[Guest Post] London GameCraft by Mark Gray Monday Nov. 9th 2015

London Gamecraft (31 October 2015) an event hosted by Skills Matter in London and run by Andrea Magnorsky and myself Mark Gray.

We met up at about 09:30 in the morning had a chat, coffee and some breakfast. We started off in the main hall at Skills Matter and we listen to the presentations of what was going to take place from the other various hackathon groups. There were the hackers from team Audi that came along to show their API, there was the hackathon organised by Cyanogen, creators of the Wiley Fox mobiles, helping others hack their phones. There was a group of hackers handing out Near-Field Communication cards (NFC) to people so they could hack a mobile app with them and there were some other Internet of Things (IoT) devices that were distributed among all the groups that they could play with and hack.

We were doing the Gamecraft game jam event and were limited to several hours to complete our games until the show and tell session at 7pm. So we set off to our room to start our hacking on the theme of the day, ‘batteries not included’, it was announced at the very last moment so every player had no idea what would happen until that moment. All the teams went off to produce a game design around the theme ‘batteries not included’ and there were four teams on the day and a number of individuals. The big teams split off and spent a good 45 minutes to an hour, devising the game they wanted to produce and they set about creating their game and Andrea and I were available throughout the day to give advice. Skills Matter were great, plying us with food the whole day, providing us with all kinds of sweet drinks, sweet foods and later remembered a pizza, we were well watered and the highly intoxicated on sugar.

As the day progress I took a walk around the various computer screens asking questions about the ideas and how well they thought they were progressing. I saw some great games a young lad called Jason decided to create a Halloween themed game around as it was October 31, the game involved running around from house to house trying to get candy (energy), running out of candy meant the character would collapse and have a sugar rush, and game over. He was using Unity3D as his game engine. I saw Ross McKinlay using SDL and D-Lang, which I had never seen before, it was cool. His games consisted of a spaceship at the bottom of the screen and you'd have these green bars going vertically up and down and the screen would scroll from the top down, the aim was to try and move the ship next to the green lines. Later he added red lines later which would shut down the engines of the spaceship. As the theme of ‘batteries not included’ has to be adhered to, the green lines gave you energy and you had to avoid the red lines because they would sap your energy. It was a great game, great fun to play and two player could play head-to-head using his Xbox controllers that he also programmed into his game.

Another team looked seem to be very efficient and had their lucky mascot, the son of one of the developer, must have been around 10 years old. They built their game from scratch, programmed their own Xbox controllers and took extra time to draw their own graphics. To top it off one of developers asked his son to make the sound effects for the game. The game is called SolaRC, a solar powered remote controlled car, the idea of the game was to get around the track to the finish line before your opponent things you had to avoid on this one were the clouds because if you didn't avoid the clouds your energy sapped and your car comes to a standstill for your opponent to overtake. A great game, awesome to play a game that was a fantastic use of art. Across the room a fascinating team of developers were quietly beavering away at their own game. They decided to use the NFC cards that were supplied by the other group of hackers earlier on in the morning. They used their NFC cards to create card game with their mobile phones. The mobiles were the batteries (in-keeping with the theme) the aim of the game was to drain your opponent's battery using the NFC card. The cards were imbued with stats, which you played against your opponents battery and the stats would drain the opponents’ battery. It is quite a clever little game and it was multiplayer again I think I saw about three or four phones being used in the process of this when they were demonstrating the game. A very ingenious use of their mobile, the NFC cards and the game theme.

All in all the day was a large success, the winners were SolaRC, 1st Runner up was the NFC Mobile Game, and the spaceship game of Ross McKinlay came third. A fantastic time was had, suffice it to say that the whole day was a great success, Andrea had organised a great game jam; I enjoyed my time being her lovely assistant. If you ever find yourself having the opportunity to attend a Gamecraft event I would highly recommend that grab it with both hands and just enjoy yourselves. My thanks go out to Skills Matter for providing the venue, food and drinks (my teeth are just about hanging in) and of course to all of the sponsors that supported the day. Special thanks to F# Gotham for some fantastic capes that we ended up wearing running around with on the day like mad men (and women).

Biggest thanks go to Andrea Magnorsky, because without her putting this all together and sacrificing her weekend it would not be possible. I had a great time assisting and the maybe I'll do it again one day, who knows. Thank you very much for reading and I will hopefully see you again on another Gamecraft or hackathon.

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