POSTED ON – 25.06.17

SSR Manchester - Head of Games Darby Costello wins award for game ‘Art and Visualisation’ for self-made game at this year’s Jamchester.
Head of Games Darby Costello wins award for game ‘Art and Visualisation’ for self-made game at this year’s Jamchester.
As sponsors of last year’s Jamchester, SSR and our Head of Games Darby attended in an official capacity, but after seeing the amazing array of talent and creativity, Darby decided to take take on the challenge and compete as a solo-developer at this year’s event, alongside our new Unity Development Tutor Luke and even some of our students.

From 8pm on the Friday — from the moment the theme was announced — teams and individuals had just forty hours to produce a fully playable game based on the brief of ‘Shaping the Future’.

“Most participants were in teams or studios, with a handful of insane people trying to go it alone. And then I of course, being a member of neither and both of these subsets. Additionally there were a handful of student places, to provide valuable experience working alongside professionals.

I created a Sci-fi puzzle adventure called ‘Worlds Apart’, in which you play a sentient planet called Gaia. You manipulate Gaia by firing projectiles from your ‘volcannon’. This affects your planetary mass, allowing you to escape the Sun’s gravitational pull. In turn your planet’s temperature falls, you collect water which grows your forests and your ice caps form, all in real time.

You then have to help another planet on the other side of the solar system by slingshotting ice and vegetation around the Sun — the game employs realistic orbital mechanics for the most part.

Judges milled about throughout the entire jam, getting a handle on the diversity of great projects underway. They ranged from highly respected producers from UK studios to other industry specialists, including Unity platform evangelist Liz Mercuri and Guardian columnist / Gadget Show presenter Jordan Erica Webber.

They then played every game and spent a long time deliberating before a formal awards ceremony. The game was very well received and I won the award for Art and Visual Presentation. Judges seemed particularly interested in some of my complex material shaders, but I think the award was really due to the gestalt, as the game's titling, UI and touch-based interface really helped to sell the whole experience. My low poly indie nonsense, particle systems and volumetric fog didn’t hurt either.

Our new Unity development tutor Luke Thompson picked up the Best Company Team award with Sigtrap Games for their bonkers time-travel game Synchrocide, in which two players use a single game controller between them to each control present and future version of themselves. I know, right? What.

Additionally the Innovation and Creativity award went to a team that created a game called Congruence that actually calls your phone and talks to you as part of the gameplay! The art for this game was created by SSR Games Art student Jeff Robbins. Great work and a highly competent cyber-thriller.

I’ll definitely take part in 2018. I haven’t decided whether to go solo again next year, or create something even more ambitious as part of a team. Hearing stressed-out devs file-blaming one another in the eleventh (39th!) hour made me somewhat relieved to be a one-man outfit, as I share the same views with myself and rarely argue. But we’ll see.

For the second time, Jamchester has proved not only to be the biggest professional game jam in the UK, but a world-class event, brilliantly organised and a pleasure to be surrounded by such talented, supportive people. This sense of shared ideology and creative fervour could only find a home in a place like Manchester; it will stay with me for a long time."

- Darby Costello

Click here to check out gameplay footage of Darby’s game, or follow the link below to download and play the game submission on Windows (Requires at least an Nvidia GeForce 9 series card to run properly)

Worlds Apart download link