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January 24, 2017 - No Comments!

Global Game Jam 2017

Jam developers into a room with laptops, free pizza and 48 hours to make a game - what a wonderful invention! The Global Game Jam has been a favourite in my game development calendar since I first took part in 2015. Now with much more experience under my belt and a sleeping bag under my arm, I took the day off at work to head to the SAE Institute.

After a very uplifting video announced this year's theme, we buzzed around to form our teams. Luckily, I knew two people from before that I was going to be jamming with: Tim and Fede, both very talented designers. Even luckier, we found three more fantastic teammates: Anne-Sophie, gifted musician and sound designer, Sean, an incredible programmer, and Laura, the animating force that kept us all sane throughout.

Look at that beautiful gender balance! Yeah! Left to right: Me, Tim, Laura, Sean, Federico, Anne-Sophie

Before you read on, I suggest you have a go at our game. It's called "Quiet Little Things" and you can download and play it on the Global Game Jam website. All you need is a musical instrument (or your voice) and a microphone to play.

We came to the idea quite quickly as we discussed different type of waves. Sound waves, light waves, emotional waves, psychic waves, oscillations, communication, vibrations... at one point we thought of making a game about having to serenade your lover on the balcony using a physical instrument, then about having to sync your vibrations with another player through voice. Soon we settled on the idea of making a series of small vignettes that you control with sound, either an instrument or your voice. You have to figure out how the scene reacts to different sounds you make in order to proceed to the next vignette.



I started by setting up a pinterest board of the feel of the game and circulating that around the team. Then Tim and Fede came up with vignettes, Fede would sketch them on cards and give them to me. I drew the vignettes while Anne-Sophie would compose music for each and Sean worked his magic getting the sound to work. Then Fede and Tim would go about scripting and setting up the scenes while Laura went to all the teams, tirelessly bigging up our game. And that is how we spent most of the jam.

Well... almost all. The rest of the time we were having hilarious laughs, discussing game design theory and becoming great friends. Our team meshed together incredibly well, having a very synchronous idea of what we wanted our game to be and always looking out for each other. It was a joy!

A blurry but very representative image of our time together. This was taken by Anne-Sophie late Saturday night. Left to right: Fede, Tim and me.

At some point everyone got distracted by Fede's synthesisers (except for Sean, that man had a force field against distractions).

We all slept Saturday night on yoga mats and blow up beds, under tables and inside sleeping bags. All a big part of the Global Game Jam experience. The next morning Sean, Fede and I had breakfast at a nearby cafe then dived straight in to finishing the game. I drew the assets for 8 vignettes though we only had time to implement 5. Determined to get one more in, I rolled up my sleeves and implemented the entire boat vignette all on my own using Unity and C#. That CS50 programming course payed off!



Finishing just on time, we all felt incredibly proud of what we achieved. And our audience seemed to love it too. One jammer even went out of his way to tell each one of us what a beautiful and touching game we had made. Thank you! Over free pizzas and beers, we waved our good-byes and sleepily went home to bed.


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Congratulations to everyone who took part in the Global Game Jam. You're all wonderfully talented people!



January 17, 2017 - No Comments!


During the last VideoBrains of the year I told Simon, "Let's do a new year's jam!" Lo and behold, a few weeks later Simon messages me the details for a full blown game jam at the Oxford Hackspace - organised all on his own. Impressive! So on I hopped one silver morning onto the X90 from London to Oxford.

I arrived unfashionably early, meanwhile Robin, my team member, was fashionably late. But at least that gave me the opportunity to meet two wonderful and talented people, Tim and Dan. I quickly recruited them and we set to work. With only a handful of hours to make a game, we didn't dabble and rapidly agreed on a simple but sweet idea: the feeling of leaves blowing in the wind.

The game is called "I Beleaf In You" - a journey to better times. The protagonists are leaves that fall from a tree, you play the wind helping them back up to when they were young and green. You do that by literally blowing on a leaf to control the wind direction and intensity.

