A Dev Night to remember

Cipher Prime hosts a Dev Night every Thursday for gamers. Albert Hong | TTN
Cipher Prime hosts a Dev Night every Thursday for gamers. Albert Hong | TTN

When you’re walking down Chestnut Street to local video game developer Cipher Prime for its weekly Dev Night, don’t be surprised to be standing in front of a normal apartment building. On the door of the second floor, you know you’re in the right place with a sign that says, “Just knock (Dev Night Inside).”

Shawn Pierre, winner of this year’s Philly Geek Award for Game of the Year for his card game These French Fries are Terrible Hot Dogs, is a co-organizer of the event, which started from him and Will Stallwood, co-founder of Cipher Prime, just hanging out.

“We wanted to create a space where we could invite more people to collaborate and socialize,” Pierre said. “More and more people started to show up and it just turned into this ‘extravaganza.’”

Last Thursday was no exception with it being the showcase for Dev Night’s monthly game jam.

A game jam is where a group of developers, amateurs and experts alike, gather to make a game within a short amount of time, all centered on a specific theme. This month, creators had a week to make a game that focused on “playgrounds.”

Game jams are becoming more and more prevalent with more global online jams taking place, like Ludum Dare 30 that just finished last Monday. A pleasure that comes from these jams is getting to see the infinite ways that people craft their vision around each theme and it was entertaining to see what “playgrounds” meant for the three teams at Dev Night.

Camden Segal, website and game developer, showed off his winning game that displayed a top-down view of a playground while players used their phones to control different colored blobs sliding around and tackling one another in a game of reverse-tag.

A more unconventional but equally fun game came from a group of friends collaborating to make their first game for the jam, where players controlled a small creature trying to traverse their way around a space strewn with obstacles.

Alex Burkholder created the art, Andrew Leing did the programming and Doug Gorelick composed the music for the rough game, all in about four days. They plan on continuing to work on the game.

While there is a focus on the amount of work that gets done in such a small amount of time, not a lot of work actually gets done during these weekly meetings.

Kotaro Fujita, founder and developer at Tomato Boy LLC, also known as the “meet-and-greet guy” of Dev Night, admits how the event has turned into more of a resting place.

“Dev Night was originally meant for people who wanted to get work done, but it’s now more of a place where everyone just chills and relaxes with some games,” Fujita said.

Just as Steve Pettit, a game designer from Drexel University, told me, “these are the most laid back people you’ll meet.”

Andy Mroczkowski, lead engineer of Three Rings, a game studio based in San Francisco with a presence in Philly, could see how the gaming and development community has grown in order to get meet-ups like this started.

“It’s a very vibrant grassroots community,” Mroczkowski said.

With Philadelphia continually being recognized as a tech/gaming hub with things like our own Tech Week and the naming of North 3rd Street as “N3rd Street,” this is a side of the city that has to be experienced alongside all of the music, food and fashion it offers.

Three Rings will be sponsoring the next game jam this month, so interested gamers, come to 239 Chestnut St. on Thursdays at 7 p.m.

Just knock.

Albert Hong can be reached at albert.hong@temple.edu

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