Innovation, Experimentation and Juiciness: Can Jam 2014

Written by Sebastian Edgington-Cole

Over 50 avid amateur video game designers and developers from Lincoln and beyond congregated to the University of Lincoln this week-end, for the annual Can Jam, also known as Game Jam.

The aim of the event, organised by the University’s Computing Science Society, is to create a video game in a 24 hour period, based on a theme given at the start of the time period.

This year’s theme was ‘Beautiful Oppression’. A rather abstract theme led to a few nervous laughs and confused looks.

Can Jam organiser Oliver Szymanezyk unveils this year's theme
Can Jam organiser Oliver Szymanezyk unveils this year's theme

Following the announcement some groups huddled into little circles whilst others ventured to the place where much inspiration had been sought before: The Shed.

A few hours into the competition and ideas were still flowing better than insanity. Representatives from video game giants Rockstar and Crytek, who were also to be the judges of the competition, wandered around the room looking at people’s projects and inquiring about them.

Rocktar Judges chat with competitors
Rocktar Judges chat with competitors
Ideas start to take shape
Ideas start to take shape






The next morning, at 11 am, the sands had reached the bottom of the hourglass. Tired and drained competitors were told to submit their projects then were given a two hour lunch break before the presentations and ensuing award ceremony took place in the Jackson lecture theatre.

A variety of basic games were presented, from a farming simulator to an alien abduction game.

A couple of teams sought inspiration from the current Russia – Ukraine situation. A lone ranger team even made a flash game where you play as Vladimir Putin and have to decide what to oppress in your country, which was well received by the audience of fellow game fans.

Once the presentations were done, including a few technical glitches, the judges retired to make their decisions. For some tired and fed up jammers it was the longest half an hour of their life.

The panel returned to announce their decisions:

Crytek picked team Nigel’s game Dragon Simulator as their favourite, a co-op game where one controlled a dragon (the oppression side) which had to lay waste to a city of gold (the beautiful side), whilst another player tried to kill that dragon, and whilst a third had to try and repair the damage caused by the winged aggressor. 2 copies of Crytek’s popular game Crysis 3 was their prize.

Rockstar chose the game I’m Super and that’s ok’, one where you control a diamond that has to move around a grey city and recolour the buildings. A variety of power ups were available across the map to help with the task. A bag full of Rockstar goodies was the prize for their 24 hours of hard work.

The game all judges picked as the best was created by team Insert Name Here. Called Beautiful Kingdom, it was aesthetically similar to popular game Minecraft, which was created by a single man.

The premise of the winning game is you are an ugly person being oppressed in a beautiful world. Your aim is therefore to destroy that world by repeatedly clicking at enemies and the environment. The destruction was done in a very original way as everything in the game was made up of thousands of cubes, which started to fall away as you attacked what they formed.

A small trophy, the team name on the general Can Jam shield trophy and Rockstar goodie bags helped the long hours, little sleep and gallons of energy drink seem worth it.

Insert Team Name Here said: “It was unexpected and incredible. We spent all night on that and it’s nice to see it appreciated. When you’ve only got 24 hours to make a solid game you realise how much goes into it.”

The victors
The victors

Whilst the judges said: “It was the game that was most original, especially with the block deconstruction. The game was very feature complete and made a good use of the theme. It had a lot of replay ability and featured a lot of potential.”

At its climax, Can Jam organiser Oliver Szymanezyk told me this about the event: “It went really well. I’m really pleased with the variety and diversity of the games that were there. There’s a certain amount of competition as well. It’s nice to have the industry around as well to give a certain amount of input.”

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