Here is our fantastic team. From left to right: Dan, a very welcoming software engineer who remarkably worked evenings and weekends on his indie game... and got it on Steam! Tim, a programmer in visual effects, now taking on the brave path of full-time indie game development. Myself, Rosa, the artist of the team. And Robin, maker of wonderful controllers, famous for Line Wobbler. Here he is holding our input device. It is an adruino with a acceloromteor and a microphone. Not pictured but just as important was the very talented composer, Lewis, who kindly made us wonderful music in record time.

While Robin soldered away at the controller, Tim and Dan programmed in Unity, I absorbed myself in drawing pretty trees and leaves using Dan's iPad. (I've included the background image I made at the end of this post.) There wasn't much time for anything else but making the game, only stopping for the occasional tea and to grab a bite from Videobrains sponsored free pizza. Yum!

The most exciting moment for me was when we put everything together for the first time. The leaves fell on the ground and I gently blew into the microphone. They flew into the air and fell gracefully. How beautiful! A perfect demonstration of Dan, Tim and Robin's incredible skills, getting the feel of it so perfect.

But I was still holding a computer chip and red cable in my hand. So while the programmers talked about the behaviour of the leaves, I grabbed a cutting mat, a scalpel and some green card and cut out a few shapes. Add a little bit of sellotape and viola! We had a physical leaf!

I have to confess, I am incredibly proud of what we made. We worked very well together and made something that had players awing, touched by the game. In the end, Simon awarded us the "Best Art" prize, not because of the visuals, but because we created an all-round artistic experience, with beautiful music, beautiful interaction and beautiful feel. Dan, Tim, Robin - it was a joy jamming with you!

January 5, 2017 - No Comments!

Overground: A flatgame to commemorate 2016

2016 was strangely beautiful in its own turbulent way. I was commuting accross London on the Overground every day, from my home in Stratford to the SEGA Europe offices in Gunnesbury - it would take me 2 hours to get to work. The routine started to take it's toll on my mental health but my sketchbook flourished with drawings of all the passengers that travelled with me. Now, as I look back through the pages of my notebook, I've come to appreciate at just how beautiful and diverse London is as witnessed on the Overground.

Some people would talk to me when they saw me sketching - a Pakistani businessman took out his phone and showed me his mother's paintings, a Bulgarian builder who didn't speak English asked me to draw him, a woman paused talking in Swahili to compliment a sketch.

Over the new year I took part in the Flatgame Jam. A flatgame is a digital piece of work with minimal interaction, usually made within an hour or two. Inspired by Frederico's fantastic flatgame, I too decided to reflect over how 2016 went. The result is a celebration of everything London means to me. Overground is an autobiographical flatgame of how I remember the commute on the London Overground. All commuters are real people that have travelled with me and I happened to sketch them with a pen in my notebook. You can play Overground in your browser here.

Included in PC Gamer's free game of the week. Read their review here.

June 17, 2016 - No Comments!

The Importance of the EU Referendum for the Indie Game Developer

"Make your games here!" the UK entertainment trade body, UKIE, exclaims, pinning a toothpick onto a UK shaped slab of plasticine. A statement I would find tougher to justify in the case of a Brexit.

I am an EU citizen in the UK with a Spanish passport and 6 years of British residence. I also make small indie games and have benefited from the vibrant UK indie games community and its place among the EU creative industries. While understanding the pitfalls of the European Union, it's not all that surprising that when it comes to the EU referendum this 23rd June I'd like for the UK to remain.

The indie games scene in the UK is significantly funded by the EU. The Creative Europe scheme has rewarded well over half a million euros in grants towards innovation in games. Most of that money goes towards UK indie games studios, including €124,503 towards multi-BAFTA-winning The Chinese Room's upcoming title, Total Dark.

Meanwhile the European Commission is investing €80 billion towards research and innovation in Europe through the Horizon 2020 scheme. The UK is the second largest receiver of these grants, only a single percentage point behind Germany. It kickstarted our Ludic House studio, granting us €12,500 while we were still MA students and securing our first games title.

Even funding bodies like Creative England get a significant chunk of its funds from the European Regional Development Fund, a body investing £2 billion into the UK. And that is not the last of grant giving bodies as more arts funds open their submissions to interactive media projects.

