5 Things I learned in my first Game Jam
This January, 2017, I was finally able to participate in my first Game Jam. For those who do not know, Game Jams are events to creare gamess. Often in Game Jams the production time is very short. The goal is to encourage developers, programmers and artists to create their own game.
The Jam I attended is called Global Game Jam, and it’s probably the most famous game jam in the world. It happens once a year, always in January, in various places around the world.
My site was PUC-PR, in Curitiba-PR. This year it was the 2nd largest game jam in number of participants, losing only to Egypt.
I learned 5 great lessons in this event that I will share. Hope it can help you in your next project or next game jam.
1. Learn by doing
You can read a lot about creating games and see many tutorials. But you’ll learn a lot more about how to develop a game when you really need to make one. In this Jam I realized that the search for information on the web or in forums is good. But actually doing what I read is much better. What I put into practice I will hardly forget.
2. Measure well the size of the project.
A good defined scope is 50% of the project. Really. Starting a GameJam, or any other creative project with few hours to complete, with the hope of creating lots of details and features is a bad idea. Time is short, so narrow your great ideas to one or two. Try to get the most out of the concept and apply it to your game. Work to make this concept play well.
3. Working in a team works
Making a game is not a work for one person. You can create great games by doing everything yourself. Examples such as Stawdew Valley by Eric Barone prove that it is possible to create a great game alone. But if you have time against you it is essential to have a balanced and well-divided team.
Once you have the scope of the game, try splitting the tasks of each team member before you begin to produce. Each has to know its part in the production.
A good tip is to separate tasks by affinity and knowledge.
So do not leave the programming to anyone who has never programmed, or the visuals to anyone who has never done it. It seems obvious but in a rush it goes unnoticed.
Let team members with little experience help the more experienced.
It is also not a good idea to leave everything to one person. If your team only has 1 artist, make simple (but good looking) graphics. Likewise if you only have 1 programmer, think about game mechanics that are fast to be implemented.
4. Planning time is essential
Before you start producing your game in Game Jam, plan your time. What is very common in GGJ is to use Friday night to define the scope of the game. Saturday is used for production and Sunday is used for gametest and refinement.
Learn to manage the scarce time you have. If your team is large (more than 3 people), it is not a bad idea to have someone responsible for asking others about their tasks and keeping an eye on deadlines.
5. Community is helpful
Jammers are people willing to help others. Everyone who signs up is aiming to learn something new and improve. So do not treat others as competitors but rather as members of a single community. Post your questions on forums and social networks and help others. Everyone always has something new to learn. Arrogance is not well seen in Game Jams. And in life, btw.
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Our team was made up of 6 people. It was our first Game Jam together and we were fortunate to win 2 awards. Best game made on Unreal Engine and Best Game of the Jam by Jammes Vote.
We created the game Nami, which you can see more in this link: http://www.lmigel.com/projects/nami-the-game/
After Jam we spent another 3 weeks for some adjustments and we released version 1.02.
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I hope this text may have helped you understand how Game Jams are great for learning and for creating a spirit of community.
Until the next Game Jam!