Global Game Jam 2015

Are you full of game ideas? Do you have a stash of great game mechanics that would revolutionise the gaming world… If only you had time to work on them? Do you keep making lists in evernote with the game ideas you’re going to implement one day? I did all of these things (or rather, thought about doing all these things). Until I decided to sign up for the global game jam (GGJ) this year.

I’ve considered participating in GGJs for the past few years. But there have always been excuses - I’ve never jammed before, I’m not good enough, people are going to curse me and my noobery , its Australia Day long weekend, I’m tired, it’s too far away, just started a new job… Also doing a games technology related degree at uni meant I didn’t feel like spending my holidays doing what I’d be spending the whole rest of the year stressing over.

But this year I finally took the plunge and signed up for GGJ. No excuses. Suddenly I had to actually learn unity. I had meddled on and off in the past but nothing serious. Now, though, I had a goal and a deadline - which turns out to be a good recipe for motivation. My nightly ritual went from watching TV, agonizing over which game to tackle from my steam pile of shame next, or opening and closing facebook, to actually doing something productive.

Pre-jam Productivity Boost Activate!

There is a ridiculous amount of beginner materials for Unity out there - video tutorials, written tutorials, documentation, active subreddits… The barrier for entry really is quite low.

So I decided to start with the conveniently relevant “Let’s Make An Infinite Runner Game In An Hour” video tutorial in order to get a feel for all the basics of Unity. Somewhere along the way I decided to go with a simple 2D game for my game jam entry (even though we actually ended up making a somewhat complicated 3D game).

I then went through the archive list on that tutorial page, opening anything that caught my fancy in a new tab to save for later. A couple points of focus for me were local multiplayer (Couch Wars: Local Multiplayer Basics), Mecanim animation (Animate Anything With Mecanim), and some simple level-loading and GUI stuff (Creating a Scene Selection Menu).

I also decided to start making my own flappy-bird clone from scratch, without following a tutorial. Just diving right in is great once you’ve got a basic grip on the Unity Editor - keep the Unity docs open alongside so you can quickly look up how to do whatever it is you’re currently stuck on.

In the couple weeks leading up to GGJ I spent many nights after work staying up way too late because I’d lose track of the time with my head buried in Unity Land. I’d never been so productive. I learnt all about juice.

Do u even Jam bro

Finally the Friday of the game jam arrived, and after a restless day of work and triple checking I had packed all of my gadgets, snacks, power cords, and bedding, I made my way down to the venue. This year a new venue was added which was only 10 minutes from my house. And then it was on like a friendly, sleepless, hectic game of donkey kong.

After getting set up, making some introductions, and watching the announcement and keynotes - we began forming teams. At first I was keen to just team up with 1 or 2 other people and make the most dead-simple game ever created - but our group of initial introductions eventually snowballed out to include a herculean 10 people. This is pretty big for a game jam setting - I knew this even as a game jam novice. I initially had some reservations that a group this big would be unwieldy and end up with an incredibly over scoped project… but soon enough I began to realise we had some really talented, motivated and most importantly hilarious people in our midst. This was going to be one wild ride, comrade.

To prevent this post from getting even more wordy, heres a rough timeline of what followed:

The Lazy Human’s Guide To GGJ

  • Dinner (free pizza thanks to some generous sponsors)
  • Brainstorming
  • Planning
  • Delegating
  • Russian accents
  • Head scratching
  • No sleeping
  • Coding
  • Coding
  • Coffee
  • Debugging
  • Coffee
  • Coding
  • Status update meeting
  • Juicing (Thanks to the UnityPatterns Automotion library)
  • Debugging x5
  • Wut, breakfast already?
  • Coffee
  • Coding
  • Testing
  • Debugging
  • Lunch? maybe
  • Home for a couple hours for a nap
  • Back to coding
  • Blyat!
  • Debugging
  • Coffee
  • Integrating assets and other modules
  • Ogling the artists’ skills
  • Ogling other teams’ progress
  • Trying to “vine”
  • Looking up ridiculous internet memes
  • Stackoverflow
  • More coding
  • Team dinner
  • Laying down Sat night for a sleep because #rekt
  • 10 minutes later getting a security guard coming in and telling us “NO SLEEP!”… not even til Brooklyn
  • Cursing of overzealous authority figures
  • Zombie-brain blur
  • Probably more coding
  • Probably more debugging
  • Integrating
  • Food (Coffee is a food right?)
  • Polishing
  • Panic
  • Integrating
  • Breaking everything while integrating all our code and assets
  • Blyat!
  • Team Presentations
  • Holy crap there are some good devs here
  • Swapping of details
  • Pack up
  • Go home
  • Sleep for a day.

Ok so that was still pretty wordy. But the point is the game jam was a helluva lot of fun. We met some amazing people, learnt a metric BUTT-TONNE about everything game dev related, made some new friends, and learnt the joys of the Aeropress (all hail aeropress).

Here is the game we came out the other side with: CosmoNot a Problem.

Spasiba for reading.