You as an indie games developer have access to these funds by residing in the European Union.

"The UK has begun to overtake Canada as the most desirable country in which to develop games," boasted Richie when he came to guest lecture at Brunel University in 2014. But will it continue to be so if we lose access to European funding? We'd have to trust the UK to cover the hole left behind by the loss of EU grants. With other sectors also affected through loss of funding, we could never be sure how much of a priority the videogames industry would be.

An overwhelming majority of the UK games companies favour the remain campaign. Unsuprising when the EU headquarters for major companies such as Sony, SEGA, Microsoft, Konami... are all located in the UK and would consider relocation in case of a Brexit. However, more than the big games studios and publishers, I'm personally concerned about the indie scene.

In Brighton and London pubs, I meet individuals and small teams, some hobbyists, some entrepreneurs, drinking pints over laptops as they check out each other's games. The wealth of innovation fostered in these monthly meetups could contest E3. A staggering 95% of games studios in the UK are considered micro or small businesses and 83% of them are independent. We are in the middle of a flourishing start-up scene.

With a lack of public funding, these start-ups might be forced to seek out publishers too soon in development, losing the creative innovation that comes from games as art rather than games as business. The freedom of creating small projects is vital in the videogame ecosystem. It is out of the risks taken by indies, cushioned through grant giving bodies, that has made game designers in the UK become creative leaders, shaping global game trends and creating new genres.

I'd like to make games in the UK. Over the six months since graduating I have met talented developers and witnessed an incredible community supported by an inspirational trade body which is always ready to fight for its industry. Whether remain or leave, I hope indie developers will always feel empowered to innovate and I hope I can stay to make games with them.


If you're interested in reading more about how the European Referendum will impact the videogame industry here are a few starting points:

Implications of the EU Referendum for the UK Games industry

UKIE EU poll: games companies favour remaining in the EU

EU Referendum Ukie Poll slides April 2016

UK Games Industry Fact Sheet 2016

Brexit to Desktop

Brexit and Sports Interactive

May 13, 2016 - No Comments!

Learning Blender

Blender is a dream come true when you've just finished university and don't have access to all the fancy Autodesk software. Sadly, that also means having to learn a new UI system which can be frustrating and time consuming. I did a bit of shader work in Blender before with the help of the amazing Atahan at Brunel University however 3D modelling was still a mystery to me. Over the course of two evenings I decided to finally learn how to 3D model in Blender using tutor4u's great YouTube tutorials. I ran two tutorials the first evening, creating a 'hello world' style mug and clock. What came out:




Not bad for an evening after work. Lesson learnt: the interface is super easy and in fact, I prefer it over Maya! The next day I decided to 3D model something entirely on my own. A fold-up chair our neighbours had in the garden.



A lot of time was spent squinting from the balcony as I slowly became sunburnt from an unnaturally sunny British evening. Was worth it!

April 5, 2016 - No Comments!

Showcasing at Now Play This, the London Games Festival


Our game Meeting was curated into Now Play This at the London Games Festival, a weekend celebrating the wider possibilities of games. The peculiar, the beautiful, the deeply experimental. We were incredibly delighted to be included in the showcase among such wonderful and curious games.

The exhibition took place at The Somerset House by London's River Thames from the 1st - 3rd April. Its rooms and corridors were overtaken by families, students and aficionados playing games in what The Guardian called "a three-day extravaganza of 'outsider' games created by architects, poets and theatre folk." Meeting was showcased on Saturday with great success! We had queues of players of all ages. We witnessed children playing our game for the first time which ended up being an absolute delight. All players, whether strangers or siblings, left patting each other on the back, bonding from overcoming a common struggle.

Now Play This 1

A highlight of the weekend for me was being one of the four game developers chosen to be interviewed by none other than Keith Stuart and Erica Jordan Webber of The Guardian. It was my first time being interviewed ever - and on stage, in front of a live crowd with tv cameras no less! - but I am incredibly pleased with how smoothly and pleasantly it went. Stories about the making of Meeting were told and many laughs were shared.

