DEV INTERVIEW: JAMCHESTER 2017 WINNERS!
The winner of the UK’s biggest game jam competition was an all-Codemasters team!
We’re incredibly proud of Wayne Hackney, Gonçalo Tavares, Lee Peers and Oscar North for representing Codemasters at the event and winning the competition. Together they made ‘Plan of Attack’, an ingenious multiplayer noir heist game that won overall ‘Best Game’ and also won an award for ‘Best Design & Gameplay’.
We love seeing our teams getting involved in game jams and seizing the chance to challenge their creativity, skill and teamwork in a competitive event. It brings a huge amount of energy to the rest of Codemasters when we share our passion, creativity and talents like this!
After their success at the event we caught up with the team, to find out what it was like for them to take part in the game jam and get an insight into how their game jam project came together.
Congratulations on your victory at Jamchester 2017!
How does it feel to take part in a jam and put a game together in just 2 days?
Wayne Hackey: I’ve never done a jam before, and really wanted to go out of my comfort zone and see how I get on. In my day to day work I’m purely a programmer, but a jam requires everyone to become good at everything, so it’s a great way to flex some different muscles. Plus it was a lot of fun. Winning on top of that was amazing and unexpected!
Gonçalo Tavares: I’m a big fan of game jams and I hadn’t been to one since I joined Codemasters, so, when I learned about this one, I signed up immediately. It’s very rewarding to see a project come to life in such a short time, and turn out as well as it did.
Oscar North: I originally signed up just because I thought it’d be good fun. And it was! I was delighted and flattered that the judges enjoyed the game so much.
Lee Peers: Yeah, I’ve never actually been in a game jam before, but I spend a lot of my own time making small games, so I wanted the chance to be part of a team and have fun in a competition. Winning feels amazing, especially after walking around the games jam and seeing so many other great games being made.
So this was your first game jam rodeo and you came away with awards for Best Game and Best Design & Gameplay – that’s impressive! What do you think was the key to finding your success?
ON: I think the key factor to our success was that we managed to stick to a simple concept that we all agreed on. And I think the social aspect of making the game four-player made it really fun.
GT: Yeah, the simplicity meant that we had enough time to finish it and give it a nice polished feel. And because it was simple, it was fast for the players and judges to learn how to play and start having fun.
WH: The simple mechanics also made sure it was manageable within the time frame we had to work in.
LP: Exactly, we didn’t over complicate the idea, even though new ideas were creeping in all the time. We didn’t let it get too over the top, which makes it very pure and fun to play.
ON: The concept was also refreshingly unique. Most players I’ve observed will spend the first half a minute completely baffled by the concept, but quickly grasp how it works in a “Oh, I see!” moment, then get drawn right into the tactical aspect of the gameplay.
It’s a great concept and a lot of fun to play. Where did the inspiration for Plan of Attack come from?
WH: We found a quiet area and thought about the theme. The theme we were given was “Shape the Future”, so we each had different ideas of what this could be in terms of a game. After chatting for a while we all seemed to come up with the idea of simply planning your moves ahead of time, and the setting of a heist seemed to fit nicely. What’s great is that it’s not really one person’s idea, it kind of evolved from the common thread in everyone’s suggestions. Once we’d all settled on the mechanic and setting, we immediately set about making it.
GT: Yes, after we decided on the initial concept everything just evolved naturally. The noir sounding music influenced the art and the level design, the colourful particle animations influenced the sound. We were improvising, each in our own style, and everything merged quite nicely.
It sounds like you kept your focus and worked together really well. Were there any big challenges you faced as you put the game together?
WH: For some reason it was a lot of trouble getting the game to work with four pads in Unity. Thankfully we found a workaround that bypassed Unity’s internal input manager, but we spent a good few hours on figuring out what was wrong. And getting more than 45 minutes sleep was a challenge due to the amazing coffee machines!
LP: For me the biggest challenge was learning a new art application in a short space of time, because we decided to use voxels. It paid off because they look good and you can make fast iterations. I think if we’d used the kind of high detail modelling app I usually work with such as Maya we wouldn’t have even have half of the 3D assets I got into the game.
GT: I’m just surprised that no-one complained that I went running around with a recorder, knocking on doors to simulate gun shot sounds!
The time pressure aspect of the game jam must be really challenging. What did you learn under those conditions?
ON: I didn’t realise how fun it would be. I was concerned I’d be completely wrecked over the weekend from the pressure and lack of sleep, but I actually just found it really enjoyable and energising. I want to do more game jams now. Overall as a team, I feel like we did almost everything right. It was more an exercise of applying all my experience rather than learning on the go.
WH: I learned that I want to do more game jams. Jamchester was a great event at a really good venue, it was a great space to work in. I also learned a lot more about Unity, as I’d only used it a little bit before.
GT: It was a great exercise in improvisation, and even though I can’t say I learned anything new, it certainly put my skills to the test.
LP: I love that it tested us, and it was a great place to meet like-minded and talented people, so I really want to do more game jams.
What was your highlight from the game jam?
GT: My favourite moment was when we connected the game to a TV and all four of us play tested it for the first time. Despite the bugs, it was surprisingly fun from the get go. Some of the other devs and contestants came up to us, and we let them have a go. And it was really rewarding to see them get into the spirit of the game so easily and start having fun.
LP: Yeah, my favourite moment was getting other people to stop and have a go when we set it up in the lobby, and seeing how much they enjoyed it. And watching people falling asleep planking on the chairs was funny too, but nothing can be a better highlight than us winning!
WH: It was great to see people getting really into it, shouting “Noooo!” as bullets whizzed passed them in the game.
ON: The team of judges were cheering and laughing when they sat down to play it too. That was the highlight for me. And the celebratory free beer after us winning two trophies felt pretty good too!
What advice would you share with anybody thinking about joining a game jam?
ON: Just do it!
GT: Take plenty of snacks!
WH: Make sure to sleep. It’s easy to get caught up in the competition and neglect it but getting rest is really important.
LP: I’d say just go for it – you won’t regret it!
You can play ‘Plan of Attack’ as well as many other games from the event on the Jamchester devpost.
Jamchester is the UK’s biggest competitive game jam, a 48hr competition inviting teams from all over the UK to compete to design and build a new game in just one weekend, completely from scratch. You can find out more about the event on the Jamchester website.