WHAT I LEARNT THIS WEEK (#3 – 2017, Global Game Jam Edition)

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I get back to the weekly posts after a small break (damn Christmas). As maybe some of you know, during this week, the Global Game Jam happened. I participated in the Finnish Game Jam, which is contained on it, more specifically in the Finnish Game Jam Joensuu. The main goal of this event is to create a game from scratch in 48 hours. There is much to learn in this event. Here they go my tips and what I have learned.

Tips (What I learnt)

Keep an open mind

This is an important skill in almost every kind of teamwork, but especially in this event. You face a couple of intense days, with not so much sleep, in which you have to create something, or at least try. There is no time for whining or bad vibes. Keeping an open mind is a must.

Hone your negotiation skills

Many times you will face disagreements with other team members. Here is when the disagreement needs to be solved through consensus. The time lost in decision making can make a difference, and good negotiation skills definitely reduce the length of that time, which at the end is lost.

Manage the scope

It is easy to go wild, but you only have 48 hours to finish the game. Keeping the scope small is a must if you want to deliver something on such a small amount of time.

Reduce the design time

In our game, most of the design decisions during the game were taken while development. We started with a simple idea and after that, we developed the mechanics and the graphical aspect. All time used for design is the time that you don’t use for development.

Work with what you have

Sometimes you will lack skills, it is OK. Try to make the best out of what you can do and get support from the rest of the members of your team or the jam. Everybody will help you as much as they can. You will always learn something.

Manage your stress

When you have such clear deadline and such lack of time stress can go over the top. Take your time to reflect or use music. Just don’t push too hard. It is OK if your game is not finished, you have got already the experience, the friends, and the knowledge.

Have fun

At the end, the event is about having fun and meeting people. It would not be the same without fun. It is not a competition, so whatever happens, you would have got something positive. Get social and use some time to meet new people and network.

Use version control

I absolutely encourage using Git or some other version control system for two reasons: first, you have to give your code away, so using a public repository is a good way to show that you contributed to the project; and second, you can always recover from fatal errors easier, like deleting assets or code.

Work in parallel

Try to maximize the amount of work that you do in parallel. Games are maybe among the most complex types of software as you need to deal with audio and graphical assets, code and project management. The good side is that many things can be done in parallel, for example, using placeholders that are then substituted by the graphic assets. Try to maximize the amount of parallel tasks in execution.


A brief history of our game

Our game was registered with the name AudioSomething. The first minutes after forming the team was devoted to polishing the idea. Polishing the idea meant agreeing that we were using audio as an input, as the topic for this year’s jam was “waves”. The rest of the mechanics, as well as the characters, were developed while code, graphics, and music were created.

We setup Git through GitHub and started coding and in 48 hours we ended up with a game called “Piraphant and Sharpy Shark” which is intended to be played by a crowd with their own waves, also known as voice, by yelling “yar!” so the character jumps, avoiding sharks and collecting parrots to improve the quality of the ship. If you collect enough parrots, your ship will become a golden swan, and then you will reunite with the rest of the crew and end the game.

All the team did an impressive work. The game (including executable for MS Windows and the Unity Project folder) can be downloaded at its global game jam game page. It is under a Creative Commons license with attribution, non-commercial rights so go and remix it!

Conclusion

This event is a magnificent occasion to learn what skills are needed in the game industry, to meet your local game development enthusiasts and to learn about project management and teamwork. An opportunity you should not miss.

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