Now Play This 2

The best part of the weekend though were the many after-drinks at The Lyceum Tavern with all the wonderful designers, poets, academics and creatives. The games scene is blessed with so many wonderful people doing so many interesting things. I feel incredibly blessed to have clinked drinks and shared thoughts with them.

March 30, 2016 - No Comments!

Game A Month: Mar 2016

Play The Red Stain!

This is a game that started as an experiment while travelling on a train from London to Brighton in December of last year. I primarily started it to learn how to use twine, secondly to try spatial depth in twine where each node is an object in space. The question was how to recreate first person exploration mechanics in text form.

Over the course of time it evolved and became a short mystery. I began working on it on spare evenings and reworked it many times however I am still very critical of this game. While the concept for the story emerged fairly early on, it needed much more development to make it truly gripping. I tried various narrative structures to see what would cause the greatest impact. First I had the red stain revealed at any point in the story, depending on where you looked, however the story was then missing the first hook. In Gone Home, the first hook was the note on the door asking you not to go looking for your missing sister. It needed that hook. By putting the stain at the beginning the problem fixed itself. But now I faced the problem of the solution being too predictable.

This needs a lot more iteration and development. But as a day or two's experiment spread over the course of a couple of months, it's an interesting premise and I learned how to use twine!

February 10, 2016 - No Comments!

Jam Jar for GamesAid – A Review

Since starting work at GamesAid I've challenged myself to celebrate the job with doing a bit of fundraising.

For those of you to whom this is news, I started this January working at GamesAid, a UK video games charity who help disadvantaged and disabled children and young people. What originally started as an intern position got upped to the fancy name of Operations Executive - a title I'm still warming up to. Currently I am their only employee, surrounded by a circle of very talented trustees who volunteer their time to the cause. They all represent the best of the UK video games industry and they are also all inspiringly lovely.

To celebrate I decided to organise my own fundraising event for GamesAid. The Global Game Jam was around the corner and inspired by Matt's "Lollies for Lolly" event, I pitched "Jam Jar at the Global Game Jam" to Ian and Matt, Chair and Vice-Chair of GamesAid. With their blessing and support, I began to contact the organisers of Global Game Jam sites across London and then further across the UK.

The pitch was simple: We will place jars of candy at Global Game Jam sites and offer the sweets to jammers. In exchange for the candy, they can place a donation towards GamesAid.

The execution was difficult. First, I had to get GGJ sites on board. Up to a day before the GGJ began, I was emailing back and forth with sites who jumped in at the last moment, arranging meetings and transporting more jars with candy. In the end all GGJ sites within Greater London participated:

  • SAE Institute London
  • City University London
  • London Metropolitan University
  • Popped
  • Goldsmiths University
  • Brunel University
And we even had some engagement from further afield, from individuals that decided to run their own Jam Jar:
  • Staffordshire University
  • Warwick University
  • Brighton
That is 9 sites out of 42 sites across the UK, one in every five sites participated. Not bad for a first time event.
 I ordered six jars, a set of fliers I designed for the event, and Matt kindly ordered 10kg of candy for me. With all the materials set and ready to distribute and six sites to distribute them to, I began the biggest pinball game of my life. I was the pinball and London the pinball machine.
There was a lot of walking. In fact 71.87 km of it (more or less the equivalent of walking from Houses of Parliament to Heathrow Airport then further out until you are standing, slightly confused, just outside of Oxford). I sat with jars of candy in buses, tubes and overground trains, sandwiched between confused tourists and stirred by commuters. I met many wonderful faces, all who were eager to collaborate with GamesAid, and offered candy to many more.
During the Saturday of the Global Game Jam, I even decided to bake some cupcakes for the lively jammers at City University London. They came out delicious! In exchange they donated generously towards GamesAid and even showed me their games. Some of my favourite were: Alien Growth and The Secret Handshake Society.
On the last day, Des and I visited the SAE Institute where I walked around the building offering more candy. The jammers were rushing to finish off their games yet still welcomed a moment to munch on a sweet and give to GamesAid. Des gave a cheerful thank you to all the jammers at the end of the night, then we all got to play the wonderful games. Some of my favourite: Solstice and Cracked Up.
There are so many thank yous to give out! All the wonderful trustees of GamesAid for giving me a hand (and offering me the opportunity to work for them!), the site organisers in London for going that extra mile for GamesAid, those individuals outside of London for setting up their own Jam Jars, and of course the Global Game Jammers who donated towards GamesAid. All in all, we managed to raise over £200! Thank you!
To become a member of GamesAid and keep up with our events: check out the website or follow us on twitter.
Finally, here are some wonderful images people sent GamesAid from across the UK.

