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Split Souls - Game Jam

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    Saad Tahir

The Overview

A game jam is a weekend-long competition where participants create a game from scratch, inspired by a theme or genre. Teams develop the game's art, code, and sound within the event's timeframe. It's a fast-paced burst of creativity and collaboration in the gaming community.

Mindstorm Studios hosted the first game jam in Pakistan at LUMS University. This was the company where I completed my first internship back in 2017. It was a thrilling opportunity for me to showcase my skills in front of top-tier gaming companies of Pakistan. Winning the competition could potentially open doors for my career in game development.

As soon as it was announced, I wasted no time in rallying a couple of friends and registering our team. Although we needed four members, I could only secure one additional game developer besides myself, along with a friend who tagged along for support. We were the 11th team to enter the competition.

The Theme Day

We arrived at the venue on a Friday night, all set for the challenge. The host announced that they'd reveal the theme, and we'd have to brainstorm ideas and submit them. I recall there were two themes on the table: "Keys" and "Illusion." We spun the wheel of fortune, and the chosen theme was "Illusion."

Initially, we were confused. What exactly could an illusion mean in a game? Was it about graphical illusions, puzzle illusions, or gameplay illusions? We tossed around ideas, trying to crack the code, when suddenly, Mohsin, who was mainly there for moral support and snacks, came in with a unique story.

The Story

A person's soul splits in two, each half sent into a world of illusions. Whatever one half does, the other mirrors, but upside down. The world constantly shifts, and the souls swap perspectives. The story's confusing at first, and we had no clue how to turn it into a game, but it sounded too cool to pass up. The only thing missing was the illusion.

So, we got creative with the camera. It focuses on one soul while the other faces obstacles. For example, if soul A jumps over a hurdle, soul B must also jump to avoid getting hit. It's all about playing with perception and keeping up with the mind-bending twists. Still confused? Well, you'll just have to play the game to experience it firsthand!


The Idea

In our game, you control a hero who runs forward, but here's the twist – there's a copy of the hero below him, upside down, mirroring his every move. The camera angle tricks you into thinking you're controlling the hero above, but in reality, you're playing as the hero below. As you jump over obstacles, the camera shifts, swapping your perspective. Now, you control the hero you thought was just a reflection, while the one above becomes your focus. Each hero faces unique hurdles, so you must switch between them to navigate the challenges ahead. It's a mind-bending platformer where perception is everything!


The Art

Usman and I were the coders on our team, but we weren't exactly artists. Seeing other teams with artists made us realize we needed to get creative. So, we searched through Unity's Asset Store and found a character with all the animations we needed. It was just a basic white dummy, but it did the job.

For the world around our character, we used simple assets from Unity, Cubes. They might sound plain, but for our casual game, they worked perfectly. We didn't have time to make fancy 3D models, and cubes were easy to use.

In our game, it's not about fancy art – it's about making the gameplay fun. So, we focused on getting that right. But we also wanted our game to look nice, so we added some colors to make it pop. We also gave the cubes a cool effect that made them look like buildings, and the colors changed as the game went on. With a few extra touches like camera effects, our game went from basic to eye-catching.


The Sound Design

The soundtrack took inspiration from the iconic sound of Stranger Things but with an 8-bit twist. I infused it with my own blend of instruments to give it that retro vibe. Give it a listen below!


The Demo

So, there were 13 teams at the start, but some dropped out because they couldn't think of ideas. That left 10 teams, including ours, made up of students like us.

The competition involved showing off our games to judges in real-time, and they kept the scores secret until the end. We got to go last, so we could see what everyone else had done. Turns out, our game was simpler compared to the others, who made theirs super complicated and kinda confusing.

When it was our turn, I just asked the judges to play our game straight away. Nobody else did that because their games were too hard to explain. At first, the judges were a bit puzzled, but then they got into it when I explained the trick. And when I told them it was just us two who did everything – the pictures, the music, all of it – they were impressed.

After we showed our game, the judges went off to decide who won.

When I got back to my seat, the other teams came over and said we were gonna win. It felt awesome to hear that!


The Results

The announcement of the results took place in a separate room. There were three prizes up for grabs, with the winner receiving Rs. 100,000, a substantial sum. The announcements began with the third-place winner, and when our team name wasn't called, we started to worry that we hadn't made the cut. Then came the second-place announcement, still not our name. Doubt began to creep in. But then, I heard it: TEAM 11!

WE WON!!!!

I couldn't contain my excitement and leaped out of my seat. The relief was overwhelming – we had done it! Winning against the industry's heavyweights felt absolutely epic.

We decided to split the prize money three ways, and with my share, I bought my very first gaming PC. It was a moment I'll never forget.



After this game jam, I got a call from Mindstorm Studios right after my finals in 2018 and they hired me without an interview. It was a dream come true and this Game Jam proved a vital part of the start of my journey as a game developer.

Hope you liked the journey. I will be writing a lot now so stay tuned for upcoming blogs.

Play the game

Following are the playable demos and downloadable links.