A Game Jam at the MIT Pt.2

And now to the interesting part of my trip – the game jam at the MIT. If you didn’t read Pt.1 of this post you can read it here.

After getting up a bit more tired than usual we got breakfast and were ready to jam! We already knew the topic of the jam and I must say: I was quite unsure about how the jam would turn out. Because: first of all the topic is one that you wouldn’t necessarily think of in context of games.

Rik introducing the topic.
Rik introducing the topic.

So the main topic was Martin Luther and his theses he drafted nearly 500 years ago.¬†But before we could get our hands dirty with drafting out our game ideas of course we had to introduce ourselves to each other. So the people taking part at the jam were shuffled together and played a round of a card game called Buffalo. It’s a easy to grasp game: You draw adjective cards and noun cards related to persons. Then first who comes up with a specific person and convinces the other people that this person exists gets to take the cards. After playing this for 10 minutes, and I must say this is quite hard if you’re in a foreign country and don’t know none of the local known people, we got the task to redesign the game in order to adjust it to our liking. We then had to explain why we came up with the new rules. And all of that in another 10 minutes. This put me under a lot of pressure first – but retrospectively i think that it wasn’t that bad. I got to know a bit the people I was sitting at the table through their opinion on the game and how they would change it. Which is a pretty interesting way to get to know someone I must admit.

After that we got a presentation about martin luther’s life and doings in detail. As I’m not that much of a religious person this was pretty awesome for me because that would give me more insight and Ideas to make a game about. If you also need a refresher on what he did i suggest you read his wiki entry.

After reading the entry at first you may think: “That is an impossible topic to make a fun game about!”. As i said earlier, i also was skeptical in the beginning. But I was reminded of something I tend to forget: If you look closely at a specific topic there is always a core you find interesting which you can turn into a game mechanic with which the topic can be made accessible to other people. And for me it was the translating of text. So one big things martin luther did was translate the bible into german so that the common folk could read & understand it. And that’s a big deal. Because translating information makes you the gate for that information. If you’re part of a small group that understands a text which a lot of people depend on you hold great power there. Thousands or millions of people will read or hear your interpretation of a piece of information. And thinking of that mechanic in the group we came up with a game that is related to martin luther’s work on the translation of the bible. It’s about interpreting (because translation often comes with interpretation) written laws / rules.

First set of cards for our game
First set of cards for our game

The basic concept is this: Every player gets three GOAL cards with goals written on them like “At least one adjective” “No word with less than 3 letters” “Odd number of words” “Use alliteration” and so on. These goals are to kept secret. Now the group gets number of players +1 RULE cards. These cards have a very vague rule written on them like “Blue socks are prohibited” or “You may own guns”. Finally the TOPIC card is drawn. This card defines the topic under which the rules shall be discussed and interpreted. This topic only serves to drive the discussion. Now the first player starts by picking a rule and suggesting an interpretation of that rule for example: I pick the “Blue socks are prohibited” rule and suggest it should read “Blue and short socks should be prohibited”. If i had the “Use alliteration” GOAL card i would get points for this interpretation. But of course my interpretation now is open for discussion by the other players. Each of the player tries to bring in his goals in the interpretation but also trying to not expose his goals so that the other player don’t know how exactly they can screw you in discussions. It was a pretty fun game in the end (way more fun that my vague description seems to describe but hey – you can interpret it as you like ūüėČ ).

Other games focused on other aspects of the topic of Martin Luther’s life. One game for example was about convincing other people of your idea while not being caught by a priest or even the pope. It had a awesome & funny system of keeping track of your health which you could also improve with beer (of course).

At around 6pm we finished jamming and each group presented their results. This wasn’t my first short jam¬†but again I was amazed on what you can achieve on such a short amount of time.

As this post has already become way longer than i wanted it to become I’ll have to come to an end.

I would like to thank the people at Goethe Insitut Boston for having me and making this awesome experience possible. The same goes for the fine folks of the Game Lab, thanks for having us!

A special “Thank you”¬†goes to Christoph. Thanks for showing us Boston like this. Thanks for organizing everything. Thanks for always making sure we found our way home and had a nice place to sleep. Be sure – that whenever you make it to Berlin, we’ll have drinks on my terrace.

Have a nice weekend everyone!

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!


New Website (FINALLY!)

Hi there!

Yes i’ve been silent for the last year, yes my new website took way too much time to finish, yes it’s just a wordpress site, yes I’ll try to write more often now again, yes the site is still a bit rough around the edges, yes maybe the projects page could use a bit of polish, yes i was sick of holding this back so long, yes i know this enumeration makes little sense, yes I’ll start writing regular sentences now …

So basically i just wanted to let you know: This is my new website I hope you like it and see you again soon here (or at any other real life venue / bar / event / office …)


(and here’s the obligatory more or less funny gif)

Pepe finally talks about games.

Hi there,

so it took me a while but now i finally managed to spare some time in order to publish my own blog about my favorite topic – games.

Of course games is a very general topic so let me clarify it a bit:
The whole thing will be about videogames, how i make them, how i think about them, how i play them, how i love them, how i hate them, how i think they’re important, how i think the industry sucks, how i love the industry, how i think being indie sucks, how i prefer being indie, how i love/hate the term indie, etc …

So first of all i should start with a short introduction of myself and why i’ll write about this stuff.

Well, i am Alexander, but mainly called “Pepe” so let’s keep it that way, shall we? My interest in videogames, or games in general, began back in 1995 when i began watching my father play Adventures. He was mainly playing Monkey Island, Police Quest, Space Quest, Kings Quest and Day of the Tentacle. After i began realizing how awesome it was to follow stories this way, by playing it, i started exploring the whole universe of interactive storytelling. Two years later i started being interested in making my own games and wrote a little text adventure for my little brother in BASIC, called “Survive Afternoon School”.

“Survive Afternoon School”
And now, 16 years later, here i am:
28 years old, Co-Founder & Technical Director of “Studio Fizbin“, finished and released the multi-platform beloved Point’n’Click-Adventure “The Inner World“, finished my studies in “Applied Computer Sciences” with a B.Sc., still loving good old PnP-Games, working on our next Project, teaching Game Programming, giving Workshops, …
So i think that’s enough for a short introduction – back to first real news!
Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes got a Release Date (03.20.2014 in Japan and 03.18.2014 in US) and some very good looking Special Editions (at least for Japan) [click!]. Actually this is the first next-gen game i really care about and will maybe be the reason for me to get a ps4.
[Pic from KONAMI]

And there is another piece of news i wanted to share with you in my first blogpost: Our first game “The Inner World” just won the German Developer Award for “Best Family Game”! Woohoo! Being nominated in five categories is pretty awesome already (Best Story, Best Sound, Best Adventure, Best Family Game and Best German Game 2013 (!)) but actually winning an award is even more awesome!