Square Jam 2020: Behind-the-Scenes of a Virtual Game Jam

Square Jam 2020: Behind-the-Scenes of a Virtual Game Jam

Every studio has its traditions. One of ours is the end-of-year game jam. Would working from home mean that we would break with tradition? Absolutely not! 

On December 21-22 during work hours, 54 participants broken up in 10 teams focused solely on building a game from scratch. This year’s theme: Contact (particularly appropriate in a year where we’ve had to rethink, reimagine, and reinvent how we build and develop relationships.) 

The game jam provides our team the opportunity to flex their creative muscles, use their skills in new ways, and work in small teams with colleagues from other departments. 

"Game Jam is often synonymous with stress, or even competition. With Square Jam, we want above all to invite everyone to take a break, to meet new colleagues and to try new things! Given the year we've just been through, it was even more important to stay focused on our values ​​and end the year having fun!

Every year, I am amazed by what the teams are able to do together. It's the culmination of so much enthusiasm, talent and effort. ”- Francis, senior gameplay programmer and Square Jam organizer.

Here are the hot takes and outtakes of the 2020 Square Jam.  

 

team Paruline

by Laetitia, Data Analyst

We developed a number of concepts around the theme of Contact:

  • The lack of contact in our current situation 
  • Eye contact 
  • Full-contact sport 
  • Contact lenses 
  • Keeping a 2-foot distance from each other 
  • Etc.

 

 

The Game

From there, we started developing game concepts:

  • A game in the grocery where you need to avoid people and keep 2-feet away from others  
  • A game where you go to a walk with your friend trying to keep 2-feet of distance, if you are too close you lose points but if you are too far away and you cannot listen to your friend, you lose too  
  • We also thought of a game where you wear contact lenses and put your finger in the eye.  

We settled on a concept where you create an avatar with funny features and then export your creation as a 1st picture contact. 

the biggest challenges

Our biggest challenge was learning to work cooperatively while not in the same room. 

the greatest achievements

We are the proudest of developing so many art assets in 2 days, creating new music, and building a simple game that works 

Participating in Square Jam is a great way to remind ourselves why we wanted to be in this industry in the first place. Also, we could never create weird games like these otherwise! 

 

team Bernache

by Andrew, Senior Game Designer

With this being my first Square Jam, I didn't really know what to expect, but after working with the team it was super enjoyable. I want to thank all of them for what they brought to the table. Everyone was a master of their craft and did their own thing 

the game

There were a few pitches along the way to come up with the final project, everything from a collection of Micro Games emphasizing Contact, which then turned into a game where you slingshot people through a chain of other people.  

We settled on a pinball-style game about a UFO contacting mankind through Crop Circles.  

the biggest challenges

Honestly, no challenges to speak of! Everyone worked really well together, and the team was real receptive to feedback. 

the greatest achievements

Personally, I am really proud of the design for the game and coming up with 54 pieces of lore. 

can't wait for the next game jam! 

team Épervier

by Pauline, Level Designer

the game 

In the context of 2020, we wanted to create a game filled with joy. Each member of the team worked to deliver that dose of joy through the content they produced. 

the biggest challenges

Not all of the team members were familiar with the game creation tools. Obviously, as always, working remotely makes communication a bit more difficult. 

the greatest achievements

I am particularly proud to have created in 2 days a funny game that out smiles on faces and of the capacity to improvise that the team showed until the end. 

The Square Jam is a very beautiful tradition that reflects our values ​​of collaboration and innovation. A  game jam is a great exercise in introspection and creation. 

 

Team Chouette

by Alexandre, Development Director

Each team member was able to tackle things that they wouldn't normally do during their day-to-day, which was a great challenge for most of us.

For instance, we had programmers creating artwork, managers doing programming, and testers doing modelling & texturing while others were creating and mixing sounds.

The Game

Our brainstorming lasted around 1 or 2 h. At first, we had so many different ideas that it quickly became a challenge to reach a consensus. Each team member had different ideas.

