Gamerly Musings

Where failed pitches go to shine.

Month: April, 2012

Game Journo Game Jam – FAQ

What is the Game Journo Game Jam?

Game Journo Game Jam, or GJx2, is a game jam for people who want to attempt making a quick and crazy game, but wouldn’t be able to participate in a normal game jam for any number of reasons. Scheduling conflicts and lack of development experience typically being chief among those reasons, but there are plenty others out there. The idea is to make a game, either on your own or with a team of your own choosing, during the month of May. Think of it as a “My First Game Jam” sort of event, preparing its participants so that some day they could join one of the more hardcore game jams.

A whole month? Aren’t game jams normally just over a weekend?

Yes, typically game jams occur over a ridiculously short period of time to offer a challenge to developers. GJx2 isn’t for developers. The people who will get the most out of GJx2 probably haven’t ever made a game before, or have very limited experience. It will likely take a week or two just to figure out the right tools to use and how to use them properly, skills that an experienced developer would already bring with them into a game jam. Also there is the matter of scheduling conflicts. In my freelance experience there’s no such thing as a weekend off, or a 48 hour period of time I can set aside from work to do a game jam non-stop. So the Game Journo Game Jam was created with that kind of crazy schedule in mind. Rather than pump out a game over a weekend, it’ll most likely cater to more of a stop and go development cycle.

I’ve already got a great idea for a game but no skills to make it! Can I use that idea for GJx2 even though I came up with it before May?

Yes! The way game jams typically work is for developers to only come up with their game concept once the jam has started. This is because the developers already have the skills and knowledge of how to make a game, so the real challenge is in coming up with and executing an idea on a short time frame. GJx2 is the exact opposite. There’s a good chance you already have an idea for a game you want to execute, but it’s during the course of GJx2 that you’ll acquire the skills to actually do so. So by all means, use the time before GJx2 to come up with your game idea. Just keep in mind that the idea may change once you start learning about the tools you’ll be using.

Wait, part of the GJ in GJx2 stands for “game journo”? I’m not a games journalist/writer/critic, can I still join?

Of course! The original idea for this game jam was for any amateur/aspiring game creator to have a more beginner-friendly outlet. As it turned out, when discussing that idea on Twitter, most of the people interested were game journalists. And since game journalist and game jam both begin with GJ, I thought GJx2 was a catchy name. So yes, feel free to ignore my vain attempt to sound clever and join the game jam even if you don’t write about games. I’d love for some gaming PR or community manager types to get involved, for example.

Is there a theme for GJx2?

Most game jams have a theme to help direct the game ideas. This goes back to the point about game jams typically being a test of executing an idea spur of the moment, so themes ensure that developers don’t come up with their concept before the theme is revealed. I hadn’t planned on there being a theme for the Game Journo Game Jam, since participants are encouraged to come up with their ideas before the jam starts. GJx2 is really more about learning how to make a game, and my theory is that people will be more motivated to keep going if it’s fully their own idea. However, sometimes such an open-ended assignment can be even more daunting, so I will provide a theme once the game jam starts for those who want one. You won’t be required to follow the theme, but it will be there if you’re strapped for ideas and need a starting point.

I’m a game journalist and would like to participate, is it ethical to still cover the game jam?

Yes, depending on how it is done. You should disclose in any writing about GJx2 that you are/were a participant, and you should discuss with your editors how they want it to be handled. One writer has told me he will be doing a weekly column of his game’s progress during the game jam, and this could be an excellent opportunity to do a postmortem article after it’s all done. Using your writing as PR for your game is an obvious no-no.

I’m an experienced developer and would still like to participate in GJx2 because this sounds cool and different/I am hopelessly addicted to game jams. Can I still join or take part in some way?

Sure! I imagine completing a game in a month would still offer its own challenges for an experienced developer, and would allow you to explore ideas a little further than a 2-day game jam would normally allow. Also, if you want to join as an experienced developer, it would be greatly appreciated if you could be active in our Google Group and help other participants work through their development difficulties. That would be awesome, so yes, please join in.

What if I don’t complete my game before the end of May?

Then you get thrown into a volcano. Seriously though, can’t finish? No big deal! Making a game is hard and you’ve got other stuff to do, I’d be surprised if half of the entrants produce something from GJx2, myself included. The point is that you tried, and hopefully had fun and learned something in the process. Having something finished to show for it at the end is just a bonus. That isn’t to say you should go into GJx2 expecting that you won’t finish, but fear of finishing shouldn’t stop you from joining. But if you don’t finish something in time, you may not be eligible for the IGF Press Pirate Kart…

Got more questions? Ask away in the comments and be sure to join the Game Journo Game Jam group to be a part of all GJx2 discussions.


GJx2: Game Journo Game Jam!!!!

As some of my twitter followers may have noticed, I have a tendency to spout out game ideas from time to time Peter Molydeux-style. When Molyjam was happening, I was so excited for it, but a weekend simply isn’t enough time for someone with my complete lack of experience to take part. As such, I would like to propose the Game Journo Game Jam, a game jam built around accommodating people with no experience and bizzarro writer schedules. Interested? Then allow me to elaborate.

During the month of May I am going to attempt to make a game, and I invite all industry folk to join me in this endeavor. Yes, the game jam will comprise the entire month of May. Remember, this for accommodating crazy schedules and people with potentially no prior experience. And despite the name, this isn’t just for game journos, critics, and writers, so I’d love to see PR reps and anyone else involved in this fine industry who doesn’t typically dabble in game development join in.

