Shenanijam 2018

Hey everyone, Gage & Zac here coming at you live for a Shenanijam review!

Before I even begin I’d like to thank everyone who was able to show up and experience the jam. It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to do more with you. This last weekend the JDE folks participated in the Shenanijam, a Game Jam hosted by Butterscotch Shenanigans, and it was a blast! The turn out on participants was great and it ranged from raising sophomores to alumni, and everything in between.  Looking back, I was really inspired by the amount of people who participated. Around twenty people, broken up into six teams, were able to create games (and directly after finals)! It’s wonderful seeing so many people who are willing to take the initiative with game development.


This time around we had the choice to choose any or combine any of the prompts which were: void sandwich, sticky justice, and burn it down. One of our teams chose void sandwich, and we went for a food truck parked next to a black hole. They had a blast playing around with Vector math to simulate the gravitational force of a black hole. The best part was how their own personal constraint or making every function used a void function. It was a great time to see what folks could make after having finals just a few days before.

Besides that, one of everyone’s favorite moments was when they took a moment from their development cycle to play a simple story telling card game, Confabula Rasa. It really helped lessen the stress and clear our heads a bit. Our major challenge was working around the building hours and how the room gets musty with body odor, but besides that we prevailed! Towards the end of the jam we had an amazing playtest session and bundle submission for the Shenanijam. Since the submission we have received tons of positive comments and feedback for our bundle.

Photo by Emma Larkins

The overall experience was super positive and fun. We learned a lot about the design process as well as those of whom we worked with. Some of us also learned to bring some fans next time… and maybe some group pizza… Be sure to join us next time during our next Game Jam. Thanks for reading!


Indie City May Meeting

Howdy Folks!

Zac again, recently the Indie City Games May Meetup occurred and some spicy things went down. Starting off the event was a presentation from Billy Basso. He gave us the rundown of his experience making game engines in C++ and how it all began with emulating what other editors had provided, but then went into some weird unorthodox methods in making personal engines that are meant to only be used in solo projects. While indeed unorthodox extremely enlightening in providing a different approach to making engines.

Billy Basso giving a talk about rolling his own engine and level editor from scratch in C++, and some of the cool advantages this approach has afforded him.

From there the meetup went into their Indie Open Mic, a period where indie folk from all over are given 5 minutes a piece to present what they are working on. During this month’s session some folks went on about some weird fish fighting game, I wonder who they were, as well as others going into depth about updates on their indie projects that they have been working on for a while. There was even an attendee, Sarah Sexton, who shared their knowledge on how to make a chat bot as well as the one they had produced. Once the open mic ended the open play / mingling period began. During this time those who had their gear for their games set up shop for playtesting and invited all to playtest. While attendees play tested the games, everyone ranging from students to industry folk mingled and networked.

Indie City May Meeting Dinner

After the event happened, we had an awesome birthday dinner with the indie developers there. We shared tons of cool ideas, jokes, and stories on Chicago and games as whole. Overall this day was really helpful because it gave an insight of what our community has to offer. We look forward to the next event and hopefully having more passionate students attending and showcasing!


(Photos courtesy of Sarah Sexton – @Saelia)


We had a blast showcasing GAZE at TOKEN 5!


Surprisingly we had a successful turnout with a full house of people wanting to play our game. The event was hosted in Emporium, an arcade bar, with other striving artists fomr the Chicago land area. The JDE was their first ever video game related showcase which became a massive hit. The owners of the bar loved what we were doing then put our game, GAZE, on every monitor in the actual building!

Overall we gained tons of publicity from people in Chicago and networked with some amazing artists as well.

PixelPop 2017

Major takeaways from PixelPop Festival:
1.) Game development community in St. Louis is friendly, reliable, huge, and inclusive.
2.) Its rapidly growing with strong independent developers from all over the country.
3.) Its a hidden gem of passionate people with some awesome upcoming games.

