Tessa Lee: Technical Artist

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Global Game Jam 2013: Cell of Team No Brow

This weekend was the big weekend that hosted the long-awaited Global Game Jam 2013.  Every year, this event reaches game designers all around the world with the challenge of creating a game in 48 hours.  Sleep optional.

I was in a team of 8 people, including myself.  We called ourselves Team No Brow.
Back Row:  Kyle Hickey, Cody Wilcoxon, Matt Kline, Travis Kehler.
Front Row:  Katherine McLellan-Benedict, Amanda Wallenhorst, Jorden Jenkins, Tessa Liddington (me).
The game we developed is called Cell.  The player controls a T-Cell, named Whitecell, through the blood stream.  Help Whitecell navigate around cholesterol buildups and virus-infected cells to collect the much-needed red blood cells.  Collecting red blood cells increases the speed that Whitecell travels.  In order to defeat the master virus at the end of the level, Whitecell must be traveling at maximum speed (30+ red blood cells).

You can check out our game's Global Game Jam page here.
Click here to download Cell (UDKInstall-Cell.exe, 261.7 MB).

Cell was developed in Unreal Development Kit.  The environment and characters were modeled in 3D Studio Max 2013.  The menus and user interface were developed in Adobe Flash CS6.

My part in this project was integrating the custom splash and loading screen.  I programmed the interaction of the main menu and the in-game user interface in Action Script 3.0 and implemented them through Scaleform.  I also worked along our other tech guy, Kyle, in making the gameplay mechanics work through Unreal Kismet.
Gameplay screenshot of Cell.  Whitecell is swimming through the bloodstream and has collected 4 red blood cells.

Gameplay screenshot of Cell.  Whitecell has collided with a virus-infected cell and lost the collected red blood cells.


I was packing my computer and other belongings all day getting prepared for the event.  The site with which I was participating at would start at 7:00 PM, EST.  I arrived at the site minutes before 6:00 to unpack my vehicle.  We were given food at 6:30, courtesy of Buca's.  The opening ceremony started at 7.  There were speakers from Schell Games, Google, and more.  We dispersed around 9 to start working on our games.

Our team, later to be named "Team No Brow", discussed and brainstormed possible game ideas as I set up my computer.  I chimed in every so often and answered questions regarding the engine and mechanic possibilities, but I was otherwise not involved in the actual concept development.  Kyle, the engine pro on our team other than me, took the first shift in developing the first block-out with initial test mechanics.  I decided to go to sleep at midnight after the snack of pancakes and bananas.


I didn't get much sleep.  The "sleep" room was a chorus of snores and people shuffling around.  I was in and out of consciousness for four hours.  I finally got up and rejoined my group shortly after 4 AM.  I went outside and moved my car to a free parking spot (it was previously in a paid parking spot, but they're only free after 6 PM) where it stayed all weekend.

By the time I got back, Kyle had laid down to sleep.  I took the files from Kyle and continued working on a few mechanics.  I created the Flash content for the UI and got it integrated into UDK with Scaleform.  I analyzed the work Kyle had done and worked on approving upon it - polishing it.  We paused production for breakfast at 9 AM.  A lot of my time went toward understanding the prefabs that Kyle made of the viruses and red blood cells, something that I wasn't familiar with in UDK.  This was something I learned coming out of the Global Game Jam.

After lunch, my time was spent fussing with the game menu, loading screen, splash screen, and UI.  Those were all quickly accomplished because of my knowledge of AS3 programming.  We were far enough along to have people playtest our game before dinner.

Kyle was starting to feel ill after dinner, and had called a cab to go home.  I kept working beyond midnight.  I was busy collecting the environment models from Matt and Travis and propulating the level with them.

I started getting dizzy around 3 AM, and Travis helpfully stepped in to finish propulating the level.  I crawled up with my blanket and pillow under the desk and passed out into blissful REM sleep.  My mind sure didn't take it's time in getting to that step.


I finally woke up around 7:30 AM.  I'm not going to lie, I was truly amnesiac when I awoke, but quickly remembered where I was (I like to believe that that was the best sleep I've ever had considering I forced my brain to go directly to stage 4 in the sleep cycle).  The character team ran into a snag this morning.  For some reason, UDK did not like the eyes of our main character, and would fail to import them.  Jordan finally found a workaround after lunch and we got rolling with importing the main character and enemy into the game.

We entertained more playtesters and had a playable experience by noon, but we finally finished the game to a level of democratic satisfaction by 2:00 PM.  We started setting up for the big demo event at 3 and played out the rest of the afternoon talking to the other developers and discussing the games.

The closing ceremony started around 5 (I'm really not sure, I paid no attention to the time at this point).  Cake was served.  A couple of groups with people that I knew won the Audience Choice award and the GGJ's first penguin award.  We didn't win anything.  A lot of people on our team are competitive (myself included) so it's natural for us to feel disappointed about it.  However, the GGJ does not present itself as a competition.  All is well.


I was a pleasant person on Monday, despite my grogginess.  If anything, I went through Monday in a haze.  My dyslexia was rampant with every conversation I had that evening.  That's why I waited until today to write this blog.  Also, I only set my computer back up this morning.  The Global Game Jam was a wonderful experience, and I hope to participate every year!