TOJam was amazing as always. This is certainly the best year so far, in my opinion. Seems that the majority of attendees were using Flash this year, so Alex and I ended up answering a bunch of technical questions throughout the course of the weekend. I got one full night’s sleep of roughly 8 hours. More than I wanted to get, actually, given that getting to and from the event took at least an hour each way.

Things got off to a bit of a rocky start for me, as there was a huge window on my end of the room, and the sun was shining directly at me at that point. It was overheating my monitor, so I had to shut down until the window was covered with a colourful assortment of posters, The Yellow Pages, and free newspapers. Once that was taken care of, the room was surprisingly cool for the remainder of the event. Last year was pretty stuffy with just 80 people, so I’m impressed at how nice it was in there with a good 120 filling it out.

I can’t really estimate how much faster I was this year just by virtue of using my desktop machine rather than bringing a laptop. I’ve gotten very used to having two rather large monitors, and downgrading to a single tiny laptop screen feels very cramped. I had myself up and running by about 5 pm on Friday, and Alex arrived shortly thereafter. I wrote a sort of skeleton for the game just by throwing down some base classes with empty methods, and we sort of went off on two streams working in parallel. Alex handled all things related to the machines on the factory floor, and most of the GUI stuff, and I handled the conveyor belts, world tile mapping, cheese behaviour, and game economy. Working with a second programmer made the whole thing go so much more smoothly, as there was always at least one of us on hand to help the artists figure out ho to integrate new content.

Things ran very smoothly, and I have to say it was a lot of fun, and definitely a relief, to forget about architecture and just build something fun and playable. Over the course of the past two years, my professional and personal development projects have all been rather heavily (over) architect-ed affairs, so this was a nice break. It reminded me of some things I’d forgotten about why I got into software development in the first place.

The last couple of hours of the event were certainly interesting. I threw our sound list at one of the sound floaters, Chris, and about 15 minutes before keyboards-down he showed up at our table with a USB key. Unfortunately, due to a really minor problem on our end, the sounds were not working when we demoed the game. I got the sounds working within 5 minutes of getting the game home. What did work out well was our artist exchange program. Miguel is a fantastic sprite artist, and the team next to us, Squidware, had Eric, who does amazing painting-style visuals. They needed some sprites, we needed a title page. It worked out very nicely for both sides, and I think next year I will try to advocate it a bit more. There are a lot of people with specialized skills around, and if we can get a bit more sharing going during future events, it would set the quality bar even higher.

I also took the time to create a little illustrated instructions page and threw it up on the second monitor. It was very useful, but I learned that people tend to ignore what’s on the second monitor if you have two. Instructions will be embedded into the game some time in the near future.

Our game was Der Baron Von Ubercheesen: Cheese Factory, a neat little crossover between Sim City and The Incredible Machine. We got very far with it, and I have to say it has one of the highest levels of polish that I saw at the event, by virtue of our staged approach to building the game, and the top notch quality of our art duo of Miguel and Rosemary. We’re going to continue working on the game in our spare time, with an eye towards releasing it through Armor Games.

Stay tuned for updates regarding Der Baron.