makegames

Game jamming? Why you should be.

I gave a talk sometime ago at the MakeGamesSA Johannesburg meetup outlining my opinions why everyone should be game jamming. So, I thought I’d put pen to paper (metaphorically speaking) and write a post of my reasoning. 


Failing is Okay

Originally posted by sashathere

Often when I ask someone why they aren’t game jamming this weekend or any other particular event I get the, “I don’t know enough for me to come out with a game in x amount of time”. So, firstly failing is okay. Global Game Jam (GGJ) last year with Kevin Marais was my first game jam. We didn’t even submit our turd sandwich of a game but out of the process we learnt where our skills were lacking. Which were everywhere. I was pretty sad because my expectations of the weekend were really high. It was okay, we recovered and begun upskilling.

Learn New Skills

Over the next few months after GGJ we (Kevin and I) participated in Ludum Dare (LD) 29 and 30. As 2 programmers on the team we needed to figure out how to create art assets for the game. So, I took up the challenge of learning how to use Gimp and creating the assets for both Alien Lobotomy and A Hat’s Trick.

Collaborating

I love collaborating with new people! Game jams are the perfect environment to meet and work with new people. The game industry is, for the most part, different teams making games. So, knowing how to work in a team and communicate is very important. Which you can get better at, especially under the tough conditions of a game jam. Over the months following LD 30 I made Beardo, Machine Gun Football, and the latest Safari Rampage with new people.

From left to right Me, Kevin, and Alessandro (Global Game Jam, 2015)

I’d just to single out my latest game jam where Kevin and I got to collaborate with Saschen Reddy on sound design. We learnt a lot about the intricacies of Wwise and it’s problems with source control over multiple platforms. But what I’d like to mention is that after this game jam I thought to my “If someone asked me who they should hire for sound, Sash would be the first person I’d mention”. This is just to say that during collaborations you could make opportunities for yourself in the industry. 

Building a Portfolio

We all know how the games industry is about portfolios, showing what you can do. Doing game jams is an easy way to build a portfolio of games. So, far most of the games on my portfolio are game jams.

Fresh New Ideas

Flesh out some of those ideas you’ve got during a game jam. Double Fine’s Amnesia Fortnight is a great example, where the company stops working on their current project and they game jam. During these game jams Double Fine has been able to produce games that eventually get released commercially. Game jamming can help you or your studio have a project after what you’re currently working on.

Originally posted by silly-luv

Exposure and dollar dollar bills, yoh!

Beyond the game jam your jam game could get picked up, gain mass appeal and be like many others become a commercially viable product that you know has an audience. Even if your game jam game isn’t commercially viable it could shine light to you and your current project. We all could do with a little more exposure. :)

Fishing Game Jam [20th-27th May, 2013]

If you’re into game design and development, you might want to check out the Fishing Game Jam that’s taking place next week! The goal of the game jam is to get you to make a game over seven days that is related in some way to fishing!

The rules are listed below, and they’re very accessible and very flexible, so regardless of your current skill/knowledge level, your dates and times of availability and your approach to games in general, there is a place for you in the game jam if you want to take it up!

Rules by SophieH:

  • Make a game about or inspired by Fishing, in a week!
  • Jam dates are 20th-27th, you can pick whatever 7 days you like *around* this time. There’s no pressure to do it in exactly that amount of time unless you want to
  • If you say it’s a game then it’s a game, if you say it relates to fishing then it relates to fishing.
  • Use whatever tools/techniques you want to make your game.
  • You need to make a thread for your game in the games forum. Updating it through the week is your choice, but it’s more fun if you do!
  • Feel free to start your thread whenever you like, if you want to share your idea that’s cool!
  • When your game is done, make a post about it in your thread, and link to that post in the submission thread.
  • Don’t be a jerk on the forum, I’ll kick your ass. This is a friendly fishing jam
First Year Making Games - A Retrospective

I’ve been making games for just over a year. These are my thoughts about my experience.

Starting, it’s hard.

Starting was the hardest part. I started out writing games in C++ using SFML because of my naive approach to thinking about game development. I thought as a programmer I had to do it the “real” way, the AAA way and C++ is the industry standard, right?

I convinced my good friend, Kevin Marais to go on this game dev adventure with me. We decided we’d learn the intricacies of the language and engine with a small project: An infinite runner, Cave Escape. It wasn’t a bad idea but we spent more time writing code to set up the game than building game mechanics to play. Just by the nature of the engine we were using and the language, but we had started and that’s what mattered.

