It has now been 2 weeks since the jam. I am finally making the time to write about it. As a side note, I posted to twitter while at the jam (I had very little sleep during the later parts of the jam so forgive any nonsense). Check our twitter feed starting from Jan 30th for those.
The Global Game Jam in brief was like a Lan Party but at the end you made a game instead of just played them. It was noncompetitive, the goal being to pump out as many cool games as possible. I went to the San Francisco-Silicon Valley jam and met a bunch of awesome people. I had an amazing time and definitely plan to do it again next year!
My teams room (no, that isn't a real person playing the guitar in the back, he is made out of cardboard (yes, it is a real person sleeping in the back, I don't know who that is))
My jam was located at Cogswell College just south of San Francisco. They did an incredible job of running the event and supporting all the participants. There was always plenty of food/drink to consume and we never had any power or networking problems. They made it easy to concentrate on making games.
There were about 35 participants at this location (hundreds of others around the globe) and we split into 7 teams of 5 people each. I think there were mostly programmers followed by artists and then a few producers and audio people.
Teams were initially (for the most part) chosen at random. You were free to move around and change up teams of course, however, it seemed like most people ended up staying with their random team which surprised me.
My team included:
Rob Jagnow: Programmer
James Hudson: Programmer
Jerome Bolusan: Artist
Dakota Hurst: Technical Artist/Programmer/Audio
and Me, Brian Cronin: Programmer
The theme set for all games was: "Whenever we are together, we will never run out of problems".
The contraints were:
- A complete play session must always last 5 minutes or less.
- Have ONE of the following adjectives to incorporate in your game: thin, evolved, or rotating.
The whole event went from 5pm, Friday, Jan 30th to 3pm, Sunday, Feb 1st (I was told there was some important sporting event on this day involving a pig's skin that is tossed around a field with the goal of avoiding large agressive men who wish to tickle you).
Friday night was mostly about meeting everyone and forming teams. It was also when we learned of our theme and constraints. This was so people couldn't start working on anything before the event (it was a 48 hour jam after all) but also to force us to be creative.
We had about half an hour to talk to our team members and come up with a game idea(s). Our team worked really well together during this process and came to an agreement on a game concept very quickly. We decided that the theme called for a 2 player game. The theme also implied working together while also competing against each other. We decided that the players should be tied together with a sort of electric rubber band while trying to collect more coins than the other player. We chose the rotating adjective by having the players make turns around the level, thus causing the camera to rotate with them (turned out to be cooler than it sounds now that I type it). Our final game idea was modified very little throughout the development process as you can see:
Here's one of the game's many wild TURNS!!!
After this short design meeting, the teams presented their ideas to the entire group and some feedback was given. After this, we all rushed to find the best room to begin work.
The rest of the night was about setup and preparation for the next very full day of work. We decided to use XNA for the project. Only 1 of us had more than a day or two experience of with it. We decided to use it anyway as part of the point of the jam was to use and learn new technology and methods. My experience with XNA was generally good.
Our team (except for Dakota who I suspect to be a vampire, warewolf, or something) went to bed around 2am that night so we could get some rest to finish the game.
Saturday was when we got most of the game done (It is mostly a blur at this point). We worked on physics, input, rendering (per pixel lighting and shadows = awesome), level design, modeling, menu flow, and probably a bunch of other stuff. There was a ton of energy and always a lot of work to do. It was a blast!
Sunday, some of us got some sleep and some continued to polish up parts of the game. It was all coming together and we were really excited. The most surprising part of Sunday morning was finally playing the game with somebody else and realizing it was a lot of fun!
After putting in some final polish and fixing one last bug, we all ran down to the auditorium to see all the team's games and show ours off.
All the games were very impressive considering they were made in less than 48 hours by teams of people who had never worked together before. Each game had at least 1 unique and interesting aspect to it.
Considering I plan to do this again next year, here is a right/wrong list...
5 things that went right:
- Very little team conflict, everyone was on the same page.
- Game design and scope, we didn't attempt to compete with Halo 4.
- Iteration, we used XNA and SVN which allowed us to quickly iterate game ideas.
- Communication, everyone was in the same room and was able to work together when they needed as well as, for the most part, leave somebody alone when they were working on a vital aspect of the game.
- Fun, we weren't struggling to make the game so we were able to have fun and enjoy the experience.
5 things that went wrong:
- Level format + pipeline: some more thought up front in our level pipeline would have saved a lot of time later on.
- XNA: it was great overall and I do not regret using it, but I did end up spending a large amount of time doing a few things that should not have taken so long (I speak only for myself on XNA).
- Sound code: the actual audio was great but we had some issues later in the project related to stopping and starting a music track. It wasn't the end of the world, but it was annoying.
- More time, the event was only 48 hours but because of the previously mentioned sports event, we had more like 36 hours, that meant we had less time to sleep.
- More art help, we had only 1 dedicated artist and he definitely had too much to do, one more dedicated artist would have been nice.