I've never been to France before. Home is where my desktop is and I like to stay at home, to work on my games. The only things that are luring me out of the cave are festivals, exhibitions or game jams. Last weekend I got my reason to visit Lille, France. I was invited to be in the jury for a game jam.
TL,DR: It was amazing! Scroll down to see all the jam results immediately.
The theme of the Artgame Weekend 4 already sounded awesome: Instead of selecting a theme the organizers chose to let the participants think up new ways to interact with a game. “Think art, Use controllers, Make a game, Play with us!” is the claim of their event. So here is my blog post to everybody who missed it or didn't realize the amazing French indie scene.
The first moment of an ongoing chain of enthusiasm about the Artgame Weekend was made by the building the jam took place at. The former textile manufactory was rebuilt to an inspiring, modern work space with an amazing area to work, enjoy and to display projects (in the form of a huge Gameboy!).
Seventy people worked together in twelve groups. When we arrived the attendees already teamed up after pitching their ideas. With this method no ideas or controllers were used twice!
The second moment of excitement took me when I arrived in this room full of creative energy. There were guitars to control characters, pianos to create objects, buttons attached to human bodies, chalk for blackboards to draw on or even ten mice attached for one game. A group of people was building a bomb. Someone was wearing an Oculus Rift. Two participants connected their smartphones to the laptop to control their game ... Breath in, breath out. Wow!
If you want great games to be made, bring together talented people from different backgrounds in the right place.
The whole event was assembled by Marc Lavigne (game industry north) and Simon Bachelier (One Life Remains). All the people they brought together for technology, exhibition, cooking and organization worked together so well! If I learned one thing in Lille it is how to really make the perfect game jam. If you want great games to be made, bring together talented people from different backgrounds in the right place. I'm not sure if I could copy this event easily. But I think I should care more about the participants well-being next time I organize a jam.
So did the organizers of this jam: To make sure everybody can face technical issues they engaged talents to help out, like Armel Gibson, one of the coaches for design and technique, who was helping with getting the PS Move controllers working in Unity. While Sosowski was whirling around to help a team whose game was called 'Yetis with machetes' (made with the UDK), I met Nicolas Tilly (Ecriture Videoludique Magazine), who was the third coach in this mad mayhem of handicraft work.
And they engaged us, a jury to judge the jam's work. A fact that puzzled me, but I guess with competing against each other and a jury to show their stuff to, you get these kind of excellent projects and getting really motivated.
After a while the jury was complete, consisting of Jon Bro (Lucky Frame, GB), Chris Priestman (Indiestatik, GB), Cara Ellison (Rockpaper,etc. GB), Thorsten Storno (Amaze Festival, D) and me (Rat King, D). In the end I was glad we didn't really judge the projects, especially because people could switch between groups. So we grouped up, checked out the projects, talked to people, asked critical questions, got impressed and ate delicious freshly-made food they served at the jam.
And instead of working the night through we did have a party with DJ and nice Belgian beer. And a party after the jam, with J.S. Jousting and a couple of other multiplayer games.
The biggest shame: I didn't bring my laptop, because I feared to have too much package for the flight. Next year I want to take part in game-making myself. Bring my own Arduino and build awesome stuff! Be part of this creative madness.
To make sure you understand why the results of this jam where so inspiring that I really missed taking part myself, here is the complete list:
If we would have to judge this game would have gotten the WTF?!-Award! I knew some of the team from Bokida before, which is a clean, well-designed sand-box game I first saw at the Notgames Fest. It seems too much artsyness needed to be destroyed with a mad story about people dressing like horses and horses dressing like men. And only six-legged Chirac is able to save the world. Color. Penis-tentacle action. Shooting. Button-smashing. Music!
This game caught my interest from the beginning. The team crafted with Arduino, physical buttons, Xbox-controller and Kinder eggs. The idea: Two people attach the buttons to their body. When one button is pressed, the other player feels a vibration. Both create a sequence dance with pushing the buttons in turns. Although they couldn't finish the game like intended, this game was the perfect essence of a good jamming: Try hard, find new stuff that wasn't made before and learn. I hope you guys finish it!
3. Prepare to meet thy god
When the last Ludum Dare asked for games themed “10 seconds” how many bomb defusing games did we see? This team had the same idea for the controller, but believe me: Defusing a bomb on a screen and actually sitting fully dressed with glasses, gas mask and suit in front of a box with cables, bottles and blinking lights alone in a room with just a tool to cut these cables: such a difference! From outside we could watch the contestants via webcam, which added an extra creepy real-life level to the game. Guys, your game was a blast!
4. Keyboard Mandala
In this two-player game you start in an empty, lifeless desert. One player has a controller to move around, while the other does magic with a keyboard. With every key played you can create a huge variety of objects from huge buildings, bridges, fountains to tiny groups of ants. And stones, stones, stones to irritate the other player. I could have played this one for hours! Either you play it to create worlds with your songs or to find out what the creators did hide behind every key. This game is pure magic!
Forget Harry Potter! You can be a witch (or witcher ;)) in this game yourself! Just take the Necronomicon and draw the ancient ritual signs on the black board to summon powerful creatures that fight against the other player's demons. What made this game especially atmospheric was the dark cellar vault where it took place at. One of the team members sat in the corner, dressed black with red-stained hands (of course it was blood!). Red lights and the foul-smelling sponge added an extra dark flavour.
6. Space Ship
Imagine combining Space Team with the scenario of FTL. Imagine people running around to find the right computers. Imagine people getting mad to fulfill the right procedure to stop the alien invasion on the space ship. And imagine that all the people that tried to watch you playing to run with you in order to find out what this game is about. Ahh, people should run more often in games!
7. Holy Shit
Holy Shit is just like the name implicates: a game about shit and not getting hugged by it with holy-awesome looking characters. Play it with ten players that click ten mice at once and try to find out what your character is. It's as silly as it is fun.
In this Kinect game you are the conductor of an orchestra of light and kaleidoscope colours. Just raise your hand and be creative: Dance, jump, draw.
In X-Men Cerebro is used by Professor Xavier to detect mutants by amplifying the brain waves of the user. In this game I didn't detect mutants, but felt as bad ass by controlling a game with my brain by relaxing and stressing behavior. What I saw were beautifully composed spaces with weird structures that I could manipulate with pure mind control. Not only the game was interesting, but especially the technology they used and improved by building their own devices.
10. Monkey vs. Cake
In this multiplayer game every contestant gets a smartphone to tap the enemy to death. Cute muffins and cute monkeys! But you don't really know where exactly the buttons lies, so you have find out while tapping. Funny and fast game.
One player is getting a bass to move the bike with two girls forward. The other player is moving the guitar in front of a camera and so is the weapon of one of the girls on the bike. By playing the guitar you shoot a thunderbolt. You don't really know how to play a guitar, but I felt more bad ass than with guitar hero. Cool idea!
12. Shooting yetis with machetes
Why didn't anybody come up with that scenario before: You walk through Doom-like corridors to kill undead yetis with a rocket-empowered machete sling-shot gun. Also, this game brought light effects to the test. Mad.
Okay, ladies and gentleman. Lille did rock! Great people, great conversations, great games. Make sure to follow these guys to get a notification for the next Artgame Weekend! I think you already realized it, by reading this article, but woohoo, Viva la Lille, I highly enjoyed this!