Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Balloon Blitz

The 27 hour Cardinal Game Jam in Silicon Valley is over! This was one of the most intense game jams that I have ever experienced. The objective was to create a mobile arcade game that integrates Weeby.co cloud service technology for features such as leaderboard, common and premium currencies, theme shop, and booster shop for initial power-ups. I succeeded in the objective, as I was a finalist, so I got to present the app on a large projector screen while using a mic to explain it in front of a panel of judges.

Time was very limited, so I had to partition it. First I created the actual game in Unity, then I integrated all the cloud features; the Weeby.co team helped me through this process. Basically everything went smoothly despite the pressure to finish everything on time. Each minute in that final hour mattered!

This jam was 27 hours instead of a typical 48. There was no theme given, but a requirement was to develop an app for Android or Apple smartphones. All code had to be written in the duration of the jam - a "hackathon".

The first screen of my app. Tango is a social networking service.

A familiar screen, showing the Weeby.co components.

The lobby of the StartX facility right before the jam began.
There was catered food and drinks in the comfortable and spacious work environment on the second floor. I blasted mostly heavy trance through my headphones, getting into that feel-good programmer zone.

Technology, particularly monetization and social networking, weighed very heavily as the focus for this jam. Similarly, my Ludum Dare game Potato Gnomes, emphasized cooperative multiplayer mechanics. Normally I try to make game design as my primary concern, but I had to prioritize realistically in order to finish everything.

My app targets a casual gaming crowd and is played simply by tapping and holding the screen to fly upwards. There are two unlockable characters and three power-ups (magnet for coins, droplet shooting cloud, and rocket) that can be found or purchased before each session. The goal is to maximize your score based on distance, while avoiding orange bees and flowers. Balloons, your hitpoints, emit a colorful and visually appealing rainbow particle trail. The app is open to all ages.

Despite the exhausting continuous hours of sleep deprivation, it was an uplifting experience fueled by adrenaline and carefully spaced out intake of caffeine. The whole experience was so incredibly motivating to me as a software programmer. At any given time, most of the people around me came from familiar backgrounds; they were very focused and passionate. The sound of mechanical keyboards clicking away created this therapeutic ambiance.

I used Uber for transportation, a taxi-like service app where a nearby driver escorts you to a destination at the click of a button. One of the drivers told me 7 out of 10 of the passengers are software programmers. The whole area felt like a giant University campus that specializes in computer science, reminiscent of my times at UMBC. This was a very successful experience.

No comments: