Global Game Jam 2012, or: Keep rollin’ in Super Snake Wheel

At the end of every January, people all around the world gather to make awesome games in an absurdly short time. Developing a game in 48 hours is nothing short of insane, and I don’t think it comes to anyones surprise that this appeals a lot to me. And here I proudly present our result this year:

Super Snake Wheel

“We can’t stop here! This is bat country!”
Well, Mr. Snake might have been a bit drunk when he and his companion Mr. Gecko ignored all the warnings and set out to their adventure. Being one of the few snakes who can form a tire out of himself, he’s now rolling down the hill while Mr. Gecko defends him from birds, barely keeping his balance! Take control of this duo of odd heroes in this quirky adventure for one casual and one hardcore player!

Play the updated version online at Kongregate!

Check out the original GGJ build!

And of course credit where credit is due, and these amazing guys deserve a lot:

  • Game Design: Matthias Niebergall
  • Art: Kirill Krysov
  • Programming: Dominik Hübner and myself
  • Music taken from the wonderful Kevin MacLeod
  • A big thanks to all the people organizing the jam, globally and locally here in Berlin. You’ve done a great job!

By the way, we even satisfied a diversifier (an achievement for the developers) this year: “Collaborative Casual/Hardcore (Two players: one casual, one hardcore): Collaborative play for two, but one player has more to do than the other (or the difficulty level is different between them).” I am sure you will agree after you’ve tried both the casual Mr. Snake and the slightly more hardcore Mr. Gecko: The former just has to jump and duck, while the later has to balance on the snake, jump at the right times and use the mouse to shoot at birds!

Lessons learned

Even though this is not my first jam, it seems that every single one has some valuable lessons to teach. These are mine this time:

  • Even though it’s an a very small timeframe, make a rough project plan with milestones so you won’t lose focus.
  • Every milestone should be playable (player interaction and a goal), especially the first one – which should ideally be ready when you go to sleep the first time. It does wonders to your motivation!
  • Programmers, make a task list. It keeps you focused.
  • You cannot say if something is fun until you can test it. Halfway through the project I felt like giving up because nothing seemed to be coming together, and 12 hours later we had this amazingly fun prototype! So even if it seems like the game won’t be any good, at least implement the first playable prototype.
  • If your code is based on a pixel oriented framework like Flashpunk, don’t mix in vector based stuff like MovieClips. It just leads to a whole load of implementation overhead.
  • If you want to pull an all-nighter, at least sleep the first night. Otherwise you might fall asleep the second night which will surely lead to you missing the deadline.

This year the GGJ was certainly not easy and at times tedious and exhausting, but the result totally makes up for that. I daresay that it is one of my best prototypes so far! I am very happy that I have participated, and I’d like to thank everybody who made the weekend as amazing as it was!

Color your world in Extreme Painting: An 8 hour prototype

After skipping December, even the Global Game Jam in two weeks couldn’t stop us from doing our own Mini Game Jam yesterday. 13 people assembled in the co.up coworking space and in 8 hours, multiple game prototypes were created for either the topic “Future” or “The End is the Beginning”. Here’s mine.

Extreme Painting

In the future, a sport called “Extreme Painting” is all the rage:
Two contestants are equipped with particle cannons and try to color as much of a field as fast as possible, only stepping on their own color.

Each field which has your color is one point, independent of how strong the color is.
But the stronger the color, the harder is it for your opponent to erase it.

Play it in your browser by clicking here!

I need a Time Crab for my next 8h jam

At our November Mini Game Jam I teamed up with artist Alfonso Montón, forging an epic prototype for the theme “time” (and possibly “trap”):

Time Crabs

Might or might not be a screenshot

Don’t be fooled by their cute appearance! If you hesitate one moment, a Time Crab will envelop you in a Time Bubble and begin to tear you to shreds with its Time Claws*!

Fortunately you are a Time Crab. So is your opponent! May the fight begin!

Play it in your browser by clicking here!

Time Bubbles

….work like a local field of bullet time: It slows everything inside down, but you a fair bit less than everything else. You can use it in two ways: Aggressive, by throwing it at an enemy and proceeding to shoot at him while moves slooowly, or defensive to dodge bullets. The shooting mechanic makes the prototype not very playable, but I really like the bubbles – in fact I might use them in another game. (And yeah, they are like a more selective time slow ring in world 6 of Braid. I totally forgot that it even existed!)

