lessons I learned From My First Game Jam
A few weeks ago I participated in my first 48 hours game jam. It was amazing and unique. I mean, I was game jamming for the first time in Tbilisi, Georgia! Who would've thought?!
“A game jam is a gathering of people for the purpose of planning, designing, and creating one or more games within a short span of time, usually ranging between 24 and 72 hours. Participants are generally made up of programmers, game designers, artists, writers, and others in game development-related fields.”
My First Game Jam Experience
The game jam started with a keynote from the organizer which I understood absolutely nothing from because it was in Georgian. I was pretending I’m aware of what’s happening by laughing when they laugh and act serious when they do (nodding my head mostly!). Yeah, I know, I looked like an idiot!
Anyway, after the keynote, I asked the organizers to tell me what is the theme of the game jam and to help me find a team who can speak English. Everyone was extremely nice and helped me find my crazy and amazing team, the Duct Tape Team.
My team consisted of a graphic designer, two programmers and myself. They all spoke English but they did switch to Georgian every time they forget I don’t understand their language. Then, I would start jumping and waving my hand all over the place and say “English English please or I’ll start giving you fines!!”. I was trying to scare them I guess but didn't always work -.-"
After forming the team and getting to know each other, we started thinking about the idea and what type of game we want to build. The game jam theme was to develop a fantasy game with the option of making it an Augmented Reality (AR) game. The theme was a bit broad I thought but I believe they didn’t want to limit the developers' creativity. Regardless, we came up with the idea after many discussions and we decided to make a multiplayer AR game.
Then, it was time to get to work.
We started setting up the project and dividing up the work between us. For the most part, I was responsible for designing and coding the gameplay and levels. Nicka (superhero #1) was responsible for handling the player mechanics and the networking part. Luka (superhero #2) was responsible for the power ups, AR part and a whole lot of other things. To be completely honest, my responsibilities weren't as complicated as the responsibilities of the superheroes in my team. Mainly because I wasn’t as fast as they were and there were few technologies that were new to me.
Although this was my first game jam, I usually participate in many competitions. Mostly the competitions which give you few months to submit a game. Therefore, I'm used to taking my time. However, I realized that game jams teach you how to be fast in solving problems and handling pressure. It’s an amazing and extremely important skill. Anyway, I kept on coding and observing the superheroes I’m working with. Trying to learn how they are handling pressure and what skills they have and I still don’t.
After many hours of coding and observing, it was time to submit and present our game.
It was a horrible presentation -.- Actually, the worst.
The problem was that we didn’t think about how we want to present the game. Not planning how to showcase a multiplayer AR game was a huge mistake. A video would’ve been the best way to showcase a game like ours. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time for that. Nonetheless, the game was actually fun to play. We enjoyed playing it together. That fact made us happy at least.
Also, it’s not really about winning. What really matters is the experience and what we've learned from it.
Me the Next day:
No I'm kidding XD I truly enjoyed this jam even thought we didn't win.
Lessons I Learned From My First Game Jam
Plan how to showcase your game in advance. Whether it's a video or a live demo, prepare how you want to present the game early on to avoid any problems.
Test the game repeatedly whenever a new part is added. This will help in finding bugs and will show you what's finished of the game and what not.
Eliminate unnecessary gameplay features:
After testing the game you should decide what should be fixed and/or eliminated. If something is taking too long to be finished and adding it won’t make a big difference to the gameplay, then removing it altogether is a better choice.
Don’t add extra features unless you’re 100% sure you have enough time to finish & test them.
Using a collaboration tool like Git or whatever your team members prefer is essential. It's basically heaven!
Participate in more game jams to improve your coding speed, learn new skills and meet awesome superheroes :D
Feel free to share your own game jam experience and what you have learned in the comments below ;)