When scrolling through YouTube searching for game development tutorials, you’ll likely find yourself overwhelmed by the options available. There’s plenty to rifle through, but a lot of what you’ll encounter can be pretty dry and technical. That’s where Mix and Jam comes in. Mix and Jam is a YouTube channel devoted to replicating fun mechanics from popular video games in the Unity development software, providing a unique and entertaining way to learn more about making games.
Brazilian-born game developer André Cardoso started Mix and Jam as a way to practice and hone his own skills, with his first video released in February 2019 being an attempt to recreate the Kingdom Select Screen from Super Mario Odyssey. Since then, he’s turned his attention to other popular mechanics. These have included the Axe Throw from 2018’s God of War, Metal Gear Rising’s Blade Mode, and Monument Valley’s mind-bending level design, among others.
Game Dev: Origins
Cardoso first became interested in game development at a very early age, growing up in Recife, Pernambuco, in Brazil. It was during this time that he realized many of his favorite games were the ones where he could customize items or demonstrate his design skills — something he felt was specific enough to warrant chasing a career in the games industry.
“Growing up, I wanted to work in games, but I didn’t really think it was possible,” Cardoso tells me over the phone. “Because the industry in Brazil is not so prevalent and there’s not much education, [though it’s getting better].”
As a result, he put his dreams of making games to one side for a couple of years. That is, until he started a design bachelor’s degree and was eventually given the opportunity to learn how to program and use Unity as part of a year spent studying abroad in the US.
“Since I was a kid who didn’t have a lot of access I kind of dived deep into it,” he says, looking back at the experience. “That’s why I kind of love it nowadays and feel more confident. Because I really studied super hard… I learned so, so, so, so, so freakin’ much.”
Returning home to Brazil, he remembers feeling disappointed at losing access to these opportunities. Almost immediately he began trying to find ways of practicing and improving while at home. One method he landed upon was participating in game jams. Another, meanwhile, was to take ideas from his favourite games and try to recreate them with affordable tools. After receiving some positive feedback on his work on Github, he eventually decided to launch the Mix and Jam channel to detail his process.
Jamming With Friends
Since he started his channel, Cardoso has gone on to make many videos based on mechanics from popular video games, but his favorite is his video on Super Mario Galaxy’s Launch Star. In this video, he teaches developers how to create a similar effect in Unity, before demonstrating the creation in action. The video was also significant for marking the first appearance of Jammo, the Mix and Jam mascot, that YouTube creators Curiomatic built as a stand-in for the moustachioed plumber.
“Mario Galaxy has such a special place in my heart that is just so – I don’t know – it’s very nostalgic and I really like the animation,” explains Cardoso. “And… sometimes the thing that makes me really like the project is its modularity, because you can make mechanics and they kind of reproduce what you want visually, but they’re not functional in other scenarios unless you hook things together, and in the Mario Galaxy one I did a system that you can set a point of start and like an ending point and you can basically draw the curve, the path, where Mario or in this case Jammo will fly.”
Collaboration has become a key feature of the channel. As Mix and Jam has grown in popularity, Cardoso has found himself in a position to be able to work on and jam out ideas with others in the industry. These include 3D artist and indie developer Max Turnbull who produced a 3D character and some props for the Monument Valley video; the game developer and content creator Freya Holmér who built a script for the Link Between Worlds’ Wall Merge video, and the musician and 3D artist Scruffy who designed Pikmin-esque characters, props, and sound effects for the Pikmin video.
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Inevitably, because of the nature of the channel, there have been a lot of fan requests for features to reproduce.
“There are two… where there are reasons,” Cardoso answers. “The reasons why I [don’t] do [them] is one, complexity; and two, they’re resource intensive. A lot of people asked for the Spider-Man web-slinging one. That one is kind of crazy, because it just requires so much animation and I’m a perfectionist. So to make it really feel like the way it feels in the Spider-Man PS4 game would be insane. And then there’s also the most famous request, which is the Portal gun from Portal. Which seems simple at a glance and then you dig deep into the mechanic and you’re like ‘Ohhhh.’” For now, Cardoso has put these two projects on hold.
The Mix and Jam channel now boasts over 100k subscribers. Each video manages to be not only an in-depth look at a single mechanic and how similar effects can be achieved, but an attempt to educate and encourage excitement around the game development process. His efforts haven’t gone unnoticed either, with many high-profile figures within the games industry sharing and messaging him with support for his videos. The attention, he admits, has been a little overwhelming.
“I freaked out,” says Cardoso. “The first big share — and that was already crazy was — Steven Lumpkin that works at Guerrilla Games. To this day, I still feel that it’s so great that these people watch it and like it. I kind of just feel like I want to cry sometimes, it’s kind of crazy. It still is to this day. It’s very hard for any game developer who isn’t present in the industry in Europe, America, Japan. Like it’s very hard to get noticed and I appreciate it so much to this day.”