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The Indie Game Jam is a yearly game design and programming event designed to encourage experimentation and innovation in the game industry.

The 0th Annual Indie Game Jam took place March 15th through 18th, 2002, in Oakland, California, and it was an amazing success! 14 game developers created 12 experimental and innovative games in 4 days!

The 0th Invitation

From: Chris Hecker
To: A Small Group of Game Developers
Date: Dec 23, 2001
Subject: Wacky Invitation

A few months back, Sean Barrett and I were sitting around brainstorming game ideas. We started thinking in terms of how many really simple guys (or dudes, if you prefer) we could get on screen with modern graphics hardware. We figured the answer was "a lot". Even the most aggressive games these days on this front (like Shogun Total War) top out around 1000 visible guys, which we decided was pretty weak.

So, we wrote some tests. We told Casey Muratori about it, and he wrote some tests too. And all the tests turned out well. It was pretty clear that 100,000 visible sprite guys was possible at a reasonable framerate on a <1Ghz machine with a GF2. As soon as we saw that many dudes on screen, a ton of wacky game designs instantly popped into our heads. As we told other game designer/programmer friends about it, they too had zillions of wacky game ideas. The concept for the 0th Annual Indie Game Jam was born.

The Concept: we get a group of creative game programmer-designers together at my office (which has a big open pit area) in Oakland, CA for 3 or 4 days, give them an already-written "game engine" designed for a specific game-design-agnostic tech, include lots of support functions to make game implementation relatively easy, and let the insanity begin. The hope is that people will be able to do incredibly strange, wacky, and most importantly, _different_ games when the codebase is already done and the core technology is slightly strange and new in the first place. Participants can work on their own game, team up with others, do multiple games, do a new game every hour if you're Ken Demarest, or any combination of thereof. We'll do the Jam sometime before GDC02, show the games at the Experimental Gameplay Workshop ( at GDC, and release them (and the engine) under the GPL so other game developers can play with the idea and do some crazy shit of their own.

Doug Church, Jonathan Blow, Sean, Casey, and I (with Mahk and Austin as moral support) all got together last weekend and wrote most of the engine for IGJ0. Doug was the use-case tester for the engine, and so he wrote the 0th IGJ game, "Angry God Bowling." I've attached some screenshots of the game, showing the hordes of guys milling and flocking around, and the bowling ball, uh, bowling. This is "only" 80k guys, too. Yes, those are the pig demons from Doom. On a photoreal mountain texture. I don't know if you can hear it in these shots, but "Take the Skinheads Bowling" is playing in the background, as is a really bad bowling sound effect.

To sum up, you are cordially invited to The 0th Annual Indie Game Jam:

"100,000 Guys"


"Quantity has a quality all its own. - Joseph Stalin"

Come design something weird and new in a fun, creative, and collaborative atmosphere! Who knows what people will come up with?

If this year works out, we'll do a new Jam every year, with a new wacky technology each time.


(click on images to enlarge)

Who was involved in the 0th Indie Game Jam?

(click image to enlarge)
The core IGJ0 engine was written by Chris Hecker, Sean Barrett, Jonathan Blow, Casey Muratori, and Doug Church.

The participants in IGJ0 were, in roughly serpentine order around the room:

Sponsorship and Support

Intel generously loaned us 16 Pentium 4 1.8Ghz machines with 256MB DDR ram and GeForce 4 Ti 4600 cards for IGJ0.

We would like to personally thank Kim Pallister from Intel's Developer Relations group for making this sponsorship happen, and we'd especially like to thank and praise Intel for supporting experimental game development! If only game publishers were so forward-looking!

SourceForge Logo We'd also like to thank for hosting the project and webpages. SourceForge is an amazing resource for developers, and they enable us to share the Indie Game Jam code with everyone.

The IGJ0 Games

We were incredibly excited by the number of experimental and innovative games produced by the IGJ0 participants over the 4 days. We also saw a lot of great cooperation and sharing between everyone on all levels, include game design suggestions, small snippets of code and techniques, and even entire subsystems like networking.

