January 2019

# Global Game Jam 2019 - my impressions

Jan 2019

Last weekend the 2019 edition of Global Game Jam took place - a worldwide event where teams od developers gather in different sites all around the world to make games during two days and two nights. There was a large site in my city (Warsaw) - PolyJam, but I decided to go to Gda˝sk to participate it their local site called Hackerspace Game Jam together with my friends.

Theme this year was "what home means to you". As always, participants interpreted it very differently. Those who have families associated home with all kinds of troubles caused by the other residents. Pooplers - the game I liked the most - is about babies crawling around the house and pooping competitively to cover as much surface as possible with their specific color, while avoiding the mother :) Home Alone: Cat edition is about a cat that can destroy and drop stuff from the shelves, all in first person perspective. KapeŠ Defender is about a man who throws slipper (pol. "kapeŠ") at the wife and other people to be able to just sit and watch TV. There were more sci-fi settings as well. I liked the game Gwiezdni Somsiedzi a lot. It is the only one with multiplayer over network. Players have to control satellites flying in space, catch asteroids and throw them at the other players. Another space game was Glop where players have to cooperatively control various devices on the surface of a planet to make it fly, as well as shoot at incoming obstacles.

When it comes to technology, most teams used Unity engine. Some used JavaScript with some game framework. There was just 1 VR game. Many games included multiplayer on a single computer using gamepads, one included networked multiplayer.

Our team was a group of friends from the demoscene - 2 ex-Intel C++ developers and 2 DevOps currently working in a bank. Unfortunately we had no graphics artists. Although I would prefer to use Unity or Unreal Engine these days, we eventually decided to go the hard way and code in C++ using dxfw - the old framework developed by Krzysiek K., based on Direct3D 9. I had to remind myself this old technology before the jam, including all these D3DRS_ fixed-function pipeline states and D3DX math library. By the way: If the last version of DirectX SDK for DX9 was released in June 2010, can we already consider it a retro platform, along with Atari and Amiga? ;)

We used FMOD library for playing sound and music and Gainput for handling input from gamepads. We started from having a ray-traced sphere, so we had to code all the game logic and rendering from scratch, including displaying characters, UI, collisions, etc. We've developed some of the logic in C++ and some in Squirrel, because we had this scripting language already integrated with the framework. I had no previous experience with Squirrel, so I had to learn it very quickly. After going through the documentation, I concluded that I love it! It looks like a great scripting language for simple applications. It's not perfect, e.g. it lacks vector and matrix types so necessary in game development (just like pretty much every other programming language except HLSL/GLSL), but I like its simplicity and syntax. It is very similar to Lua in its overall philosophy - dynamically typed, object oriented, and based on key-value arrays. The syntax is not that weird though. It seems to follow the "principle of least astonishment" - it's very similar to C++, arrays are indexed from 0, plus ending statements with a semicolon is optional - end of line also works.

Participating in an event such as GGJ is always an adventure and an opportunity for many new experiences - much better than just sitting on the Internet at home. During this jam I not only learned Squirrel as a new programming language, but I've also heard what is it like to work as a programmer at a bank, I've registered on Asana (a web service for organizing TODO lists, just like Trello which I used before), and of course I had an opportunity to practice quick and dirty programming, as opposed to code carefully thought out and tested, like it has to be done in a regular job.

Finally, the game we've made is here: LazerBugz. It is a twin-stick shooter happening on a spherical surface of a planet. The "home" is the cosmic base that you have to defend while shooting at alien bugs and going out to gather randomly placed gems. It supports local co-op for any number of players using Xbox gamepads or keyboard and mouse. Some screenshots and a photo of people playing our game:

There was a competition on our site. We didn't take any of the first 3 places. We just got mention among the games who received a good number of votes. The game that won was Clash of T-Rexes - kind of Pong with two dinosaurs standing on two planets.

Official photo gallery from the event: Hackerspace Game Jam 2019

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