Surviving game jams
What is a game jam?
- A short (48-72h) game dev competition
- On-site or remote
- Teams or solo
- Usually a theme
The hardest jam ever
- 48 hours
- Everything from scratch
- Thousands of remote participants
How to survive this?
Let's define "survive"…
- Finishing the game on time, and
- being a normal human being on Monday, and
- being a normal human being during the jam
What are you going to use?
- This is not the time to try new things
- THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO TRY NEW THINGS
- Pick a tool you are familiar with
- Does it allow rapid development?
Can you deploy your game in the web?
- You will get more people to play your game
- You will get more people to rate your game
- HTML 5 is ready to support games
Setup your machine
- Download all the software and updates you need
- Create a repository (rollbacks, online backup, etc.)
- Make a "hello world" and deploy it in your target platform
You don't want to do this when the jam just started!
- Buy your groceries before the jam
- Get HEALTHY snacks
- Try to cook something in advance and/or think of meals you can fix in <= 20 minutes
- CLEAN your habitat
- Have paper and pen at hand
Don't make plans for the weekend
- Your friends will understand
- Try to compensate your family somehow
(or get them on board!)
- No, you don't have time for "just a beer with my mates"
- In Europe the Ludum Dare has already started, so the theme will be available when you wake up
- GO OUTSIDE, make some exercise and think
- Discard your first ideas
- No, seriously. SCOPE DOWN
- Make a "must-have" list and a "nice-to-have" one
- Prepare for the fact that stuff from "must-have" will have to move to "nice-to-have"
- Ideally have some single, core mechanic that is fun
Saturday == Coding day
- Implement your core mechanic first
- Use placeholder art
- Put your dev pride aside and take all the shortcuts (hardcoding, ñapas, no refactoring…)
- Use version control (rollback, online backup…)
Saturday Night crisis
You are tired, behind schedule, there's so much more work to do, you think you're not going to make it…
Accountabiliy on "Saturday Night crisis"
- Have a friend to hold you accountable, so you can call them when you are having a rough time
- This has saved a jam for me
Ideally, you go to bed with this
Create audio assets
- Sound is way more important for gameplay than graphics!
- Use bxfr.net to create audio effects (or record yourself)
- Have a library of samples/synths you can remix or use as a foundation
- Pick an style that allows you to produce assets fast
- 2-frame animations are better than no animations
- A Wacom helps but it won't make miracles
Bug fixing and polishing
- Spend the evening fixing bugs and adding polish
- Keep making releases! Check that they work!
- Include "how to play" instructions in-game
- Have people play your game –it will surprise you
- Make the screenshots look nice. It's your game first impression.
- Write a catchy description
- Make sure the game works
Tips for both
Saturday and Sunday
- Go outside
- Do some kind of physical activity. Even a 30-minute walk will help
- Clean as you go!
- Sleep as you normally do
- Take regular breaks (pomodoro, power-nap…)
Food and drinks
- The goal is not to have peaks in your energy levels
- Don't consume junk food! Don't consume alcohol!
- Don't overconsume caffeine
- Healthy snacks: nuts, whole fruits, sugarless yoghourt, carrot sticks, guacamole, gazpacho, olives, salpicón
- Unhealthy stuff that we think it's healthy: juices, regular smoothies, a fistful of dried fruit, energy bars, cereals.
- Make your game playable on the web
- Post screenshots and the URL of your game on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
- See people play your game! It will cheer you up
After the jam
Have people play your game!
Brag about what you did
- You deserve it!
- See how your friends brag about you
- Post the URL to play your game everywhere
Write a post-mortem
- It helps if you kept a log with your progress
- I collect what I tweeted these days
- What went well, what went wrong, which tools you used…
- Learn from it
- Here are my post-mortems
Get people rate your game
- Post your post-mortem in the jam page/forum
- Tip: do it in parts so you get more exposure)
- Rate other games!
- Read what people are saying about your game (do you have a crashing bug? do people get how to play?)