R.I.P. GlitchHiker

We’re back at the Vlambeer offices again after our participation in last weekends’ Global Game Jam. We joined up with usual suspect Paul Veer, designers Laurens de Gier and Jonathan Dijkstra and last but not least, the excellent audio-do-it-all Rutger Muller. In the past weekend, a minimum of hours of sleep was had, lots of internet videos were mashed into a single music video and most of all, a lot of games were made.

This years’ theme for the Global Game Jam was “extinction”. Our attempt at the theme was called ‘Glitchhiker’ – a game that was dying itself. We would explain it, but Matthijs Dierckx of Dutch game industry magazine Control wrote a great article on the game on the magazines’ website. As its in Dutch, I’ve translated it here.

The game was sick. It tried to be playable, but its decline was clearly visible. The screen revealed distortions, glitches; increasing in both intensity and frequency.

Curious about the sick game, numerous players took what was likely to be their only chance at their game. In grueling sessions they gave the game a try. And the game obeyed. It offered – as good as it could – exactly that what it was created for: entertainment.

Just a few players were able to give the game back more energy than it gave them. Sometimes, there was a spark of hope. But they faded quickly. A next player would bring the game closer to its end. Then another one. And another one. And then.

Then it was over. Done. The game disappeared from existence.

It was Sunday-evening around the clock of nine, when the server-script executed its inevitable task. GlitchHiker was extinct.

Jan Willem Nijman and Rami Ismail, the creative and technical brain behind indie-award-magnet Super Crate Box participated in the Dutch edition of the Global Game Jam in Hilversum. Together with their usual freelancer Paul Veer and they were joined by designers Laurens de Gier and Jonathan Barbosa Dijkstra; audio designer Rutger Muller completed the team. Together, they tackled the assignment of creating a game within 48 hours.

Afterwards, the team was holding two awards. The jury - among others Triumph CEO Lennart Sas and former Codemasters VP Jurrie Hobers – had just declared the game as winner of the event when the results of the votes of all ‘competing’ team was announced. GlitchHiker was, according to the masses, the best game this GameJam had conceived.

It’s not hard to see how both parties ended up with the same conclusion. Nijman and his team had devised the ‘terminal’ game. Visually attractive it lured the player to participate. The catch: whoever scored less than a 100 points partook in the destruction of the game. Scoring over a hundred points gave the game an energy-shot of sorts. Who scored less was partly responsible for the demise of the game ['Extinction' was the theme of this Global Game Jam].

After having the game explained to them, many of those interested were in doubt whether they still wanted to give the game a try. Hectic visuals, the beautiful distraction of the glitches – it wasn’t that easy to score 100 points. Players and viewers appeared to quickly become emotionally attached to the game. That led to doubts about playing the game or not and that in turn led to guilt in players that didn’t reached 100 points.

Emotional involvement? It was almost as if was art. No. It WAS art."

Our own Jan Willem designed and programmed the game – including all its glitches - in just under 48 hours. Rami Ismail of Vlambeer created the website, the server backend and the API for Jan Willem to implement in that same time, while also managing the team itself. We would like to thank our fellow Aardbevers for their great work. Laurens de Gier, besides helping design the game, took care of the iconic website header that visualized the health of the game. Jonathan Barbosa Dijkstra, also for helping design the game and for the creation of its official trailer. Paul Veer for the great animations and the devising of the attractive art style for the game. Rutger Muller for his amazing adaptive music and for being the one who brought us on the track of the ‘glitches’ by mentioning glitch-music.

Thanks to the organization and everyone who participated in this years’ Global Game Jam for the great time, with a special thanks to organizers Dutch Game Garden and also to GGJ-committee member Zuraida Buter. The event had a great atmosphere: Jan Willem enjoyed walking around the building with another jammer while playing the melodica and the other guy playing a keytar at 4AM. Jonathan and Paul Veer enjoyed having a sleeping bag race. We were mostly thankful for being allowed to bring the WINNITRON NL with the all-new Super Crate Box Versus to the event (if you happened to have missed Bit Collectives' amazing trailer for Super Crate Box Versus, check it out NOW!).

All that is left for us to say is thanks to everyone who tried to keep GlitchHiker alive. Sadly, the game has gone extinct and while it can still be downloaded, isn’t playable anymore. GlitchHiker went down around six hours after the deadline of the Global Game Jam.