MolyJam 2012 – Little Miss Left Behind

MolyJam 2012 by Shaz

Download Little Miss Left Behind here for PC (requires a kinect controller)

Molyjam 2012I recently attended and took part in Molyjam 2012. This was a 48hour game jam based on the twitter account @Molydeux. For the last 3 years @Molydeux has been tweeting game ideas – amusing parodies of what respected game designer Peter Molyneux might say. Stuff like: “Try to imagine a game in which you have an imaginary friend who doesn’t believe you are real, you must convince them that you are.”

Anna Kipnis, a programmer at Double Fine found herself organising the international event after jokingly tweeting that a game jam should be set up based on the funny/ridiculous/interesting tweets of @Molydeux.

The idea soon caught on and events were set up all over the globe. So thinking it might be fun I went to the London event, organised by William Robinson. You can read his blog post about MolyJam here.

Forming a Team

This was the first game jam I’ve been to and it was a great experience. I formed a group with Wolfgang from Funstorm Games and artist Sarah Ford who works at Sega’s UK studio Creative Assembly. Sarah had been thinking about which Molydeux idea to go with and had fallen in love with idea of making a game using the xbox kinect controller based on the following tweet:

“”Game where you must hold onto your mother’s hand. Let go for more than X seconds and it’s game over.”

I’d been talking to Wolfgang while we waited for things to start  – showing each other our games and what we’re working on. He’d been to the Global Game Jam earlier in the year and the concept for the game he made was really good – it’s a game where you play against past versions of yourself.

Sarah came over and asked if anyone wanted to make the game idea she had in mind so she could focus on the art. My reply was “Well, I can… but I’d rather do the music.” I knew that I *could* work fast and make a decent game in 48 hours if the focus remained clear. But I was in a music mode and wanted to concentrate on that.

But after taking a look at her artwork portfolio I thought ‘Well… I’m here to meet people and say *yes* to things’. Also she had a lot of energy and enthusiasm and that was the convinser. So I agreed to make the game. But Wolfgang overheard and offered to to the programming suggesting that I could concentrate on the music. Result! And even better he’d even worked for one of the Microsoft studios who had made a Kinect controlled game. So he knew that the tools were out there to use kinect in a flash game (he codes using Action Script).

Meeeting Peter Molyneux

Peter Molyneux (the real one) was there on the friday at the London event. He’d given us an inspiring talk and went round the room meeting (almost) everyone there. He was just about to leave but Wolfgang gave him a shout to ask if he’d come and meet us and listen to our game idea. It turned out he liked the concept and advised us to concetrate on a one-hand control method. Sarah had been thinking about two hands performing different in-game functions but we decided to take Peter’s advice as clearly he knows a thing or two about game design!

It was good to meet Peter. It’s easy to see why people like him – he has a lot of enthusiasm for new ideas and an obvious passion for making things that haven’t been done before. He’s just setting up a new studio called 22Cans and I’m sure we’ll be seeing interesting things from them in the coming years.

What We Came Up With

Little Miss Left Behind - MolyJam 2012

Concept Art

So back to our game. Having done a couple of game jams, Wolfgang wanted to keep the concept simple and keep the game small and manageable. And then add things when we could as we went along. Sensible advice! My focus was on the emotional aspect asking ‘What do we want the player to feel?’ So we decided on 4 main themes – comfort/warmth, excitement, fear and the feeling of being lost. (And I added innocence and speed while making the music)

Checking my email on the Saturday morning I was glad to see that Wolfgang had managed to get Kinect working and Sarah had made some solid concept art. My music set up isn’t mobile so I worked remotely from home while Sarah headed over to Wolfgang’s.

Before the game jam had started I’d decided I wanted to make a dynamic soundtrack for which ever game I ended up working on. The whole concept of the jam was about making games more emotional. So a dynamic soundtrack that reacts to in-game events to reinforce and communicate emotive themes seemed right. Also it’s generally what I’m interested in making when it comes to games – making the audio an intergal part of the experience.

I got most of the music finished on the saturday and kept in touch with the others via email and phone. Ideally we’d all work in the same space but this worked out fine. My teammates were uploading videos to youtube as they progressed with getting the gameplay up and running. So I could still see how things were going and contribute.

Little Miss Left Behind - MolyJam 2012

Concept Art

I finished the last bits of music on the sunday morning and then made my way to Wolfgangs’s. I was wondering if the game mechanic would be too simple but on playing for the first time it was clear that it worked well and felt ‘right’. There were some last minute technical problems of trying to install the game and kinect sdk on Sarah’s laptop (in fact it just plain refused to work properly). Which didn’t give us much time to implement the dynamic element of the different music tracks I’d made. But luckily Wolfgang is a bit of a ninja on the ol’ action script so we were able to put everything in just before rushing out the door so we could make the presentation.

We got to the venue just in time to see the first presentation. And at the same time borrowed a laptop from Yiannis so we could install the game and show it to the others at the game jam. The atmosphere in the room as we all showed our games to each other was really nice – very friendly and funny. Our game went down well. We were happy with how it had turned out – we had pretty much hit what we were going for in terms of overal game design.

So all in all MolyJam 2012 was great and I’m sure I’ll be off to more game jams in the future. Actually there’s one at the end of April that I’m signed up for.

Here’s a short documentary on of the London MolyJam.

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