Cambridge Indies

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Chris
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Cambridge Indies

Postby Chris » Mon Jun 07, 2010 8:05 pm

Twelve months ago I read about an event called TigJAM that was taking place in Cambridge UK, and since I live in that very city I decided that i'd go along. The event was organised on the TigSource forums, and basically involved lots of Uk indie game developers getting together in a cafe in Cambridge called "CB2" for a couple of days and jamming, turning out a few experimental games along the way. CB2 is pretty well known around Cambridge for its great food and drink, for hosting live music and for showcasing local artists work on the walls, and is frequently packed until its 11pm closing time with trendy Apple-Mac wielding creative types.

Ultimately I bottled out at the last minute. I didn't really know anyone going to the event, and I imagined it would be a pretty tough crowd to get into, and making even a single game in two days sounded pretty hardcore to me.

Fast forward to this year, and the same event was scheduled at the same venue. I started looking at who was planning to attend, and much to my surprise, quite a few Indie game developers are actually now living in Cambridge or the nearby area. A fledgling Indie community has sprung up in Cambridge centered on the CB2 cafe, and I may be wrong about this, but it seems to me this has all happened in the last few months. I discovered a small group of a dozen or so talented individuals who meet up every tuesday and work on their own projects together, enjoying the immediate feedback, the advice, and the encouragement that comes from other creative peers working in the same industry but on entirely separate projects.

I still don't know everyone in this group, but it's an eclectic group of lone indies. There's Terry Cavanah of Distractionware - creator of VVVVVVV, who is already organising MORE game jams in just a few weeks. There's Hayden Scott Baron of Starfruit Games, who's Ex-Frontier (just like me) and is now producing iPhone games. There's Charlie Knight, author of psychedelic shooter games like Bullet Candy and Scoregasm. All of these indies and many more live in Cambridge or within a short journey range, and are now meeting regularly at this great little cafe. It's a great excuse for me to get out of the house and work in a way that isn't completely isolated and alone, and I'm also secretly hoping that some of their speed-development mentality will absorb into me through some sort of indie-osmosis, as their projects typically run into several months in length at most, and Subversion is already into years.

So by the time the TigJAM came around this year, having now met a couple of guys in this group I felt much more willing to go along and give it a shot. I took my mac laptop along and intended to spend the weekend working on Subversion, just enjoying being at the event and maybe roping some people into some playtests. But I actually ended up joining in, making a total of three games during the two days I was there. There was a great creative spirit to the whole event, and although i'm personally well chuffed that I managed three whole games in two days, to be honest I think I was one of the lowest final counts. I know people like Terry and Hayden probably managed double that. It's really quite incredible.

The way it works is simple - a jam typically lasts 3 hours. Everyone writes down a theme on a piece of paper, and two or three themes are then chosen at random. Themes can be anything and are often ridiculous, like "Staying Awake" or "Antidepressants". You have three hours to make a game that explores that theme in some way. You can use whatever tech you want, and I saw quite a mixture of styles. There was quite a bit of Flash development, and a lot of people were using Unity. These systems are incredibly powerful and also give web+pc+windows+linux versions of whatever you develop, right out of the box. I used our internal c++ library "SystemIV" - which is at the core of every game we've made since Defcon. I'm very familiar with it so it's quick and easy for me), and it gives me an openGL render context as well as mouse and keyboard input with minimal effort. It's also the reason you see PC and Mac versions of these games - we can do both now.

Here's the three games I made. The downloads are here for Windows, or you can try the Mac downloads at the Cambridge indies website, run by Richard Perrin of Locked Door Puzzle.

Alternatively there are video links at the bottom of this post.


Game #1 : White Holes

My first game explored the theme "White Holes", and is more of a graphics demo than a game. It's a lovely looking particle system and rendering style, simulating gravitational interactions between colorful particles. Style over substance really, a common criticism of Introversion projects :) I was quite happy with it - I wanted to create something that looked like a white hole being created in a particle accelerator like the Large Haydron Collider, and for a couple of hours work I think it's not bad. It also enabled me to switch into rapid-development mode, which is quite a jump when something like "Pick Up Object" has taken two months in Subversion.

