The Average Gamer

MolyJam Day 1 – Idealism

I’ve been to a couple of Game Jams now – back in September I was at the Extended Play Festival in Plymouth and in January I hung out with a group of developers at the London branch of the Global Game Jam. Today I popped along to the MolyJam with every intention of observing like a normal journalist.

For those who don’t know, a game jam is a 48 hour event where people come together to make games with people they may never have even met before. Most game jams come with a theme, usually kept a secret so that pre-made groups don’t prepare an advantage over the spontaneous groups. The Plymouth game jam’s theme was revealed on the day as “Colour”. The Global game jam was revealed at 5pm in local time across the globe and kept deliberately obscure. They choose to use only a simple image, a snake eating its own tail. Those attendees in the know would recognise it as Ouroboros, a representation of the cyclical renewal of life, but technically… the theme was just an picture.

The MolyJam is different. This event has spawned from the works of Peter Molydeux, an incredibly popular Twitter account that parodies the ideas of BAFTA Fellowship award winner, Peter Molyneux.

As the founder of Lionhead Studios, founder of Bullfrog Productions, you may have heard of some his games: Populous, Theme Park, Syndicate, Dungeon Keeper, Black & White, Fable… just a few. We’re not working on those themes but it can be hard to tell where the parody ends and the real Molyneux’s ideas begin.

Somehow I’ve been sucked in to the jam instead of just reporting this time. We had such a laugh chatting about the ideas that I really wanted to get inolved. Together with a team of people I have never met before, I’m making a game based on this:

Imagine being able to verbally tell a funny joke to a guard and causing him to roll over laughing allowing you past?— petermolydeux (@PeterMolydeux) August 25, 2011

Other ideas we considered were “You play a celebrity serial killer whose cult following exchanges ammunition/weapons for autographs?” and “What if you lived in a world where all guns are required to be plugged into wall sockets?

It’s a weird vibe at the MolyJam. Peter Molyneux himself turned up and instantly commanded the attention of half the room. I shared a lift with him and couldn’t think of anything interesting to say that would only take two floors so I settled for staring awkwardly at the wall instead. He gave us a little speech about the future of games development and made sure we knew that he’d be playing every MolyJam game submission, looking for the greatest talent for his new mobile studio, 22 Cans. No pressure, then.

The jam is mostly based in the London Southbank Uni’s Game Studio. Wwe have some great games development software available – Game Maker, Game Salad, Unity – yet so far all we’ve done is bounce ideas of each other, write on bits of paper and talk about the mechanics of joke telling. I guess we’re still in the easy bit. My ideal vision would be to use voice recognition software to parse the mechanics of telling a joke without actually forcing you to tell a joke – covering pacing, tone changes and topic keywords, the game would listen to your voice and word frequency, raising or lowering the emotional response of the guard as you go. Some guards would respond well to long, involved, think-again-and-you’ll-get-it jokes. Others would prefer shorter, punchier jokes, preferably with words like “tits” or “cock”. It’s up to you to figure out who likes what by examining the facial expressions of the guards as the conversation goes on.

The problem is, none of us has a clue how to program these kinds of algorithm, parsing voice tone and accent recognition. So instead, we’re using a dialogue tree. It’s a little disappointing but the spirit and mechanics are still there even if the interface is beyond our skills. I’m enjoying it a lot.