The Global Game Jam is the world’s largest international game creation event, where creatives of all stripes are given a theme around which they must try to build a game over a single weekend. This year, three intrepid AXS members stepped up to the challenge: Developers Matthew Ostil and David Tran, and Head of Art and Design Joyce Hui.
From the get-go, Matt and Joyce decided to join forces to come up with a full-fledged working prototype of a game, while David wanted to use this as an opportunity to learn Unity’s HDRP (High Definition Render Pipeline) and VFX graph. Everyone’s main goal? To have fun! As David puts it: “It’s not every day you get to build something in 48 hours and share it with people halfway across the world in different time zones, who are simultaneously working on their own projects.”

There were things to be done even before the jam started. “We started a brainstorming document and filled it with inspiration from existing ideas we’d be interested in,” says Matt. “Our goal was to decide on an art style and main game mechanic that wouldn’t be difficult to create.” Joyce, who has previous game jam experience, kept a notebook of sketches and ideas. David, an experienced jammer with several hackathons under his belt, took time to watch tutorials on the topics he was interested in learning.

Then, the fateful day finally dawned. Team AXS arrived at George Brown College where the event was taking place, and there they were given their theme for this year’s game jam: “Repair”.

The dream team, still fresh as daisies on Day 1
Time was of the essence, so ideation began right away. “Our first idea was a sad robot finding pieces to repair itself,” says Matt, “But we eventually decided to go the light-hearted route with a silly dog trying to return to its owner.” In the game, you play as a cute dog who gets separated from its owner when a bridge collapses between them. To find the wood planks needed to repair the bridge, you must explore an area and solve puzzles.

“We needed to prioritize based on what we thought would contribute to the player’s experience the most,” adds Joyce, “So content and function were always top of mind.”

What’s an ideation session without a giant whiteboard?

While Matt worked on game mechanics, Joyce started doing character designs for a loveable furry main character. David, on the other hand, came up with the idea of cleaning up a beach set in Miami – or repairing the Earth in an environmentally-friendly way. He spent the first evening modelling buildings and palm trees along a sandy beach, and focusing his efforts on creating water shaders that will eventually be used in both his project and Matt & Joyce’s game.

Initial character sketches for Derpy Dog

Animation frames for Derpy Dog, who was eventually renamed Luna after Matt’s dog in real life
Luna’s first steps

Joyce and David hard at work, ft. Baby Yoda

As Day 1 wrapped up, everyone went home and tried to get some shut-eye for the long day of jamming ahead. By the second morning, the pressure was officially on. Drawing upon their experience working in a team at AXS, Joyce continued working on concepts while Matt began prototyping the character.
David had his work cut out for him as well– he needed to finish modelling the garbage littering the beach. “I was basically modeling and creating shaders non-stop to get all the assets in,” he recounts. The sheer amount of work to do generated eating habits reminiscent of old university days. “Funnily, the biggest challenge was finding food without wasting too much time going out to pick it up,” David says. “We wanted to maximize our efficiency, but food and hydration were also very important!”
Our starving heros scavenging for food at the local Loblaws
Snacks were a critical part of the creative process

The clock ticked on, and Saturday night rolled around. Despite all their organization and planning, Matt and Joyce unwittingly fell victim to scope creep at their own hands. Their final game contained 5 unique puzzles to solve, and each one had to be built from scratch. “I realised that if we were going to complete the game, I would need to pull an all-nighter,” says Matt. So that’s exactly what he did– he hunkered down and coded throughout the night. “This was the toughest part of the game jam for sure, but surprisingly very productive.”

He did sneak a nap in after Joyce showed up the next morning

David had managed to stay on-track throughout and had finished all his assets by the second day, leaving him a healthy amount of buffer room to refine and submit his project. However, Matt and Joyce did not have the same luxury. The 5pm submission deadline was fast approaching. It became apparent that some things had to go in order for the game to be finished on time. “We had so many amazing ideas that we wanted to implement,” laments Joyce. “By Sunday noon, our naive optimism had run out, and it was time to prioritize and slash the unnecessary things.”

Luna exploring her world!
Colour was added late on the last day
Matt and Joyce ended up working until the last possible moment. With 10 minutes left to go before the submission deadline, the game was being exported for the first time– and neither of them had actually played through the whole thing yet. In the end, they managed to pull through by the skin of their teeth, with 2 minutes to spare.
T-10 til the time of reckoning

As the game jam wrapped up, the trio was able to demo their games on the spot, quickly drawing large crowds filled with impressed onlookers:

All their hard work paid off: the games were a big hit!

In the end, the game jam proved to be a valuable and fun experience. Despite the stress and exhaustion, the AXS trio succeeded in accomplishing what they set out to do: to make a game and have fun doing it. “I’m really proud of what Matt and I achieved,” says Joyce. “My biggest learn is that we can actually make a game in 48 hours!”

David agrees. “I learnt a lot about shaders and got to create something amazing to share with friends and family. Next time, I think I will bring more snacks.”

You can download and play the games yourself here:
The dream team, exhausted but happy
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