Posted by patrickklepek (5581 posts) -

This is the first of three stories about my time at the Molyjam. Tomorrow, you'll read about a husband and wife couple who faced incredible adversity and kept going. On Friday, learn what Peter Molyneux thinks about...well, all of this.

--

No matter the size, creating a game from scratch in 48 hours is daunting. That’s why the first night of game jams are usually spent getting to know people, sorting ideas, and finding teammates on your wavelength.

35-year-old Juan Rubio decided his team only needed one person: himself.

Over the course of the Molyjam, more than 300 games were created in the US and abroad.

Game jams are events where creators--designers, programmers, artists, musicians, whoever--come together to create tiny, focused games in a short period of time. I helped organize What Would Molydeux? (aka Molyjam), an international game jam inspired by the audacious, inspiring tweets of Peter Molydeux, itself a parody of Populous and Syndicate designer Peter Molyneux.

Rubio was one of more than 100 who attended the San Francisco arm of the Molyjam, which was hosted within our own building.

The prospect of creating everything required for a game by himself didn't scare him--it was part of the attraction in the first place.

“I thought it would be something that I would enjoy,” he told me. “I would be enjoying my weekend by crunching on something! [laughs] [...] I just wanted to test myself and see what I could pull off within that timeframe.”

By trade, Rubio is a visual effects contractor, having worked on The Matrix sequels, The Day After Tomorrow, Watchmen, The Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift, X-Men: The Last Stand, and others. On X-Men, Rubio helped Juggernaut (digitally) remove some walls while he raged. Tinkering around with game development is what initially drew him into manipulating graphics, and he’d been playing with middleware software Unity long before it was popular.

Rubio had already mostly settled on a Tweet before arriving at the jamming location in downtown San Francisco:

“Survival horror meets bowling.”

No joke, while the Molyjam was coming together, I told people that if we got nothing but hundreds of people creating variations on this theme, I’d be satisfied. There were several teams who took on the task in San Francisco alone, including Rubio and Stacking designer Lee Petty. I don't even like bowling that much, but the concept...man.

“The bowling mechanic is just so different,” said Rubio, “and combining that with something an established genre like survival horror seemed really interesting.”

Rubio's looking to make game development a full-time gig, which requires constant kebab.

His game? Bowl or Die! The trick? The ball is your light source, so when you’re taking out the bowling pins, you’re also tossing away the very object that’s needed to survive the terrors ahead.

Awesome, hilarious, and pretty terrifying, if you think about it.

The first problem facing Rubio was one that every video game struggles with, whether made by a group of amateurs or professionals who’ve been making games for decades: scope. In the first few hours, Rubio had an easier time than most, as sketching out the game required answering to no one but himself.

Convenient!

“I just wanted to get one mechanic down well, which was the bowling aspect of it,” he said. “That was the first thing you guys saw on Friday night. I was just trying to work towards getting the mechanic going and working because I knew just creating the rest of the content for the level was going to take me the rest of the weekend.”

Several times throughout the Molyjam, Double Fine gameplay programmer Anna Kipnis and I would walk around the room with the ever-present web cam and find out how the games were progressing. On Friday, everyone was upbeat. That changed Saturday, but Friday, it was early in the jam, ideas were fresh, and no one was sleep deprived. At around 10:50, you can see the progress Rubio alluded to.

(Yes, I know the sound is off. Sorry.)

Our location was not open all day and night, and people finally filtered out around midnight. The work didn’t stop for most teams, however, including solo teams like Rubio. Excited about Bowl or Die!, he went home and continued working. Hours and hours later, he finally went to sleep. Sort of.

Some teams came back on Saturday, but Rubio didn’t. Not long into Saturday, his decision to forgo much sleep bit him in the ass.

“I actually started crashing a bit,” he said, “and started making mistakes because I was so tired.”

He forced himself to take a nap, resumed work later in the day, and came back to the jam on Sunday.

The most interesting moments from the Molyjam involved watching the creative process play out in real-time. Features that made sense 24 hours ago were now crazy, immediately scrapped, and people's feet are tapping up and down, up and down. Rubio knew to scope small for Bowl or Die!, but even he had to tear limbs from his horror gaming baby. Plans for a visible health system was tossed out, and a meter displaying the ball’s charge disappeared.

