I joined a Global Game Jam (GGJ) event in Joensuu, Finland this past weekend (23rd-25th of Jan). For those who don’t know, GGJ is an event where people are given 48 hours to make a game. Any game. The event starts with a keynote speech and the theme for the event is revealed. This year it was (drumroll) What do we do now?
Finland has taken the whole jam to another level and the event here is titled Finnish Game Jam (FGJ) as well. All the jam locations have video feed of other jams and it’s this whole big thing. Not that you have too much time to look at what others are doing, 48 hours fills up pretty quickly!
I marched in from -20C° winter weather to the wonderful setting that is the Network Oasis at Joensuu’s Tiedepuisto (Joensuu Science Park) complex. The place has everything needed for GGJ. Big workspaces, an auditorium, a kitchen, several meeting areas, beds and even a sauna!
We did some brainstorming in groups of a few people and from the pile of ideas we put on paper we assembled an idea of a cooperative game, where two teams have to work together yet also try to get more points than the other team by the end of the game. We got together four people and it seemed like the group we needed to create the game.
This two-level goal seemed like a fun idea so we went with it and actually added a third level as well, each player also have their own goal. But the only way to win the game all goals need to be fulfilled: Both teams have to beat the game together, player’s team has to have the most victory points at the end and your personal goal needs to be achieved.
We created the theme around the mechanic and first 20 hours of development it was a shape ship and then it became a submarine. Other team is the original crew of the submarine and the other is a team that tried to heist the vessel. After the heist gone bad these two teams are now forced to work together in order to solve the critical events and get the submarine to safe waters. The team that pitches in most for solving the events wins.
In our team of four we had two coders so making a video game would’ve seemed like the way to go, but already at the brainstorming session the idea of a card or board game was very strong. So it became a combination of board and digital game quite naturally.
We created a prototype of the game and simulated the app first with a die but quite quickly wanted to have a proper digital app to play with. We then created the app that simulates the submarine controls that players can operate.
Playing the prototype with the die.
Screenshot of the digital part of the game where players can change course, depth or hack the ship computer. After each round the resolve button is pressed and instructions are followed.
We decided that the basic mechanic is that players have to spend time on various tasks on the submarine. Every player has Skill Tokens of three different variety, each skill token representing one unit of time spent. The skills are Navigation, Engineering and Electrics. On their turn players get to play one skill token on either one event or the sub controls. Every player makes the final decision themselves, but since there’s two levels of cooperative goals the question “what do we do now?” will come up regurarly. If players only play for themselves the events will go critical and end the game pretty quickly. The game ends after all the events are solved (or the sub is destroyed).
I wish we would’ve had more time to play the actual game and work on the balance as well. I’m glad though that we still somehow managed to squeeze in pizza, sauna and even a few hours of shut-eye. The name we ended up giving the game is Subheist and we barely had time to upload the game to GGJ site in the end.
Global Game Jam is a ton of fun and an event I highly recommend for anyone. I didn’t know anyone when I walked into my first GGJ but one can quickly meet a bunch of enthusiastic game makers and create something cool together. I’m thinking of putting together my own game jams, once is year is NOT enough!
PS. You can find Subheist here.