Let me tell you how my first game jams were…

For this post, as the title says, I wanted to put on words how was my experience on the very first two game jams I participated, both of which happened last month.

Oh, the first one… we never forget

The GameBoy Jam was the first. I worked on just a few games to this day, so I don’t have that much experience, programming and designing wise. But it was an online jam, it would last more than a week, and the proposed restrictions made me forget the obstacles and just go for it (also, all the nostalgia that Game Boy games causes me helped a bit).

During the preceding week, I decided how the game was going to be (and surprisingly, I had already chosen the name) and learned how to use what I needed (Tiled is awesome). Having done that, the first weekend was very productive and it was good to see the game taking shape. I couldn’t keep the pace, as I had my regular work to focus on, but the final weekend was even more productive than the first one.

To sum up, here’s the most important stuff I learned on this jam:

  • Focus on the needed game/level design. Although I heard so many people saying this, I saw for myself how easy it is to go nuts on more and more ideas. Just throw the unnecessary crap away and work on what can make your game fun.
  • You can’t guarantee code quality. I ended up with a file that had more than 1400 lines of code! Recently, I refactored the game code a bit, but while the jam was ongoing, I couldn’t care about it.
  • The framework I used, cocos2d-x, is currently a mess when managing multiple platforms. Also, a reminder for myself: I should setup a Virtual Machine so I can build and test on Windows more quickly.
  • Doing pixel art is harder than it seems, but very rewarding if you’re committed to it.
  • I had a strange post-jam feeling. I don’t know if this happens to everyone, but, because I was working from home and I was so focused on the game, on the next few days after the jam I felt that something was missing from my life. Really.
  • Watching a “stranger” play your game is intensively fun. Such a wonderful feeling (thanks, Wayne!).

I am very happy with how Lost In Caves ended up. Creating a game with different levels is hard, but it makes people more interested in playing it.

I really liked the (little) interaction with the folks from the forum. Getting to know these people is actually what made me start tweeting (and now blogging) in english. I also want to thank all the people that helped organize the GameBoy Jam. I’ll definitely join the next one.

Human contact is needed some times

A local game jam, named CampJam, happened on a near university, and I decided to participate, even having to take all my stuff from home, as I don’t have a laptop. I teamed up with my friend, Murilo, who’s also a developer, and a nice girl we met there, Camila, who did all the art for the game. Ah, and her boyfriend was an expert (at least compared to everyone there!) on the theme, which was ‘coffee’.

This game jam also made me learn a few things:

  • Brainstorming is powerful! As the theme was revealed there, everyone gathered to discuss ideas and this helped us to quickly figure out our game design.
  • Teaming up gives you a relief because you know that you will not be doing all the work alone. By working side-by-side (literally, as you can see here) with other people, I was constantly auto-motivated.
  • For this game jam, I decided to learn something new before going for it, so I learned the basics of box2d. No, we didn’t make a platformer, but it ended up being very useful, as the game was almost entirely based on it.
  • The last hours of a jam are always really, really tense.

And the result was Office Rampage. We had a game breaking bug on the last minute of the jam, but fortunately everything ended OK.

The end

To finish this, I’d like to thanks everyone that encouraged me in both jams, specially my girlfriend, who was really supportive. She even beta-tested Lost In Caves, although she couldn’t get past level 5! Love you, my dear <3

On this coming weekend I will try to join Ludum Dare, but I’m still not sure. Either way, wish me luck!

One thought on “Let me tell you how my first game jams were…

  1. I can really identify with a lot of the points you stated.
    And not only watch other people playing it, but I think that seeing your game evolving in such little time gives an awesome feeling of power! And pride, in some ways. πŸ™‚

    I’ll definitely continue to participate in more jams, and probably even game events. You know, I never really felt part of a large community. It’s nice to relate in some ways and share all the struggling you have to finish something you love. πŸ˜€

    Nice layout btw!
    I really need to make my own website…. D:

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