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Written By Clint Waters

Hitcents Game Jam 2014!

December 23, 2014 |

With the year drawing to a close and holiday cheer (and stress) peaking, Hitcents decided to treat the employees of the game department with a game jam.  If you are unfamiliar with the term, a game jam is a short period of time in which people come together and create a complete game.  There’s no one definition of a time limit for all game jams (some are caffeine-fueled 24 hour sprints), but ours was roughly one week of regular workdays.  Much like a jam session of musicians, each person contributes their skills to the group and just have fun while doing what they love.  The results can be varied, but we lucked out and got two pretty awesome games out of the deal.

The Hitcents game department was split into two groups, affectionately and imaginatively dubbed Game Jam A and Game Jam B.  Our guidelines were few and broad: we had one week and it had to be a complete, playable game.  That’s it.  Genre, platform, subject matter, essentially everything else was left up to the individual groups.  The teams were allowed to work together or not, it was up to us.  With some sibling-like competition, we decided to keep the house divided and went in our own directions.  Although the increased manpower would have been nice, as I’ve mentioned, we got some sweet games that, I feel, really highlight each team’s creativity and strengths.  But I’ll get to that in a bit.

For now, I want to give a little insight into how my team, Game Jam A (“shortened” to gamejama [rhymes with Alabama]), developed their game.  It’s actually fairly anticlimactic, but in a potentially stressful situation that’s a great thing.  Immediately after we were given the assignment, gamejama reconvened at Spencer’s Coffee and hashed out ideas.  It didn’t take very long to settle on a single concept.  Inspired by recent games like “The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth” and similar roguelike/bullethell games, as well as arcade classics, we figured it would be fairly easy to create a full, albeit short game, with lots of replayability and enough difficulty to be entertaining without being frustrating.

Enter the genius of Matt Bitner.  Thanks to him and his prolific programming skills, we were equipped with the right tools to create modular environments.  Furthermore, those environments would appear based on varying scales of difficulty.  Even cooler, certain terrain elements and even varieties of enemies would only appear at certain points in the game.  This means that even if you entered the same room twice within a single playthrough, it wouldn’t be the same each time you saw it.  With the logic in place, Nick Peppers and I could design levels and tailor them to these gradual scales of difficulty.  Meanwhile, Nick and Bryan Phillips could develop enemies and their behavior patterns to work with the areas they were placed in.

Of course, as crucial as all of that was to the gameplay, it all would’ve been pointless without the art.  Joy Hurt created and animated our “hero”, as well as his enemies.  Jenni Dickens made art for the power-ups that would increase various stats and Matt Lester created environment art.

Although the final product isn’t exactly what we envisioned, we are exceedingly proud of what we’ve accomplished.  We continually rolled with the punches as development continued.  We sat down at the beginning of the day and laid out what needed to be done.  We’d meet again towards the end of the day and touch base, letting each other know how it was coming.  We actively chose some milestones over others (really great boss fights were a big priority for all of us, for example), but it’s luckily the kind of game we could tweak and add on to forever.

So, without further ado, I will introduce: “Krampus in ‘Wreck the Halls’”.  Just in time for Christmas, a darkly funny game to share with your loved ones.  Gamejama’s firstborn, this game puts you in the role of Krampus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krampus), who must storm the North Pole and seek revenge against Santa.  There’s a whole story I’ll leave up to the reader to find within the game, but it’s important to note that just as Krampus isn’t the friendliest guy, our game is not meant for children.  There’s no gratuitous gore or anything, but Santa is the final boss…so, it’s up to you if you want to provide some childhood trauma.   “Wreck the Halls” should be available in the Google Play Store very soon for download onto Android devices.

Once you’ve wrecked the halls, you can sink your teeth into Game Jam B’s game: “Sparkle Corgi Goes Cave Diving”, which is slated for release on January 5th.  You take control of Sparkle Corgi, an aspiring canine adventurer, who is trying to plunge as deep into the unknown as she can!  Armed with a shotgun and a craving for treasure, she repels right into the face of danger.  I’m excited to join forces with Game Jam B once Krampus is released and see what our collective teamwork can accomplish! 

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