January 23, 2016 - No Comments!

Game a Month: Jan 2016

I am making a game a month. Born out of the idea that making games shouldn't be a commercial endeavour,Christer Kaitila sparks us to make games as a hobby and, in so doing, experiment fully with the medium. The initiative is called Game a Month Challenge and below is the key note:

So what have I made this January? Mainly a lot of unfinished text exploration games as I try to experiment with different forms of storytelling structures. My first completed one is also the shortest but probably the most freeing. Made during a few hours at Loading, I used the telescopic text tool to play with folding and unfolding narratives. It only takes 3-5 minutes to play. Here it is!

This is very much an experiment, filled with all the enthusiasm and coarsness that experimentation entails. The story evolved as I was writing it as did the voice of the character you are questioning. Looking back, this made a lot of sense thematically as the mechanics revolve around the increasing understanding of a story through exploration. As I began to shape the game, the character openeded up and the player finds out more about the mystery.

Finishing the story was the hardest. As each word branched off into smaller narrative layers, I found it difficult to make them all combine physically on screen. Instead of drawing a conclusion, I left small puzzle pieces at the end of each narrative layer. Thus when the player is done unfolding all the branches, they can read the full, unfolded paragraph and draw the conclusion on what they think happened to poor Tim.

For those wondering, Tim is a real person. You've probably seen him various times on this blog. Inspiration from a real life experience included in this game... always... in all games.

January 16, 2016 - No Comments!

What do we do next?

Learn how to make a creative project a reality. That was my one wish when I applied to Blast Theory's volunteership. As someone who has spent the last 4 years in academia I've become a professional at writing 6000 word essays that lie forever hidden in the folds of pixelated PC finders, or prototypes that twirl and fade behind secret doors. "The best thing you can do is show your games to people," our professors lectured us. I could almost hear the question whispering through our heads: 'But how do you do that?'

I sat with my peers at the graduation ceremony, our certifications for a successfully completed MA folded on our laps. Legs crossed, gowns tightened, between the closed cardboard file, the word "distinction" burried itself in the page. - But how do you do that? - I flapped my certificate in front of friends and family until the word "distinction" glided on the words "congratulations" and "well done". - But how do you transform a project into reality?

Starstruck into a corner of a Blast Theory couch, I murmured this question to Matt, Ju, Nick, Kirsty and Dan in turn. Their knowledge soared into the air in waves of spectacular performance and honesty. I hurriedly scribbled their words on paper. Below is a peak:
  • Identify the 3 people that can change your future. Send them an email inviting them to play your game.
  • Submit your games to all the festivals. Get seen. Showing a game speaks to people much more than talking about it.
  • Go to talks and in the question and answer session raise your hand and start with "Hi! I'm Rosa from Ludic House and I have a question about...".
  • Get big names to give a testimonial about your game. Use it everywhere! In all the funding applications, everything!
  • Write personal emails to people you are inspired by and show them your work or ask for 30 minutes of their time.
  • Sign up for talks. Even if its not your game, you can talk passionately about other games.
  • Even if there is no money, do it. Start with what you can do and things will snowball.

On December 18th I hugged the Blasters goodbye and walked along the seafront from Portslade to Brighton for the last time. More than the sugar of the goodbye-gifts or the hangover hum from the night before, it was my notebook, penned with the knowledge of giants, that lifted me to an exhilarating high. Blast Theory is a family of artists who were never afraid of showing themselves. Even their work, in a world of high-rise anonymity, is a call for strangers to open up and connect. In the two months volunteering at Blast Theory, what my professors taught us finally solidified. I know what to do. Thank you!