And a Dropped Idea

I quite liked my second idea too, but there was hardly enough time for it: A cross between Tower Defense and Capture The Flag. First you set up your base with turrets and traps, and then you leave to get the enemys flag. You can detect and disarm traps, but only while you aren’t carrying the flag – so prepare a safe way out. PvP would probably be enabled (and might include Time Bubbles) and minions.

Okay, now that I think about it, it sounds a bit like a more RTS-like DotA.

*) Time Claws are not included in the prototype and will later be added as a purchasable expansion pack.

Gradient: How Not To Be Seen

Another month, another Berlin Mini Game Jam. This time the topics were “adaptation” and “conflicting goals”. I took the former one, and made a stealth game:

You are the circle, trying to blend in with your environment as much as possible by changing your grey value. Perfect white or black heals you if you have the same color. Stay alive as long as possible!

The game began as local multiplayer at the jam, and over the next days I added a singleplayer mode, Kongregate scores, more polish, and of course sound and music which are made by Moritz Ufer.

The core gameplay was actually finished and the prototype playable after 5 hours, so I had 3 hours for polishing – nice. Best prototype I made at a jam all alone so far!

Play the game here:

Hack the Grid in NetRush: An 8 hour prototype

A few weeks ago, we had the September Mini Game Jam of our Berlin Game Developers Meet-Up. This time, the topic was “hack” with the alternative topic “share”. After an hour of brainstorming, dismissed concepts and talking to a lot of people (especially Iwan), I arrived at the concept for NetRush.

Each of the two players has a cursor with which they can navigate through the grid of nodes. Green nodes are free: Free for you to be invaded, that is. You get points if you hold them at the end of the round – if you’re not dead. The first one to gain a total score of 100 wins. You have multiple stats which you can assign freely:

  • “Speed Up” lets you capture nodes faster
  • “Spread” gives you a chance to capture neighboring nodes for free
  • “Success” defines your chance of invading a node
  • “Shield” is your health – it takes damage for you, and if it falls under zero, you’re dead

A more visual explaination is available here:

Play the game online here:

BIGJam 2011 Aftermath: A few Updates

My post about the prototypes I made for the BIGJam 2011 just got an update!

New stuff:


  • A version where it is shown whether you won or lost
  • Two versions with time pressure:
    • One where you shrink constantly while not moving, making it easier to navigate, but soon you’ll have totally vanished…
    • One where you grow while you don’t move, making it harder not to hit a red circle


This quirky snake-like just got elevated from a toy to an actual playable game prototype with this update. Compete with a friend to be the first to save 40 cats! Dodge the very very advanced AI of the scientist, and don’t let your friend snatch your kittens right before you can throw them to safety!

Berlin Indie Game Jam 2011

Finally, BIGJam again!

Last weekend my internship in Rotterdam ended, and not a moment to soon, since another epic event was just awaiting me in Berlin: This year’s BIGJam! A nice café, a couple of frantic 3 hour jams, drinks, good food and lot of awesome independent game developers, what more could you want?

And noooow I present you: The prototypes!

Jam #1 (3h): Space Jump

The first 3h jam started on Friday with the topics “zero gravity” and “acrobatics”. Since I was alone by then and sadly devoid of my trusty Bamboo, my secret third topic was “abstract”. And it seems that “acrobatics” got lost somewhere along the way…

What I wanted to do was a game where one player controls the, well, player with the keyboard, and the other one controls the level with the mouse. This concept usually suffers from the player controlling the level being to powerful – which is why I just made it co-op. It became quite simplified along the way, and the result is Space Jump: One player controls the white circle, and the other can draw lines with the mouse to prevent the white circle from crashing into red circles or leaving the field.

Play it here:

Jam #2 (3h): Savior Cat

Saturday I was no longer alone: I had invited my ex-coworker Dominik, and we teamed up with an artist I met on friday: Tanja T-Rex. On our way to adventures and great prototypes we stumbled over the next topics: “free” / “cat”. Never turning down a challenge, onwards we went!

The result was another multiplayer game: Both of you are Savior Cats, freeing your brethren from the evil clutches of scientists who wanted to conduct their mad experiments on them! You couldn’t decide on which window is the safer one though – and now each Savior Cat tries to save as many cats as possible and throws them out of their own window.

Gameplay-wise it resembles a multiplayer-snake with a twist: You pick up cats by touching them, and then they follow you – but if another player (or scientist) touches a cat you carry, this cat and all of the following ones will now follow him! Play safe and only get a few cats to your window at a time, or be greedy and take the risk that somebody takes them from you because you cannot move them out of the way in time.

