Klef and Global Game Jam '14

klef screenshot 1.png

Last weekend was the 6th annual Global Game Jam, the largest game jam in the world, in which over 20,000 people all over the globe simultaneously made games over the course of (less than) 48 hours. This year was the biggest yet, and over 4000 games were made in one weekend.

Well, not quite. Maybe next year?

Well, not quite. Maybe next year?

And as our 3rd ever game jam, Andrew, Devin and I participated by putting together a little puzzle game called Klef, with help from Jesse Davidge, William Busby, Jeff Herron, and the voice talent of Jacob Burgess.

Andrew and I wanted to do something a little different this time. Both of our previous game jam games were very narrative-based -- and generally, we’re a very narrative-based company (I am, after all, primarily a writer). But Andrew’s an architect, and we decided we wanted to try something more on that end of things this time, something a little more spatial, a bit more mechanical.

Originally we were thinking something along the lines of Andrew’s recent interest in collapsed/projected space -- the currently in-vogue idea that the crazy complex 10-dimensional universe we live in is “holographically projected” from a “simpler” 1-dimensional set of rules and relationships. (Before he studied architecture, Andrew was a student of theoretical physics.) We sought to maybe simplify that and make a game where you’re trying to manipulate things in a 3D world by moving around objects in a 2D or 1D world. Part of the challenge would be figuring out how exactly the “collapsed” world affects the 3D world.

But we didn’t quite know enough about it all to come up with a really solid concept, we were afraid it wouldn’t actually be fun to play, and also we didn’t have enough Unity experience to think we could pull it off. Which is when I hit on another idea -- what if, instead of manipulating a 2D world to change a 3D world, you manipulate something else entirely? Like sound.

Thus the concept for Klef was born. It’s like a game where you first input a string of musical instructions, and then hit “play” and see how it plays out -- and then alter those instructions as necessary. But instead of one instruction being “go up”, the “instructions” are just audio clips. And you have to figure out what audio clips do what to your character. (In this case, for example, a flute playing a C and then playing the D above that will make your character go up!)

You then use these musical pieces to navigate your way across a variety of levels -- and with the variety of musical fragments we give you, and the uniform musical theory behind why certain bits of music do what, the game isn’t just about solving the puzzles and getting to the next level. It also gives the player the opportunity to actually compose music, to create a phrase of song that sounds good. (We ensure it will sound good by keeping everything in the same key and using the pentatonic scale.)

With Klef, I think we realized that the concept certainly does have legs, and with the right UI and playtesting, opens itself to endless possibilities in music, puzzle-making, and design. And we might even go there at some point.

You can play Klef for yourself now, by heading to our GGJ game page.

This was Silverstring's first time participating in a Global Game Jam. It was amazing to be in the same room with so many jammers, and the fact that there were dozens of other sites really made us feel connected to the worldwide effort of game creation!

We love game jams because they give us an opportunity to experiment with ideas and concepts that we might not ever try otherwise, and they give us an excuse to do things normally outside our comfort zones, both technically and creatively. We go into game jams with the goal of answering a question for ourselves -- will this concept be fun? Does it need to be fun? Can we pull this off? How can we best accomplish this? Answering those burning questions is the primary objective; having a game to play at the end is a bonus!

Thanks a whole bundle to Vancouver’s own Kim Voll and the entire Global Game Jam team for putting together an amazing event. We can’t wait for next year.

- Lucas