Four individuals have been invited to visit a peculiar mansion by the enigmatic Donny. They know not the reason or the purpose of their visit. Donny has revealed only that they should enter the mansion on this particular night, and has entrusted a key to them with the vague instruction to “look around” as much as possible. But they are not the only ones roaming the corridors…
A Loaded Teaspoon created their second game during the summer of 2016, and I am proud to have contributed to the effort. Taking on a Steampunk theme, Back of My Mind focuses on the decryption of secrets and solving puzzles as quickly as possible as the player switches between controlling four different characters.
Each character has a special skill which they uniquely use to solve the game’s puzzles and to progress further into the mansion with every solution. These puzzles involve lock-picking, finding the odd word out in poems, an exercise of control and filling in the blanks.
Similar to Lost in Babel (A Loaded Teaspoon’s first game), Back of My Mind was made in a very short amount of time. All team members were juggling other tasks such as internships, jobs, and in my case also moving out of my student house and back into campus accommodation while working on this game. Unfortunately not all members were available to take part either (see above for already crippling commitments), but we still had their support and feedback.
Needless to say the work was stressful at times, but it has still been an experience I enjoyed taking part in. My role mostly consisted around the writing of the documents scattered throughout the game, some of them letters, some of them poems and some of them journals. That’s a lot of writing forms! Fortunately for a logophile like myself I had great fun doing this.
Back of My Mind is available to download for free from itch.io. Other members of A Loaded Teaspoon who were involved can be found in the credits of the game’s title screen.
Ukie, the authority on the UK games industry, runs an annual game jam.
If most of the words in that sentence mean nothing to you in that context, fear not, for the exposition is in-coming…
A Game Jam is an event where individuals or teams will gather to create a functional digital game within a set amount of time. This time frame is often quite short, usually not much longer than 48 hours, but this varies across different competitions. When you consider that most games take years to develop, these short time frames quickly pack on the pressure.
The Ukie Game Jam had a time window of 36 hours. It was open to university students in the UK who were studying a game design or computer technology related degree. Teams of 6 people were required, and about 20 teams entered. The 2016 Ukie Game Jam was quickly branded as Ukie’s largest ever Game Jam.
And guess who was quaking in their metaphorical boots?
This was the first Game Jam I took part in so quite naturally the fear of the unknown was moving-in as a temporary resident in my gut. However this was no time to cater to unwelcome guests who release unwanted butterflies in your stomach! Me and my teammates, henceforth known as A Loaded Teaspoon, quickly got to work on our game, using nothing but our game design skills, insane wit, and the supplied theme of the Game Jam: ‘Utopia’.
The aim was to get a working game based on this theme, with a few pillars of design in mind such as Narrative, Gameplay, Ability and Art. The game that displayed these the best would be crowned as the 2016 winner of the Ukie Game Jam.
Now, this happened to take place around the same time when Easter fell this year. Two of our team members had gone home for the break and were participating from their home countries. Indeed you did read that right the first time. From elsewhere in Europe two team members of A Loaded Teaspoon were working on the Game Jam with us! Making this game broke all kinds of boundaries!
Through means of long-distance communication technology (Skype) we managed to create a working game before time was up, and submitted it to be judged. There was glorious free pizza delivered to our work lab by Ukie (seriously, thank you!) and admittedly some callow taunts over it to our out-of-the-country team members. But they were enjoying home-cooking and heating, so who were the real winners there?
There were instances of extreme stress, buckling fatigue, insanity-inducing testing, but the magnitude of accomplishment we all felt when we finally had a finished game made everything worth it.
Before this tale’s conclusion, it’s time for some honesty. I enter a lot of competitions – most people get addicted to normal things like coffee or power – and I always write in my diary-planner when the judges will release the news of winners. For the Ukie Game Jam I did not write in the day the winners would be announced. This was not a lack of faith in my team or in any of their individual god-like talents. I had entered this Game Jam with my friends with the aim to create a working game in 36 hours. And we had achieved that.
So, on a day when my diary was blank, my team was emailed, saying that we had won not one but two awards for our Ukie Game Jam game. I am still coming down from the high I got from reading that email.
Even before we had won, and still now, I know I will never be able to shake off the joy of this experience.
To prevent Lost in Babel from disappearing back into the obscure dimensions from which it was given life, we have uploaded the game on Itch.io, free for all to play.
You can download the game from their website, linked below:
May 2016. The summer was beginning to settle its muggy bulk over England. In a mass exodus the students at the university handed in their room keys and ran home, hardly waiting until after they’d hugged their parents to ask what was for dinner that night. After their long months of studying the students anticipated a laid-back break, reclining in their freedom and in the sun.
Not me. I suppose I might have snatched some of that Vitamin D whenever I walked back to my room in the evening. But I remained living on-campus, spending my days inside the game lab, looking at islands on a computer screen until August.
And it was on that computer screen that me and four other students studying Game Design created our own island game: Island Foretold.
I was lucky enough to get an internship with Octopus 8 Studios for that summer, and spent an intense, frantic but fulfilling three months making a mobile game. Team Tako5 made and released what was our first complete game. And I want to share it here!
You find out more about the game and the team here, as well as links to download Island Foretold. The game is available on iOS and Android. Sorry Windows phone users!
There were three other teams making games alongside us, and the games each team released are competent and incredible. All things considered, it’s a marvel anyone managed to release anything:
A team made up of four or five students, all exhausted from their respective academic year, some of them balancing part-time jobs on top of the internship, left with three months to create and build a mobile game without a budget – sound like a plan destined for disaster?
But this summer internship has been running for three years now, and every time the teams manage to make and finish a game. And I feel so lucky to have taken part in it.
So check out Island Foretold and the other games made with Octopus 8 Studios. Enjoy!