London's Molyjam 2012 got off to a tremendous start with Peter Molyneux giving a rousing speech to a room full of eager games developers.
The London portion of the worldwide Molyjam event was lovingly brought into being thanks to the hard work of William @MetzoPaino Robinson, himself an avid gamer and professional composer / musician.
As the weekend progressed, the game jam moved between a number of venues across the capital, as teams and individuals raced against the tides of time to create and complete their games based (sometimes rather loosely) on the tweets of PeterMolydeux.
The Framework Training posse sadly only managed to make it to the jam's culmination at C4CC on Sunday, but we had a great time meeting so many bright, knowledgeable and enthusiastic people...and we were chuffed to bits to get involved and sponsor the event in the form of supplying calorific / stimulant / rehydrating games-development fuel.
Despite some serious sleep deprivation, there was a fantastic buzz in the room as the last couple of hours ticked away and debugging went into overdrive. There was plenty of swearing, but none of it led to bloodshed and spirits remained high.
At the strike of 7 of the clock, each of the games was showcased in turn by its creator(s) and the audience (made up of the other teams) were also invited up to the podium to try them out too. There were thrills, spills, and much laughter was produced.
Maksims Mihejevs stepped up first, with his Children of the Dead multiplayer shooter involving guns, grenades, and zombies. Based on a heady mix of HTML5, Canvas, judicious use of WebSockets, and a custom multithreaded backend written with Mono. The gameplay was fast, furious, and hilarious.
Then came Parkamour's "babysitter" sketch. I'll post a link to the video when it's available, because it's kind of hard to describe.
Next up was Team Malevolent Traffic Management with "Revenge of the Road", built on Unity3D. Somewhere between WipeOut, AudioSurf and Tron's light bikes, this 2-player game's twist is that one of the players controls the road, while the other player tries avoid being thrown off into the void. By the road. The gameplay was great, the art was great, the music was great½I might be slightly biased because I managed to win a couple of rounds against one of the developers. I lost a couple of times too, but enough of that.
Team Feeling (who as far as I can tell weren't actually a close-contact support group) presented "Comedecoy", a "choose your own adventure" style RPG which used the GameMaker engine. It was somewhat off the wall. If truth be told, the wall wasn't actually in sight and may never have existed in the first place. I especially loved the Robot.
Continuing with the utterly bizarre but immensely enjoyable theme, GhostDad 2: Colon (Cats Vs. Merlins) took the innovative step of implementing voice activation to coax and subsequently launch your daughters (the cats) at the collective unconscious of your soul (taking the form of ghostlike merlins). I can honestly say I've never seen this done in any other video game, but I'm honoured to have been there when it happened.
The cunningly named Parkamour team stepped up once again to show their HTML5 / Canvas-based game where "½you and the love of your life must hold hands and jump around a city evading death and injury". I don't think these guys planned on demoing the game to completion but by the time they'd reached halfway up the cityscape, everyone in the room was on the edge of their seats willing the pixelated avatars to get to the top and fly off in their balloon. There was real emotional attachment to those red and green blocks, and a cheer went up as they finally escaped.
Sick Peter was a tense adventure game in HTML5 / Canvas with some excellent game mechanics and a really (intentionally) desolate feel thanks to the low-fi graphics. Not one to play on a dark night when nobody's home.
"YOU CHEATING PIRATE!" was a Flash-based nautical treat involving galleons, cannon, and rum. Lots of rum. The pirates, your enemies, were allowed to cheat while they plundered the honest trade ships and tried to send you to Davy Jones' Locker. It all made for a treacherous and hugely enjoyable piratical romp.
A couple of short but sweet HTML5 games appeared next. The Spider's Hole from Rob Ashton was another game completely saturated in weird. You are a hole (a bath's plughole to be precise) and you must attempt to save your friend, the spider, by clogging yourself with tumbling tufts of bodily hair (of dubious provenance), while attempting to dodge bottles of bleach which would undo your hard work and allow the torrent to flow again, threatening to engulf your eight-legged friend.
Then came a platformer that was oozing happiness and sunny days. You had to build your own platforms in a garden to get to the sun, and it was hard not to grin like an idiot when the lone game dev won (sorry dude, I didn't get your name - get in touch and I'll update this accordingly!).
What more could you want from a game than to be able to move many pairs of y-fronts around a tiled environment? Well that's what Museum of You was all about. No, really. It demonstrated some interesting techniques (the eponymous "You" wanders round and watches you moving said pants from place to place). The walking animations were pretty cool too in a kind of wtf sort of way :)
Last up saw the Kinect getting some love with Little Miss Left Behind - a game where you play a toddler who has to keep hold of mummy's hand to make it to the end of the level. But do you dare let go to pick up the bonuses? The game really jelled thanks to its excellent artwork and a really nice interactive soundtrack, and the novel use of the Kinect controller in a non-Xbox game worked really well.
Because of the huge variation in technologies, themes, and styles that were employed, it's impossible to suggest that there was a single 'winner'. Just being there and taking part was prize enough, although I'd be surprised if some of the people in the room don't end up working at Peter Molyneux's new project, 22 Cans.
The list of games contributed to Molyjam from around the world is still growing as entries are submitted. You can check them out here!
Scribbled by Tom