This year, I participated in my first Global Game Jam (GGJ), which is a 48-hr hackathon focused on game development. In those 48 hours, you'll find a team, brainstorm ideas, collaborate, playtest, and publish a game. Each jam also has a theme for its games. This year's theme was "duality".

I teamed up with the two gentleman that I met in the Pittsburgh GGJ Discord: Matt Pietropaoli (programmer) and Lawrence Zheng (artist). In the first couple of hours, we came up with the idea of a puzzle game themed around light and shadows. The following hours were filled with Matt coding in Godot Engine, Lawrence designing 2D pixel art in Aseprite, and myself composing background music and editing sound effects in Avid Pro Tools. In the end, we created our game: Umbral Tower, a 2D puzzle platformer that you must solve with your shadowy companion.

My favorite part about our team was the mutual respect and trust for everyone's individual skill sets. We all worked at our own pace while checking in periodically for short stand-up meetings. In a mere 48 hours, three strangers were able to come together, plan, organize, discuss, and create a video game (mind you, this was all remote).

Big thanks to Matt and Lawrence for collaborating with me on this project. Also big thanks to Michael Lee for organizing the Pittsburgh Game Jam Site.

Gameplay Trailer

Theme Music

The majority of my Game Jam was spent composing the theme music. The general idea was to write a fantasy piece that was both relaxing and dark to complement our shadowy puzzle game. To accomplish this, I used instruments typically used in fantasy music (i.e. flute, harp, violin) and wrote melodies with dark inflections at 90 BPM. I was able to compose this in Pro Tools using my MIDI keyboard.


My crude MS Paint sketch of the initial game idea.

My concept map for the game's level design. While some of these concepts were abandoned due to scope, there were still some ideas from this design that made it into the final game.

Initial Character Sketches from Lawrence

Character Sprites

Main Menu Screen

'Cylinders & Squares' was our team name. Funny enough, no one on our team suggested this name. This name was actually created by someone who was initially on our team but switched teams before any brainstorming could occur. Regardless, we decided to stick with it.