In one case, he turned a negative into a positive. When players bumped into the bowling pins, they were unexpectedly launched outside the world. It was a damning bug.

“I ended up taking that and using that to my advantage, and saying ‘Okay, well, then that’s how you can die.’” he said. “You get launched off, and if you go negative on the Y-axis, then you’re dead and you show the game over screen.”

Now, Rubio is mulling whether to craft something new or create a bigger, better Bowl or Die!

Suddenly, a bug becomes a feature. Presto.

Though Rubio worked from home, he came back Sunday, and the cramped atmosphere became an aid, rather than a stressor.

“What ended up helping me,” he said, “and what’s gonna help me for the games the future, is the overall creativity from everybody and seeing the process and going through it myself. It was always something that I had a hard time with--coming up with original ideas or original mechanics. Just by being in that room and that atmosphere with everyone, I ended up learning a lot."

Even as someone that doesn’t design video games for a living, I can confirm that vibe was tangible.

As the 7:00 p.m. Sunday deadline neared, ongoing presentations in Los Angeles allowed us to give teams an extra 30 minutes to work on their games. Almost everyone cheered. A little later, presentations began, and didn’t finish for another three hours. It didn’t feel nearly that long, as hoots, hollars, and applause filled the room.

Rubio took the stage at some point, and I held the microphone while he talked and showed his game. The creators who decided to participate in the game jam solo received some of the biggest responses, and that included Rubio.

The best part? You can stop reading this article and play Bowl or Die! right now.

#1 Posted by patrickklepek (5581 posts) -

This is the first of three stories about my time at the Molyjam. Tomorrow, you'll read about a husband and wife couple who faced incredible adversity and kept going. On Friday, learn what Peter Molyneux thinks about...well, all of this.

--

No matter the size, creating a game from scratch in 48 hours is daunting. That’s why the first night of game jams are usually spent getting to know people, sorting ideas, and finding teammates on your wavelength.

35-year-old Juan Rubio decided his team only needed one person: himself.

Over the course of the Molyjam, more than 300 games were created in the US and abroad.

Game jams are events where creators--designers, programmers, artists, musicians, whoever--come together to create tiny, focused games in a short period of time. I helped organize What Would Molydeux? (aka Molyjam), an international game jam inspired by the audacious, inspiring tweets of Peter Molydeux, itself a parody of Populous and Syndicate designer Peter Molyneux.

Rubio was one of more than 100 who attended the San Francisco arm of the Molyjam, which was hosted within our own building.

The prospect of creating everything required for a game by himself didn't scare him--it was part of the attraction in the first place.

“I thought it would be something that I would enjoy,” he told me. “I would be enjoying my weekend by crunching on something! [laughs] [...] I just wanted to test myself and see what I could pull off within that timeframe.”

By trade, Rubio is a visual effects contractor, having worked on The Matrix sequels, The Day After Tomorrow, Watchmen, The Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift, X-Men: The Last Stand, and others. On X-Men, Rubio helped Juggernaut (digitally) remove some walls while he raged. Tinkering around with game development is what initially drew him into manipulating graphics, and he’d been playing with middleware software Unity long before it was popular.

Rubio had already mostly settled on a Tweet before arriving at the jamming location in downtown San Francisco:

“Survival horror meets bowling.”

No joke, while the Molyjam was coming together, I told people that if we got nothing but hundreds of people creating variations on this theme, I’d be satisfied. There were several teams who took on the task in San Francisco alone, including Rubio and Stacking designer Lee Petty. I don't even like bowling that much, but the concept...man.

“The bowling mechanic is just so different,” said Rubio, “and combining that with something an established genre like survival horror seemed really interesting.”

Rubio's looking to make game development a full-time gig, which requires constant kebab.

His game? Bowl or Die! The trick? The ball is your light source, so when you’re taking out the bowling pins, you’re also tossing away the very object that’s needed to survive the terrors ahead.

Awesome, hilarious, and pretty terrifying, if you think about it.