Overall this weekend was fantastic and it was so fun uncovering what the Midwest has the offer. We had an amazing opportunity to showcase in St. Louis and give a postmortem on our experience with GAZE. Thanks to that we even became one of their Festival Selections!



Studio Culture & Wargaming

Thanks to Matt Parker (alumni) for our JDE visit!


It was amazing being able to visit a Wargaming Studio in Chicago. We got the full studio tour with their lead developers with a cool Q&A portion afterwards. This was super helpful since there were people of all development backgrounds able to accommodate what the JDE was interested in. One highlight was the emphasis on how it can take a while to break into the industry, but that shouldn’t stop someone from still trying. I thought this was super helpful because the game industry is still so new and even Chicago doesn’t have jobs for every student graduating.


After this whole visit, the members of the JDE felt more inspired in being creators. We continued what we were best at hoping that one day we could stand out! Next stop, graduation!

Designing Eachother

During a class session, we decided to collaborate with each other’s teams. Since we both have a general understanding of what we want to create, we decided to add a twist in the design process. The twist was designing each other’s games.

The two teams that partook in this was Chimera and Phoenix. Since the teacher called in sick that day, this was an excellent opportunity to get some creative freedom. How this was structured started with half an hour of white boarding then pitching to each other the significance of our ideas. We both came up with new perspectives on each other’s concepts. Some the complete opposite of the original concept, but it worked out somehow.


Finding the Tone

Based off of the faculty and class feedback on our three ideas, we started playing games that similar to a vision we had. This was based on the idea of Ethereal Cruise, where a spirit explores the world and brings the stars back together. This was envisioned to have players learn and take away stories related to our planet’s constellations.

Outside of class we went to our university’s game lab which had some of the games we talked about. Basically we switched the controller between each person in the team in order for everyone to get an experience of the game. Below are some games that had an atmospheric vibe we were talking about pursuing.

Game References

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More Planes!

Today starts the end of Humani Tsunami and the beginning of Contrail. We as a group started looking at concrete festivals related to the game we were trying to work on. Contrail is a competitive multiplayer game where players fly around a unique space and attempt to cut one another off by creating a collidable trail. The trails persists on the map, creating more obstacles overtime for the players to avoid. It was like Tron, but in a 3D world. What we want the audience to feel when designing this was an easy to pick up game, but can be hard to master. Something with a stylized reality visual, but if need be, solid color pallettes.

In the team meeting, we talked about what can we make in 10 weeks, a base game mode. What is our vision as a team was Futuristic Modeling or Wind Waker Visuals. Below are some things we put on our mood board.


Mini Maker Faire

The Maker Faire is the Greatest Show and Tell on Earth—a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. It’s a place where people show what they are making, and share what they are learning. During the JDE showcase in the summer, we connected with people affiliated with this faire. 
Trevor, Edgar, and I accepted this offer to promote projects they showcased together. Each game are different from the norm of games. Stay Cool! was a DDR Pad Controlled party game and LemonGame Stand was an experience where the player gradually loses their senses while making the perfect lemonade. We spent the whole day getting told of positive feedback from the people at the fair.
What was interesting in my opinion was how we were able to have a variety of people play the games. This wasn’t like a video game festival with gamers everywhere, but there were families everywhere consisting of children, parents, young adults, and grandparents. Each one of them passionately walking up to our tables with a strong interest in playing. They asked about next steps on these games and where they will go, but right now we have them on hold for the future.

Back to Square One

We brainstormed 14 potential ideas for our next game. The majority of the games were focused on creating local based games and we were researching if our brainstormed games have been created in the past. Over the weekend the group was assigned to brainstorm and bring in new ideas for the next week. The methods we used were paper jams, talking about what we liked about our favorite games, talking about what we disliked and how we could improve those games, looking into the core of a certain games within genres, physical activities we played in the past, and researching other local based games.

We looked into successful franchises such as rock band, Nintendo, Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution, Wario Ware, etc. The reason why we looked into these franchises was because they were playing the game locally. We grew up with these couch games and had fond memories of playing them. The thought of playing together in one room was an experience we wanted to portray to our players.

