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Developing three-pixel games for DCA Donations Box

DCA Minimalist Games Jam

6 April 2015

Back in November, we ran a Minimalist Games Jam for students at Abertay University, to coincide with our exhibition by Jim Campbell. Over the course of 24 hours, the students were challenged to develop a game using only three pixels, designed to be installed on the Donations Box at the entrance of DCA. 

It was a great event and we were incredibly impressed with the results - so much so that two of the games are now installed on the Donations Box and ready to be played throughout April. We spoke to designers Jordan Brown and Jeff Regis about how they developed the projects. 

Jordan Brown, designer of Interplanetary:

"We were told there was a special brief that would be revealed on the night, so I had no idea what to expect! When they announced it, I started trying to think of ways that I could introduce complexity while sticking to the constraints of the platform. I had originally thought about making a sort of 'virtual pet', but I thought it would perhaps be better to have a game that could be played in a very short time. By having all the boxes light up and start shifting colours slightly as they interacted, it keeps people interested and watching.

This was the first time I've ever properly worked with a physical installation for programming - I have practiced with electronics and microcontrollers before, but this was a whole new experience. I've learned a lot about the constraints of programming on a microcontroller - there isn't nearly as much freedom as there is on desktops or mobile phones.

"It's super cool to have something physical up and running for people to try out"

Everybody at DCA has been super helpful! All the way from the start, at the jam itself, when we had access to the specifications and code of the boxes themselves, to when I was working on them. It's super cool to have something physical up and running for people to try out - it's like building an arcade cabinet (which a few friends and I did recently). There's something very enjoyable about knowing that people will come into DCA and see something I've worked on, I just hope that they like it! "

Jeff Regis, designer of Target Roulette:

"After hearing the brief during the games jam, the idea for my game came surprisingly quickly. Three pixels is just enough space to visually convey motion, so I decided to make a simple game where players had to hit a slowly moving target. While players that are able to hit the target would be able to win fairly easily, I also wanted to make the game accessible to those that might not be very skilled at it.

There were some unique design considerations to make as well. If somebody makes a donation, how do you effectively communicate to them that they have just started playing a game? Even with such a simple game, it's very tricky to communicate meaning using only three pixels. Fortunately, DCA's patrons will be able to read a description of each game. I hope it addresses any puzzled looks!

"I really appreciated being given the creative freedom to make whatever project that I wanted to make"

Working with DCA has been wonderful. In addition to offering us the chance to work on a unique and challenging project, I really appreciated being given the creative freedom to make whatever project that I wanted to make, as long as it fit the needs of the DCA. It's great to see what was once an exercise in design and experimentation become a real product with value."

Jeff and Jordan's games are available to play on DCA Donations Box on alternating weeks throughout April. A third game, developed by Gordon Mckendrick and Kelsey Paton, will be available soon on Google Play.

All the donations we receive through our Donations Box help to support our artistic programme. 

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  • TinaC

    I’ll be watching Jordan’s future work with interest.

    09 April 2015 23:15