Author : Auston Montville

Treasure Quest

Fun, Flash and Festivity: Tagged Winter Game Jam

Most games take months or years to develop. During a recent Game Jam, our Games Team made four fully functioning games in 24 hours.

At Tagged, Game Jams feel reminiscent of music jam sessions, where friends gather for hours on end to rock out and tap into their creative side. Sub out the guitars for computers and rockers for coders and you’ve got a feel for our vibe.

Over the course of 24 hours, our game designers, artists, programmers and producers develop at an extremely fast pace in order to create several playable versions of concepts generated by the team. Game Jams provide a great opportunity to step out of our usual roles during production and skip right to the heart of creating something for other people to enjoy. It’s also a great chance for people to create with co-workers outside of their regular teams.

This Game Jam, specifically, helped us focus on how we can best prototype for Flash. Our team recently decided to use Flash for our next few games as we found it to perform better when stressing animation, audio and customizable art assets. Due to the nature of how technologies like HTML5 load bitmaps and animation-data, we’re better off using vectors with flash instead of developing a new loading pipeline for bitmap. This is important as Tagged serves a number of users across many browsers and connection speeds, and a poor loading pipeline can severely impact both the first-time experience and the game as a whole.

We established a few goals at the beginning of the Jam in order to make it both extremely fun and productive. Our goals for this Game Jam were:

  1. What techniques and tools can we use to be most efficient in Flash development?
  2. What game concept should be developed for our next Tagged game?
  3. Team building!

Laying out the games

At 5 p.m. we gathered in our main meeting room where our assignments were revealed. The next 24 hours were intense. Early success came when one of our groups had a playable game in only a couple of hours. Two of the teams were working with the Flixel library in order to skip most of the basic game loop coding. Most of the groups pushed on through the night with small celebrations by the teams as each part of their games started to function.

Working hard

By 10 p.m. everyone had hit their stride and were coding their respective games.

Our productivity held strong through the early morning hours, but we grew more tired and silly as the morning went on. We recharged with pizza at 4 a.m., and pushed through the morning. Final tweaks and polish were added during the last few hours, and teams took their hands off their keyboards when the Jam ended at 5 p.m. the next day.

We still had to celebrate though! So in classic Tagged fashion, we brought in some beers, played some games, and reflected on the past 24 hours of insane productivity in a debrief.

The results were incredible! By the time we ended, we had four fully functional games: a paper prototype, a two-player game, a networked multiplayer game and a game that was running in flash and on the iPhone! We learned most of us made design decisions based on what could be coded quickly, not necessarily what would be the most impressive feature. Having this clear vision of ‘do it quick or not at all’ really allowed the teams to make playable games with many features in a short amount of time. All of these were solid prototypes that will be played and studied over the next few weeks to find the next best game to release to our users on Tagged.

Game discussion

At the end, not only do we have some awesome new games to play, but we also learned more about how each member of our team works and how insanely fast we can make games. We also all grew closer through sharing this intense, exhausting, and fun experience together. We’ll definitely be doing another Game Jam next quarter and will be sure to report back!

Above screen capture is of “Treasure Quest”.

Auston Montville is a Junior Game Designer at Tagged and loves chatting about games.