Stephs experience at the first ever Valkyrie Jam

Steph one of our game devs, had the privilege to be a part of the first ever Valkyrie Jam on July 15th! Two all-women teams spent ten days in Boden (north of Sweden) making games from scratch. Here, she shares her  experience with us:

It was hands down one of the best experiences of my life, from both a personal and a professional perspective.
Women are vastly outnumbered in the field of making games. It feels like a luxury to meet and work with other women who choose to be a part of the games industry, especially those in developer roles, which is a little unsettling. It is even more unusual to be a part of a complete team of women who cover every development role. Being at the Valkyrie Jam felt like some magical alternate dimension, where time stood still, the sun didn’t set, and it was warm in every sense of the word.

We kicked off the first day with getting to know everyone and brainstorming within our teams.
Our process began with the roles we wanted to take on within the team, avoiding the assumption that we’d stick to our day jobs (three game designers, an audio designer, an art director and a producer). We ended up with four gameplay programmers, one UI implementer and a 2D artist, with everyone willing to swap out and support where they could.

We then thought about genres and games that could fit around a team with those roles exclusively, as well as a game that, most importantly, could be made in a short amount of time.
With those prerequisites we settled on the theme “Valkyrie”, and wanted to do a single level/arena style local multiplayer brawler, with some twist in it’s mechanics/motivations during play. We had this idea that the players with the highest “glory” score from an initial brawling phase would turn into Valkyries and be paired up with Viking players that they would have to carry to Valhalla in a vertical race! We managed to get a playable, completable, but a little unbalanced version of our game done in four days with just the barebones core mechanics. At which point we did a playtest together, reviewed what we’d made and decided where we should go to bring it up in quality and experience!

From there we pivoted away from the team racing mechanic into more of a vertical “capture the flag”. Now instead of having the highest scoring players becoming Valkyries, we made the highest scoring player a Viking and the other three players had to frantically try to capture the Viking and carry them to Valhalla. During the ascent, anyone who topped the score of the current Viking, traded places with them and became the Viking instead, and this mechanic added some nice frantic pacing to the brawl.
With this new direction we also added more moves for both the Viking and Valkyries and tweaked the values and balance of the existing move sets and scoring of the characters. We also started to add a ton of polish, like camera shakes, controller rumbles, effects and animations to contribute to the overall game feel.

Four days later we ended up with a game that was definitely playable, although a little bit buggy!
Both teams ended up wanting to do some small post-jam fixes and so we’ll be uploading the games to the Valkyrie Jam itch.io account as soon as we’re done, so keep posted.
I hope that events like these can encourage women to give game development a shot or help someone, anyone, who loves games but doesn’t realise it’s a potential career for them.

Sponsors of Valkyrie Jam: Coffee Stain, Mojang, Raw Fury, The Game Assembly, Changemaker Educations