Well it was that time of year again. This past weekend I participated in the Global Game Jam.
The basic premise of a game jam is that you gather a room full of folks who have an interest in making games, give them a topic for inspiration, and set them loose for a couple days. The participants run the gamut from professionals, to amateurs, to enthusiasts with no previous experience. At the end of the weekend every single participant will have created something that didn’t previously exist and they will have learned something they didn’t previously know. A game jam is the kind of creative refuelling that can propel a person, or a whole team, for a good long time.
It can also be gruelling, frustrating, and tense. At about the halfway point, not one part of your game will function exactly like you imagined. Likely it will be in such a miserable and precarious state that it will feel like the game won’t ever play properly. You will probably have a few wins. Brief glimmers that hint at what the game could be. Those are usually enough to power you through all the setbacks.
This year I was on a team that really took a swipe at something ambitious. We laid out a concept that was more than we could ever accomplish in 2 days, but very quickly trimmed that down to something potentially doable. A bite sized chunk of the larger concept. We divided up the work efficiently, and everyone seemed to have a really good idea of what it was we were trying to make. It was a very collaborative, creative experience, and everyone was able to contribute in ways that played to their strengths. Just all around a really good time.
I was going to do a postmortem, 5 things that went right, 5 things that went wrong. I think instead I’ll just jot down a few things I learned.
Prefabs are your friend. Prepackage as much stuff as you can early on. Make smart building blocks.
Physics engines will rarely act in predictable ways, but they can be the most useful tool in the box. Like a table saw, use physics engines carefully.
Always make a very simple test level, minus all bells and whistles. Test any concepts and functions there first. I rarely remember to do this, and I always regret it.
Bring your glasses. My eyes are still pretty good, but 12 hours of unblinking computer work will tax younger eyes than mine. I sometimes forget how old my eyes really are.
Bring some slippers. They are nice on the feet.
A good team makes work more fun. (I knew this one before, but it never hurts to reinforce it)
Our game prototype is up at the global gamejam site and can be found at the end of this link. Please give it a spin, and tell me what you think.