As a group, we found a research study about multiplayer games. The study was researching if players were more competitive or cooperative. In the research they found out that the older the player, the less competitive they were. We had to consider who our audience and we found this study to be helpful information.

The next week consists of a pitching to our instructor. We had two plans, if one of our pitches was approved, we would continue working on that game. If the game was denied, we would continue brainstorming and pitch new games to our instructor on the first day of class.

Putting on Hold and Finding a Core

The reason why we put HumaniTsunami on hold was because our instructors asked us to find the core of our game and we were unable to discover the core. Within the last week, we looked for 20 other games that are similar to the game, and find what made our game unique. The core makes the whole experience of the game and what our intentions were for the audience to take away from playing the game. The core that we found was the level design, destruction in the world, and exploration. Our core didn’t seem strong enough and we felt like our game wasn’t able to be completed in time. During the past couple of weeks we ran into technical issues, constant reiterations, and availability to meet together at the same time. Before we had to show our instructor a prototype, we made a decision to put HumaniTsunami on hold.

Fluid Development

This week we decided to finalize our level blockout and change how our level looked. Originally, we were planning to have the level be made as a low poly terrain, until we found out that hexagonal terrain stands out and doesn’t blend with our assets. It looked better than how we originally planned and shifted our level design to be made out of hexagonal pieces. After we completed the level design for one portion of the map, we discussed that the map would be too large. Since one region of the map was too big, it would have been a huge map if we added the other two regions. Since we were restricted on time, we decided to have that one region layout as the entire map. That one region would be split into the three regions that we originally planned (Jungle, Boneyard, and Tar Pit).

Near the end of the week, the basic animations and our character models were completed. We were also designing on how the regions will be split in the level to create an unique experience that allows the player to explore through the level. After finalizing where the regions go, we will be adding the quests and environmental assets into the game. Since we made the hexagonal level change, our programmers were looking into how the player can navigate through the level.

The ‘Shark Fin’ Theory

The designers of the JDE had the opportunity to talk to industry veterans who were also Founders of the former DGE. One of them, Patrick Curry, is a current developer at Unity who gave a lot of insight from his time at DePaul University. Since Patrick has so much experience, Sam, Andy, and I spent our afternoon doing a Skype call with him about the DGE to now.

Lets start with a little about him. Patrick Curry was an employee at DePaul who overlooked the first two DGEs at DePaul. The first DGE was supposed to be a one time thing with the university, Devil’s Tuning Fork. Because the team had so much success and was able to showcase their game at IGF, the school decided to go a second round. This soon led to Octodad, a comedic like adventure that made DePaul what it is today. Once this was done, Patrick Curry and the co founder Alex Seropian left DePaul to come back into the industry.


Shark Fin Theory


Creating ‘The Land Before Time’

Abilities Concept
Player Abilities  designed from Week #1

After a week of designing the gameplay of Humani Tsunami, we decided to do a Prehistoric Level for our Vertical Slice. We as a team had to decide on how the terrain would work for the player with our game. The original gameplay consisted of geometric box like terrain, but the question was how it would work with our mechanics. In the original build, the player were only able to do the Humani Tsunami, aka basic hoard movement. Within the last week and feedback from the Public Showcase, we decided to flesh out the player more and have it do more abilities.

Screenshot (180)
Original Protoype


Since we’ve created new abilities, there came the question on how to implement abilities cohesively with the terrain. Since we have 4 main abilities within the game, each have different movements and area radius of what it can affect. The Tornado swirls in the sky while the Earthquake trembles the ground. In Humani Tsuanmi’s Prototype, we have Vertical Terrain making abilities a little more complicated. We talked a lot about if we used the Tornado ability on a vertical terrain and how would it would work with programming. We’ve come to a wall with trying to figure out how this would work development wise. We even invited tutors and developers in the Chicago land to try solving this problem. In the end, we found out every solution would be complicated.

