image It’s The Final Devblog: Week 26 Don’t Sneeze. Allergens is also Hectic.

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Autorun is Hectic.

Autorun was declared the winner of Hectic Games Jam #7. Thanks Xbox for the Xbox, and thanks Hugo for forcing our attendance.

A couple of weeks ago, we competed in our first public game jam as a team ever. We were nervous, we were excited, but most of all, we had no idea what to expect. We had heard about the existence of Hectic Games Jam from the monthly Beer and Pixels event, but it had already been running for almost a full year!

The jam is a 48-hour bender undertaken at the Northern Sydney TAFE – a venue that is well suited to the insanity of 80 jammers. With hundreds of computers spread over multiple floors, we were able to claim a room full of Cintiq desktops to ourselves. But not before we were briefed on the theme we would be developing for, plastered all over our brand new jam merch t-shirts: puppetmaster.

For anyone who has seen the content of this blog before, we have a giant collection of latent game ideas called GCC’s. They are our ammunition in think-on-your-feet moments like these. Apparently, all that creativity stayed at the door because none of it applied to this particular theme.

Armed with a whiteboard and marker, we spent the first 4 hours just planning – screens off. Despite how much panic this caused me at the time, in retrospect I think it empowered our team. We found the autonomy to know what to do throughout the entire jam which meant less ‘what are we doing’ meetings in the following 44 hours.

Enter Autorun. A 3v1 adversarial infinite runner where the player in the hotseat places down Tetris blocks for the others to dodge, jump over, or run into. Our brainchild was born, and what a brilliant idea it was! It was just a shame that every other team had already been thinking ‘infinite runner’ as well. Friday’s dinner marks the point where every team has to present their pitch. It couldn’t just be a coincidence that 80% of the ideas we heard were all based on the same genre.

The first night was our most productive, with 0 sleep accounted for and 80% of the game’s code being written in those next 12 hours. The pace of progress during a game jam is so addictive – especially coming off the back of a 6-month project. It’s always surprising how much you can get done when you refuse to give a damn about architecture or monetization strategy.

The rest of the development passed by in a haze of sleep deprivation, and we were proud to only pivot our idea once in the middle. After abusing the free coffee for so long, the team succumbed to a late nap on the Saturday afternoon. But the only time we really woke back up was when we had less than 4 hours to go and still hadn’t seen an unbreakable build.

We were writing our patched code, pulling it all to one computer with 4 controllers, and testing to see if it worked every 5 minutes leading up to the end. In the end I think our final submission was 1 whole minute late, but the relief of ‘pens down’ silenced that caveat.

Hectic was… hectic. And the atmosphere was incredible. The place had the constant taste of innovation and was always full of friendly faces. Our team worked unsurprisingly well within the tight time constraints. I’m proud of the quality of gameplay we were able to deliver in such a short sprint, despite a few bugs. You can count on our attendance for Hectic Games Jam #8.

If you’d like to check out Autorun, it can be downloaded for free on the Windows Store (they sponsored the event so free bonus points!). Be warned: we make no promises about the game’s performance or compatibility.

That should be a game jam sticker…

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About James
I’m deeply passionate about the promoting and developing the social, educational, and creative potential of games. Through my work at Chaos Theory, I have only just started a journey to doing exactly that.
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