RePear, how to build a videogame in a weekend

It’s been a while since I’ve taken part in a hackathon or even an open innovation contest. It wasn’t part of my expectations since I joined Suderbyn Ecovillage. Nevertheless, opportunities appeared one after the other in our lovely Visby Island.

First, the Innovation day that happened in December:

Then a wild event appeared:

It was the first time I participate in a Game Jam. I have been in Chatbot Hackathons, EdTech challenges, themeless StartupWeekends. But this resonated a lot with me and there’s no surprise why: I ❤ Games.

The opportunity of spending a weekend with fellow gamers, coming up with a universe, an atmosphere, challenges & rules…all of that appealed to me strongly and motivated me to take part in this adventure.

Now mind you, I taught it was “game” in the wide sense: videogames of course, but also board games, card games, conversation games, dice games, roleplaying games…So you can guess my surprise when I discovered that the focus was only on videogames…

I discovered it thanks to the (long) introduction video. Maybe I should have checked the website more thoroughly beforehand…A lesson for the future!

The video presented the concept, the team behind the global event, and of course the sponsors. A little about this episode.

There are several sponsors for the Global Game Jam, so their presentation was a little long, and it got some waves of laughter that I didn’t understand. To build an event, especially a Global one, huge resources are needed, time, effort, and especially money. That’s where Sponsors come to play. Of course, it can be done without them, with limited resources. There are countless examples of successful bootstrapped/DIY/low-cost events that outshine the most extravagant ones, that’s not the point.

The point is there is the support of a free, creative, inspiring initiative with few strings attached besides a logo and 10-sec video about the company behind it. Moreover, they are offering perks specifically designed for us to build our game and succeed in the challenge, regardless of our own resources: thus setting participants on an equal footing, empowering a wide range of passionates.

If you have ever organized an event or project you know what I’m talking about. So I’ll simply mention them as a thank.

Headliner

Champion

Partner

Supporter

Community

Friends

After this short period of advertising, it was finally the time to share the theme of this edition:

The revelatory video is well-made!
The Theme!!

A little about me, my background in Telecommunications Engineering, and the last time I programmed on a video game was in 2011 of an online multiplayer version of Pacman. It was in C, using SDL, and was worth 18/20 on our mark. Bottom line: I don’t know how to code a video game.

Fast forward to the event, my main challenge was to build or join a team. Based on my previous hackathons I expected some icebreakers or workshops to mix the participants and facilitate teambuilding. Well, …most of teams were pre-formed, 99% of the participants were students from the University, in the Game Design specialty. So there is little surprise that they prepared balanced teams to take upon the contest.

That leaves 1%. Nitzan and I. Nitzan is a short-term resident of Suderbyn Ecovillage, and apparently I managed to motivate her to come to this event! I was glad of not being fully alone, it brought well-needed support and motivated me to go around, present myself, and try to get into a team. I’m not shy but when there’s this huge crowd and know nobody and everybody knows each other:…

Quite a stressful moment harder than asking someone out, because there’s a strong need to sell yourself fast and well. And, well…again: I’m not a game developer.

After being turned down 3 times in a row, I taught that was it for me. Teams were already starting to leave and get started. I pushed and I pushed until destiny matched me first with Benjamin and Patrick, then Markus and Clara. Our team didn’t look balanced: we had mainly graphic designers and were missing developers for the gameplay.

I offered my services for the sound effects and the music, thinking this small contribution would not really matter and they would reject me. But Benjamin looked thrilled! Apparently, since no one is knowledgeable or willing to spend time on it, it’s generally the most underperformed task. But a great soundtrack that can support the game narrative, sound effects that immerse the players and show their interaction with the environment…that for sure can make a difference. Also, nobody is going to give up an extra helping hand!

Back to the topic…Repair…quite the topic. If you looked at the opening video you can see how wide it is, therefore our brainstorming was also effervescent with ideas. I had Coldplay’s song “Fix you” always in my mind.

I’m the Black marker

After some thought, we tried to make the Convergence process. It wasn’t easy at all. One concept was a robot that starts with 2 functions/tools (a Spring and a generator). With these two it can explore only a part of the map, it has to get other functions to get another further (grappling, magnet, flying blades). And at some point, it needs to give up function after function to the mothership to repair it and open a new map area. Until the last step: give up the generator to restart the mothership and let it fly again. Quite a nice story right? A story of adventure, exploration, self-sacrifice…

That’s not what we did. We chose to go antiestablishment, to be free of the shackles of RPG-games, to bring discovery, awe, and accomplishment to the players. Bottom line: let’s RePear the world.

