Phoenix developers participate in Global Game Jam

Kyle, left, and Alex Uithoven created E.Y.E.R.I.S. during the Phoenix Global Game Jam.

By Alex Ferri

It took developers 15 years to complete Duke Nukem Forever. Last weekend, teams participating in the Phoenix Global Game Jam had just 48 hours.

Global Game Jam is a worldwide gaming event that tasks developers with creating a game in the span of a weekend. More than 4,000 locations participated this year; Ben Reichert, cofounder of GameCoLab, hosted the Phoenix event.

This was the first year for the Phoenix event, held on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus Jan. 24-26. The University of Advancing Technology in Tempe has held Global Game Jams for the past several years, Reichert said.

“I wanted to try and get ASU and others involved by offering another location,” he said.

More than 100 people signed up for the Global Game Jam between the two locations; 89 at UAT and 47 at ASU.

While not all those who signed up attended, “game jammers” put together eight teams for the Phoenix event. Those teams ranged in size from two to six as well as in experience.

Each team had to fill the roles of programmer, designer, artist and more. Reichert said having a dedicated programmer is ideal, but recent rule changes allowed the creation of tabletop as well as digital games.

None of the teams at this year’s event chose that route, but Reichert said it highlighted how anyone could play a role in making a game.

“Each game plays to the strengths of the teams,” he said.

Most groups worked from the space at ASU the entire time; some even slept there, Reichert said.

The theme of this year’s Global Game Jam, announced just before it began, was “perspective.”

EYERISbackscreenBrothers Alex and Kyle Uithoven created E.Y.E.R.I.S., a multi-directional shooter with RPG elements. The game explores the link between our views, choices and how we experience reality, Alex said.

It was voted the best game of the event by the attendees, although that title only carried bragging rights and no prizes this year.

The backdrop for the game is an eyeball, which Alex said signifies how many conflicts take place within a person’s head.

“You’re fighting against yourself and your choices,” he said.

At the end of each level, the player can choose one of four weapon upgrades; each upgrade results in a different end-game experience. The upgrades are represented by various symbols, including a heart, watch and brain. Kyle said they chose not to include descriptions of the skills so players would make a more emotional decision.

The brothers worked right up to the 3 p.m. deadline on Sunday to finish E.Y.E.R.I.S.

“We definitely put in a lot more hours into a game than we ever have in a game jam,” Kyle said. “We probably slept six hours this weekend.”

The two said they still had to evaluate whether they’d put any more work into the game after the event.


Another creation at the event was Ground Zero, a two-player combat game that used drone warfare as an inspiration. Two players take turns with one controlling a drone following orders to destroy certain buildings and the other rushing to save artifacts in those buildings.

The team behind the game was Danny Perski, Tyler Knecht and Vincent Cimino.

Perski said the game incorporates the theme of perspective through the two-player aspect. The drone is just following orders, he said, but its incomplete information means it is destroying something valuable– priceless artifacts.

The inspiration for the game, Knecht said, was actual drone warfare.

Ground Zero was the only 3-D game at the Phoenix event, and the extra strains of that format resulted in some features and bugs that couldn’t be ironed out in 48 hours. However, the team plans to finish the game in the future.

There are limits to the complexity of games developed in 48 hours, Reichert said, but the constraints can inspire creativity.

“It’s a good prototype and a good foundation,” he said. “Many developers have gone on to work on that same game for another one or two years and released it to the public successfully.”

Reichert plans to organize the event next year, he said. The high turnout for a second location encouraged him and confirmed some beliefs about the Phoenix gaming scene.

“It’s heating up here in terms of game developers and game making,” he said. He added that he hopes to have prizes for the winners of next year’s jam.

If he can get the funding, Reichert also said he’d organize separate game jams for the Phoenix area in the time between the global events.

CORRECTION:  An earlier version of the story stated 55 people signed up at the UAT event. The actual number was 89.

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