JournoDevSwap: A journalist and a student walk into a game jam

JournoDevSwap: A journalist and a student walk into a game jam

By Jim Griffiths

October 5th 2012 at 10:45PM

I talk to journalist Dan Griliopoulos and student Luc Shelton on why they wanted to spend 48 hours not sleeping to make a game

[For their first challenge – Our developers-cum-journalists were tasked with conducting an interview with one of the development teams – You can find all the interviews here.]

It’s the UKIE “48-Hour Developer and Press Swap-up”, where journalist-turned-developers are teamed up with tech-savvy students to create a game in just 48 hours. The theme is “Swap”.

I’m on the flip side of the coin; a developer-turning-journalist, who now has… exactly two hours and 56 minutes to turn in my first writing assignment: an interview with one of the teams.

That team is journalist Dan Griliopoulos, whose twitter tag is @GriddleOctopus. His student teammate is Luc Shelton, 21, who is @loveduckie. Their team name? 

“Love Octopus?” says Dan, glancing over to Luc, who is focussed very intently on his laptop, already hard at work. Luc nods without turning. 

“That’ll do,” says Dan. He pauses for a moment, then shakes his head. “Yeah. It’s better than ‘Grilled Duck’.” 

So, who are you? What are your backgrounds?
Dan
: I’ve been working in the game industry since 2002. I spent five years on game magazines, then I was in PR for three years working mainly on MMOs, and I’m now a freelancer for “Rock, Paper Shotgun”, “PC Gamer”, IGN, Eurogamer - and anyone else you pays me!

Luc: I’m a student at the University of Derby, doing computer games programming. Last year I was working in Switzerland for a bank developing internal software and security systems. My aim is to graduate and get into the game industry - I want to do games. 

Why games? Bank software pays well, right?
Games are more rewarding. I got paid comfortably at the bank – it’s true. But it’s the feedback of games – giving something life, bringing it together. That’s the appeal.

Although if I could play games professionally – or skateboarding – I’d do that too!

How did you get involved with this event? You’re not part of IndieSkies?
Luc
: There was a Facebook page discussing gaming I was part of at Uni, so when Kevin (co-founder and technical director of indie start-up IndieSkies, who form most of the students here today) was missing people to come here, he posted it up and I saw the chance to join. I wanted to get more involved in games.

Why would you volunteer to spend 48 hours without sleeping or washing, to make a game?
Dan
: I’m a journalist so sleeping and washing are optional anyway. But really, because every now and then I get to into studio, but I only see the developers in front of me as part of a guided tour. I never really see them in action. So for me it’s just great to see someone actually coding, right here.

It’s so interesting to see the limitations that we have, what we can actually do with the time available. Even if it never gets finished it’s just great to see the gestation period - what people do.

I am a little concerned about what it’s going to smell like on Sunday.

By why is it so important to be HERE? You could make a game at home?
Luc
: I think it’s being part of the atmosphere. Hearing everyone was coming here to achieve this… It was just really exciting.

Plus I’m always up late anyway, so I figured it would just make sense!

How are you finding the first phase – coming up with an idea?
Dan
: It was difficult finding something that we both agreed on – but we did get to the point where we both said: “That looks like something interesting; that’s something we can do in a weekend and will look cool”.

Luc: It was a challenge. I’m trying to figure out what I’m actually capable of, as well as trying to understand the scope of the design. You can’t try an MMO or anything too grand!

Have you ever had to think in there terms before? “What can I achieve in x amount of time”?
Luc
: Maybe to an extent – but this is a much sharper learning curve. I have to think about what’s really, really possible in 48 hours. 

You have someone on your left asking you to do things – but he’s not an expert in game development or what can be achieved in 48 hours! He’s asking you to create something – how has that relationship been working?
Dan
: I’ve just been listening to Luc. I have no idea what he’s capable of, but Luc knows. So all I can do is sit here, listen - and look pretty!

Where are the ideas mostly coming from? Dan your job is to know about videogames industry – are you finding that’s an advantage?
Dan
: I think being aware of what’s been done before is important, and we both have a good sense of that. We know what’s original and what’s already been done. 

Luc knows his capabilities so there’s not point me saying can you do this or that; I couldn’t do any of it! The code is just magic words!

Note: Listening to some of the other team dynamics around the room, it’s pretty clear not EVERYONE is so keen to have the students take the lead to such an extent!

So I have an idea of what this might look like by the end -and so does Luc - I guess we’ll see how they match up at the end of the project!

How important is this event? What do you hope to come away with?
Dan
: I’d love to be involved in making games. So I’ll love to see how quick this can be made, to prototype. Ideally I’d like to work in videogames, in design. I’ve seen so many games over the years. Plus, anybody can do design, right? (laughs)

It’s just nice to see that people can do this; it’s great to be part of people working like this. 

…I’ll just wait to see how much we hate each other by the end.

Luc: For me it’s just being involved with the right people. I want to be in the games industry, so just talking to the right people and gaining insight and inspiration into what I could be doing when I graduate… and having people know I was part of this. I think that’s important.

And having fun!

What’s the strongest idea so far?
Dan
: I think we could describe it as a “dual world endless runner”? There’s a “journalist” world and a “programmer” world and you flip between them. The only way to make progress will be to keep jumping between the two. 

Luc: I think it’s doable… I’ve never done a game like this before!

You’re quite keen to be ambitious?

Dan: I was very keen to make something ambitious (some of their earlier ideas included two separate puzzle games that kept score between them which the player had to jump between) but I think we’ve found a balance; it’s stretching what Luc’s capable of - he’s finding out something new, and that’s ambitious enough for me. 

Personally, I don’t see any reason not to be ambitious; this is a throwaway thing. For Luc it’s important of course, he gets to show off his skills and meet people - but for me it’s a throwaway. 

So if we don’t end up with something that works, that’s not a problem. I’d love to have something that works, but for me, I want to go for something ambitious.

Luc, is this more of an issue for you? Is it important for you to finish?

Luc: It is. I want to demonstrate among the people here what I’m capable of; that I’m capable of doing the work. There’s nothing worse than coming out with a bad product!

Is this more serious for you than Dan? 

Luc: Yeah – but I don’t want to make a big deal out of it! (laughs).

But yeah… It is. It is serious to me.

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[Note: This interview was submitted after the 10pm deadline]

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