It is pretty fun and chaotic, the only thing preventing me from declaring it a complete success is that time ran out when we wanted to insert a crucial detail: The windows. Yeah, so far this game is without a goal.

Try it here anyway:

Jam #3 (3h): Valley of Sweet Death

After the immense success of our last prototype we stayed together, and being in good spirits we went on to the next jam. This time it was “delicious” and the totally fitting “suicide”. Wait, what?

Many ideas were formed and discarded, and after a while we settled on one. And mind you, that is the most political correct one that my team found (I’m totally innocent): A food cannon over a valley shooting at participants of a sort-of eating contest. Chocolate and sweets make you fat, but apples, motion in general and jumping in particular is good for you and therefore to be avoided.

Definitely not the favorite of what we made, but it is playable and works. I like the concept of needing to move to win, but losing what you need to win by moving.

Eat away: Valley of Sweet Death (Jam Version)

Jam #4 (5h): Ghost Huntress

5 hours? Madness! Since you can do sooo much in 5 hours, we decided to be really indecisive: It took us well over an hour to find our cover and game idea for the “be inspired by a cover” jam. Finally we arrived at the cover Ghost, and resolved to take one of my old prototypes named “Ghost Hunter” to the next level.

Ghost Huntress features a silent and invisible (and probably female, “GhostHunter” was already taken in my workspace) protagonist specialised in ghost hunting, saving children from the growing spectral infestation taking place in an orphanage. The twist: You don’t see the ghosts! But the children do – and they will run away from them, and surely being eaten (actually just frightened, but we didn’t come around doing the sprites for that) if the ghosts aren’t captured. You have to deduce the ghost’s position by watching the children closely before you can catch the ghost with your trap.

A simple concept which proved to be fun! And there’s much we can add: Flickering candles which will expose the ghosts for the blink of an eye, detectors showing how near they are, walls which they cannot pass and other cool stuff. And yeah: We actually might.

Until then, don’t get scared while playing the: Ghost Huntress (Jam Version)

So long, and thanks for…

…all the jam! Contrary to last year, I am very content with my results this time: A nice prototype all alone, and three amazing ones done with fellow programmer Dominik (a long time coworker) and Tanja T-Rex (who I met at the jam) as artist. Many thanks to our organizer jstckr for his work – and thanks to everybody who attended and made the BIGJam the awesome thing it was!

Looking forward to the next one!

Yet another (very colorful) Mini Game Jam

Yesterday we organized Yet another Mini Game Jam in Berlin, and well – it was nothing short of awesome. 8 jammers, 5 of them the first time at one of our Jams, and everybody learnt something and enjoyed themselves. We even had (gasp!) working prototypes at the end: Raising the bar to 8-10 hours the best thing that could happen to us. It’s so much less stressful and easier to get something done that you can actually play. The ever friendly and helpful staff of the wonderful Café Osswald made the combination complete.

The first theme choosing resulted in a tie between “Catharsis”, “Side-effect” and “Colors”, with the latter winning the following vote.

This time I teamed up with Robert Bergner, a student who actually came from Magdeburg for our jam, with whom I also worked together this years Global Game Jam. And this is what we made, in about 9 hours including idea finding, plus a few minutes bugfixing afterwards:

Working Title: “Colorful”

“You” are the red-blue-yellow colorbuckets in the middle of the screen. You can steer freely with WASD. The other circles are the enemies – they can only walk on their color, and they will try go straight to you as far as possible. Your buckets have 10 shot each, and they get refilled if you touch their color. By clicking on the buckets and dragging in the direction of enemies, you can fire color projectiles at them, mixing their color or recoloring them. It works like this:

If you shoot a primary color enemy (red, blue, yellow) with one of your color projectiles, they mix:

If shoot a secondary color enemy (green, magenta, orange – highlighted by their white border) they simply get replaced:

Enemies which change color try to get to the next patch of their new color as fast as possible.

This way you can control the enemies – which is as far as we’ve come in our prototype at the jam. What we’ll add in later:

  • Your goal: One of the color patches is the Collector Zone – you get points for luring enemies there. After a few enemies, the Collector Zone switches to another patch.
  • A time limit
  • Hit points: The enemies hurt you if they hit you, or maybe they even try to shoot at you!
  • Better algorithms for the color patch distribution

So, here’s the jam prototype! Please comment if you find a bug or have some kind of suggestion!

edit: The newest prototype in development is accessible here!