You’re not alone.

We found the local game development community, MakeGamesSA and attended the monthly meet ups. This community engagement was the most important aspect of my game dev and it has kept me motivated; to keep learning and get better. I've learnt so much faster from engaging with like minded people than I could have learnt from any YouTube video or blog post.

It’s this community that first introduced me to Unity3D. At first glance I was not too interested because of the learning curve that came along with it but I gave it a shot. I was pleasantly amazed and glad that I tried it out. Literally, what had taken us months to do in C++ and SFML we did in a day with Unity. Working in C++ and SFML made it much easier because I knew what I was looking for in the vast array of windows, tabs, and menu options that Unity gives you.

Failing, but not quitting

After a week of playing around in Unity, Kevin and I decided to participate in our first game jam; the biggest one of them all, Global Game Jam. We had gone into the game jam with only a few days of Unity experience but decided that we’d still use the engine. I remember thinking to myself “Drag on some colliders, slap on a rigidbody, how hard can this be?” After 48 hours, and lots of Red Bull and virtually no sleep we barely had a game. We had failed, epicly too. Game jamming was definitely not as simple as I’d thought it would be. I was demoralised.

But, I didn't let that stop me, I wanted to make video games! I got back to working with Kevin on our little learning project but now in Unity.

Let’s legitimize this operation.

After a few months of playing around in Unity, Kevin and I thought we’d take another crack at a game jam. This time around it would be Ludum Dare 29. With a lot more knowledge, we finished a game and submitted it. We came out with Alien Lobotomy: a small little math puzzle game. We got good feedback and the response was encouraging. We both thought we had something here and it had the possibility to become our first release.

We had talked about going legit. So we registered Soup With Bits, our little indie game studio. Starting the company was really to garner a name for ourselves with Alien Lobotomy as our first title headed for mobile platforms.   

The long slow grind to finish a game is the part of game development that is hard and not all that fun. We've rewritten the codebase twice and only gone through a few design iterations on the puzzle. We've made 2 different tutorials, and players still don’t know how to play the game.

We have a pretty good starting place but can it last 100 levels? Is the player going to have fun in all 100 levels? Does the player understand how to play the game? These are all questions we've been trying to answer in the development of the game.

A friend recently pointed out to me that since this was the first game I had made, I should let it sit for a while and work on more prototypes instead. It got me thinking about what I know now and what I still need to learn about game dev. I realised that the big push to release Alien Lobotomy made it feel like a rushed effort and an over excitement to “make it” in the industry.

So many things to game dev, what to focus on?

In my opinion there are 4 major disciplines in game development: sound, art, programming and game design. As an independent game developer I should be able to do it all to some extent.

I’m primarily a programmer but with an affinity for the art side of game development. I’ve always liked drawing even though I don’t think I’m good at it. Along the way I had thought I should focus my game dev skills on the artistic side of games. This desire to focus more on the art side of game dev started around the time Kevin and I did our second Ludum Dare, A Hat’s Trick. I had spent most of the time doing the art for that game. I also did the art in Alien Lobotomy.

I wanted to really know one thing well, but have also played around in the other disciplines. Finally, I decided art wasn't going to be the one I wanted to focus on because I’d essentially be starting from scratch. On the other hand, I have a strong foundation in programming and I believe that’s the way for me into the industry. This is not to say that I won’t keep playing around in Inkscape and Gimp making “pretty” things. Plus as I make more prototypes I also hope to become a better designer too.

Let’s Talk Boxing
External image

I’ve been working on a Boxing game in my spare time over the past few months. You might have seen some a .gif or a vine of the gameplay. 

I was playing around with a controller a while back and started thinking about what game I could design that only used the analogue sticks as a control system. I prototyped a few ideas but the one that seemed most fun was Boxer. I used the only-analogue-sticks control system to move the arms of the boxer. 

Initially I wanted to have an exact one-to-one correlation of the analogue sticks and the boxing gloves but that didn’t work well because the arms moved way too fast. I decided to go with physics which worked out great because it brought a comical feel to the game that I really enjoyed but brought along a host of problems. 

Problems like everything just wobbling around in the air like they just don’t care. Fixed that by strapping an unhealthy amount of spring joints and colliders all over the scene to get it all working like it does now. 

Anyway, this is as far as I’ve got so far.