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GGJ15: Third Jam Lessons

A quick blog post I wrote summarizing the bigger lessons I learned from my third game jam.

This was my third year participating in the Global Game Jam and it was the best one yet. My roles during the jam were primarily programming and production.

Working on the game was the smoothest experience in development I have ever had. It was thanks to the rest of my team that things went so well despite a few hiccups, primarily on my end. Also big thanks to Phosphor Games here in Chicago for hosting a jam site! It's awesome for a local studio to extend a welcoming hand to the very small developers.

Here's the game (web build included):

This year I honestly felt like I didn't learn much about the direct process of making a game (programming, editing, design, etc.) so it was a chance to sharpen my technical skills, but I learned a lot more relating to everything else that plays a supporting part in game development. As a result, we burned through our task list like wildfire in a drought and it was awesome! I had a lot of fun.

1: Come prepared

Let me clarify that I do not mean come with your friends or acquaintances or come with already formed ideas. That completely destroys the point and the challenge of the GGJ (although you might run into familiar people sometimes and that's okay).

What I mean is come prepared for your body under your circumstances. At my jam site we were given the opportunity to stay the night and we were given one meal along with a fridge of drinks. I made 19 onigiri (Japanese rice balls), took a blanket, and of course brought my laptop with me. Unfortunately that did not prepare me enough.

1. Don't use chia seeds on top of moist foods if you're going to store them for a while because they will start sprouting on day 3.

2. Bring a blanket, and something extra for your back if your site wasn't built for sleeping. I ended up sleeping on the floor and it wasn't the best sleep.

3. Make sure your computer is in peak performance before you get to the jam. Factory resetting my computer, doing all of the Windows updates, and installing Unity soaked up 16 hours of precious time (which I used to stay on track of production).

2: Plan your Production and Stay Up to Date

I've produced for other Game Jams but I never noticed a real impact until this one. We blew through our tasks so fast that we had a strong lead by Saturday. Keeping track of what was being done in real time gave me tremendous hopes of finishing our game in the given time, which we did. It's so fun to cross out tasks one after another and watch things progress and complete.

The feeling of awesome summed up in a picture


3: Sleep!

Don't forget to sleep. Seriously ,sleep deprivation will only harm you when you work on your game because you can't think coherently. It will only hurt your team and your game to keep working under that condition.

Also, don't forget to eat, stretch your body at least every hour, and get some light exercise. They help too.

4: Shared Repository is an Absolute Must

We used Dropbox as our repository for this jam, and despite being inefficient, it worked for what we needed. On my previous projects I don't think we had a shared repository like this year. Just make sure that the project stay up to date and you're set.

5: Be Open Minded

To be quite honest, I wasn't sold our our current idea when it was pitched, but I didn't defy it after spending three hours debating on what we should make because I knew for a fact that our first idea wasn't good and I was subtly trying to convey that to my team, which I was fortunately successful at doing (basically you were a dog on a leash being led by a kid and you have to basically go home. It was not interesting to play I promise).

The more I worked on our current project though, I realized that I really loved the fish level in our game, which motivated me and helped me push myself to finish the game. No one on our team thought much of the fish level but we all proved ourselves wrong.

The most intense moment I have ever accidentally created in a game

6: Communicate

Communication is super important with your team. Make sure you know what everyone else is working on at any given time, make sure you know where the project is on the timeline, and make sure that you create files for the convenience of your teammates because it saves precious minutes of time by not having to clarify or fix things because of lack of communication.

On top of that, communicate with other participants who aren't on your team, along with the jam organizers. Just talking to them can help you form new ideas, give you a quick break on what you're doing to refresh yourself, and best of all, you can form new friendships and relationships!

7: Just Jam! (if you can)

If you are on the fence about jamming and you have the time and health to go do it, then by all means do it! It's definitely a new experience every time by meeting new people and making new games. It's a chance to refresh yourself and really test your abilities and your passion. Plus, you never know what kind of friendships, opportunities, jobs (I'm available for being hired btw!), connections, etc. you'll find along the way. Or you never know who YOU will influence and inspire to improve themselves to become better. That isn't something you'll be directly told, but it will happen.

With these lessons and with continuous refinement of my skills, I look forward to what next year will bring. I hope you've learn from my experience and avoid the same mistakes I've made in your futures!

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