Wow, what a jam. (Literally, we were the only team to win two things of Jam). This was my second official game jam that I have completed. Both were of very similar format, 48 hours, I was on a team of 4, built a game in Unity, etc. Last jam we built a pretty awesome game, it was actually fun and won jammers choice as people’s favorite game. This time, we won most ambitious game and buggiest game. Yup, our game barely worked at all, there were so many bugs and missing features that the game was essentially unplayable to the general public. So what was different this time?
We had some trouble brainstorming this time, I think it was because only two of us were really contributing and as such we had some trouble coming up with an idea for a game. The idea we ended up using wasn’t actually come up with by the team, it was with my friend who I had been discussing game ideas with the day before. It was a pretty cool idea but we should have realized that this game would be way too much work.
I also learned that making a puzzle game was hard. I had actually never built a puzzle game before and didn’t really think about the fact that building the levels in a puzzle game would be hard. In our last game, building the levels was one of the easiest parts and took almost no time. When designing levels for a puzzle game though, you need to have a really good understanding of how the mechanics work together and use that to design your levels. Since in a game jam you have so little time to spend on a working game (I’m going to estimate 5-15 hours on average), it really didn’t lend its self well to that format. There is also the fact that I basically have no level design experience, I mean I know some of the theory and can kind of recognise what makes a level good but that doesn’t equal having lots of experience.
I also learned that if you are demoing your game in a pick up and play setting, the mechanics need to be simple. Like intuitively simple. The first thing you did in our game was to unlock jump, but when there is 4 people on the screen moving around unable to jump, it just resulted in us having to explain what to do.
Oh and art. We had a team of 3 and were looking for a 4th, we said that we were flexible and were happy to have an artist or a programmer (or anyone really) join our team. Being UW, no real surprise that a programmer joined our team. Which was great, he really helped us get stuff done, but we just kind of assumed that we could get free art off the internet (like we did for our last game) but what we didn’t realize is how long that would take us, how bad it looked and that it was impossible to find custom pieces (which related to specific mechanics). Next time we definitely need an artist.
Also, I wrote a heck of a lot of code, like I feel like the majority of the 23 code files we had were written by me. And it felt awesome. Friday night and Saturday I was just a machine putting out code, I got to apply all the things I have learned about development during my last work term and the previous game jam and made some code I think will stand the test of time. It felt really nice being able to work on something I actually feel good at. Like video editing is cool, but with all artistic things there is a sense of doubt (and I mean, I’m really not that good at filming or editing) and school kicks my ass on a regular basis. Even my last work term was pretty tough. But just being able to hammer out a bunch of code on a tight deadline felt good.
On Sunday I ended up doing some refactoring. I wasn’t a huge fan of some of the code and how things were implemented. In hindsight I should have just left them, it’s a game jam, code is going to be a mess.
Overall, next time we need a more balanced and experienced team and we need to focus on making a smaller game which we can really polish up :)