Game Jams are a great way to work on prototypes because you really need to focus on few key parts of your game as there are usually only two days of working time available. They are also a chance to try new tools and see what you can make out of it within a weekend.
Tips for Game Jam Participants
We have been to many game jams in the last years and learned a lot along the way. So if you are attending a game jam for the first time or are already an experienced jammer, these are our 6 tips for getting the most out of a game jam:
1.) Focus, Focus, Focus
Focus on one thing that makes your game unique and special: That might be the user input of your game to make it a new experience; or a new gameplay; or combining game elements from other games; or a crazy graphics setting for your game. Think of one thing that makes your game memorable: If there are 30 games presented at the end of the game jam, what is this one thing of your game that players shall remember when they go home? This is the key element you should spend most of your time on in the next two days.
2.) Don’t Start Hacking Right Away
Take your time to work on the unique and fun part of your game – but not in your code environment but on paper, white boards or whatever you prefer for quick sketches and idea finding. If the other teams begin to code, stay calm and try to focus on your game design. Only when you are happy with what you have on paper, this is the time to start coding, even if it is just on the second day!
3.) Use Existing Templates & Components
Before you start to code, investigate which tools and sample code or even sample games already exist that match your game idea best. You can then combine parts of existing games and use components that solve your requirements.
We have built components for the most frequent requirements of 2D games that you can use: For example the MoveToPointHelper component moving a game entity towards a target point, or the physics system components for moving entities around.
Avoid complex algorithms if you can also fake it with less effort and be aware of time-consumers like AI algorithms that always take a bit longer to implement than expected. Or just skip the AI player and make your game a two-player game instead. Everything that helps you to achieve the goal from tip #1 faster is what you should look for.
You can pick parts of our 12 sample games that come with full source code in the V-Play SDK. Including all kinds of game genres like platformer games, tower defenses, puzzle and action games you will probably find parts of them you can use for your game and save time with them.
4.) Balance for Fun
After you implemented the core gameplay, it’s time to test if your game is actually fun to play. The V-Play ItemEditor can greatly help you to do so, because you can change any property while your game is running! This allows you, for example, to balance the gravity settings for a physics-based game and see the objects adapt to the changes while you are moving a slider; or adjusting the applied force of a jumping character without restarting the game and test the different settings.
The earlier you start to make your key game element fun the better because your programmers can then start to add one or two additional features to your game that makes it even more fun! Meanwhile, your game designers can balance the game so it is the most fun with this single feature and then move on to balancing the new ones when they are ready.
Also take advantage of the other jammers around you: Let them play your early prototype and ask them what they like and dislike. At some point you will go a bit blind of your own game, so showing it to others helps you to focus on the right edges.
This is a mistake we’ve often made in the past: Don’t work through the whole game jam because your mind needs to be fresh to be most productive and creative. This doesn’t work if you sleep less than 6 hours or even don’t sleep at all. So rather take your time for proper sleeping and then return relaxed and highly motivated the next day; your games will be better that way.
The day before the game jam, make sure to also get enough sleep so you are 100% ready for the good & rewarding time you will have.
6.) Communicate & Learn
Game Jams are a great way to make new friends and learn from others! If you talk to others you will not only have a great & fun time at the jam but also learn something new. So don’t just focus on your game, but talk to the other folks around you. They share your passion (they are also at a game jam right) so you will for sure have great talks. And who knows, maybe your future coworker is the guy you are talking to.
With these tips you are prepared for the upcoming game jams and if you want to give V-Play a try as a rapid game development tool, download it here for free.
Have fun at the game jam and enjoy your time, it’s worth the ride!
What are your experiences in game jams and tips for others? Or do you have a game jam story you would like to share? Just let us know in the comments below.