Global Game Jam 2015 Postmortem
Postmortem. What an awful term that is used for analyzing a finished product or event! I picture a notebook full of code and pictures torn and thrown on the floor in pieces with a coroner team nearby..
So, GGJ15! At the MIT campus in Boston, it was a phenomenal success! This was a world wide event, and the sheer numbers of jammers that participated is amazing. The stats can be found here:
5,438 games made!
28,800 registered jammers!
What the heck is a game jam?!
To put it simply, it’s a group of creatives that includes programmers, artists, designers, audio engineers, storytellers, and even project managers that come together for a short time to create a game from scratch. It can use any hardware or platform, and doesn’t necessarily need to be a digital game. Board and card games can be made too!
To give you a quick idea of what exactly happens at one of these, I thought I’d just sort of lay out the schedule of events at this game jam. Each game jam can run a bit differently, but if you’re new to gamejamming, this will give you an overview of what goes on:
Evening 1 (Jams generally last a day or two. This one in particular lasted two days and an evening)
1) Keynote (there isn’t always a keynote, but it’s the time when the ‘theme’ of the game jam is announced)
2) Brainstorming as small groups
3) Pitch ideas to everyone
4) Form your team (some jams may have pre-defined teams, some may have a mix, and some may be random! it all depends on the organizer of the jam)
5) Make games
1) Make games
1) Make games
2) Present finished game!
Now obviously, you have to eat and sleep and take care of other things during that time, but I wanted to note the important stuff! The majority of the work in this particular jam happened on Day 2. For some, it was a 20 hours straight crunch on Day 2!
Why I jam!
The list is extensive, and mostly obvious. The people, the exposure, the experience, the opportunities! I could go on and on.
I love meeting folks that have the same goal in mind, and have a need for creativity to flourish uninhibited. Setting aside an entire weekend to bang out a game prototype can sometimes compress a month’s worth of work into those 48 hours, which is amazing. I’ve been a part of lots of game development projects as a free-time endeavor and a lot of times one can only work on their project for an hour or so per day due to other life responsibilities. Now take those hour long sessions and multiply them by 24-36 (depending on how much you sleep :D), with a team of 5 or more! So much can be accomplished in one weekend!
The opportunities that show their faces at these jams are too many to number. I will say that if you’re someone who is looking for gamedev work, or just want to start getting into the field of game development, gamejams are absolutely necessary to let other people know you exist and that you have the passion required to work in the field. Sending in resume’s? Applying to jobs on websites? It doesn’t work. Show the community your passion and you’ll be recognized very quickly!
Finally, coming out of a game jam with something to show is a great feeling. What’s even greater is having a product that can potentially create lifelong teams and relationships that would not have been started otherwise. There are many many games out there started as a simple concept and prototype created at one of these very game jams!
Enough Jibber Jabber! What did you make?
Ok ok, but before I get to what our team made, I want to point out that I didn’t work on the game I originally pitched, which I didn’t expect. It turns out that I was really interested in another person’s game concept, and decided to work on that instead. What was interesting to me about this paradigm is, for the first time, seeing another group of people make a game based on my original concept. It was so cool to see their game come to life and morph into something very unique and fun, all based on one simple idea, or concept from someone not on their team. That game was called Snow Day Labor, and can be found on the GGJ website at this link:
For a description of the original concept it was based on, you can see my post on my portfolio here:
Alright, on to our game!
When I saw the concept up on the board, I sort of fell in love immediately. “Two Headed Dinosaur”. I have a special place in my heart for funny, quirky games with a lot of personality. (Some day I’ll have a game studio that makes lots of these kinds of games!). And I already had visions of what the game could be floating around in my head!
I went to the jam with two friends from work. So we were sort of a team already, all coders, looking for some other people to fill the other roles. This was a bit difficult because usually teams are kept small, 5 or less people. Turns out, our team ended up consisting of 7 people (see below!), with our team being a special case due to some of us learning the Unity platform. Personally, I enjoy larger teams for game jams!
I had a lot of fun with everyone on our team. We melded together without a hitch! We were very organized, shared up a dropbox and a git project to everyone and started rolling right away. It was decided that the game would be a simple side-scroller, with a unique dual controller element to the character.
We all fell into our roles quite fluidly, without much overlap or gaps. We all had the basic concept in our heads, and the game started to take shape. We were using Unity as our platform, and because I had some experience putting together side-scrollers in Unity, things started rolling along fairly quickly. I was able to put together a bare bones level with the required organization of project assets to allow for other folks on the team to jump right in!
At one point, we had enough ‘prefabs’ in our project to be able to hand it over to our designer to make levels. And that she did! Two of them made it into the final build that we demo’d at the end of the jam! Here is a quick screenie of what it looked like to work on a level in Unity:
I remember the first instance of feeling “oh man, this game is going to be adorable”, when I was looking at our artists’ screens from behind them while they were working (we were in two rows, proggers in back, artists in front), so we sort of had that pushing us to crank out some code. Well, code that works!
The next time I felt a rush of “oh man this game is going to rule” was when we were able to get the dino head animations working. There were collective smiles amongst the group once we saw that!
Those rushes of happiness kept coming, from the music, to the shrew, to the backgrounds, to things actually working in the game. It really was a blast.
Of course, in the end, we couldn’t get everything in on time. A few things that were missing were more dino animations (for when the dino heads are struggling and pulling from each other), some audio, a flying shrew, some background art, amongst others. We’re going to try and get as much in as we can post-jam as time permits, so maybe you’ll see an update here if we have another release. Follow me on twitter @destroypattern if you want to be notified of that.
Lastly, here’s a very quick demo of the game on teh youtoobs:
Thanks for reading!