Team RePear

The concept is mindblowing. Picture it: you’re in a room with a button. What do you do?

Okay, you look around the room. But then, what do you do? You press the button.

Then a Pear magically apPears, and an ethereal voice comments “ This is a pear. The first of many.”

You press the button again, and again a Pear apPears. The voice goes “ A pear is a fruit. There are over 3,000 varieties.”

After pushing the button so many times, you realize that the screen counter moves slowly, one Pear at a time. And you start to wonder:

What am I doing wrong?

The voice continues: “ With every pear grown, you get closer. Continue applying force to the button.”

Closer to what?

“ While you can not understand the pear, they all desire to be used as sacrifices in order to fuel the pear production rate greatly. A hole has opened in the floor. Herd all pears into the hole.”

The players are then expected to master their own strength to push the pears in the feeds. Each pear fed will increase the counter, and thus the number of Pears that aPear each time the button is pressed.

Push the button!!

Players are gently encouraged to continue to push forward thanks to the friendly AI:

  • We have devised a system of rewards for your continued work in the form of humorous anecdotes, one-liners, quips, and puns. It is imPearative to keep up morale.
  • What do you call a fruity pop star? Katy Peary
  • When there are two pears. You say that there are a pair of Pears.
  • Then there are two flawless Pears. You say that there are a pair of Pearfect pears.

And many more…you’ll have to play the game yourself if you want to get all the rich narrative content and one of the game’s ending.

What kind of Pear are you? The team explorer or the lone adventurer?

I am not going to downplay the amount of work needed by the Team to make this project. A special thanks to Benjamin that carried to project on his shoulders, taking the responsibility of coding the whole gameplay while we were supporting him with the various assets (textures, rooms, music, scenario). And the final result is better than what we initially expected.

Then again, it’s good to be proud of your game, it’s better if players enjoy it: Demo time!

It’s aliiiiive!

I was overjoyed to see the players behind their keyboard, headset on (sound is 60% of the experience, and I’m being objective here).

After helping to set up our demo stand, I went around to play with other games. The level was high, but we were only 2 teams that went for 3D.

You can find all games (including ours) on the official page of our edition: https://globalgamejam.org/2020/jam-sites/uppsala-university-campus-gotland-ggs-2020/games

And if you’re interested to play the “latest” version of RePear https://sindors.itch.io/repear

In my gaming opinion, the best game was Nailed it. It has the potential to become the next Angry Birds, easily portable to mobile phones. You have to get your hammer rotating fast and releasing it at the perfect time to hit the nail. Easy, one button, purpose. Just like ours :)

Go get the game !!! https://globalgamejam.org/2020/games/nailed-it-3

After an hour to test the games it was time for the showcase. Benjamin explained the concept while Patrik was doing the playthrough.

Well, …he used a modified version of the game that didn’t show the ending (#NoSpoil). Therefore instead of having #Spoil happening, Pears continued aPearing with no limits but the computer’s limits. See for yourself:

Over 10.000!!!

I think this is the sequence that decided the whole competition for us. There was 3 voting category:

  • Theme
  • Execution
  • And Fun

Guess which one we won? Look at Benjamin’s face of bewilderment.

We were overjoyed by this recognition, the cherry on top of this intense weekend! We highlighted the significant contribution of Benjamin as our primary carry and took the high honor of writing our names in the book of winners:

This edition celebrated the end of Marcus’ position as president of the Gotland Game Club, passing upon the responsibility of the book of winners, with a very solemn oath.

Do you accept this responsibility?

And of course a round of applause for Marcus, I didn’t film it as I was to busy acclaiming him.

This story is already long enough, so I’ll try to wrap it up here. There were so many “team” moments during this weekend that I can’t share the full extent of this adventure.

The nightly chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream while making a team huddle to share our progress, counting the computing resources of our assets in term of “Pears” (“Dude, this room weights like a hundred Pears, make it lighter!”), or having to come up with so many puns with Pear in it…

We learned so much about Pears too:

Pears have acrophobia, the fear of heights. Pears aren’t fearless, just pearlessly brave.

🍐🍐I am grateful for this team, for the games, and for the Pears 🍐🍐

When you’re too lazy to name soundfiles…

Cofounder of Remote-ready, Elected council member of Global Ecovillage Network Europe