Image

download for Windows

Controls :
- Arrow keys to fly
- Hold down Shift to accelerate

Nb. If you get an error on launch like "Failed to initialise application", you need to install the Visual Studio 2008 Redistributable package.

Game #2 : Trapper

My second game was made for the theme "Sega Dreamcast VMU". The idea was to produce a game that would (pretend to) run on a Sega VMU with a screen resolution of 48x32 pixels, at two colours. That's about the same resolution as an icon on your desktop, quite a serious technical limitation. You are also limited to arrow keys and two buttons for input. I made a game called Exterminator in which you have to chase timid pests around the screen, and exterminate them. You can never catch them on your own, so you have to build walls and make dead-ends that they can't escape from, then chase them in. Once you've got them trapped you can exterminate them. However once they've been dead for a few seconds they come back as ghosts, and now chase you around the map in revenge. As ghosts they move a lot slower than they did, but they can now walk through your walls, so as you clear a level of more and more pests, the world gets more dangerous for you and you have to be more careful. I was pretty pleased with the end result (although it looks terrible in screenshots), but when you factor in that Hayden was able to make a full 3d maze exploration game for VMU in the same time it seems less impressive :)

Image

download for Windows

Controls :
- Arrow keys to move
- Z to create walls
- X to exterminate / destroy walls

Game #3 : Balancing Act

My third and final game took the longest (four hours), and was the one I was most pleased with. Working with the theme "Mouse input only", I decided to try and make a game that used the mouse as the core input and gameplay mechanism. What started out as a fairly simple "Spinning Plates" game (keep the plates spinning fast enough so they don't fall, using the middle mouse wheel to do the spinning) morphed into a game-of-life simulator in which you are forced to balance such things as "Family", "Wealth", "Success" against "Health", "Friends" etc. Time ticks away and you gradually lose control of the elements of your life as the balancing act becomes impossible, ultimately forcing you to chose which is more important to you and what can be sacrificed. There's no doubt that deeper life-lessons have been taught by fortune cookies, but it entertained me for the four hours it took to finish (even at a game jam, your projects can slip), and it seemed to get a good response from the guys who saw and played it.

Image

download for Windows

Controls :
- Spin the mouse wheel quickly to "Spin Up" a plate
- You can click and drag plates around

You can find my three games, along with the games made by everyone else during the event, at the groups website, http://www.cambridgeindies.co.uk, run by Richard Perrin of Locked Door Puzzle. You can also find Mac OSX builds of all three of my games.

All told it was a great event, and i'm planning to work at Cb2 on Tuesdays for a while because I think it's a wonderful thing to have an indie community that work together, and from a personal point of view its great to work with people outside of Introversion who have their own motivation and vision, and their own sets of skills that are often very different to mine. It's an open group, so if anyone else who lives near Cambridge wants to come along they can do - it's open to anyone who is interested.


VIDEOS OF ALL THREE GAMES

Youtube video of all three games

Xvid high-quality video of all three games
Last edited by Chris on Tue Jun 08, 2010 2:15 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Cambridge Indies

Postby Xocrates » Mon Jun 07, 2010 9:09 pm

Chris wrote:Game #3 : Balancing Act

I've lost my friends, my children, my health, but at least I kept my dignity :P
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Postby NeatNit » Mon Jun 07, 2010 9:10 pm

Image

What an easy game!!

I love my mouse
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Postby jelco » Mon Jun 07, 2010 9:35 pm

I love how you misspelled the Large Hadron Collider as a result of someone else having a weird name. ;)

Great to hear something from you again. I was kind of afraid that you were starting to have less fun with projects taking so long, but obviously there's still room for having fun (productive fun even). It's important to stay human. :)

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Re: Cambridge Indies

Postby Ace Rimmer » Mon Jun 07, 2010 9:39 pm

Xocrates wrote:
Chris wrote:Game #3 : Balancing Act

I've lost my friends, my children, my health, but at least I kept my dignity :P

Hmm, I wonder if my near frictionless scrollwheel will kill in this game?
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Postby NeatNit » Mon Jun 07, 2010 9:41 pm

Look two posts above yours. Yes.