The games are previewed below, and are available as binaries and in source.

Angry God Bowling
Doug Church

This was the engine sample game that everybody got when they arrived. You roll a ball and crush the flocking people, who start following a "prophet" when they get scared. We ended up hacking every possible feature into this game to demonstrate the engine, so it's a bit of a mess, as you can see from the screenshot.

Red Rover
Doug Chuch, Chris Hecker, & Austin Grossman

There are two huge armies on either side of a map, moving towards each other. You control your troops by either telling them to run away from a point laterally, or to "try harder" by concentrating in an area. Combat is resolved simply, so the troop formations just eat into each other, as you can see in the screenshot. The first army with a soldier to hit the opposite map border wins.

Doug Church, Chris Hecker, & Justin Hall

You fly a helicopter around and fight forest fires. Water is a resource, so you have to go to a lake to fill up. The trees are sprites, so it has the densest and most beautiful forests you've ever seen in a game.

Brian Sharp & Chris Carollo

Two gods compete for followers who die believing in them, so the strategy is "convert, then kill." You have a lot of tools to convert and to kill, and the tools interact with each other in interesting ways. A game of shapes and influence.

Ken Demarest & Zack Simpson
Christs by Justin Hall

A Missile Command style game, with hordes of demons trying to capture instantiations of Jesus, crucify them, and take them away while you're trying to protect them. Contains the code:
#define MAX_CHRISTS 5

Marc LeBlanc

Marc couldn't attend the whole Jam, so this game was only worked on for a few hours. You shine a spotlight over a sea of people, and see color shifts that indicate infections. One type of person flows to light, one away, and you have to try to save vulnerable creatures.

Very Serious RoboDOOM
Sean Barrett

It works a bit like the old Robotron 2084 arcade game, but this is more an artistic statement on the futility of the one-against-all power fantasy combat game. You shoot enemies and collect a group of people who follow behind you la Robotron, but as you do so the camera keeps slowly pulling out, revealing ever more clearly how hopeless your chances really are. The game makes an amazing smooth transition from action game to an artistic statement about the industry.

Total Age of Doomcraft & Conquer: Romero Alert
Robin Walker & Brian Jacobson

A super-RTS, with an innovative gestural command interface and thousands of units. It's hilariously chaotic: new units just spew forth fountain-like from the construction yards, as opposed to popping out every once in a while like in a normal RTS.

Art Min & Sean Barrett
Trooper photos by Justin Hall

You command ten super-powered ground troopers, but you are stuck in the command center as hordes of aliens start pouring over the ridges around you. This game has personalities and pictures of some of the Jam participants for all of the units, as you can see along the side of the screen.

Charles Bloom

The object is to guide a fluid through various puzzles by changing the terrain. Each sprite represents a small bit of the fluid and responds to gravity, so the whole collectively flows downhill and acts something like a real fluid. It's small and intimate space creates a wonderful contrast with the wide open spaces of the other games.

Charles' Chopper
Charles Bloom

A four-player networked game where you scoop up people of your color and try to rescue them. Vaguely based on the arcade classic Choplifter, but with lot more people.

Dueling Machine
Thatcher Ulrich
Guy variants by Justin Hall

Based on a book by Ben Bova. The game looks like a first-person shooter, but with a twist. You are in a city full of thousands of pedestrians, you have exactly one bullet, and you have to find and kill a single unique fugitive. You have a sonar that will help you locate him, but he can also hear it when you use it. This game is also 2-player networked, and it is the tensest game experience you will ever have. The audio is an integral part of the gameplay. Marc LeBlanc had the idea for the sonar, which is another example of game design cross polination at the Jam.


Pictures from the 0th Indie Game Jam:

Press Coverage

If you're a journalist and you'd like to cover the Indie Game Jam, please contact Chris Hecker at checker'at'

Press coverage of the IGJ0:

Stuff To Do

There's still some stuff to be done before putting the IGJ0 project to bed:

Chris Hecker <checker'at'>