If you would like to participate in the first (hopefully of many) Game Journo Game Jam, then great! Join me in the GJx2 Google group where we can discuss and share beginner dev experiences, tips, and troubles along the way. And on twitter, be sure to use the #GJx2 hashtag when talking about the Jam. Let’s get this thing started!

Hope to see you all there!

Fez review – Digital Spy

My review for Fez went up today on Digital Spy, and I’m a little surprised with the results. Honestly, I think the convoluted and obtuse puzzles were a bit much, but ultimately on reflection this was my experience of it. I may write a more detailed post on my personal issues with the game vs my positive review at another time but I’m a bit overwhelmed with other writing at the moment, so I only have time for this quick post.

The one thing I will say about the review now is about the review’s subheading: Video Games 101. My overall feeling on Fez is that is is the videogame equivalent of Hugo: a game about the history and making of games. I often joke to people that Hugo is like a film 101 course hidden in a movie, so the “video games 101” thing is a reference to that. I’m not saying it’s an easy or beginner’s game, but rather a fundamental textbook, if you will, for examining games.

In any case, here’s the review:

Fez review (Xbox Live Arcade): Video Games 101

Ad Age – Mass Effect 3’s Ending And Social Media

Ad Age recently sought me out for comment on the Mass Effect 3 ending controversy to provides some quotes for an article. That article was posted today, and will also be appearing in print form in the most recent issue of Ad Age.

‘Mass Effect 3’ Struggles With Social-Media Furor Over Ending is the article in question.

Of course, as is always the case in print interviews, I was asked far more questions and gave far longer winded answers than what appeared in the final copy, so I wanted to include those questions and answers here as supplemental material.

Beth Bulik – Ad Age: Do you ever recall this happening before – that players’ protest or input has changed the narrative (or outcome) of a video game? Is that what is happening in this case?

Scott Nichols: This sort of thing happens all of the time in games, but usually only with mechanics. Fighting games and online shooters are constantly tweaked due to fan feedback, and last year Uncharted 3’s aiming mechanics were changed after overwhelming fan outcry. But this is the first time I can think of that this has happened with a game’s plot or narrative.

Ad Age: What does this say about the power of social media, and in particular, gamers ability to come together and use it?

Scott: Social media is great for facilitating mob mentality. A fan on their own might be disappointed with the game’s ending, but through social media they can find a large anonymous community to fuel and escalate those views. Someone filed a complaint with the FTC over Mass Effect 3’s ending. I can’t see that happening without a large enough social media community to reinforce the idea so that an individual thinks that is an appropriate course of action.

Ad Age: Do you think Bioware Studios is doing the right thing by considering/changing the endings? Why should they stick to their guns, if you don’t agree? Or why should they listen to fans, if you do agree?

Scott: I think, given the degree of the outrcy, Bioware has made the right moves so far. It will really depend on what actions Bioware takes going forward. In general, I think game developers should have control of their creative vision, so to that end I think they should “stick to their guns” regarding the ending. The real question is whether they plan to change the ending or simply add to it. Changing the existing ending would show a lack of integrity in their own work, so I’m hoping for, if anything, additions that still retain and build on the original ending.

Ad Age: What effect will this have, if any, on other video game development, especially the very popular series with mass audiences?

Scott: On the one hand, “the customer is always right”, so it’s definitely in Bioware’s interest to appease fans. On the other hand it sets a dangerous precedent for the industry. I don’t even just mean a dangerous precedent for the democratization of content, but also for how publishers will react. Bioware is a pretty big deal for EA, but what happens if the next time is a smaller studio? Will the publisher back them up and support the post-release plot change, or will they take the fan outcry as a failing and close the studio? Or it could lead to publishers wanting to have more control over narrative-driven games, with plots only approved for production if there is a successful game with the same plot to show demand. This is something that already happens with game genres, so if fans make game narrative a big enough issue I can see the same thing happening there as well.

Ad Age: Some are saying in fact, Bioware and EA meant for the ending to be incomplete. So that they could sell DLC. Do you think that’s true?

Scott: To my knowledge, all DLC that Bioware and EA had planned was for mid-game content rather than additions to the ending, so I would file that under conspiracy theory. Not that it would surprise me if it were true, but I feel that if it were true Bioware’s response would have mentioned that fans shouldn’t worry because they always intended to expand on the game’s ending. Sure that would have made them angry, but it would have shown Bioware was planning ahead, so ultimately it would have been a positive move. They didn’t do that though, so I doubt they were planning to add end-game DLC until now.

Ad Age: Any other thoughts about the controversy?

Scott: What stood out to me most was the ‘Retake Mass Effect’ group’s response to Bioware’s statement. In it they say “Retake Mass Effect is not over by any means; Dr. Myzuka’s statement was welcome, but did not directly address our concerns. You have been heard. Now it is time to make sure they get the details right.” That “make sure they get the details right” bit frightens me. It’s the difference between wanting the ending to be changed to be something consistent with the narrative, and wanting it to be changed to something specific. It changes their tone from concerned fans to a list of demands. With something that’s so hugely popular and subjective, no matter what action Bioware makes it will be impossible to please everybody. With statements like those, I wonder if the ‘Retake Mass Effect’ fans are prepared for that, or whether they will burn out their own cause.