The first problem facing Rubio was one that every video game struggles with, whether made by a group of amateurs or professionals who’ve been making games for decades: scope. In the first few hours, Rubio had an easier time than most, as sketching out the game required answering to no one but himself.

Convenient!

“I just wanted to get one mechanic down well, which was the bowling aspect of it,” he said. “That was the first thing you guys saw on Friday night. I was just trying to work towards getting the mechanic going and working because I knew just creating the rest of the content for the level was going to take me the rest of the weekend.”

Several times throughout the Molyjam, Double Fine gameplay programmer Anna Kipnis and I would walk around the room with the ever-present web cam and find out how the games were progressing. On Friday, everyone was upbeat. That changed Saturday, but Friday, it was early in the jam, ideas were fresh, and no one was sleep deprived. At around 10:50, you can see the progress Rubio alluded to.

(Yes, I know the sound is off. Sorry.)

Our location was not open all day and night, and people finally filtered out around midnight. The work didn’t stop for most teams, however, including solo teams like Rubio. Excited about Bowl or Die!, he went home and continued working. Hours and hours later, he finally went to sleep. Sort of.

Some teams came back on Saturday, but Rubio didn’t. Not long into Saturday, his decision to forgo much sleep bit him in the ass.

“I actually started crashing a bit,” he said, “and started making mistakes because I was so tired.”

He forced himself to take a nap, resumed work later in the day, and came back to the jam on Sunday.

The most interesting moments from the Molyjam involved watching the creative process play out in real-time. Features that made sense 24 hours ago were now crazy, immediately scrapped, and people's feet are tapping up and down, up and down. Rubio knew to scope small for Bowl or Die!, but even he had to tear limbs from his horror gaming baby. Plans for a visible health system was tossed out, and a meter displaying the ball’s charge disappeared.

In one case, he turned a negative into a positive. When players bumped into the bowling pins, they were unexpectedly launched outside the world. It was a damning bug.

“I ended up taking that and using that to my advantage, and saying ‘Okay, well, then that’s how you can die.’” he said. “You get launched off, and if you go negative on the Y-axis, then you’re dead and you show the game over screen.”

Now, Rubio is mulling whether to craft something new or create a bigger, better Bowl or Die!

Suddenly, a bug becomes a feature. Presto.

Though Rubio worked from home, he came back Sunday, and the cramped atmosphere became an aid, rather than a stressor.

“What ended up helping me,” he said, “and what’s gonna help me for the games the future, is the overall creativity from everybody and seeing the process and going through it myself. It was always something that I had a hard time with--coming up with original ideas or original mechanics. Just by being in that room and that atmosphere with everyone, I ended up learning a lot."

Even as someone that doesn’t design video games for a living, I can confirm that vibe was tangible.

As the 7:00 p.m. Sunday deadline neared, ongoing presentations in Los Angeles allowed us to give teams an extra 30 minutes to work on their games. Almost everyone cheered. A little later, presentations began, and didn’t finish for another three hours. It didn’t feel nearly that long, as hoots, hollars, and applause filled the room.

Rubio took the stage at some point, and I held the microphone while he talked and showed his game. The creators who decided to participate in the game jam solo received some of the biggest responses, and that included Rubio.

The best part? You can stop reading this article and play Bowl or Die! right now.

#2 Posted by TanNakRa (10 posts) -

nice read

#3 Posted by dcgc (878 posts) -

@TanNakRa said:

nice read

'dat fast?

#4 Posted by Depth (356 posts) -

Are you guys going to do some big quick look of the most interesting molyjam games?

#5 Posted by fallingskyline (17 posts) -

i like, sounds pretty neat

#6 Posted by Cyrisaurus (455 posts) -

ER of all the games one after the other

#7 Posted by flomby (62 posts) -

I always love reading articles from Patrick. He is such a great writer, his pieces have a very relaxing tone, and they are always so informative. Keep it up Tricky!!

#8 Posted by BonOrbitz (2217 posts) -

Great article! After I type this I'm off to play Bowl or Die!.

I'm a graphic designer gamer who knows shit about programming... Is there anyway I can participate in a game jam?

