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Global Game Jam: Manifest Destiny

So I finally managed to get myself to the Global Game Jam (thanks mostly to my boyfriend's "gentle" prodding) and I have to say: it really could not have gone any better.

I arrived in the nick of time on Friday, signed up at the desk and made my way to the area in the back where the other "Jammers" were waiting. It was there that I ran across Harry Bogosian, a fellow Pratt Illustration Alum who is currently working at a game company by the name of Tiny Mantis. We got to talking and it turned out that his company often collaborated with This Is Pop (a former employer) for several games I worked on as well. So when it ultimately came time to form groups and get to work they welcomed me with open arms.

Once the keynote was over Harry, his friend/coworker Wen Zheng and I sat down and brainstormed. They had been discussing the idea of a terraforming game and from there we made our way to the idea for a Player Versus Player format where two alien races would be trying to eliminate the other for control of a new Home World or Colony Planet. Thus MANIFEST DESTINY was born.

We thought it would work with this year's Game Jam theme ("We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are") because whether or not an action is good or bad is entirely in the eye of the beholder. We didn't want "Good Versus Evil" but more "Us Versus Them" which would be shown with in-game text blurbs from both sides describing the action as it unfolds. When one player destroys a turret of the opposing side their text would praise their warriors and hail it as a much needed victory while at the very same time the enemy's text would call it a tragedy, swearing vengeance.

With the (very basic) idea out of the way we then met up with Tiny Mantis owner and fellow teammate Nik Mikros and another friend of Harry's, Alex Sherman, and headed out to their offices to begin fleshing out the details. Once there we sat down and mapped out the general gameplay with everyone offering insight into how to improve on the idea. Harry and I decided the best way to handle our time would be to simply split up the two character races between us. I would tackle the tile-set for the bug/plant-like alien race and he would work on the more human techno-race.

To make a long, rambling story slightly shorter the weekend was a grueling, sleepless blur of asset generation, programming, music/sound composition and gameplay tweaks. By Sunday morning we all walked into the office to an exhausted Wen and a working build of a game that had been a simple idea not 36 hours before. And it was an impressively playable and fun build, too! We spent the rest of Sunday adding in the final assets, music, sound effects, and gameplay tweaks up until the very last minute where we scrambled back to the Game Jam to present what I am proud to say is a unique, addicting, fun, intense player-versus player experience.

A quick screenshot of the game in action. Video of gameplay to be found at the bottom.

It may have been the obvious pride our entire team had for our digital baby, and the enthusiasm for the product that we couldn't help but display- or maybe it was the fact that we managed to procure a projector screen that was visible right off the elevators- but it was a really big hit. We had people lining up to try their best to destroy their opponent, with many people coming back for seconds, thirds or fourths. When it came time to dole out awards we just hoped that the positive response from the fellow Jammers would give us a fair chance at winning something. And ultimately we were right! MANIFEST DESTINY was nominated for Best Graphics alongside my roommate Chris Hernandez's entry (who eventually went on to win in that category) and also won the Viewer's Choice Award for Best Game!

So yes, the Game Jam was a big success for me. It was my very first one and the game I helped create won an award and was nominated for another. In fact we are so proud of this product that we are working on figuring out when and how we can polish things further and eventually get this into the actual game market (via Steam, Ouya, or other means). Details on this development to be announced shortly ;-)

JAN 29 2014

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