Brainstorming Vertical Terrain

We soon asked ourselves if we actually needed the steep vertical terrain. In reality we didn’t because it was just an aesthetic for visuals. Towards the end of the week, we decided to decrease vertical height and add ramps instead. This made things reasonable for the abilities we had and also made programming less complicated. We then used the original concept art for our block out and revamped it one last time.


Getting to “Noah’s Ark”

Humani Tsunami has gone through a lot of design pitches and phases to flesh the gameplay out. The original concept was just destroying objects in this geometric like world, but it seemed too similar to mobile games and other hoard based mechanics. We decided as a team, that we should try making less about destroying and more about the people within the game. People in the team proposed that it should be gory and demolishing worlds while others pitched that it should be narrative like telling a story.

What we forgot to talk about was why the player is doing stuff in Humani Tsunami. We kept thinking about the wrap, but the core reason why there is a Humani in our game. This was a tough challenge to face since some people in the team are currently out of the city doing internships. Instead of brainstorming on the extras for our game, we spent hours talking about why the player is actually doing stuff. Were the Humani trying to do good or bad things in the game? Were there moral based decisions the player had to decide? Is a story needed? Soon we came to the concept of Noah’s Ark from the Bible and how he saved all the animals from a horrid fluid. We thought that’d be something that can work so instead of destroying the world, we would be saving its inhabitants while indirectly destroying whats happening.

This game soon became the idea of Humani Tsunami seeing a vision on how Earth is in danger, so they send out people to save inhabitants over time. Thus being the reason why dinosaurs went instinct. The game soon became the an easter egg like exploration where you venture out across the world and affecting its people.

Choosing a side

After 20+ games made from our first few weeks together and the JDE Showcase, it was time to decide our next steps. We broke down into two units to flesh out and design how to make these games something unique for our players to remember. We didn’t want to make a game already out, but with a different wrap around it. So we looked at the feedback surveys and notes from our Showcase the week before for input. Some games had a lot of potential based off the feedback and team ideas while others had its limit.

When both units were done brainstorming every game to pursue, we came back together to pitch our ideas to each other. The Showcase feedback really helped our pitching session since we had various developers of major game companies as well as judges of major festivals like IGF and IndieCade. This helped structure major things festivals can look for (marketing, innovation, polished, etc.).

From endless pitching and brainstorming, we soon came down to three games the teams and feedback had a strong passion for; Humani Tsunami, Snow Angel, and Stay Cool! We ended up putting Stay Cool on the side because it targeted a specific audience, being a game of using four DDR Pads. With over 10 members and team experience, we decided it was possible to split the team in half. They would spend a month working on Vertical Slice and decide where to go from there.

Later the Producers talked to each member one on one to figure out which game they would like to pursue. With that they broke down team balance with concentrations then figured out how to balance it without audio and art contractors. Below is the team split in half for our Vertical Slice Stage.


JDE Civil War (No Text)
Humani Tsunami (Above) / Snow Angel (Below)

Ending Creativity

This was the final Creative Jam happening during the summer where people can imagine games beyond any scope. There wasn’t a theme, just the opportunity to make whatever members thought of in the past.

During the time, people looked at old creative journals they have made within the last year as an inspiration on where to go next. Some people wanted to experiment with art styles while others wanted to learn new skills for programming. Either way people wanted to make new things. There were pros and cons though of the constraint system. Some members developed games not targeted towards IGF/IndieCade while others just presentations. Creative wise we came up with new ideas as we hoped, but production wise the week could have been used to produce other things.

Attack on Creative Jams

Its been a month and our creativity hasn’t been used in a while. We’ve spent time polishing builds that are soon to be dropped because they were too similar to games already published. We decided to do two Creative Jams, an open ended workshop both for two days straight where members used their knowledge and experience to think of something new. We didn’t limit ourselves to any constraints besides time, just the idea of making stuff that can be scoped for a larger team.