Newbies and Vets Game Jam Winners 2020

Kimmy Stewart

Being physically apart doesn’t stop game makers from creating amazing projects. From October 16-18, 11 teams took part in MEGA’s first virtual Newbies & Vets Jam. Students tuned in from all over the world, including various parts of California, the East Coast, and China! The mission: create a game that fits the theme of “escape.” Check out the amazing projects! 

Best Art: Ape Don’t Study by Team E-Apes

André Pascual, Masato Lin, Sarah Yuen, Jingkai (Bob) Wu, Jingtong (Rosemary) Wu, Mudi Li, Danial Asaria, Yufei Xiao

We all know how difficult it is to stay focused online. We consistently turn to our best friend, procrastination. Why not play a game where procrastination is actually the objective? 

Ape Don’t Study is a game about avoiding responsibilities. Escape the evil essay that’s haunting you by wandering the house and checking your phone. The game’s bizarre scenario is a humorous twist on our everyday lives. “Making the game gave us relief from real life,” the team explained. 

Team E-Apes wanted to create a lighthearted experience that also has pseudo horror elements. They came up with the idea to use an ape as the central character by extracting the word “ape” from “escape.” The ape’s pixel sprite and walking animations blew everyone away, earning Team E-Apes the award for Best Art. If you’re looking for a procrastination method, play their game: https://dwagon6.itch.io/ape-dont-study

Best Audio: Reverie by Team Wickedly Awesome

Zach Northrop, Emma Lisowski, Lance Yu, Cameron Gomez, Mila Mathias, Blair Niu, Julie Shi, Shihao Huang, Zi Wang

Sometimes all we want to do is escape from reality to our dreams. But if our dreams take a bad turn, then that’s a different story! Reverie plays with these ideas, setting players in a hauntingly beautiful dream sequence. Traverse as a blob from your dark nightmares to your colorful dreams.

Members of Team Wickedly Awesome have attended anywhere from 0 to 9 prior game jams! For first time participants and more introverted members, the jam’s virtual mode created a welcoming environment. For the audio designer, it was easier to create Reverie’s award-winning tracks when he had a piano readily available at home. In the first nightmarish level, players are exposed to repeated low-sounding piano tones, which paints the level’s ominous vibe. At the final dreamy level, players hear warmer mallet tones and a soothing choir. Experience both the dark and bright parts of your dreams: https://emmalizz.itch.io/reverie 

Best Game Design: Echo Escape by King Zhou

Echo Escape is a colorful 2D platformer that cleverly uses echolocation in its design. In the game, players are a mouse trying to escape a dark maze. When players jump, the mouse emits waves of color, creating a cool canvas of luminescent shades. The objective of the game is to complete the maze by landing on platforms that match the avatar’s changing color.

The game was developed by one designer, King Zhou! Before Newbies & Vets, King had participated in smaller game jams. After learning about Newbies & Vets, he decided to take part to develop his art, programming, and game design skills. Players can admire the subtle design choices he implemented, such as adding a red hue to mark unidentified platforms as dangerous. If players make it far into the game, there’s a large surprise in the game design waiting to be revealed. Find out what it is when you play the game: https://zym35.itch.io/escape

Best Narrative: Down the Rabbit Hole by Team 10 (it’s everyday bro) 

Sheehan Ahmed, Yuran Yan, Catherine Guo, Caroline Zhou, Matthew Li, Sarah Parks

If you’ve ever wanted to experience a virtual Alice in Wonderland-themed escape room, Down the Rabbit Hole is the game for you! Interact with the hosts and discover hidden objects to escape the Rabbit Hole. One of Team 10’s early thoughts when discussing the theme was the infamous never ending hallway in P.T. (Silent Hills). The puzzles in Down the Rabbit Hold are well designed, and the eerie sound effects help add to the game’s spooky theme. Put your escape room skills to the test: https://silverwolfhesh.itch.io/down-the-rabbit-hole

Best overall: Highway Hell by Team Sukklers

Dominick Tamras, David Zheng, Larry Wu, Arpad Kovesdy, Cameron Spence, Sherry He, Louis Addison, Ziare Rene, Christopher Ting

Highway Hell might be an analogy for 2020–minus the exploding landmines and the tumbling trucks. In this hellish game, players must race against the Sukkening, the giant purple menace that leads to their inevitable demise.

What started as a very bad inside joke ended up winning Best Overall! Highway Hell was created from a concept used in the teams’ game design class. This made ideation a little easier and allowed them to spend more time on quirky features like the land mines and the enigmatic final room.

Part of what led to the team’s success was their great synergy and collaborative energy. Everyone felt comfortable asking each other for help, despite being separated by great distances. 

Team Sukklers hopes players have fun and never drive in LA traffic. Their message to the world: “Sukk is a way of life. When life sucks, you gotta take life less seriously.” Try to escape Highway Hell: https://david-zheng.itch.io/highway-hell 

All the participating teams did a fantastic job producing games in the virtual environment! Check out the other amazing projects from the game jam here: https://itch.io/jam/newbies-and-vets-game-jam