This week Global Game Jam 2016 was held, an event where you team together and make a game over 48 hours. I participated in 2015 and made this game. It was a great experience last year and this year continued the trend.
Our team was pre-formed, usually discouraged but one of our team members flew all the way from London to take part. I ended up working with two people I hadn’t worked with before, and two that I had. During the week running up to the jam, I had a slightly mad idea that we could attempt a game made from clay assets. I wanted to make the most of the Game Jam by both trying something out completely new (to me) as well as relating it to my Honours project this year.
Luckily, the team liked the idea and come Friday evening we had cracked out the clay (which had only arrived in the mail the day before) and began making characters and props to animate. My history with clay isn’t big. I briefly worked with clay 5 years ago teaching primary school pupils the basics of stop-motion animation. While I helped them with the clay modelling here and there, the animation was entirely their work.
Our game ended up being an alien mating ritual rhythm based game, adapted from the “ritual” theme. It was “Space Channel Five” (gameplay inspiration) meets “Rick and Morty” (art inspiration). Space Mates can be downloaded and played via the Global Game Jam website.
I ended up designing and making 3/4 of the characters and animated them all, with a grand total of 35 animated moves to be used for the rhythm based button presses. I also created the title card and additional in-game UI graphics. While only about half of the animations made it in to the submitted game, I was still able to show off all of the movesets and I had something great to talk about in my honours project so none of these for nothing.
These are the characters and move-sets I animated:
Animating with modelling clay was a challenge as it was something I hadn’t tried before. It felt just as natural as stop-motion with any other material but I could clearly tell why clay is favoured. The fluidity and ease with which you can bend or shape a character leads to so many more possibilities. The anamorphic properties of the clay led to new ways of thinking to approach how a character moved. I was able to mould something with ease without worrying about how it would tween in 3D or how I would need to trick a movement into working with Lego animations.
On the more technical side of things. I was able to use my existing knowledge in stop-motion animation and make appropriate estimates on how we would animate and import our assets. While my processes could have easily been automated, due to time constraints I had no choice but to manually cut the model from each frame. I used a blue-screen to assist in using Photoshop’s threshold tool to remove the background leaving only the model. I manually removed anything that shouldn’t have been left behind.
The reaction to our game was fantastic. During the weekend I was receiving great enthusiasm from sharing our development process photos on Twitter. When it came to displaying and playing the game, we received a lot of compliments on our game’s art style and the animated characters. While I don’t consider what we did to be anything above average but it was clear people have a soft spot for anything clay or stop-motion animated.
The use of clay again showed me that stop-motion is very rich in style and simply choosing to use the animation medium gives you so much free texture, physicality and style which would take a lot more skill and time in other mediums.
If you are interested in playing the game my team created, you can do so via the Global Game Jam website, or alternatively see the game’s trailer: