We've returned from beautiful Belgrade with an arm full of awards and we're totally shattered.
We won the Technical award and 2nd overall prizes, go here for photos, videos and to download the jam games: http://www.nordeushackathon.com/
Everyone at Nordeus and Belgrade were super friendly and helpful. We're super glad that we get invited to attend despite the difficulties caused by bad weather.
Read about the trip after the break
So we left for Manchester Airport on early Friday morning but little did we know that we wouldn't be arriving at the Nordeus Hackathon until after the game jam had started on Saturday afternoon.
Upon arrival at the check-in desk we were told that our flight was delayed and that we'd miss the connecting flight, no biggy, we'll just head over to the information desk to rebook an alternate flight a few hours later (could have used the extra sleep but no matter).
Then Vivienne was initially refused to fly by Frankfurt Sec Desk because they weren't sure if she needed a visa to enter Serbia (she didn't). Luckily we had an e-mail from the Serbian embassy stating this and we were free to travel (phew!).
A few hours later and we were on our way and tucking into a nice cheese sandwich on the flight (it was a choice between cheese and salami). But wasn't going to be the end of our problems. The flight we were on was also delayed due to bad weather and we would land minutes after our new connecting flight took off.
Uh oh, and it looks like we weren't the only ones stranded by the delay as the Lufthansa information desk in Munich had an hour long queue for rebookings. Luckily we'd automatically been rebooked before we landed!
Except this was bad because the re-rebooking took us through Zurich. "So what?" you might ask, well apparently unless you have an schengen visa you can't have 2 German airports in your journey (even if you're not stopping in Germany or ever leaving the security area of the airport). We knew this already from a previous misadventure so we had to get a ticket and wait in line for the information desk after all. (A schengen visa takes a month to get and the flight was booked 2 weeks ago so we couldn't have gotten one anyway).
At this point we were shattered, hungry and thirsty but the airline had left a trolley of biscuits and bottled water by the information desk which we helped our selves to and used airport wifi to inform the Nordeus organizers that we'd be late. They were concerned that we hadn't checked-in at the hostel they booked for us.
The new flight we booked wouldn't be till the next morning and the airline gave us each a complimentary meal voucher (worth 10 Euros) and offered 2 of us a hotel over night. I saw 2 of us because as you'll remember Vivienne didn't have a German visa so had to spend the night in the departure lounge. Needless to say it was not idea the night before a 24 hour game jam. (or ever)
After sharing some nice Thai food in the departure lounge, we said good night to/abandoned Vivienne and went to find the shuttle bus for the hotel. It was really cold by this point and the lady at the information desk just said to wait by bus stop 11. So there we waited... and waited, we watched the same bus go round twice before checking the bus time table which said "on request" so we turned to go back inside (knowing our luck the bus would arrive the moment we left) and asked another information desk lady to call the hotel for us. She told us again to wait by the bus stop but looked surprised when we told her we were there for 45 minutes already.
Eventually we arrived at the hotel which was in the middle of no where in a small village made up of hotels and farm land and had the most spooky looking corridors. Julian even caught a light mote on his phone camera just like on those most haunted shows! At least we could have a shower and sleep in a bed, more than can be said for poor Vivienne, alone in the airport.
The next day we set off back to the airport, met up with Vivienne and gave her our remaining meal vouchers for breakfast. (The hotel had breakfast included). Got on the flight and arrived without further delays. Nordeus had booked us a taxi which would take us directly to their offices. (The taxi driver was friendly but kept texting while driving on the motorway...)
When we arrived the game jam had already started and we found out that the theme was going to be "Squad based puzzle platformer" (which is a bit specific for a game jam theme but whatever, we'll roll with that). We were led to our office room which will be our own little spot for the rest of the jam and then was bombarded with forms to sign, t-shirts to put on, flags to wave, photos to be taken and interviews to be filmed. (We'd just arrived after traveling since 4am the day before with little sleep) Luckily someone spotted how shattered we must have looked and ushered the film crew out of our office so we could collect ourselves.
The rest of the game jam went by in a blur of constant crunch time, pizzas, drinks and incessant interviews and updates interspersed with shifts napping on the one sofa in the room. My head was spinning from the lack of sleep, nausea, blocked nose and stuffed up ear from the flight which gave me the worst ear pain ever. Also eating too much at the Munich hotel earlier probably didn't help but I can never resist a buffet. I felt like death through the whole jam.
I ended up sleeping on the sofa more than anyone else despite Vivienne being the one who was stuck in an airport over night. Julian only managed 30 minutes on the sofa before being interrupted by a staff member.
Somehow we managed to finish on time (even though we'd been given an extra 2 hours because we arrived late) we aimed to finish at the same time and were confident we'd be winning a prize (or at least I was, maybe through delirium) but we did it and we were thrilled!
(Our old friend from Spark up had arrived at this time and we greeted him by the elevators before showing him and his girlfriend around. Nordeus is apparently the dream games company to work for in Eastern Europe)
We sat back and waited for the results, we watched the other game presentations and felt we were in a good position for an award at least but there were some really impressive looking entries.
With fingers crossed they announced the winners...
We had won the Technical Complexity award!
We were happy for just having managed to complete a game despite all the challenges we had faced but we had our eye on the PS4 all the same. We accepted our award and collected our Apple TVs and sat back down. I was commenting on how we usually end up with 5th or 6th place in game jams so this was consistent but then...
We won 2nd place as well!
We thought that was it when we sat back down and that we wouldn't be getting anything else, we were truly surprised by winning 2 awards, Vivienne looked a bit confused while holding the prize like it was a mistake. We collected our ipad air 2s and thought "well we couldn't have fit 3 PS4's into our luggage anyway and that this was a better prize after all".
We were over the moon. All the hardship was forgotten and we celebrated by heading to the hostel and going straight to bed. Except we found some time to also walk around the old town in Belgrade because when else would we find the chance otherwise? We took in the sights (what sights we could make out in the pitch black and freezing fog) and visited the fort on the opposite bank of the river our hostel was floating on. When we returned we chatted with some fellow contestants who were staying at the same hostel before finally getting our well deserved rest.
The next morning we had breakfast and gave one last interview and finally headed home. Tired but triumphant.
Also by the end of the trip we'd eaten the same Lufthansa cheese sandwiches 4 times in a row and the salami option was the same cheese but with added turkey. If I never see another Lufthansa cheese sandwich I'll be happy.
Update 6/29/2016: Here is the promo video for Nordeus Hackathon 2015: