On the act of Jamming


I have it, my master degree in Game Design. I got the best grades of the class (ex aequo with Philomena Schwab, one of the most successful game designer in Switzerland). I finished my master with a Play Jam, a nice experiment on the act of jamming.

I have started creating games since the end of 2013, having the chance to work with very talented artists like Dan Iorgulescu, Valentin Terramorsi, Hamza Haiken, or Virgile Paultre, with whom we rose to the top of the Ludum Dare Jam ranks.

Those were my days of jamming, discovering the world of game development and game design. I had the chance to meet a very active and friendly game developer community in my region. Those game developers were also jamming, not as much as me, but I could meet awesome people like Frederic Dubouchet, Kevin Péclet, David Javet, Jérémie Wuthrer and many others.

Jamming allowed me to meet some wonderful people online. Like a job or a rent, you just need to send a mail, then you can have positive or negative answers, but you did it. Not everyone is nice. Sometimes, you have to fight for your idea. Sometimes, when everyone agreed on a game idea, there is this person who still want an other game idea.

Most of all, jamming allowed me to learn a lot of practical tips on game design. Do you know that when you are creating a sword attack in an hack’n’slash, your box collider should be 1/2 to 2/3 bigger than what you see, otherwise the player feels that his attack is too short.

When I started jamming, I had a dictatorial boss attitude. The more I jammed with different people, the more I learned to let go of my ideas and to collaborate, to listen, and to let other choose game ideas, even if it would cost me.

One game jam each month is one hell of a rhythm. You lock down a week-end and you work until the end. It becomes a tradition more than a passion. Importing the Input plugin, implement the Player Character, finishing the Title Screen, all those typical game developer actions become natural.

I started to change my habit as jammer. During the Indie Train Jam, I chose to compose music for different teams, making my experience of this jam more playful. Meeting awesome people like Gorm Lai, one of the founders of the Global Game Jam and the Nordic Game Jam.

But I lost my first love with jamming. It is hard to be surprised at the new game ideas when participating in a game jam. I can optimize my experience pretty well, but I have a hard time enjoying it.

This passion has gone to long-term game development. Last year, Kevin and I created Super Splash Fisticuffs during the Ludum Dare 32. I took the opportunity to show it at the Fantasy Basel and based on the overwhelming positive feedback that we received, we started to work on it weekly. We organized tournaments and show it to several festivals. I realized what real game development meant.

Don’t worry, I am not stopping to participate to game jam. I still enjoy the act of jamming. But I need to slow down, I need to find again what it means to jam. It is an act of creation, but I have created enough already. Maybe in several months, I will long for jamming. And then, I’ll create again.

Read More

Amsterdam Seminar Trip

From Monday 8 to Friday 12 February, I went to the Netherlands with some students from Bachelor and Master from ZHdK Game Design. The goal of this trip was to meet the Dutch game industry at his current state and make some contacts.
I was actually more motivated to get to know some of my bachelor colleagues. We arrived on Monday noon in Amsterdam. We had the day free to visit the city and I contacted Hamza to meet him there. I drank with my colleagues one of the most tasteful beer ever, the I.P.A.

I then went on meeting Hamza, we ate at a Japanese restaurant. I showed him Splash Blast Panic. He was involved in the game jam entry, so the changes since then surprized him in good. We talked a lot about our lives, what we were heading to. As I realized he lives in Utrecht and that I was also going in Utrecht on Thursday, he invitated me to his place on Thursday evening.
On Tuesday, we began our visit of Dutch Game Studios, with Orange Games, a conglomeration of several Dutch studios, known for Governor of Poker. As all students in Game Design mostly aspires to create games in the paid model, the reaction against the free-to-play model of Orange Games was mostly indifferent. They give us one of the most disgusting set of cards.
On the evening, we went on to visit Little Chicken, an applied games company. Even if their products were more interesting, the presentation was so boring that I nearly slept. There was no passion in the pitch, no will to make us learn something. It was just a genuine presentation of the company, IN ONE HOUR.

