Watching the little ant nest buzz with workers of the Nordic Game Jam 2015 was amazing to witness.
As part of this years jury and eligeble of handing over the "best audio intregration" and "Jurys Special" award I was in for a big adventure through 140+ games, and that was only the games submitted, there were hundreds more that never made it to the final presentations, some which actually did look good - just not finished enough.
This years Nordic Game Jam, was more than double the size of last year, at which they broke the world record. This year with 700+ participants, this was a very succesful moment for games as a whole, and it was amazing to see such massive interest in developing games and the amount of very good games was insane!
I was on site several times, walking around the developers of all the games, as an unknown figure - nobody knew who I was, except for my friends participating and yet even some of those didn't know I was part of the jury this year.
The whole thing was kicked off with a great party thursday, I had the chance to chat with a lot of people there already, listening to their ideas and expectations and listen to good music and drink beer with them at the party.
As a game developer myself, I am very much aware that for a 48 hour game jam, any of the teams would most likely have nothing to show until midnight between saturday and sunday.
I was very right on this assumption, as most of the teams I visited friday and also saturday, were very much in an almost unplayable state and yet everybody seemed very hopeful that their particular project was going well.
Saturday, I was walking around with my two year old daughter, Olivia, saying hi to a lot of the teams, walking around the board game developers area, which was very fascinating and totally buzzing with life.
The few games that we got to see, still had almost nothing to show, expect they could explain their core mechanic and intentions, which in itself is very fascinating.
I tried to get a good view on as many games as possible during this time, simply to have the best overall perspective on the games being made and also who had a focus on audio.
Audio isn't everything, and I have massive respect for anyone who doesn't focus on it because they just aren't good at it, as much as respect for anyone who does care about it and tries to implement it to it's full potential in their games.
I witnessed several games, that had no sound, but a lot of games had almost no sound because the teams consisted of only programmers who didn't know anything about sound, but they still had something in there to support the visuals. Some of these actually caught my interest very much, as programmers can sometimes do things that audio designers often can't, which is coding and making procedural sound. A game like Cathodic had great procedurally generated (on a very low scale) music, chip tune brilliance, which was very well done.
A game like Bling Bling Boom Boom had massive potential in their thoughts on using sound.
One particular game, Maestro, had the idea of having the player control the game through sound or using sound to inform the player of what comes next (which is totally down my field of interest) conducting the games progress and using sound with it had massive potential.
Unfortunately, Maestro suffered from the lack of development hours. Because of the 48 hour development window, the game wasn't quite there yet and didn't make it to the finals. Which also gave me a lot of second thoughts about if this game should have gotten the Game Audio Integration award. (You came close. I gotta say)
Watching as many games as possible during the final presentations and seeing the final go down was a massive step up, all games were good, all with good intentions and the rest of the jury and I had a hard time figuring out which game to give our Jurys Special Award to.
We had an hour long discussion and finally came to the conclusion that "Press F To Win" was our final game to give the award to.
Among the finalists were a game called "Sneaky Elvis", which had some great sound in it - but sound quality isn't all, as I was more interested in sound as a mechanic.
Their use of sound and music, combined with visuals to show the audible area of the sound and using it as a way to attract NPC's was brilliant, execution was just right and it was definitely the best use of sound as part of the gameplay to be seen during the jam.
The game that won the finals, "The Wuuuuuuuu", also used sound as a mechanic, but since it was a loudness meter detecting audience noise and using that to control a platform, I would say this couldn't be considered as using "game audio" as part of the game design, since this became more of a social interaction game than the more complex use of it in Sneaky Elvis (yet The Wuuuuuu was really fun and exciting to witness being performed)
The level of all the games was extremely high this year and the level of quality and execution during the finals was even higher. Next year I might participate myself.