One member pitched the concept of a puzzle game using a phone. Another pitched a top-down game where your character needs to avoid any contact with others. We even pitched a satellite game where the player needs to aim at other satellites to ensure the communication isn't cut off.

Overall, the ideas were flowing and we wanted to ensure each idea was taken into consideration in the most respectful way. We finally came up with a mix of a puzzle game with some 3D shooting capabilities.

The idea is simple: you are a pigeon courier service. You need to decipher to whom the letters are meant for and aim your pigeon to the right destination. It requires the player to understand its mission, take actions and deliver as many letters as possible in 60 seconds.

The Biggest Challenges

There were a few challenges:

  • Agreeing on a game concept in a short amount of time.
  • Making a full game in 16 hours! That is a challenge by itself!
  • Of course, working from home!

The Greatest Achievements

  • We made a full game in 16 hours!
  • Creating pigeon sounds from scratch.

We proved that where there is a will, there is a way!

The teamwork and synergy make it a great overall experience. It's impressive how quickly a snowball can evolve into a snowman. And, seeing the result of each team is something fun as we are always curious of how other teams understood the game jam theme. 😉

5 Lessons the Pandemic Taught me About Leadership – By Patrick Naud

5 Lessons The Pandemic Taught Me About Leadership – By Patrick Naud

Our head of studio Patrick Naud shares the five major management lessons he learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and how he has stayed focused on productivity while prioritizing the well-being of our team.

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Top Weekend Picks by Martin

Top Weekend Picks by Martin

Trying to keep boredom at bay this weekend?

Martin, our studio coordinator, has prepared a complete entertainment program including his favourite music, movies, and book.

Best series to binge-watch until you fall asleep?

I’ve been a hardcore Friends fan since my teen years, so I could still binge-watch it a million times.

In terms of recent discoveries, I really liked Ratched, which is available for streaming.

 

Watch the Trailer

best classic movie to watch again

Mon vieux film culte est sans conteste The Goonies, film sorti en 1985! C'était la cassette que je regardais tout le temps quand j'étais malade étant petit.

 

My old cult movie is undoubtedly The Goonies, which was released in 1985. It's the VHS that I watched all the time as a child when I was sick

Watch the Trailer

Latest movie that surprised you?

That would be the documentary The Social Dilemma. This documentary features experts that givea behind-the-scenes look at social media, and it’s pretty shocking.

Watch the Trailer

A good book to read on a Friday night?

The Man Who Wanted to Be Happy is a philosophical novel by Laurent Gounelle.

He develops in a very accessible - yet effective - way on notions of personal development on the quest for happiness and self-confidence.

Find Out More

Music to listen to while doing housework or working out?

Energia Parte 2 – Sofi Tukker feat. Pabllo Vittar is ideal for working out or housework.

I also recommend other songs by Sofi Tukker, which is one of my favorite bands at the moment.)

Watch the Video

What 2020 Taught us About Ourselves and Working From Home

WHAT 2020 TAUGHT US ABOUT OURSELVES AND WORKING FROM HOME

I am one of those people who struggled to adjust to working at home for the first few months. Here are a few tips that have helped me adjust.  

  • Setting up a dedicated workspace in my apartment.  
  • Establishing a morning routine to allow me to start the day on the right foot.  
  • Gradually starting to get up earlier, as I did before working from home, so that I have time to prepare my coffee and do a stretching or yoga session before settling down at my desk.  

 

The positive effects of my new routine were quickly felt, and I start my workday in much better shape.

My final tip would be to remember to take breaks and completely disconnect after your day's work.

  • Invite a colleague to a virtual lunch to unwind and take a real break in the middle of the day, as we did when we were in the studio.
  • Going out for a walk is a great way to clear your mind when you feel a little cramped at home.

This is new to everyone, and you shouldn't hesitate to ask for help when you feel overwhelmed.

Agathe

Recruiter

Working from home has made it painfully clear to me that organization plays a huge part in my wellbeing.

I have a running spreadsheet documenting what I read and watch, it’s called “Productivity” – I just had no idea how much of an impact it had on my mental (and physical) wellness.

Those unaccustomed to WFH have had to learn to live the loss of separation between work and home.

