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Felgo at the Austria Game Jam 2013: Locomotive Breath

By Christian

Last weekend we attended an absolutely awesome event: the Austria Game Jam, which is the local part of the Global Game Jam being held all over the world. We attended as sponsors, experts and also worked on a game, so this blog post is about our game jam experience…

If you are wondering what a game jam is: It is an event, at which people passionate about video games come together and create games matching a given theme in a very limited amount of time. It is not just programmers who can join, but everybody who is interested in games. Therefore the ideal team consists of people with different skills like game design, game art, audio and programming. This was our team this year:

From left to right: Chris, Nico, David, Markus & Alex

The global game jam organizers provide a theme for finding a game idea. This year, the theme was the sound of a heartbeat. It got revealed at 6 p.m. on Friday, with the submission deadline on Sunday 3 p.m. already close. The theme also reminded us of a passing train, so that was when Locomotive Breath was born:

In Locomotive Breath you are playing a train driver in the Far North, whose adrenaline level is at a constant high because he needs to keep his beloved train on track. That is not easy because moose are standing on the tracks, as they prefer walking in areas without snow as well (actually, this is a real issue there). So your role is to drive the locomotive by regulating the velocity and switching the rails to avoid elk collisions. As we love playing together, we added a second part to the game: Your friend plays the “coal shoveler” to support the driver. The more coals you shovel in (by swiping them in the coal wagon), the higher the steam pressure gets and the faster your buddy can drive. If you shovel too much, you can lower the pressure by pulling the steam pipe. The steam sound also displaces the moose, so you can help the driver in multiple ways.

After defining the game idea, we got our hands dirty and started to create images, audio files and programmed the game logic. With a team of 5, everybody worked on his favorite area and we had a playable version up and running by Saturday afternoon. Starting from then, we balanced the game to be challenging and fun, fixed bugs and added special effects to improve the visual appearance of the game. The Felgo Particle Editor introduced with the last update was a great tool for this job: With it we designed & tweaked the effects like a smother when the steam pipe is pulled, changing smoke color and size based on the pressure level, or snowflakes passing faster the faster the train goes. We also added a single-player mode where the steam pressure regulates automatically, but most fun is to play it with a buddy on a tablet. By the end, we managed to build a game we really enjoyed playing – so we published it to the Google Play Store where it was available from Sunday afternoon! Here is the prove we had fun:

And here is a video of our game:

Overall, the game jam was a great experience. Because of the limited time, you really need to focus on the relevant parts of your game and keep it small. This jam showed, our slogan

“It takes 3 days to…

  •  Go to a festival
  •  Grow a beard
  •  Make a Game with Felgo”

might even be true for 2 days 🙂

I strongly recommend everybody interested in games, no matter which kind of expertise, to join a Game Jam at least once. I promise you won’t be able to stop joining them afterwards, as they are so much fun, challenging and a great source for learning. This year, more than 16.500 people registered globally and created more than 2900 games – like I’ve told you in the beginning of the post: absolutely awesome! 😉

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