For this EGP, don’t get lost in a Wordmaze

This month’s EGP theme was ASCII, so to no one’s surprise: Here’s a game about words! More specifically about forming words out of letters which just happen to lie about.

The basic principle is as follows:

You are currently at the bigger “R”. Some letters have a black background – you previously wandered over these. Others are forming words, but you have yet to walk over them: these are green. You can drag and drop letters to form words. Red letters aren’t dragable, but as you can see above, can be used to form words: The N, E and D were red letters before. Minimum length for a word is 4 letters.

There are two modes: One in which you try to get as much points as possible until you run out of space or time, and another one in which you aim for a target. Everything else can be found out in the game by pointing at the [?] in the upper right corner of every playscreen – or by just playing it.

Apropos “playing it”: Click here for the current version! (This more complete version was edited after the EGP deadline. For the old egp version, click here.)

Please post some of your highscores here! Oh, and comments too! Which configuration(s) do you like best? Any criticism, feedback, suggestions?

Due to illness I didn’t have enough time to add sound effects and to fix some bugs. I’ve left the EGP version intact (see the link in brackets above), but also wanted to adress what I listed before, so I uploaded the new version – which is, of course, a) slightly over 7 days and b) touched in March too.

Oh, and: Hello! :)

Mini-Jams in Berlin

So… what is it?

Over the last two months, Christiaan Janssen and me started a little regular game jam at the moment called the Berlin Game Developers Meet-Up. Basically, we meet up, decide on a theme and then started making small prototypes about it, alone or in small teams. If you are interested in how it all started, the participiant Miguel Angel Alvarez asked us both and did a blog post about it. Here I want to tell you about what I did at the 4 jams so far, though!

Jam #1: Revenge of the Flying Spitballs

Revenge of the Flying Spitballs: Screenshot

On the first jam I grouped up with Norbert Haacks, a game designer I met at the Global Game Jam in January. He came up with the idea: A fight in the classroom, like back in our school days with spitballs and sandwiches, trying not to be seen by the wary teacher. The “flying” is covered by the aerial weaponry, and the revenge part could’ve been (if time didn’t run out for us) that when you are hit, you have limited time for payback and doing extra damage! Sadly I felt the effects of the short timespan we had, and didn’t come very far – at least not far enough for the prototype to be worth an upload. Though development in Flash was pretty fast – I just needed a bit more pre-made classes and helper.

Jam #2: Balls of Steel

Balls of Steel: Screenshot

This time, I teamed up with the programmer Dominik and artist/programmer Kyrill. (And whew, it is SUCH a huge difference if you aren’t the only programmer in the team. And I guess the experience from the first jam helped me too, but I digress… back to topic!) The theme was “indirect control”, so we thought about controlling the environment in some way. After pondering a few ideas, we went with pseudo-magnetism. You have a little labyrinth-ish level and you’ll navigate the ball through it by placing magnets at the walls and the surroundings of the field, while being cautions not to touch the flames or the mines. Time ran out before we could do another level besides the one we were testing with, but it is playable, fun and it feels like it has potential.
See for yourself:

Jam #3: Ghost Hunter

Ghost Hunter: Screenshot

For this jam, I tried to do something solo to the topic “ghosts”. The idea is that you are a ghost hunter, and are trying to catch ghosts which are invisible to you. You should have various means to detect them (think radar or distance detector), things to attract and repel them, and finally something to catch them. You probably see by reading this description that I havn’t worked out the exact mechanics – well, working alone never did any good to me. So at this jam I mostly got frustrated, chilled, made smalltalk and experimented a bit:

Jam #4: And They Called Me Mad!

For the 4th jam Dominik and me teamed up again, featuring me as artist (haha). We didn’t like the theme “several contextual actions for one button”, so we tried to make something for the theme “invasion”. We were a bit too ambitious for 4 hours: We wante to make a game where you are a mad scientist trying to take over several strongholds with self-built robots. You have several “roboter recipes” from which you can choose and a material pool from where you can put things into the assembly line to build your robots, which will then start to attack. A bit too much as aforementioned – and so this was the jam Dominik and me decided that 4 hours are definitly too short and we should try something longer.

The future

Since we all agreed that is was most certainly nice, but the 4 hours we had aren’t quite enough for us to produce something meaningful, we decided to raise the duration to 8 or 10 hours. The next jam is this Saturday, and I’m curious how it’ll turn out – I cannot come, sadly. Though: It won’t be the last! Expect more (and with more hours, better) prototypes!