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Global Game Jam 2019

posted Feb 27, 2019, 7:03 PM by Sub-Zero Sound   [ updated Dec 17, 2019, 5:46 PM by Matt Schenkel ]
Hi all! As we began the new year, of course we were anticipating another Global Game Jam (GGJ)! 

Late in January, the jam weekend rolled around, and several hundred Melbourne-based game developers flocked to AIE to make some games. I was lucky enough to join them again this year. GGJ was so much fun last time, this was not an event I wanted to miss.

Melbourne GGJ art by Sandra Gibson
Melbourne GGJ art by Sandra Gibson

Melbourne has such a unique indie gamedev scene. There is such a strong sense of community in this city, and that is no more evident than at our game jams.

Last year I spent the weekend in the audio room, working freelance on several games. I wrote about it in this post here.
This year I took a different approach. This GGJ I joined up with a team to work intimately on one game. (I still helped out a few friends, but I was MOSTLY dedicated to one game!)


The team I am proud to have worked with is Team EggplantThis was a very wholesome collaboration consisting of 2 artists, 2 programmers, a producer/designer, and a soundie (that's me!) - You can download it from the GGJ page here.

"Tend to your terrarium! This relaxed garden sim gives you the ability to explore what home means to you by making this natural space your own."

After watching the keynote, we spent some time as a team brainstorming ideas and working out what we all wanted to do with the theme: "What Home Means To You". We discovered that all of us find the act of gardening therapeutic, and making a space truly yours is what makes a place a home. Running with these ideas in mind, we started working on a game with the goal of creating your own terrarium.

With Meditation Games at the front of my mind, my vision(?) for the audio was soft, relaxing, down-tempo, and of course, meditative.


I actually had to leave the site for a few hours on the Friday night, but when I came back there was a cool early version of the pillar. With only this visual reference to go off, I began with what I knew we'd need, and started making some atmos for the several weather modes in the game.

Once I saw some of Alison's 2D art, I made some more interactive sounds for picking up items, plants, and for cleaning up the debris in the first part of the game. I had a lot of fun playing with the sound for picking up items and dropping them down, as well as when they grow after being watered. I wanted these actions to sound very wholesome, as so my inspiration for a lot of these was Animal Crossing.

The game presents scale in an interesting way. There's the entire playable world of the game as well as the small objects inside it all on the screen. I wanted to make audio that reflected this juxtaposition of size.

A lot of the item sound design is intentionally very small and fragile, almost like they were toys. In contrast to this, I wanted the drawers and the dome to sound very large.

My favourite sound in this game is for the key pickup. It sounds shimmery, bright, and a bit like collecting a gem in Croc: Legend of the Gobbos.

Once the key is revealed, picking it up triggers a whole bunch of things to happen. The drawers open, and the Act 2 music starts. It's a pretty short sound that is mainly there to reinforce that you've literally unlocked the second part of the game.

Team Eggplant


I didn't touch music last year at GGJ, so I was keen to be doing both sound and music for Terrarium.
There are two parts to the game, cleaning up in Act 1, and gardening in Act 2.

Looking at the barren look of the game when you first load it up, it actually reminded me of a level from Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red & Blue Rescue Teamwhich I've actually been craving to play again for some time now. That was my favourite game when I was younger, and it probably still is. 

The music that was playing in my head was the Great Canyon music as well as parts from another track. I didn't necessarily want to use the same instruments, but I wanted to capture the same feeling that that music gives me.

I didn't bring my guitar, which I'm kicking myself over, so I began playing with a sampled nylon string guitar. Depending on how you play the game, this part can last for as little as a few seconds, so after getting it to a point where it felt good, I moved on to some more critical SFX and the music for the second act.

The Act 2 music is similar to Act 1, but has a more calm/rich feeling to it. Using instruments such as piano, violin, and harp, my goal was to make it feel like you were gardening in some sort of royal garden/courtyard. I wanted playing this part of the game to feel like you can forget time, and just create your garden at your leisure. I think that came across pretty well.

It's been a while since I've created any music outside of my metal band, so I was really happy to have the opportunity to make some calm tracks for this game.

Terrarium spent quite a bit of time on the jam feed. It was awesome describing the game I was working on and hearing that people recognized it and thought it looked cool.

By Team Home Home (how cheeky!)
Created by members of Toybox Games Studios, as well as some other really cool Melbourne folk.

"Untitled Birb Game developed by Home Home is game were you play as Wedge Tail Eagle, Australia's largest bird of prey. Take flight, as you explore the vast outback in search of food and materials to build your nest."

I was super happy to be helping out the Toybox crew again after doing sound effects for their Coffee Road game last year. Coffee Road was actually picked up and played by a super popular Korean streamer in April. We were all surprised to find footage of it on YouTube with over 200k views. You can watch it here if you're interested.

This year, Toybox Games, or for the sake of GGJ, Team Home Home, were making a game about a Wedge Tail Eagle, cheekily names Untitled Birb Game. I think every Australian loves to see their country's outback in a video game. I imagine it's the same feeling people from the US get when playing games that are set in their city. The early environmental art I saw on Saturday looked awesome, and very Australian.

I started with what I knew. There would be wing flaps and a dive mechanic. With the Wedge Tail Eagle being on screen the whole game, there would be flapping all throughout gameplay, so it was important to me that that didn't sound annoying and had some variation.

The Wedge Tail Eagle has a cool dive mechanic. I wanted this to sound really cool and cut through the regular atmos. I took inspiration from the Batman games and also the new Spiderman game, and made something a bit like a harsh wind sound, but with a lot more beefiness to it. it sounded very powerful, and really fitted with the visuals when you initiated a dive down to Earth.

To make this game sound the way it looks, it needed to sound like there was a chorus of cicadas were hiding on every tree and shrub. As soon as you load up the game, you hear that instantly recognisable sound. I'm really happy with how it came out. 
Of course, you can also hear the awesome music by Abby Phillips (abbysinthe) who has used some native Australian instruments for this score. It gives the game an incredibly powerful and authentic vibe. I urge you to play it and have a listen.

As I expected, Global Game Jam was a lot of fun. There were so many fun games that came out of it. I'm glad I got to try some at the play party that was held a few weeks later. 

I'm glad I took a different approach to it this year, but I did miss the energy and dynamic of the audio room. 
You can definitely catch me at GGJ next year.

Matt, SZS

1/2 of Team Eggplant
Above: 2/3 of Team Eggplant right in the thick of it. Photo by Issy Pattison.