Drawing on one's own creative ideas to design a game and then turning that design into a playable reality, one in which users offer their feedback, would be a very valuable experience for any game developer. One of Krafton's many independent studios, RisingWings, provides that very opportunity to their developers through their in-house event which they call "Game Jam."
Game Jam is a kind of hackathon, one where each developer must form their own team and produce an entire game from scratch in under a certain amount of time. Once the allotted time is over, others in the company play-test all of the entries and then vote for which one they believe is the best game. The purpose behind this event is to encourage creative and diverse thinking among the company's developers. The event is also in step with the company's long-term goal of fostering exceptional developers who will be leading the way into the future of gaming. Unlike ordinary hackathons, where developers are asked to demonstrate their skills in one sitting, participants in the Game Jam event work on their project where and how they like and over a long period of time. In this way, Game Jam grants its participants more freedom, but the developers do have to balance working on their event project with their regular work schedule.
RisingWings designed this event based on their company culture of bottom-up game development, which means that the developers themselves create their projects from the ground up according to how they envision it.
Saereumi Jang, the head of HR at RisingWings, shared some details regarding the event.
Saereumi Jang (Lead of HR Team / RisingWings) – “RisingWings is well aware that a top-down style of production is not viable in the long-term. So instead, our new projects are born from the suggestions of individual dev teams. Game Jam is a perfect reflection of this kind of culture. Participants come up with their own ideas and create games by themselves. If they are successful, they might get the opportunity to release their game on the market.”
This past year's Game Jam event began last March and continued for about eight months until December, during which time the entries were play-tested and the awards ceremony held. Compared to previous years, this past Game Jam saw more teams participate along with the submission of higher quality projects.
"Coupang Man" won first place in Game Jam 2021
Garnering the most votes, Juneyoung Yang's “Coupang Man” took first place out of all of the other entries in 2021.
A 3D matching puzzle game, “Coupang Man” was inspired by the popular Korean delivery company of the same name. In the game, 3D objects fall into small spaces and the player must move these objects in such a way that decorates the space. For example, a cylindrical object like a can of soda looks like a circle from the top, but a rectangle from the side. According to Yang, distinguishing what the objects are as fast as possible is crucial to playing the game.
Juneyoung Yang, the RisingWings game designer behind the “Coupang Man” project, was faced with many challenges right from the outset, but thanks to some help from a colleague, he was able to see everything through to the end.
Juneyoung Yang (Game Designer / RisingWings) – “I'm a game designer, sure, but being that I was the only member of my team, I almost failed to submit my game on time. The deadline was originally set for November, and so I couldn’t find a client programmer who could work with me on such short notice. I was so desperate that I ended up sending emails out to everyone in the company asking for help, but I couldn't get anyone. Luckily for me, the deadline was moved to December. Shortly after that, Hojong Beak got in touch with me and said that he had a free week during which he could help me. Beak is mainly an art director, but he is also an exceptional developer. He knows a great deal about client programming. Thanks to him, I was able to hand in my project before the deadline.”
"Where Are You?" was the runner-up in Game Jam 2021.
A project titled “Where Are You?” was the runner-up in 2021's Game Jam event and was created by a three-member team consisting of game designer Woobyung Chae, client programmer Donghyo Shin, and server programmer Gwangmin Lee. “Where Are You?” is a 1vs1 turn-based strategy board game in which the players try to guess their opponent's location on an invisible tile map in order to stage their attack. The team worked on the project in between keeping up with the responsibilities of their regular work schedule. They found that they could significantly reduce their workload, thereby saving time, by purchasing both art and sound assets from the public domain. After about two months time, they were able to finalize and submit their game.
One of the team members behind the project, Woobyung Chae, reflected on his experience in working with the others on the team.
Woobyung Chae (Game Designer / RisingWings) – "I wanted to make a simple but interesting game. I regarded my participation in this event as a meaningful opportunity. I shared my ideas with Gwangmin Lee, a server programmer. He gladly accepted to join my team which meant that we could actually begin working on the project. Not too long after, we discovered that there were some tasks that required very sensitive visual coding skills. Gwangmin said he knew somebody with expertise in this area. That person turned out to be Donghyo Shin. We didn't know each other at the time, but we ended up working quite well together. Through our combined effort, we were able to develop the game that won us second place!" (laughing)
RisingWings grants some amount of time to those participating in Game Jam to work exclusively on their event projects. The participants apply for this time in the same way that they would apply for time off. It's a thoughtful method that the company uses as a way to ensure that the participants have both the time they need to work on their event projects as well as fulfill their regular responsibilities. Nonetheless, most of the participants, eager to create an exceptionally great game and receive a positive evaluation, set aside time after work and even on weekends to devote themselves to their Game Jam project.
