Here’s the situation: You are allowed only 30 days to create a video game based off one theme and one theme only: Throwback. Thirty days to create a video game feels like an episode of Chopped where the chefs are plating their meals up until the final second. All in all, it’s safe to say the Vital team cooked up a killer multiplayer game called Recess for GitHub’s annual Game Off.
If you don’t know much about GitHub’s Game Off – here’s the gist: Each year, GitHub hosts a month-long competition and provides a theme for developers, gamers, designers (the list goes on) to base their game on. Last year’s theme was Hack/Mod/Augment – hence Tech Wars. This year’s theme was Throwback. Imagine the possibilities!
A Month of Lunch Meetings and Late Nights
In our first meeting, we spent the hour-long lunch period brainstorming ideas on how to interpret this year’s theme or how we would “throw it back” so to speak. It didn’t take long for us to decide we would base our game around everyone’s favorite childhood school activity: Recess. While this first meeting was productive for all of us involved, it was just the beginning. These lunchtime meetings became a daily activity and often carried into nighttime work.
* Disclaimer: No client hours were harmed in the making of this game *
The effort involved not only developers, but also copywriters, videographers, designers and even our very own facilities manager and chef, Nate, whose band The Lonely Ghosts provided the in-game music.
Taking place in a late 1980’s elementary school playground, you and up to seven of your friends are able to join this open concept multiplayer world. Your goal is to navigate the virtual playground with other users and collect as many stars as you can in two minutes. Swoosh down the slide, swing on the swing set, soar off the see saw or even play some dodgeball. And if you’re feeling adventurous, engage other users in a game of dodgeball or sneak out of the schoolyard and play in the secret Pirate Ship and Castle! It’s recess!
A Fun Game We Can Be Proud Of
Building a video game from scratch in such a short time span can be pretty stressful. But everyone agrees it was well worth it. Not only did the team get to fine-tune their skills, but they also got to learn and develop new software and language that many of us might not normally get to use on a day-to-day basis. We truly enjoy any opportunity to learn new skills and work alongside our co-workers in a non-traditional setting.
Vital’s Lead developer Matt Chase was the team leader during the 30-day sprint and may or may not have stayed up all night putting the finishing touches on the game before the Dec. 1st deadline.
“It really came down to the wire, but we were able to pull it off,” he said, adding that the thirty days was a true learning experience for everyone involved.
“A big part of the Game Off is focusing hard on core mechanics and building on it,” Chase said. “With creative work, it can be hard to limit yourself. Keep your game as small as you can — it’s easy to come up with ideas but it is so difficult to build them.”
Vital’s Creative Director Jesse Rand handled the artwork for Recess, particularly the cover art featured below.
“The goal with the cover art was to do what a lot of throwback games do — show how cool the game could be on the cover, convince people to buy it, only to bait and switch and give them a game that only partially resembles the art,” said Rand. “Kind of like MegaMan and Doom.”
In last year’s competition, Vital earned a spot in GitHub’s video round up — which was pretty cool. This year there are high hopes from everyone that Recess will be a real hit! If you have any feedback or questions on Recess or for Vital in general, as always we would love to hear from you.