Thursday, May 15, 2014

MIT Cardboard Jam, May 3-4, 2014

That's right, another game jam for me!  It appears as though the MIT Game Lab is looking to run game jams more often during the year, and of course I had to take the opportunity while I could.

A couple interesting quirks about this jam compared to others I have attended.  First of all, there were quite a few people who showed up who have either never done a game jam before, or weren't really part of the game industry.  I suppose I've been so used to working with similar people, but it's refreshing to see people who just like games come together and try something new.  Secondly, the jam organizers spent a lot of the first morning running through rapid-prototyping workshop exercises, something I hadn't experienced before. 

For example, one exercise involved using Grow-a-Game cards, where everyone spent 15 minutes in groups coming up with a game design based on a few concepts, and slapping together a prototype for another group to play.  I particularly enjoyed this exercise because it's just fun to discuss game ideas with some constraints to focus your mind.  The trick was, you want to flesh out an idea enough to be able to explain it to someone else and have it be moderately fun and/or interesting, but the fast turnaround time didn't allow for much of that.

Our Game - Green Team Revolt

The theme for this jam was "cooperation".  Simple enough, I particularly enjoy the cooperative style genre of board games.  A couple of minor constraints where to avoid the over-tread genres of sci-fi, infrastructure, Euro-game conventions that a ton of board games have already done, and to avoid "quarterbacking", i.e. avoid having one person dictate the actions of the other players.

With that in mind, I worked on a project we called "Green Team Revolt".  The idea is that the players are the Planeteers, working together to stop a rogue Captain Planet from his rampage while simultaneously protecting the environment.  It's a goofy enough concept to be fun (even if it's a little copyright-infringy, but it's a game jam, who cares), and there's plenty of room in the game design for us to try out lots of ideas.  The central game mechanic is that everyone plays a card in order into a queue, which when it's resolved, ends in a certain amount of damage against Captain Planet and, depending on the type, causing some collateral damage on the current location of the players based on a separate deck.  The idea is to defeat Captain Planet before either the environment or any of the players are taken out.

As we left it, there were plenty of ideas we could have tried to see if it would make the game any more fun and/or difficult.  The players tend to win after a few rounds, but at a significant cost to the environment.  We hit that point of the game where we're needed to come up with a whole bunch of cards to fill out the decks, which is time-consuming and would require a lot of playtesting to weed out all the bad ideas.  Still, I think it makes for a fun game.

Check out our postmortem presentation here (our group is first, starting at 3:54):

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