#9 Posted by Winternet (8025 posts) -

I've played the game and although the setting is nice, it loses it charms when you realize

that you cannot die unless you jump of the world. So you really don't have to do anything to reach the end of the game apart from walking to the end zone.
#10 Posted by Residentrevil2 (452 posts) -

Great story, Patrick. I can't wait to see next year's Molyjam.

#11 Posted by xite (911 posts) -

So are we getting Quick Looks of these?

#12 Posted by GunnBjorn (2911 posts) -
@xite said:

So are we getting Quick Looks of these?


I think I speak for the GB crew by saying: ''QLs of all 300+ games? Are you nuts?!''
#13 Posted by misfeasor (27 posts) -

@GunnBjorn: Endurance Run: Molyjam 2012

#14 Posted by Grissefar (2842 posts) -

C'mon Patrick, you can't ask me to read all this. I really think this information would be better conveyed through a Quick Look.

#15 Posted by Mordi (553 posts) -

@bonorbitz said:

Great article! After I type this I'm off to play Bowl or Die!.

I'm a graphic designer gamer who knows shit about programming... Is there anyway I can participate in a game jam?

Go to the Ludum Dare site and find someone who needs an artist. There are so many participants, so you'll most probably find someone who does.

#16 Posted by kerse (2117 posts) -

@misfeasor said:

@GunnBjorn: Endurance Run: Molyjam 2012

That would be amazing.

#17 Posted by AWalczak08 (28 posts) -

Sounds pretty great. There's a lot of interesting stuff that came from Molyjam.

#18 Posted by Napalm (9020 posts) -

@Grissefar said:

C'mon Patrick, you can't ask me to read all this.

Jesus Christ, humanity.

#19 Posted by patrickklepek (5581 posts) -

@Grissefar said:

C'mon Patrick, you can't ask me to read all this. I really think this information would be better conveyed through a Quick Look.

Nuke it from orbit.

#20 Posted by Jace (1094 posts) -

@patrickklepek said:

@Grissefar said:

C'mon Patrick, you can't ask me to read all this. I really think this information would be better conveyed through a Quick Look.

Nuke it from orbit.

It wouldn't be strong enough.

#21 Posted by mbr2 (567 posts) -

@theswoosh said:

Didn't bother reading the article. This is the internet, and the internet demands quicklooks.

Didn't bother caring about your opinion. This is the real world and the real world demands people to be able to read.

#22 Edited by aaelon (15 posts) -

I think they should make it into a breaking Brad feature, where he has to play all 300 in one sitting.

Also that suit is f'ing awesome!

#23 Posted by gakon (1952 posts) -

The average human wouldn't need more than six minutes to read this article. Reading, y'all.

#24 Posted by yankijp (2 posts) -

@bonorbitz: Anyone can participate! One of the next articles I think that Patrick is writing were in the same boat as yourself. No coding background at all. So go for it! :)

#25 Posted by yankijp (2 posts) -

@Winternet: Hi! if I continue with it it will be one of the first things I will address along with a power meter for the ball. In the article it covers that I had to cut some things like the health but the enemies can still thrown you off. Otherwise thanks for playing! :)

#26 Posted by Winternet (8025 posts) -

@yankijp: Oh ok. They can throw you off? I remember that when I realized the fact that they don't kill you, I stood there and they would just wobble their heads. Anyway, you did a great job, especially with the opening. (also, if you speed run it, the dialogue will play over each other). Also, why is a bowling pin throwing a bowling ball to kill other bowling pins? Am I playing a traitor? Worst, a communist? The horror!

#27 Posted by sirdesmond (1246 posts) -

@Grissefar said:

C'mon Patrick, you can't ask me to read all this. I really think this information would be better conveyed through a Quick Look.

In other words, you are just too lazy to read which makes it additionally confusing that you clicked on and then commented on an article.

#28 Edited by Grissefar (2842 posts) -

@patrickklepek said:

@Grissefar said:

C'mon Patrick, you can't ask me to read all this. I really think this information would be better conveyed through a Quick Look.

Nuke it from orbit.