With Simon, we then went on a bar where we could play chess (I hate chess). He beat me twice, but never to easily. During one of the game, a girl came to ask where were the set of pieces to play chess and I answered in French, as I heard that they were speaking French before. I quickly learned that they were studying in Lausanne and when Simon left after the second game, I stayed the night with them.
I really like the openness and the quality of the discussion as we were sharing our different experiences either with EPFL or with UNIL. I manage to speak about game development and my area of research with game jam without feeling completely like a outcast geek, and we settle to do something the day after.
I already had all my nights booked for the weeks, but on Wednesday, we met an artist from the NDSM Werft, an area of Amsterdam that used to be the docks, was abandoned and were now reused by hostel and artists. I found the idea of artistic utopia interesting, but the whole place seemed like ruined and not even completed (after 14 years).

We then wen to meet ijsfontein, a “playful learning” company, mostly doing applied games. His talk, that nerved Philo, was a condensé of shit/fuck/boring words linked to concepts. I found him very pretentious and arrogant, without actually being that important. I mean, talking trashy and trying to impress students is maybe gonna work for high school students, but maybe not with game designers who already work very hard for their projects.
We finally went to meet Jeroen van Mastrigt from the FreedomLabCampus and his several experiences around the game industry. Compared to our trashy speaker from ijsfontein, the man was super humble and ready to answer any question with expertise and not false honesty. He made us travel in the future of the game industry and technology. A very nice experience before running to take the tram to meet the Swiss-French/French girls. We went to eat at the Blue Dutch. We ate specialities from the Netherlands. We then went in a random bar, I trained my pitch for the day after and they gave me useful advices. We finally went in night clubs and, if you know me, I am completely not in my comfort zone in night clubs. But they managed to decomplex me about that, so for that bravo.

On Thursday, we went in Utrecht to the HKU (Utrecht University of the Arts). Several students pitched their game and I pitched my research topic for which I wrote a paper for the International Conference on Game Jams, Hackathons and Game Creation Events. The professors from HKU really liked my subject and a really interesting discussion went on after the pitch. I took the business card from one of the lecturer to keep contact.
We visited the city and then went to the Dutch Game Garden, an incubator for indie game studio and a pillar of the success of the Dutch game industry. We were welcomed by Eline Muijres and began with a talk about a serious game for old people to force them to be active. Eline Muijres talked about her experiences as indie game developer and presented the Dutch Game Garden. I immediately joked that the Swiss version of this model would be the Swiss Game Challet, and if it ever happens, I sure want my beer for the awesome name.
I visited Hamza and meet his girlfriend. I was very happy for them, as they are in the process of moving to a new bigger house and Hamza seems more happy than ever.
We went back in Basel and then Zürich on Friday. It was a wonderful human experience. I was not impressed by the game studios we visited, and by the status of the Dutch game industry, but I supposed that is my pirate anarchist view of game development that speaks for me. I would say, make art not Swiss Francs.


Read More

I lost the game jam

It’s 7:50PM and I’m going home with the train. I was in Thun for the NetGame Convention where I showed Splash, to play-test some features and see how people liked it. In the same time, I was participating at the Ludum Dare 34 in the Compo category. Compo means that you have to make the game all by yourself, code, art, sound, music.

I never did a game jam all by myself. During Nordic Game Jam, I isolated myself, but the assets were done by other people. Here, I’m all alone. The theme were Grow and/or Two Buttons Control. I went on the Two Buttons Controls with a game called “Fat Cat Rock’n’Roll” where you were playing a cat that roll in the snow trying to avoid rocks. A very simple idea, super easy to finish.

So why am I here complaining? I don’t feel the same as with other game jam. I never allowed myself to fail when they were other people involved. I just can abandon someone during a game jam. I abandoned a team before a game jam began, but not during.

Here, if I can stop without any problem. Even if the Ludum Dare community is active on IRC, I feel all alone. I have no social interaction with anyone. The collaborative process is dead to me during the Ludum Dare compo.

I learned something great about myself. I need other people to create. I can not create alone, not because I don’t have the skills, but because I don’t want to. When I’m working on a game, I need someone to ask questions and to work with. My artistic process goes through collaboration.

Read More