Over the last months, I’ve updated my daily routine to try and mitigate this new challenge – making up for the loss of going to and from work.

  • Shower and get dressed for work every morning.

Seems obvious but making sweatpants a weekend-only thing has been key to making them special again. Weekends, not sweatpants.

  • RSVP 30 min for reading – not always successful, my spreadsheet can confirm this.

Reading on the bus was such important me-time. This has been difficult to make up for.

  • Fifteen minutes to exercise and stretch every morning.

This has seen the most iterations – workout app, yogi YouTubers, etc. Ultimately what I do isn’t so important as doing something to delay the potato metamorphosis.

  • Scheduled breaks.

Every 2 hours I exercise for literally a few minutes. Raises the pulse and gives me a reason to get another coffee.

 

Jorge

Community Manager

In 2020, I had to adapt all my skills to our new virtual reality. Here are my tips and tricks.

  • Book your schedule to get work done and learn to say no

Booking blocks allows you to focus on certain tasks and avoid getting overbooked.

  • Preparation for meetings is the key to efficiency

Write and state the purpose and goal of the meeting

Take meeting notes and document what is being said

If there is an action item, clearly define who needs to deliver what

  • Invest in a good camera and headset

Invest in a good quality camera (1080p at least) and place it so that both your head and upper body are in view. Invest in a good headset and you will be set to conquer the digital realm in no time

  • Update the digital “you”

If you are in a meeting, out of office, sick, on vacation or just need to focus on work, make sure you update your status. (Be creative!)

  • If you are a manager, take the time and listen during your one-on-ones

When working from home, professional and personal concerns merge. Take the time to listen and ask, “How are you doing?” Take note of personal projects and follow-up regularly. Your employees will open up more.

Now that we have gone digital, being efficient is more important that ever.

Avinash

Central Services Manager

Although I am a very sociable person, I really like staying home. Here are my top work from home tips

  • Working from home has given me the discipline to meet my team 15 minutes every morning to go through the day’s priorities. It also helps morale and team spirit to "see" each other every day. I have become more aware of the importance of this morning ritual.

 

  • After the day is over, I make an effort to not look at my emails in the evening. With the line being easily blurred between my home office and my personal life, it's very easy not to be able to separate the two anymore.

 

  • A yoga session after the workday also helps clear your mind. This is an activity that I discovered in confinement and now I could not do without it.

 

Marie-Michelle

Communications Manager

Join the team

Top Weekend Picks by François

Top Weekend Picks by François

Antother weekend stuck at home?

We've got you covered! Here are the top weekend picks by François, VFX artist.

best series to watch until you fall asleep?

Falling asleep in front of a show is a big no-no for me!

But if I have to recommend the most appropriate viewing experience for bedtime, it would hands down be Aquascaping videos.

This particular YouTube channel has tons of calm, soothingly edited videos.

PS: I've yet to make myself…

 

Watch

Best old movie to rewatch

Kill Bill is just a blast to watch every time.

I remember my father putting on the soundtrack while doing chores around the house whenever he had the chance.

I've seen it too many times to count!

 

Watch the Trailer

Last movie that surprised you?

I really enjoyed 1917 because the entire movie seems like one long cut. I was keeping an eye out for any jumps and couldn't see any.

Watch the Trailer

A recipe suggestion for brunch or dinner

Here's the easiest way to impress someone who enjoys seafood:

Baked Goat Cheese Salmon.

-Cut your salmon in half

-Stuff the middle with your favorite goat cheese (Don't worry about putting too much :P)

-Spread Dijon Mustard or the glazing of your choice on the top of your fish sandwich

-Season to taste

-Bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 400 Farenheits

- Serve with buttered cauliflower rice, wine and ...voila!

A video game or boardgame suggestion

 Easily the most chaotic game has to be Dobble. That game makes people crazy and I love it for it.

Simple, portable, quick, fun, it has it all!

A more elaborate game I would recommend is Dice Throne. It has a great risk/reward mechanic and a varied set of characters to choose from. Can be played 1v1 or 2v2 with multiple games at the same time.

Find