Wow thanks for replying, man! I can't believe it, it's like a once in a lightyear event on Giant Bomb. It's funny how rarely the Giant Bomb staff members reply to users on Giant Bomb, considering how casual Giant Bomb is, when Gamespot guys such as Tom McShea or Carolyn Petit do it quite often. Perhaps it is because the Giant Bomb men are just busier in general. I got a reply last week from Alex from finding a spelling error and strictly reminding him, which I was also really pleased about.

I guess it's sad that these replies are negative in nature. It's just a dream, but, an interaction like this would really please me:

Wow cool video, man! Really interesting to watch.

Wow thanks, mahn. It really pleases me that you liked it.

Really sorry for pissing you off though - I guess I would be pissed off too if someone told me to make a video when I had just written an intricate article. Ha! Ha!

#29 Posted by Loiosh (10 posts) -

@Grissefar said:

@patrickklepek said:

@Grissefar said:

C'mon Patrick, you can't ask me to read all this. I really think this information would be better conveyed through a Quick Look.

Nuke it from orbit.

I guess it's sad that these replies are negative in nature. It's just a dream, but, an interaction like this would really please me: [...]

Really sorry for pissing you off though - I guess I would be pissed off too if someone told me to make a video when I had just written an intricate article. Ha! Ha!

You told a writer that all of the effort of his primary job was worthless and expect to be patted on the back?

He has every right to dismiss you as he did.

#30 Posted by Danda (76 posts) -
#31 Posted by Raven10 (1851 posts) -

@bonorbitz said:

Great article! After I type this I'm off to play Bowl or Die!.

I'm a graphic designer gamer who knows shit about programming... Is there anyway I can participate in a game jam?

Most game jams are open to anyone who wants to participate. Artists and programmers are always needed so I'm sure you could find a team who could make use of you. Depending on where you live you may have to drive for a bit to find one, but game jams happen regularly throughout the world so if you are patient there is sure to be one somewhere around where you live at some point.

#32 Posted by Y2Ken (1183 posts) -

A great read. Would probably be very interested in a more fully-developed version of this game. :)

#33 Posted by Rox360 (1069 posts) -
@Danda said:

There's already a legitimate "Zombie Bowling" game. So the less original Molyjam game gets its own article?

http://store.steampowered.com/app/32160/

Bowl or Die is not a bowling game and it does not have zombies in it. Virtually no similarities.
#34 Posted by RetroVirus (1479 posts) -

Just played it, and I thought it was pretty neat! The faces on this pins are priceless.

#35 Posted by DrJota (700 posts) -

Always interesting to pick the brain of someone creating,well,anything IMO.Great article.

#36 Posted by Jigenese (30 posts) -

How about a quick look with the best of the MolyJam?

#37 Posted by michaelfossbakk (236 posts) -

@theswoosh said:

Didn't bother reading the article. This is the internet, and the internet demands quicklooks.

Dude...come on.

#38 Posted by Veektarius (4922 posts) -

That chiptunes piece in the video was sweet.

#39 Posted by HotelDon (85 posts) -

@Grissefar said:

@patrickklepek said:

@Grissefar said:

C'mon Patrick, you can't ask me to read all this. I really think this information would be better conveyed through a Quick Look.

Nuke it from orbit.

Wow thanks for replying, man! I can't believe it, it's like a once in a lightyear event on Giant Bomb. It's funny how rarely the Giant Bomb staff members reply to users on Giant Bomb, considering how casual Giant Bomb is, when Gamespot guys such as Tom McShea or Carolyn Petit do it quite often. Perhaps it is because the Giant Bomb men are just busier in general. I got a reply last week from Alex from finding a spelling error and strictly reminding him, which I was also really pleased about.

I guess it's sad that these replies are negative in nature. It's just a dream, but, an interaction like this would really please me:

Wow cool video, man! Really interesting to watch.

Wow thanks, mahn. It really pleases me that you liked it.

Really sorry for pissing you off though - I guess I would be pissed off too if someone told me to make a video when I had just written an intricate article. Ha! Ha!

Jesus Christ you sure like to type a lot. Couldn't you express your opinions in a less aggravating way, such as a VBlog or a tweet?

