Let’s not beat around the bush: game jams are hard. If you’re not overly familiar with the concept, it’s where you get together with a bunch of people (either in cyberspace or meatspace) and spend some rather amount of time making a game.
Now, it doesn’t have to be a particularly good game, mind you, but it does have to exist. Quite often, game jams last for 48 hours, but it really varies, usually between 24 hours and a month. There is almost always a theme, and goal in not to compete with others but to make something and see what happens. Everything for the game should be made on the day, but you can bring in your snippets of code to make it easier. It’s just the game itself that needs to made on the day.
So, this post itself comes off of the back of not one but two game jams. Well, okay, a back and on top of two game jams, because right now I’m in the middle of making a game with the fantastic Bryn for Ruin Jam. It’s a pretty amazing concept we’ve come up with so far and hopefully we’ll be able to get the game together in time for the deadline, early this Sunday!
The other game jam was the Nine Worlds 2014 Game Jam, which was pretty intense! It’s the first time I’d made a game as part of a team! Still, it was incredibly fun, though! The theme was fairy tales, so we decided to do a game based on Taketori Monogatari, a 10th century Japanese folk tale (or rather, 物語(monogatari)) which is one of (maybe the first??) examples of sci-fi stories in the world. But… no spoilers, eh? 😉
So, why are game jams so hard? Well, for a start, I have to say that making a game isn’t that difficult. There are plenty of tools aimed at people who’ve never made a game before, which are also pretty awesome even if you know how to make games. Plus, you can always re-use any code you might have written before to help with the mechanics along the way! These game engines are also pretty damn good for making a game for a game jam, so as to remove a lot of the heavy coding that you might do for a paid release. Of course, you also really don’t need to code everything for a paid release, either.
But, I have to say that for me, the most difficult part is having a concept and trying to make it come to life in a very short amount of time. And I mean, really short! It’s quite a rush, scrambling about and it can lead to panic, frustration and tears. However, game jams really teach you to let go of the problems. Your whole game relies on a mechanic that doesn’t work? Scrap it or just do it anyway. Use bad art. Don’t worry about the music being minimal or non-existant.
Game jams are wonderful for getting the creativity out of you and testing your productivity schemes. Ultimately, as long as you have something to show for it at the end of the jam -even if that’s just the experience itself- you’ve probably spend some of the most amazing, educational time of your life.
Just whatever you do, don’t try to spend too much time learning to use a tool during the game jam. That way leads madness and frustration…
So, here’s hoping we finish this next game enough for at least a demo, in time to for Ruin Jam!