The meetup started three years ago and each month has a theme, like many other game jams, but the event is relaxed and casual, the theme only there if you can’t come up with anything else. “If you have an idea for a game, then just do that, the theme is just there to help.” Colm mentioned. He sees 1Gam as an opportunity to meet new talent and catch up with friends. And that was the vibe I go from it all, these were old and new friends, sharing drinks, food and a good laugh over their ideas. There were developers, designers, artists, composers and some writers.
For this jam the theme was depth, but the games were an eclectic sort, reflecting the creative freedom One Game a Month is all about. One of them was a procedural music game. In another you controlled a quicksilver shaft across a road, avoiding giant spheres and other obstacles and another involved digging and shaping a landscape to merge spheres together. There was even a point & click adventure game, developed with a new set of tools for Unity that allow drag & drop game development.
But while other game jams focus on the competition and a winner, One Game a Month, as I previously mentioned, is more about the community. The devs there were just as interested in showing their game to the attendants as they were of sharing a good pint, a nice story and a good joke with everyone else. It was a terrific and relaxed environment and one that I feel is great for new developers. There isn’t any pressure to deliver, just enjoy your time there.
Last Thursday I went to another Dublin indie event at Colm’s suggestion, DubLUDO. Compared to 1Gam, Colm described this as a more official meet, for more professional indie developers. And if the quality of the products on show is anything to go by, he was spot on.
Owen Harris started DubLUDO two years ago with the goal of creating a space dedicated to quality. Not for marketing and sale, but for indie devs to show what they were working on and could receive honest feedback on how their game played. He told me it came to him after spending years going to evens and only hearing chats about marketing and sales, but none on polishing a game until it worked.
As it is now, DubLUDO is a more casual event where the different developers can meet and catch up and work with each other, but Owen aims for it to become that collaborative quality-focused space he envisioned.
As I arrived at the event in the Odessa Club, Owen took the mic for a speech and revealed the meaning behind the differently coloured tags everyone wore (and which confused me on arrival). Whoever had a blue tag was someone offering their services to indie developers, be it coding, art, music, etc. And those with green tags were looking for help. It might seem silly to you but I felt it was a big step in the direction of Owen’s ambition for the event. The moment he put the mic down, I saw a group of people with green and blue tags huddle together and exchange business cards and speak of their different projects. It worked, it got people to talk and hopefully collaborate on building great games and I tip my hat to Owen and co-organiser, wife and Larian Studios writer Char for the brilliant idea.
As for the games, the ones I tried hooked me instantly. Sons of Sol: Crow’s Nest is an interesting SHMUP. Your ship is part of a squad protecting a vessel through an asteroid belt. You need to destroy the giant incoming space rocks and fight off enemy fighters. Sounds straightforward so far but what makes it unique for me is that there are proper Newtonian physics at work. Thrust will generate momentum in whatever direction you’re facing, and if you want to move in the opposite direction, you’ll first have to come to a stop by using your thruster in the opposite direction and fight the current directional speed. It makes maneuvering in the asteroid field extremely challenging but also quite rewarding when you pull it off. The game is on pre-Alpha, but developer Kevin Murphy—a dude with a cool name—plans to hit kickstarter next year once he’s progressed enough. He’s currently on the lookout for a pixel artist, so if you’re interested, let me know and I’ll get you together!
Ballistic started out as “The Paddle Game,” before Andrew Carass decided to give it a proper name. I only had a few minutes to play it but it struck me as a wonderful party game. Each player takes control of a coloured paddle in a multicoloured-walled cage. There are light balls bouncing around the room, and you need to intercept them with your paddle to change their colour and that of the walls they hit. But with the balls coming from multiple angles, you need to turn your paddle to face them or they destroy you, forcing you to respawn and waste time and possibly lose the walls you had already claimed. It’s fast-paced, engaging and extremely fun! The game is Andrew’s final project for university and he has plans on taking it further, hoping Steam or Xbox Live and PSN.
The Umbrella Game is a project by Stephen Larkin and Peter Cantwell, two of Owen’s students. It’s an umbrella-flying simulator. As the name implies you control an umbrella and you float, glide and pivot to move through the environment. What I played was a proof of concept demo, but the guys assured me they had a lot more planned. And to keep with the feedback and quality focus of DubLUDO, they grilled me for honest feedback on what worked and what didn’t and I obliged.
F-Drum Masta is Esteban Moreno’s graduation project. It’s a visually simple game but it’s extremely fun and complex. It’s a rhythm game, like Rock Band or Guitar Hero, but instead of playing on a guitar or similar instrument, you press button on a small number-pad-like controller. Each button has a color and it matches one on screen. As the notes scroll towards a black & white bar on the edge of the screen you need to press the buttons on time to keep the music going. It sounds simple but with 9 possible buttons to press, it takes precision and coordination, and I don’t have much of that to be honest. Still, I managed to clear the intro level and Esteban congratulated me for being the only one to finish it that evening. Then again, I only had one pint of Guinness in me while the rest had about triple that amount by the time I arrived, so maybe being sober is the way to go.
As I’ll be living in Dublin now, I think I’ll go to more of these events and see what new stuff the Irish indie community comes up with and to keep an eye out on the progress on some of these titles I’ve seen.
I’d like to thank Colm Larkin once more for inviting me to both events!