#40 Posted by PandaBear (1377 posts) -

@Grissefar said:

@patrickklepek said:

@Grissefar said:

C'mon Patrick, you can't ask me to read all this. I really think this information would be better conveyed through a Quick Look.

Nuke it from orbit.

Wow thanks for replying, man! I can't believe it, it's like a once in a lightyear event on Giant Bomb. It's funny how rarely the Giant Bomb staff members reply to users on Giant Bomb, considering how casual Giant Bomb is, when Gamespot guys such as Tom McShea or Carolyn Petit do it quite often. Perhaps it is because the Giant Bomb men are just busier in general. I got a reply last week from Alex from finding a spelling error and strictly reminding him, which I was also really pleased about.

I guess it's sad that these replies are negative in nature. It's just a dream, but, an interaction like this would really please me:

Wow cool video, man! Really interesting to watch.

Wow thanks, mahn. It really pleases me that you liked it.

Really sorry for pissing you off though - I guess I would be pissed off too if someone told me to make a video when I had just written an intricate article. Ha! Ha!

I read your reply twice and i still don't get it... seriously. Anyway, the article is solid and worth reading and the fact that your comment is "I don't want to read it" rather than "I read this and I don't agree with this" invalidates your point immediately. Constructive criticism is different to being dismissive.

For the record I don't think Scoops needs me to defend him, but this site is awesome and if illiterates are going to write baffling comments I think it's up to this (usually awesome) community to stand up for the integrity of the site.

#41 Posted by Slumberpunch (120 posts) -

Not interested in molyjam and this kind of content would be better off in a personal blog or a series of twitter posts

#42 Posted by LiquidSwords (2738 posts) -

@Slumberpunch said:

Not interested in molyjam and this kind of content would be better off in a personal blog or a series of twitter posts
#43 Edited by SharkMan (665 posts) -

@flomby: when i read the name "Tricky", i think of a crazy trip-hop artist that doesn't want to be classified as trip-hop even though his best album was trip-hop.

#44 Posted by Typographenia (57 posts) -

Glad to see some content from Molyjam making it into the written features again. : )

Man, I can't even begin to imagine how much work it would take doing an entire project on your own like that. It sounds like putting off sleeping was his biggest challenge, haha. Really cool that he was still drawing inspiration and energy from those around him, despite it being a solo project.

#45 Posted by CrashTanuki (292 posts) -

It would be cool if you guys did a quick look of a bunch of the cooler games from the Molyjam.

#46 Posted by probablytuna (3732 posts) -

Shall check this out!

#47 Posted by ThePhantomStranger (377 posts) -

@Grissefar said:

@patrickklepek said:

@Grissefar said:

C'mon Patrick, you can't ask me to read all this. I really think this information would be better conveyed through a Quick Look.

Nuke it from orbit.

Wow thanks for replying, man! I can't believe it, it's like a once in a lightyear event on Giant Bomb. It's funny how rarely the Giant Bomb staff members reply to users on Giant Bomb, considering how casual Giant Bomb is, when Gamespot guys such as Tom McShea or Carolyn Petit do it quite often. Perhaps it is because the Giant Bomb men are just busier in general. I got a reply last week from Alex from finding a spelling error and strictly reminding him, which I was also really pleased about.

I guess it's sad that these replies are negative in nature. It's just a dream, but, an interaction like this would really please me:

Wow cool video, man! Really interesting to watch.

Wow thanks, mahn. It really pleases me that you liked it.

Really sorry for pissing you off though - I guess I would be pissed off too if someone told me to make a video when I had just written an intricate article. Ha! Ha!

I tried figuring out what the hell you were talking about...then I came to the conclusion that your subtly trying to convince Klepek to misspell the word man so that you can correct him. That's fucking devious, mahn.

#48 Posted by Brackynews (4094 posts) -

@CrashTanuki said:

It would be cool if you guys did a quick look of a bunch of the cooler games from the Molyjam.

I'm reminded of the XBLIG QL, where they "buzzed" out the boring stuff. I think adapting the Game Room QL format is better.