Game Hack 2012 – Pollinator

Another week, another Game Jam, this time round myself and my molyjammin buddy Wolfgang  tackled  ‘Game Hack‘, a 24 hr game jam at Pinewood Studios. This one was a little more ‘professional’, with big prizes such as publishing deals, cash and TIGA memberships, which resulted in some scarily professional work being shown at the final presentation showdown – but we weren’t really there for any of that – out came the kinect, and a-jammin we did go!

This jam was a little different to Molyjam, in as much as there was no set theme beyond the general ‘social/mobile’  tone of the competition categories, the entry into some being something which could leave me on weird ground considering my current employment at CA.  That said, what we did know before turning up was that it was likely we’d want to do something with Kinect again, and with ‘ head tracking’ as a vague direction (as inspired by this awesome wii hack) we wanted to go in, we set about thinking up some ways to turn that tech into a flash game.

In the end, with an eye on making something which would be a full game showable in 2 mins (and finishable in 24 hours) –  we settled on the ol’  ‘on rails 3D dodging game’, controlled via head tacking, which is pretty common on Kinect.  Its not really hard to see why, TBH, part of the reason we went down that route was because it was genuinely fun to dodge and crash into obstacles.

It was interesting to tackle something which pretty much feels like one of the base building blocks of what Kinect can do in 3D. At first I was a tiny bit apprehensive, as ‘go on a rail and collect the things for a high score’ isn’t that much different to what we did with Little Miss Left Behind – but as Wolfgang was quick to point out- this *is* Kinect, and 24 hours isn’t really enough time to try and break the mould.

Despite not feeling like we pushed the ‘head tracking’ concept as far as it could have gone from a design POV, ( irritatingly, I only started to have my flood of ideas as to what we could do which would have stayed pure to the head tracking while being simple enough to work as a minigame this lunchtime ) – In the end I felt like I learned a lot of different things about about Kinect and 3D game asset creation/implementation that I never could have picked up at molyjam, so either way it was a very rewarding process – and dodging things while controlling a BEE with your FACE  is hella fun. I got a really high score when we demoed it too, aww yeah 8-).

So! On to the art- I don’t really have any concept art worth showing for this, 24 hours is a very short time to make a game, especially as there were only two of us making it. My concepting process was more along the lines of ‘ a few scribbly thumbnails then see where google image search takes me’ than the usual sketches and iterations, and once I knew we were doing a game about bees I just kinda leapt straight into modelling with a low poly blocky/basic aesthetic in mind, with absolute bare minimum use of textures.

I actually prefer low poly modelling to the fancier stuff, for one it doesn’t lag my computer up, for two, its pretty easy to get strong shapes going when you don’t have much of a choice, and it reminds me of the cardboard monstrosities I used to make as a kid. I find that the higher end of modelling can get kinda muddy by comparison (or it can when I do it), and I guess the late 90s/00s gamer in me will always have a nostalgic fuzzyness for this kinda thing. I look at blocky ass low poly 3D  the same way those lucky kids of my generation who started their ‘core’ gaming way earlier than I did probably feel about pixel art. The good examples of early/low poly 3D- the Crash Bandicoots, the Spyros et al stand up as great little examples of art from technological adversity even today.

My bee is actually pretty massive by comparison to a character from a PS1 game, of course, sitting at quite the massive 656 polys, but it was made in that spirit!


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