Last weekend was the first ever Game Jam at Marshall University.
The Game Design Guild (club) has been planning to have one for months, but we're a new organization, still trying to get our feet on the ground.
Lucky for us, and awesome doctor at our University had recently started a Digital Humanities program. She also wanted to hold a game jam, so we teamed up.
2 Game Developers + 2 English Professors = 1 Game Jam Admin Team!
I also asked a guy from Dakota State how they run game jams, since he has run far bigger ones than this. He had a lot of good advice
We advertised as best we could, and had no clue how many people would show up. It could have been five, it could have been thirty...
Fortunately, we got a sweet number: 12 participants.
Surprisingly, none were above college age, and many were high school, or even younger. There was an 8-year old in attendance.
However, most of them weren't too social. I followed some advice I had received, and mixed the people around with each other while they came up with ideas.
I'm not sure if it backfired or not: Everyone amalgamed into one GIANT group.
They also decided to use Unity.
So it began. Thanks to Piskel, everyone could easily make pixel art. One person found SFX, and a couple guys made music.
It's amazing how many web-based tools there are. We showed these to our participants before getting started:
- https://soundation.com - Make music
- http://piskelapp.com - Make pixel art
- http://twinery.org - Make text and HTML adventure games
- https://ledoux.itch.io/bitsy - Make games where you walk around, talk to people
- https://freesound.org - Search THOUSANDS of free SFX
However, programmers were short. One was experienced, and could only stay for half the project. Another 2 were low experience.
In the end, one of them took on a team management role. With 12 people, team management is a full-time role!
To pull it all together, I ended up programming about half of the game.
We had more art than we could use, and it all came together in 18 hours. The final product is playable in-browser: https://mugameguild.itch.io/60-second-hero
Before getting sucked into the main jam team, I also pitched to our admins that the four of us make a simple game. I tapped them for art and writing, and them implemented it in ~3-4 hours with a dialogue system I had already made:
One weekend, two games. Monday was a showcase day, so that anyone interested could see the final product. There are five endings depending on what items you collect in the game, and people enjoyed trying to find all five
Overall: SUCCESS. (Not how I expected, but it worked)
- Never underestimate the time overhead when you coordinate multiple people. Working in a team is not like working alone, and it's easy to end up with duplicate work and "idle villagers."
- ALWAYS have a sign-up or registration, even if it's not required. It takes a LOT of guesswork out of planning.
- You can never have too much non-perishable food. Or pizza.
- Instead of reinventing the wheel, talk to people who have done it before.
- Be flexible and run your event based on who comes. Having 3-person teams working in Unity when nobody has used Unity makes no sense.
ANY GAME JAM:
- Only try to make a game that you know you can pull off. If you don't know how to do it, you probably can't do it well in a day.
- Choose your team wisely, LIMIT THAT SCOPE
- If you have two days, get a working prototype after ONE day. That way, you have a whole day to make it fun.
- This is just a game. Seriously, take care of yourself, exercise, go to church, etc., no game jam is worth your health.