But can you SWITCH between click-to-click and frictionless? Huh? Can you? Huh?
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Postby Ace Rimmer » Mon Jun 07, 2010 9:42 pm

Ah, didn't see your post. My VX nano says I can. :wink:
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Postby NeatNit » Mon Jun 07, 2010 9:50 pm

I expected that :P

Nice mouse, does it actually help you that it's wireless though? If not then it was kind of a waste of money imo, as you could have gotten a corded mouse with more features for less.
Also that reciever looks like it's hard to pull out after you stick it in the computer. I know the whole point is that you just leave it there, but what if you want to take it to another computer?
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Postby Ace Rimmer » Mon Jun 07, 2010 10:02 pm

NeatNit wrote:I expected that :P

Nice mouse, does it actually help you that it's wireless though? If not then it was kind of a waste of money imo, as you could have gotten a corded mouse with more features for less.
Also that reciever looks like it's hard to pull out after you stick it in the computer. I know the whole point is that you just leave it there, but what if you want to take it to another computer?

You bet it does. In fact, I use it more often than my old MX 1000 *hugs*. The micro receiver is not hard at all to remove and is great because I don't have to worry about it catching on things like I do my thumb-drive. I bought it mainly for laptop use, which in my opinion requires wireless to be fully functional, but as I said I push the MX out of the way when I'm at my desktop (there's a USB extension/receiver that came with it). Windows 7 will even tell me when the batter is low (though there's a light for that). The second best part of the wireless is I like to watch episodes of shows online that I can't see when they air (like SG Universe) and from a good six feet from the computer. It helps not having to get up during the show when advertisements force the window out of full screen, etc. I'd bring it to work and use it all day (do when I'm working at home), if I wasn't sure it'd get stolen (I would almost certainly forget to put it away when I wasn't at my desk).

I can't wait to test out the games above.
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Postby xander » Tue Jun 08, 2010 12:46 am

Chris wrote:It's also the reason you see PC and Mac versions of these games - we can do both now.

Are there Mac versions of the above?

xander
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Postby faemir » Tue Jun 08, 2010 1:37 am

Wait what? I live in Cambridge and I haven't heard about any of this :(

*goes into developer stalker mode*
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Re: Cambridge Indies

Postby zach » Tue Jun 08, 2010 3:01 am

Chris wrote:[...] a game-of-life simulator in which you are forced to balance such things as "Family", "Wealth", "Success" against "Health", "Friends" etc. [...]

NeatNit wrote:What an easy game!!

Evidently, success in life is solely dependent on the quality of your mouse's scrolling wheel.

Incidentally, my scrolling wheel does not work.

faemir wrote:Wait what? I live in Cambridge and I haven't heard about any of this :(

You have heard of TIGSource, right?

xander wrote:Are there Mac versions of the above?

Chris wrote:The downloads are here for Windows, or you can try the Mac downloads at the Cambridge indies website


Also back from the dead, etc. - You know you post too rarely if Chris posts more often than you.
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Postby elexis » Tue Jun 08, 2010 10:23 am

Whats the point of getting charisma when your 2 years from death anyway?

Still, really liked this game. Apparently my children will too.
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Re: Cambridge Indies

Postby xander » Tue Jun 08, 2010 2:30 pm

zach wrote:
xander wrote:Are there Mac versions of the above?

Chris wrote:The downloads are here for Windows, or you can try the Mac downloads at the Cambridge indies website

Thank you. I figured that I had missed a link somewhere. ;)

xander
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Postby cheesemoo0 » Tue Jun 08, 2010 4:21 pm

These are very impressive for the amount of time you had. White Holes may not do anything, but it sure is pretty.

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