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Ainsworth: The results of the Vegas game jam

<p>A day and a half into the game jam, a weary Matt Ostgard discusses the dynamics of computer generated oak trees.</p>

A day and a half into the game jam, a weary Matt Ostgard discusses the dynamics of computer generated oak trees.

Game jams are exhausting. Forty-eight hours of concentration, problem-solving, design and compromise, followed by an hour or two of tension and high anxiety as the developers attempt to bundle everything into a single working, cohesive piece to demo. If a team is lucky, development aligns enough with the initial game plan that the full-day work sessions are punctuated by sleep. Some of the teams aren’t so lucky, powering through on willpower, caffeine and the demands of a deadline. Game jams are amazing.

This week: Molyjam wrap up!

First a brief recap. Molyjam is an annual game jam in which current and aspiring game developers gather and create video games over the course of a single weekend, all themed in a loving mix of homage and parody of renowned designer Peter Molyneux. This year, the stated rule was that all game concepts were to be based on actual Molyneux quotes, pulled freely and without context from more than two decades of interviews and presentations.

(For the less brief recap, read my June 27 column.)

On the evening of July 5, a dozen game developers in Las Vegas gathered at SHFL Entertainment’s interactive office, formed teams, came up with concepts, and hunkered down to work alongside hundreds more from around the world, all simultaneously creating games for Molyjam.

Two days later, more than 250 titles by nearly 800 developers had been submitted to the Molyjam website. While most of the games are playable by anyone on a standard Mac or Windows computer, some teams chose more niche platforms (the Oculus Rift VR headset was especially popular this year), and one programmer even designed and wrote a game for the Atari 2600.

For some participants, just the act of completing something mostly playable in two days is enough. Others will continue to hone and polish their projects over the coming weeks, so if you come across a submission you especially enjoy, be sure to let developers know and keep an eye on them for future announcements.

And now, the five games created by Molyjam Las Vegas.


“If you really were free to do anything in the world, I think you’d end up being confused, and that’s a very interesting point, a design point, actually.”

A solo project by Michael Keating, Sphere is a free-roaming odyssey through a lush landscape with no stated objectives or player goals.


“I can tell you definitively that there is absolutely an acorn and it does absolutely grow into a tree. And it is actually part of the story now.”

Developed by Matt Ostgard, Ben Powell and myself, Cultivate is a long-term online game of patience and simulation where players plant acorns that will, with care and frequent watering, grow into oak trees in real time. As long as player trees survive, the server remains online, but if all the trees die, the server goes offline and the game ends forever.


“If you love your dog, we’re gonna mess with your mind, man. You’re not going to be able to go to bed.”

Beginning as a simple nighttime walk through the park with a dog, James Schifflin’s text adventure quickly becomes a Twilight Zone-esque journey that culminates in a difficult decision for all involved.


“And we’re going to be actually introducing you to your Supreme Ruler.”

A platforming beat-’em-up romp through Game Designer Land, development on Supreme Ruler was cut short unexpectedly when Michael Scala, the team’s artist, was unable to continue due to an emergency. Programmer Michael Keating managed to wrap it up just enough to be playable while still pushing forward on Sphere, his own Molyjam project.


“Some people leave artwork, some people do rude things, other people then turn those rude things into nice things.”

Developed by the Jensen brothers, Karma King casts three players in three switching roles (artist, vandal and restorer), each playing simultaneously on the same keyboard. Players are encouraged to interfere with each other’s progress both inside and outside the game, and shoving hands off the keys is absolutely allowed.

CHRIS AINSWORTH is a Las Vegas native and a tech dilettante. Find him on Twitter (@driph) or at