A Game Jam at the MIT Pt.1

It’s been a busy few weeks (as always). We’re working on the console port of The Inner World, we’re working on contract work, we’re working on the sequel, I’ve been organizing a jam for a client, I’ve been mentoring kids in building cool stuff with garbage and electronics, showed our game at gamescom and in the end… i got the opportunity to go to Boston. And it was amazing:

Thursday evening:
My friend Riad and I arrive at the Airport in Boston and there Christoph is already waiting for us to pick us up. We’re super happy to be taken care of that well, as neither of us has ever been to the states. So the first day is basically being amazed by the city and especially the apartment we had the luck to stay in. We even had access to a rooftop terrace with a beautiful view at the skyline of boston.

Skyline Drinks

This day got busier than we thought. First we went shopping quickly and had breakfast. After that we went to visit the Boston Indie Game Collective. As we’re also working on germanys first indie collective called “Saftladen“, we’re more than happy to talk to other fellow indies to discuss the challenges we have to face. After that we went to the MIT where Rik showed us the Gamelab. It’s really an awesome place with awesome people trying to teach gamedesign. After the quick tour we we’re invited in a gamedesign class and interviewed about our relationship to boardgames and how we grew up with them (if we did). It was interesting to think about that again how we played as kids and how that maybe influenced the way we design & develop games today.

Rik’s office

After the tour we went for a little walk together with Jana & Friedrich and explored the West End of Boston a bit. We walked over the Charles River and had a look at the public garden. I must say this was really nice as walking through all the different parts of Boston & Cambridge really had a big variety of architectural styles to offer.

Friedrich says hi

After that we had dinner and ended of course, on our terrace again for drinks.

We went to visit the Boston Festival of Indie Games. The Festival had two floors: the first served as the boardgame showcase while the second served as the digital game showcase. I must say, although in the first place I was more interested in the digital showcase, the boardgames really amazed me. There was such a variety of interesting prototypes to play. My favorite was one where you had to build spiders nets using rubber bands. Your goal was to try to trap as many insects as you can by just throwing them at your net. This game was designed by one of the members of the Game Makers Guild, a very nice group of board game designers.

Rubber Band Spider Net

The digital showcase on the other hand had also it’s gems hidden between all the more prototype like games. On the one hand there were very professional games like The Flame In The Flood and Perception which both were created by ex AAA-Devs from Irrational. But for me the most interesting game was Ape Out from Gabe Cuzillo which won two awards at the FIG-Award Ceremony: Audience Choice and Compelling Game Loop. And i totally agree. It had a feeling of Hotline Miami with it, but as it always showed you the whole map when you died, it gave you a nice sense of how far you progressed and what you should try differently. Sadly i didn’t take much pictures of the game themselves as I was busy checking them all out.

As a summary i must say: The FIG is unlike any festival i have seen till now, because it includes a wide variety of games regarding to their “polished” status. A lot of them were very experimental and lacked good looking graphics, but on the other hand that gave some of the more experimental games the chance to be played by a big crowd. On of my surprise hits was a game called Lightning. It has a very distinct art style and the gameplay is weird – but in a good way. It’s a 4 player top down arena shooter where you have to tap the shoot button in a specific manner to guide the lightning bolt coming out of your ship. I think there is still a lot of polish to do on exactly that mechanic, but as i played and watched people playing i think there could be a little gem hidden inside that loop.

I think i have to stop this wall of text from getting any bigger – so stay tuned for part 2 of my boston trip report next sunday!