The team’s semi-annual game jam, better known as NextJam, took flight last week resulting, as always, in some awesome creativity and bonding
Recently, the team at Boundless Entertainment, a Scopely Studio, held their eighth game jam, better known to the team as “NextJam” – a three day celebration that takes place twice a year. Designed to empower and celebrate game creation and creativity, this year’s theme was “Escape the day to day” and the Boundless team worked on developing new skills, creating innovative things for live and/or in-development games as well as developing a new game completely!
To talk more about NextJam, we had a chance to chat with Matt Ott, Director of Special Projects and Incubation at Boundless, who gave some insight about this game jam and why it’s important to the Boundless team.
What is NextJam? How does it work? How did it originate?
NextJam is a three day celebration held twice a year (in the spring and fall) for our studio to come together and make innovative things. From new games and new features on our live games, to solo learning projects, there’s something for everyone. We encourage people to step outside the box and try new roles like Art, Design, or Programming. We also encourage team members to work with new people from throughout the studio. The main goals of our NextJams are personal development, creativity, recharging, and having fun.
The first NextJam was started by a small team that had an idea for a mobile game. They worked with their managers to coordinate a time for the creators to work together during the same week of “PTO.” They moved their workstations into a conference room together and made a fun team-based game in just one week, and pitched it to the studio. We didn’t end up developing the game, but we were so energized by the burst of creativity that we knew we needed to organize a larger, team-wide event. Eight Jams later, we now schedule the time for our entire studio to participate.
What is the theme for this year’s NextJam? What does it mean to Boundless?
“Escape the day to day”
Most game jams outside of Scopely have a theme that hints at the type of games you should make. There’s even a whole community-made theme generator. We decided a theme was too limiting for our NextJams, but we still want every jam to feel unique and different so we settled on having a swag theme for each jam.
From there the process is not very complex. We throw out some swag theme ideas in our committee meeting. The person who volunteers to design our swag (Brittney Vines, a UI artist on “MARVEL Strike Force”) suggested dinosaurs and the theme of “Escape the day to day.” We always design a shirt, but we also found a website that sold fossils for pretty cheap to include in the swag box too.
I love this theme because that’s what Next Jam is all about – a chance to break into a new job like trying Art or Design or Engineering for the first time, or working together to discover a break-out hit game. All while making new friends and recharging creatively, since we put our regular work on hold for the week.
What is the goal(s) for NextJam?
Learning new skills, making new friends, and exploring new ideas. That might take the form of a new feature on “MARVEL Strike Force”, or an entirely new game pitch, or doing a learning project like the Blender Donut or a Unity Microgame.
What does Scopely/Boundless do with the ideas that originate from these sessions? Can you share any examples of NextJam ideas being implemented?
One of the highlights of the jam is our Demo Days. In the weeks following a jam, each team shares their game or project to the studio. Many stop there, but others apply those ideas into the “Boundless Incubator,” which is a program that lets games advance even further, starting with 20% time and ultimately moving into full-time development. To date, four game ideas have entered the Boundless Incubator, and one of them will be pitched to Scopely leadership, potentially becoming our first greenlight success story.
We also explore feature ideas for our existing games. Some fan-favorite features in “MARVEL Strike Force” like costumes and the real-time combat arena started as NextJams.
How long have you been a part of the Boundless team?
Eight years total. I joined Scopely in 2014, and then joined the team that would become Boundless in 2016. It’s been an amazing journey!
We’ve spent many years iterating to success on our NextJam and Incubator programs. I would be delighted to help share some of those techniques, resources, and lessons with any teams in Scopely that are hoping to start jams of their own!