwide, 48-hour Global Game Jam! Stay connected to our Google Group and Twitter for updates. Or, become a supporter of our Patreon to see behind the scenes of our creative process, all day every day, on Slack!

Toy Jam

This past month at Dev Night, we shook things up a little! With the help of Mila Pokorny, our guest jam-runner, 9 teams responded to an unusual theme: make a non-game.

Or, a better word for “non-game” that gets the kids all riled up: a TOY! A fun, interactive object or digital piece that has no win conditions or rules. And, boy, could we toy. I’m talking, a farm animal sound generator for sex noises, a scrap foam airplane assemblage puzzle, a music generator simulated by racing cars–really, we had fun!

 

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The winner – Jason! His virtual toy, Animal Magnetism, generated toy animals into a field that could be dragged and tossed all over the place, sticking together in a weird world that will surely keep you occupied for hours.

 

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Play all of the submissions from Toy Jam here!

Our ever-growing archive of all Philly Dev Night jam games is here.

 

Donte Kirby, a writer from Technical.ly Philly, visited us during this jam judging and published an awesome write-up of the entire experience. Read it here!

Down The Rabbit Hole Jam

The first game jam at G-Team, our interim space after the Game Forge closing, was a huge success!

We played 9 games, each inspired by the “down the rabbit hole” motif found in stories like Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Devs were challenged to make a game about stepping into an unfamiliar world–with laws and logic that are beyond our understanding.

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After lots of play testing and some multiplayer competition, we voted on a winner:
Oh, The Places We’ll Go by Josh Safran! His game–which he showed off on multiple devices–involved tapping yourself across a psychedelic map to master the awkward controls and collect points.

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Download Oh, The Places We’ll Go and see for yourself!

View the rest of this jam’s entries here.

ICJ2 Winners

Philly Dev Night reprised its 1-night analog only Iron Chef jam for the second year in a row this month!

While most of our monthly jams allow participants to work on their games for 2 weeks, in any format, with any materials imaginable, the Iron Chef jam is different. We took some pointers from TV cooking competitions like Cutthroat Kitchen, where ingredients are limited and contestants are allowed to “sabotage” each other for the win. We were also inspired to bring in a squadron of local celebrity judges.

So, what was the result?

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The secret ingredient–hula hoops–was revealed, and each of the 6 teams was required to include one in their game. We jammed for 1.5 hours, stopping only to sabotage other teams with frightening extra challenges, like working with socks on our hands or completing the game in a dark closet.

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At the end of the jam, our panel of judges played each game. Judges included Lakota Theas of Autism Expressed, Kyle Turk (DJ of Philly’s Voyeur and Woody‘s), local artist Jilly Appleheimer,  and Chris Wink of Tech Philly.

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Finally, after a long and wild judging process, the clock struck midnight and we announced the winners: Adam Gross, Shan Hasan, Darryl Spencer, Alex & Andrew! Their game involved a chain of people moving through a hula hoop like circus performers. Congrats, everyone!

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author’s note: ICJ is only one letter off from ICP.

Frenemy Jam

We played and judged the contenders for March’s jam: Frenemy!

There was a broad range of analog and digital games this month, including blind knights and singing swords, jousting BMX bikes, and a game about the New York mafia!

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The winner: Hug or Thug by Jim White, Sophie Triska, and Crystal Vu!

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We now host the games from every jam online!!!

Frenemy games are here. 

The rest of Philly Dev Night’s games are archived here.

2015 Jammies

We hosted our first-ever retrospective award ceremony!

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The most unique and remarkable games from 2015 were honored with a series of special awards. We brought back all of last year’s jam winners, played, reminisced, and voted on our game of the year.

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JAMMY WINNERS:

Dirtiest Pixel: Ghost Crab Games

Hipster Hallmark: Breaker Blocks by Jake Vander Ende

l33t h4cker Award: Legion Defender by Matthew Findlater

The One That Got Away: Riposte by Camden Segal

Jake Is The Enemy: Labyrinthrope by Jake O’Brien

Looking The Devil In The Face: Power Jacker Defense by Aaron Chapin

Taking It All The Way: Resistor by Cardboard Fortress

Fucking Finally: Show Off by Shawn Pierre

Best Kids’ Game: Monster Want Burger by Cipher Prime

Loneliest Lovehouse: Lonely Lighthouse by Steve Pettit & Rachel Stine

Rookies of the Year: It’s Alive! by Corey Arnold, Gregory Martin & Tabitha Arnold

WTF?: Crabmando by Ghost Crab Games

GAME OF THE YEAR: Aaron’s Quest by Kotaro Fujita, Edward Ganges, Chris LaPollo & Bryan Pham

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Kotaro, Edward, and Chris with the jammies hammy


Congrats, guys!!! The grand prize was smashing an ouya remote with the new custom laser engraved ceremonial sledgehammer.

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We also worked hard in February to archive the awesome games created here at the Forge in past jams! Check out the winning games, and many more, at the link:

Philly Dev Night jam retrospective