Portland indie developers made 33 video games in 48 hours. You can play them all on Monday
Video game development is a fickle business.
Sometimes success comes in the form of meticulously crafted, hours-long adventures that retail for $60 or more. Other times, a simple one-off takes off on smartphone digital stores and rakes in millions.
Participants in Portland Indie Game Squad‘s Global Game Jam, one of many such 48-hour development-fests that took place across the globe last weekend, went looking for that sweet spot in between. (But, in this case, far more for fun and experience than for profit.)
All told, participants in Portland completed a total of 33 projects centered around this year’s theme of “transmission.”
They include an isometric ghost adventure where players control a spirit trying to spook anyone who would inherit its haunted mansion to a virtual reality head-scratcher that’ll put your code-breaking prowess to the test.
Jammers had the freedom to sketch out ideas and pour hours into projects without fear of failure.
“Making things is scary,” PIGSquad member and freelance illustrator Marlowe Dobbe said. “But during a jam, there aren’t any stakes to it. There’s no intimidation.”
The titles are going on display at the WeWork headquarters in downtown Portland on Monday as jammers show off polished versions of the projects they developed from Jan. 26 to Jan. 28
The concept for the event was simple: Buy a ticket that grants you 24-hour access to the Art Institute of Portland’s facilities, connect with fellow would-be game makers and brainstorm a project everyone finds agreeable. From there, it’s a mad dash to illustrate, animate, code and maybe even score the thing. (And, of course, maybe even pop into the PIGSquad Twitch stream to show off.)
At worst, participants end up with strings of code that show off a gameplay idea or offer a short demo of something that could grow given time. And at best, jammers complete a short, enjoyable experience shared with the rest of the group.
“By the end of the weekend, you’ve got something to put into a portfolio,” PIGSquad member and local software developer Michael Hill said.
The larger event has existed since 2009. PIGSquaders have participated since 2012, one year after the organization was started. Last year, Dobbe and Hill said, it took approximately 10 hours for PIGSquad’s stock of game jam tickets to sell out.
This year, they were gone in 50 minutes.
“The draw is that people are excited about making things,” Hill said.
All 33 of the games developed over the weekend are already playable through PIGSquad’s event profile on the Global Game Jam page. And although several of them will require a Windows PC or a smartphone — sorry, Mac users — two of them are playable on browsers:
The flight disaster aversion adventure, “__ Days Since Last Last Incident” has players hover their mouse over planes flying over an airfield and navigate the multiple craft with the arrow keys to keep them from colliding.
And in “So-Gnar,” playable only with three other friends and as many gamepads, players are tasked with tracking down and eliminating everyone else on the field. The catch is that each avatar is constantly losing energy. And the only way of replenishing it is to walk over pads scattered throughout the map that transmit a ripple of energy that gives away your position every time you recharge.
The Global Game Jam and ensuing showcase are just a pair of major events PIGSquad puts on to help connect local developers, whether professional or hobbyist.
The group hosts regular meetings at the Lucky Labrador in Northwest Portland where folks can network or just unwind. During the warm months, a Summer Slow Jams series will invite folks to try their hand developing games or interactive experiences in three short timeframes.
PIGSquad also hosts a booth every fall at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. In fact, last year club members showed off a project code-named “ShockTarts,” which ended up being a demo for Rose City Games’ first major planned release, “The World Next Door.”
And although they pulled double-duty as game developers and game jam organizers in late January, Hill and Dobbe say they’re nowhere near feeling fatigued.
“I’m just looking forward to playing the games, finally,” Hill said.
The Portland Indie Game Squad’s Global Game Jams Showcase starts at 7 p.m. Feb. 12 at the WeWork facility in Pioneer Courthouse Square, 700 S.W. Fifth Ave. Admission is free. Food and drink provided while supplies last.