This past week the 2018 Global Game Jam happened. It was my first game jam and there were some things that I didn’t know. Although I have had past experiences with similar events, like hackathons and what not, it was the first time actually making a game. I decided to register as a Producer. The game concept had to be built around the concept of transmission. I thought it would be a good idea to start testing the waters of what my future role in the industry would be like. Here’s what happened:
The first hour I believe it was the toughest. I was put in charge of a team of 8 participants and the goal was to make a game within 48 hrs. I tried to figure out the different types of skills and personalities that were getting assigned to the team. I also gathered the number of hours they were expecting to give to the project.
The second hour was the most critical to the future of the GGJ. We had to define an idea that was within the scope of 48hrs. Personally, I believe that the hardest part of defining the concept is to please everyone but at the same time keep it achievable. In order to define the game concept, I went to the drawing board and start bouncing ideas with the team. This method allowed me to start reading the personalities of the team.
From my experience, there are three ways one can create a game during a game jam. The first is to develop around a mechanic this means that one can come up with a mechanic and the rest can build upon that mechanic. This allows the development team to have a clear goal of what the team is expecting and everything extra is just cherry on the top. The second way to go about a game concept is a top-down selection of the topic, genre, concept, mechanic so on and so forth. This allows the whole team to feel involved in the decision process, which, in turn, makes them feel more committed to the game itself. The third way although the simplest to conceptualize is the hardest for the producer, and that is to build upon a team member’s idea. This approach has some benefits and some weaknesses. The benefit of creating a game that someone else came up with is that the commitment that the person is going to have is bigger. The weakness of this approach is that differences of opinion when in development can occur and the original creator can become defensive of the game idea.
For this game jam, we decided to build upon the idea of a team member. So as the producer and from past experiences, I clearly stated to the designer that from that point on the idea was not only for him to develop but for the team to build or scrap according to what the team decided. I asked the designer if he was ok with that and he agreed.
Although some teams had already started my team had a long way to go before we began the development. We had to first understand the idea, then build upon that concept and then set the communication method for the team as well as the VCS for the project. So I created a discord channel so that everyone in the team could send assets and status information. The reason for the discord is because since it was an open door 48hrs we would need to keep in constant communication. Another form of communication was the VCS. I set up a repository for the team to be able to communicate. This will later turn out to be troublesome because no one knew how to use it.
By this point, I had a more clear understanding of the reach of the skills each of the team member. Prior to this point, the only way to truly evaluate the skills the team had was throughout self-proclaimed abilities. The two main programmers knew each other so having that chemistry in the team helped to slipt tasks easier and understand the extent of their abilities. It was at this point that the leaders of the team started to arise. Some members integrated seemingly into the hierarchy of power that was being developed. But three members out of the eight were struggling with the setup. The major reason the three members were struggling was their lack of practical knowledge. So immediately I started to accommodate them in supportive roles. It was a sort of mentorship that had me teaching all sort of skills to the different members. The curious part was that the three members were pursuing different completely different skill sets from art to design and everything in between.
The roles were properly defined and the game was coming along. This was tricky because it meant that the most creative members of the team started to develop more complicated mechanics that could be implemented. This is a common pattern that I’ve seen a million times. The team is feeling confident so they try to overachieve. So again I went to the board with some of the members and tried to explain the scope of the game and trim down some of the ideas that were trying to be implemented.
The programmer that was implementing the main mechanic started to struggle. In order to free the responsibilities that the programmer in order for him to focus on the main mechanic. I decided to delegate the other tasks he had queued. Some of the other programmers started to complete their tasks earlier than what I had expected so they started to absorb peripheral mechanics.
The art was finished so I decided to teach the artist how to implement the assets into the levels to save time. By this moment the level designer was almost done with the prototyping so I set him up with the developer for him to learn what scripts were required in order to make the level playable. The problem here was that the level designer didn’t realize so many mechanics were required in order to make a level playable. So we decided to trim down the level 3 and make level 1 and 2 as functional and fun as possible.
The members of the team that were finishing their designated tasks were assigned to QA and polishing the level environment.
I gave the instruction to stop implementing anything new and start bug fixing.
I started to wrap everything up and wrapping the game development.
The game was finished to the best of our abilities and only uploading it was required.
We successfully finished the game jam!
The hardest and most critical hours of the game jam are the first hours. Making the whole team understand the idea, and putting everyone on the same page is the most important part of the game jam. The biggest challenge as a producer is accommodating for the different types of personality that show up in the game jam, Each individual has different skills and abilities and creating the idea of a team around that is hard. But if done properly everyone is destined to have a good time at the event and for a game jam that’s the most important part.