Wednesday, February 1, 2017

About Machinis Ludo

Machinis Ludo is a game jam series run by Prof. Morgan McGuire at Williams College with a satellite location run by Michael Mara at Stanford University and participants around the world over the Internet. A game jam is an intense party at which developers set aside their regular work and create new video games from scratch, working individually or in small groups. 

Working in the McGuire Graphics Lab at
Williams College for Machinis Ludo 2
Some game jams have a physical location and others are entirely virtual, with developers posting to a communual blog to share their work. Ludum Dare and the Global Game Jam are examples of two of the largest virtual jams. Machinis Ludo is a hybrid, with physical sites but half of the participants working remotely.  Everyone uses this blog to share their progress. Look at the summary page from Machinis Ludo 2 to see some examples of what people create in a game jam.

Sponza Atrium with radiosity by
Mike Mara from Machinis Ludo 3
Game jams have many benefits.  They help those of us in the industry who work on multi-year megaprojects with large teams get back to the kind of freeform, intuitive exploration of games that brought us to the field in the first place.  This rejuvinates creativity and enthusiasm, and often leads to ideas that later appear in commerical games.  For students, they are a great chance to gain experience, train yourself to work to a tight schedule, and to build a portfolio of interesting and impressive projects. For hobbyists, it is a chance to meet like-minded people and build skills. Many hobby projects suffer from lack of focused time and a jam is a way to set the rest of the world aside for a few days to really dig in and make serious progress. Working side by side with other people who are equally invested in their passion projects is an exhilarating experience.
Operatives: Hidden Agenda jam game by
Morgan McGuire for Machinis Ludo 2

We experiment with the format of Machinis Ludo for each jam.  Jams are between 12 and 72 hours long.  We usually offer a "professional" track with a time limit per day to support those with day jobs and a "hardcore" track where developers are welcome to work around the clock.

Like any constructive retreat or exercise, in a game jam you're only competing with the clock. We say that someone has "won" the jam if they complete a game by the end, and the goal is for everyone to win. 

Our rules are:

  1. Prototypes, libraries, assets may be created before the jam, but all main development must be during the jam period. It is easier to for most of us to participate if the jam is a limited time commitment!
  2. Post a design a few days before the jam begins (Examples: Bit PiratesCrossword-Z Explosion Golf)
  3. Any game engine is allowed.  We encourage use of the G3D Innovation Engine and codeheart.js, which many of us contribute to in order to support exactly this kind of rapid and innovative development.
  4. Any location.  Work in lab if you can make it to Williamstown and like a communal atmosphere with pizza and dance music. Work from home or your office if you need solitude to concentrate.
  5. Post screenshots regularly to this blog showing your work. If the jam is on a weekend, we recommend also tweeting to #screenshotsaturday
  6. Have a playable game at the end of the jam to win! Playable and game don't always mean good or fun.

Explosion Golf by Chris Warren from Machinis Ludo 2
Your creation is your own game
.  You can share the game, the source code...or not. You can polish your game later and sell it (which we encourage!), throw it away, or anything in between. If you're working on a team, hash out ownership before you begin. You should only use assets that you have legal permission to use and we highly recommend using non-viral materials that allow commercial use so that you can later publish your game without having to recreate it.

We plan to run four jams per year.  We're interested in cohosting with other schools or companies who would like to offer other physical sites for developers to congregate.

Previous Machinis Ludo events:
Machinis Ludo I:  INNOVATE (January 2013)
Machinis Ludo II:  March 2013
Machinis Ludo III: July 2013
Machinis Ludo IV: Algorithm Jam (August 2013)
Machinis Ludo V:  Cooperative Jam (June 2014)
Machinis Ludo VI: January 2015
Machinis Ludo VII: Virtual Reality Jam (July 2015)
Machinis Ludo VIII: Williams + NVIDIA + Vicarious Visions VR Day (August 2016)