Bears, Beards and Bacon - Scottish Game Jam

By Greg Goltsov

Sorry, I will not be talking about bacon, but now I have your attention!

Game jams are something I always wanted to do, but made silly excuses not to, such as too much work. And that's while at uni - I'm sure the amount of free time is not going to be increasing from now on. So, last Friday, on my way out of uni, I spontaneously joined the Scottish Game Jam 2013!

Even though it was sold out, I managed to get an unclaimed sacred Red Band of Jammer, and two glorious artists -- @too_artsy and @Wallmasterr -- in need of a coder appeared from thin air! Later on @jonbro also joined, and the team Beards of Awesome was born!

One thing I'd say for certain is that if, for any reason, one realises she has a lack of motivation or a bad case of ennui, game jam is the best cure possible. What's not to like? Spontaneous creativity, fast decision-making and short time space with a clear goal result in simply crazy amount of stuff that (hopefully) gets done with a (hopefully) awesome prototype at the end. No money incentive, no genre taboos, no marketing predictability - just pure materialisation of ideas that were bashed and remixed together just twenty minutes ago!

For me one of the best parts of the jam was the brainstorming. Now, it usually is quite a mixed experience, differing from team to team; however I luckily had a great one with Jonathan Brodsky - some people can think outside the box, but some also ask why the box is on its side, made of cardboard and why do people keep on climbing inside it. Jon is one of those people. I mean, just look at the whiteboard!

Interestingly, even though I'd say I went against all the rules and had a good amount of sleep throughout the jam (averaging 6), the whole experience, retrospectively, kind of concatenated into one prolonged weekend. For me, it was a bit like watching a film -- where you get completely lost in the movie magic for a couple of hours -- except for the whole weekend.

The theme of the jam was a rather unexpected sound clip of a heartbeat -- it has quite strong connocations and is not really as open as themes normally go. However, it made the majority of the jammers try to be more original, because "everyone else will have a ♥ + beat game". We were using Unity, which is perfect for rapid prototyping, and it showed. Although a couple of times I had to learn whole new parts of the system which I never tried before to get the game ready (hello, Mecanim). Also, Jon had to leave to port Proteus right in the middle of the jam, so it spiced up the development as well!

In the end, we made a rather crazy bees vs bears two-player survival arena, with some cool life-movement-weapon mechanic: the hive that you're playing as can only propel itself by shooting out bees, which are limited (but replenish) and are also used to stun the bears. It's quite fun and competitive, and I think might have a potential for something more.

In the end, we managed to grab Dundee Game Jam's Best Art award and somehow honourably mentioned for Best Code and Best Game Overall!

You can play the one-player version of Go Away Mr. Bear, These Items Do Not Belong To You in the browser, or get it from the official Global Games Jam 2013 website.

Also, check out all the hacky source code on GitHub!