My first game jam!

This weekend was an awesome experience for me. I have never done a game jam before, but jumped at the opportunity when told about it. A few people showed up to see what they can do, and I had the opportunity to team up with Adam White, who did some amazing art for our little game.

I had jumped into the jam knowing little of what I wanted to create, but knowing full well I wanted to have made something with flixel by the end of the weekend. Needless to say, I was incredibly impressed with how much I got done with the framework in such a short time.

While our game isn’t anything spectacular, we were able to finish it in the time that we were allotted which as far as I’m concerned makes it a success.

A few things learned from this weekend that helps keep things moving smoothly for Adam and I:

Prepare yourself early.

The night before the jam, I got my entire development environment setup. I assumed that I was going to be doing work in either flixel, or aiding on a team that might be coding in XNA. I updated my system with the latest patches, got both flixel and XNA to the latest versions, and tested compiling and running some sample projects for both platforms. I bookmarked important documentation, and downloaded a few free tools that were going to be useful for me during development. Also, I put a bunch of these tools that I was going to be using for myself up on a public folder on my FTP, so I could distribute them to my team to get them up to speed as soon as possible. Needless to say, my computer ran smoothly, I had all my tools and docs available, and I was able to jump into creating as soon as we started throwing ideas at the wall.

Start off playing some games, talking about ideas and mechanics/systems.

You aren’t going to have too much time during a short jam, so take an hour or two talking about some ideas that you enjoy, things that you may want to incorporate into a game. Play a few games that you’ve found recently that might be easy to replicate. Settings, moods, gameplay will start to fall into place during your discussions. Have the artist attempt to prototype your game on paper while the coder gets started on some basics for the game like character drawing/input, camera movement, etc.

Never turn back.

After you’ve decided on a design, keep going with it. We had hoped that our game would have some depth to it, and many more gameplay mechanisms than it ended with.  After getting far enough into the jam, we were running out of time, and decided to lock our featureset. Rather than worrying about adding extra features to make our game fun, we decided to take what we had, and make *that* the game.

Design small. Code to complete. Polish to hide everything else.

We spent probably about 35-40% of the entire jam adding content to our game, and polishing the look of it. Working on this was crucial to creating the feel of a final product. Adam and his friend Emily did a great job churning out cars, buildings, and scenery which pulled everything together. It’s incredible what a little bit of particle effects and artwork can do for a game.

Without further ado, I give you: