February 21, 2016 Event Recap: Global Game Jam 2016: Witchualistic
Robert Canciello
Robert Canciello

On January 29th Playcrafting NYC teamed up with Microsoft for the 2016 Global Game Jam. With 240 official jammers, the event lasted 3 days and brought in over 500 attendees. A whopping 34 games were completed! The weekend also included 7 free workshops, mountains of food, and so much more! Check out an interview with a team of jammers that recently completed Playcrafting’s Learn Unity in 8 Weeks Course!

1. Was this your First Game Jam?

Mike: This was my first ever game-jam and first hackathon in general! I had no idea what to expect in terms of the crowd and both the variety of people and skill sets were just outstanding. Hats off to Microsoft as well, because while I haven’t been to other jams, somehow I doubt they all cater to jammers as well as they did.

Hess: This was my first game jam too and I was pretty nervous because I saw a ton of game designers that built out multiple games and here I was trying to build my first. Thankfully I had a team of friends from my Playcrafters Unity course to create something great with.

Jose: Yes, this was my first jam ever also, or events of this kind for that matter. I was excited to see the dynamics of the whole thing since I enjoy, to a degree, working under pressure.

Bobby: While this wasn’t my first Game Jam, it was certainly the first one I’ve ever experienced in New York City. I had participated in several other game jams at NJIT and TCNJ, so I was very interested in seeing what the NYC experience would have to offer.

2. Any first thoughts of the jam?

Bobby: Because the building closed at 9 pm, I knew going in that the dynamic of this jam would be very different from what I had experienced before. I was used to jams that would go all day and night, well into the throes of 3 am delirium. I was hoping that difference wouldn’t make the jam feel too different. When we started with the icebreaker and eventually had to break into teams, I knew that this dynamic would definitely be different from what I was used to — where teams would typically be formed by majority opinion and popularity of individual game ideas.

Hess: Yeah I was pretty nervous.

Jose: Me too, I thought, “We are developing against those guys!? Let’s do this!” Even though Bobby told me beforehand that jams aren’t centered around competition, it is hard for me to let the feeling slide. I was pumped and nervous to develop a game to go against familiar devs I’ve met over the last few months, whose work is beyond anything we had done. But this being my first creative competition, I changed my “I’ll do better than you” mentality to “I’ll do what brings me the most fun.”

Mike: I was blown away by the incredible work ethic everyone displayed. From young kids, college-age kids, to full blown 9-5er adults, everyone was laser focused on taking their vision and executing it in a short window of time. I think it’s a very rare phenomenon to see such a large group of people work so tirelessly like that, and it’s something to be appreciated.

3. How was the idea developed?

Mike: I honestly forget what the exact inspiration was. After the conclusion of the kickoff event on Friday, we gathered for a few beers and just kicked around ideas until we finally landed on what became Witchualistic. Four guys just sitting around and throwing out different ideas until something sticks is a really fun time, especially once an idea really takes form.

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Jose: Yeah, The idea basically came from “What would we enjoy playing?”

Bobby: We then asked ourselves what we thought was fun playing when we were younger. Eventually, all of us brought up similar local multiplayer experiences from the ages of the N64 and Gamecube. That’s when the idea of a group ritual, in which everyone could participate and have to work together came up, and the idea evolved from there.

Jose: Yes, and then to illustrate the mechanics we were putting in place, we used witches around a cauldron in a table. Sounded funny and cool enough for all of us, so that stuck as the theme.

4. How did you contribute?

Hess: I brought level design and a little bit of code.

Jose: I helped out with the animations, models, some texture tweaking, music and sound collection, and game design which we all had our chunks of input, so it was a shared task.

Bobby: I was able to provide 2D art with Illustrator and Photoshop, lighting/art direction to help establish the overall mood of the game, and shared contributions to the design and guidance of the core game mechanics.

Mike: Well I’m a software engineer by trade, so I did most of the heavy lifting for the software backend of our project.

5. Any Challenges?

Mike: Not enough time! There were so many great ideas that everyone contributed that we just didn’t have time to get into workable shape. We realllllly wanted to add more cooperative elements to the game, but ultimately had to settle for more simple gameplay to make sure it was really playable.

Hess: Very much agree on the time issue.

Bobby: I myself wasn’t absolutely sure how I would ultimately contribute, as I wasn’t a great programmer nor a significantly skilled artist. After I eventually found my roles, I had some difficulty getting used to some of the quirks of Illustrator and Mechanim, the animation system within Unity.

Jose: Feel you. Playing with particles and animations was challenging, since I was trying to apply new concepts that I had not used before. This lead me to probably do half the work I could have done, but I learned a lot in the process of trial and error. Also, it made me take more interest in these skills.

6. Best memory?

Jose: That one rage quit we got during the expo time. But in reality I loved every moment of it just as much, from jamming to acapella video game soundtracks to late night patacones with the crew

Bobby: Besides the food, I loved walking around and seeing everyone working so intensely on their games. Each room was filled with people; their ideas plastered across whiteboards and their eyes fixed on a screen. If you ever needed any inspiration or energy, all you had to do was take a quick stroll around and you’d energized to keep going.

Hess: The team jamming out to the some of the geekiest music you’d ever hear as we built out this cool game.

Mike: For me it was that last hour and a half of development time on Sunday was a thrill.nThe game was really starting to take shape and be playable, so it was just a race against the clock to add the finishing touches to really turn it into something charm.

7. How was your team?

Hess: Everyone had a role and did their role really well.

Mike: Terrific. Everyone contributed in our group through every step of the process, and you could really feel it in the air in the room. Everyone played to their strengths and recognized their weaknesses, and the result speaks for itself.

Bobby: I greatly enjoyed our team. Though we all participated in the same Unity course, most of us never actually worked together, so I was slightly concerned at the beginning with how well we would work together. Luckily, once we all found our individual niches, things fell into place rather nicely.

Jose: Yes smooth. Before I had only worked along with Bobby on a project after our Unity Class. Still I was impressed at the organic flow of the team. Even though we all come from different backgrounds and styles, we all seemed to land on the same track when laying out the game, its feel, look, and play style. There was no friction between people, we all had very similar focus.

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8. What didn’t make it to the game?

Bobby: There were several mechanics of mutual action cooperation, passing actions back and forth, player dependent actions, and action failure that we wanted to build into the game that ultimately had to be cut for the sake of time. I believe that eventually adding those features into the game is what will really make Witchualistc stand out from a typical Mario Party style game.

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Hess: Tes! Some really cool cooperative timed actions between players, maybe next time.

Jose: Also different scoring system we had in mind, different end screens, the Unity Class Whale! and additional visual feedbacks like lightning in the house and monster spawns per rite.

Mike: We also wanted to add a system that would cause all players to have to feel the consequences of one player making a mistake, but there wasn’t enough time to get it working.

9. Explain the game:

Witchualistic is a four player local cooperative game about four witches who are trying to mix, chop, and mash all of the ingredients of a summoning ritual within a set period of time, all the while properly casting the necessary spells and incantations to complete it. They have to perform every step in just the right order, or their spell could misfire. The more accurately they perform their summoning ceremony, the more powerful the conjured demon will ultimately be. But they only have a limited amount of time before their Warlock Overlord comes to inspect their work, and judge their worthiness as witches of their order.

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Check out what Xbox’s Major Nelson (Larry Hyrb) had to say about our Global Game Jam 2016 Site here!