The staff at RisingWings always expect a flood of emails from potential participants every year around February and March when the plans for that year's Game Jam event are announced. Everyone has their own reason for getting involved in the event such as the money that is offered to those willing to take part. However, it can be said that the overarching reason for why they participate in the event is that it's a precious opportunity to get valuable experience in making actual games based off of their own individual ideas.
Juneyoung Yang (left) accepting the grand prize during Game Jam's 2021 award ceremony at RisingWings.
Juneyoung Yang – “I usually don't have much spare money at the end of the month, so I was honestly glad that the fee to participate as well as all of the other expenses were covered by the company (Laughing). Of course, as a game designer, I love to come up with new ideas. If I get any inspiration from watching TV shows or movies, I immediately search for more information about them and write down my ideas as quickly as possible before I forget them. 'Coupang Man' actually began from some of the ideas that I had written down."
All of the games created by the participants for Game Jam are made available to everyone at RisingWings at the end of the year. Everyone at the company is asked to play-test the original builds of the games the participants submitted and then vote for the one they believe to be the best. The team whose game garners the most votes is crowned the winner of that year's event.
Juneyoung Yang – “Before I saw the games that the other teams had made, I was thinking that my game would have a good chance at winning first or second place. But as soon as I laid eyes on what the others had come up with, I realized that it would be difficult to even place third, let alone first or second. They were just of excellent quality. On the same day, I told my wife that I was probably only going to receive a participation reward. Fortunately, the outcome was far better than I had anticipated."
Woobyung Chae – "Ours was a mystery game, so it was unlikely that the people testing it were going to have an interesting experience with the game unless they put in enough time to play through and learn how to enjoy it. Honestly, we had our sights set on third place. So, we'd really like to thank all of those who voted for us, allowing our game to take second place."
If deemed worthy enough by RisingWings, the company may grant the games submitted during the event with the opportunity to be released onto the market. However, the importance of Game Jam is placed on trying to find the true meaning behind the event itself which is the sharing of creative ideas among the developers, learning from the process of bringing one's ideas into reality, and growing together as colleagues.
Juneyoung Yang – "It felt very refreshing to make a game in such a short period of time and be able to fine tune the different features of it with my colleagues. From this experience, I realized that making a quick game and getting feedback about it just as fast can be a lot of fun."
"When I was involved with a larger project, I spent about a year and a half developing a game and working on the live service for it. But throughout all that time, I never truly felt like that was my own work. I wanted to do everything from implementing my own ideas to designing, systemising, to preparing the live service. After talking with some indie game developers, I became even more eager for such an experience. I guess most game designers must feel the same way. I think that trying to make a game as a member of a small team would be a very good experience for any game developer. Even if your game is a failure, you can still learn from the mistakes you made."
Donghyo Shin (Client Programmer / RisingWings) – “One of my teammates for Game Jam, Gwangmin Lee, is a server programmer who has experience in client programming. I felt I could learn a lot from working with him. As a programmer, I sometimes get stuck in a rut when working on a single project for a long period of time. At the time, new experiences like Game Jam cleared my head, allowing me to get absorbed in my work. It’s good motivation.”
Woobyung Chae – “There are tons of things that need to be considered when planning and designing a game by yourself. You’ll never learn if you don’t try. It was fun to experience and learn how to produce different kinds of games that I had never tried making before. I was able to grow even more during the process. As a game designer, going through the entire process of designing a game that people can enjoy was a very special experience for me.”
Many developers at RisingWings sign up for Game Jam every year. Some of them pour their passion into the same title, ambitiously making improvements upon it with more creative details before submitting it and having it evaluated all over again.
Bonghyun Cho (Connect Team Lead / RisingWings) – “One of this year’s entries, called “FlipNoid2,” gave me a strong impression because it was an upgrade from the previous version that the team had submitted last year. Although it didn't place, I respect the team’s passion for the game. They didn’t want to make a game just for the sake of the contest. Winning can be important, but I felt their resolve to create a better game than last year.”
Last year's Game Jam was held amidst the height of COVID-19 restrictions. The company generally holds the testing session along with the awards ceremony in a group setting, where everyone gathers in one place to get feedback on their game from others. However, to prevent the spread of the virus, the event unfortunately had to be held completely online.
Game Jam will continue in 2022. RisingWings intends to turn the event into a venue where its developers will have the opportunity to bring their ideas to life, allowing them to grow as professionals. Participants will also be able to seek advice from the lead developers at RisingWings. Prize winners will even be able to meet with gamers in the market.
Juneyoung Yang – “I strongly encourage my fellow colleagues to participate in Game Jam if they haven't yet already. There are many developers who haven’t had the experience of going through the whole process of creating an entire game from beginning to end. That’s why I think it’s a good idea for them to get involved in it, even if they believe they don't have the time. They may not be able to finish the project, but just taking that first step in and of itself would still be a worthwhile experience.”