Global Game Jam 2015 Postmortem

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Hello everyone, in this post I would like to share my experience of my first global game jam, that was held at the end of January. A little bit of introduction first: I moved to Dundee, Scotland, in September 2014 to get my master degree in games development. I have always been passionate about making games, but my bachelor degree took me a lot of time; once finished, I decided to focus my studies on game development to improve my knowledge about game development and to build my portfolio. If we add that I am Italian, living in the south of the country, it is not so hard to figure out why I have never had the chance to participate to something like a game jam before (if you are asking why, take a read here or here (italian)).

That said, I was really excited to take part to my first global game jam. I was excited and I felt like going out with my friends on a saturday night — just doing something different. I joined the other developers to watch the video that revealed the year theme: “What do we do now?”. And literally, I was thinking the same “What do I do now?” . I was a mix between excited and confused, wondering what I would have done in 48 hours. At the end, we formed a team of 5 people composed of member of my postgraduate course: two programmers, two artists and one audio guy. The way we came up with the concept of the game is pretty similar on how I used to make songs with my old band: improvisation, madness and lot of efforts. Another analogy with the music creation process is that everyone puts some ideas in, modifying the main concept. It was very cool how the game changed with everyone’s ideas, I would say very different on how we use to make games for our degree, since it resembles more how a professional game is built. I think a developer has to know both of the methods, because it is important to develop someone else ideas, but also have our own way to create things.

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Back to the jam, the idea was simple yet effective: two thieves, chained together, trying to rob an house. The two thieves discovers that the house is occupied by a scary dog, that is going to bite them! The main goal of the game is actually escape from this house, trying to dodge the dog. The fact that the thieves are chained, forces the player to collaborate, because the chains limit the players movements. So the players should carefully plan their movements and which room to visit, searching for the exit. What do they do now?

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For the development of the game, we choose Unity, because I think it’s one of the fastest game engines to build a prototype. The aspect that added excitement and makes us enjoy even more the game jam, was that it was our first time using Unity. We just looked to some very basic tutorial, covering an introduction to the game engine and the basic notion that every Unity developer should know. This was a few weeks before the game jam, but we actually learned it during the development. To be honest, I usually like to know the tool/language I am going to use before actually using it, but it was a very nice experience deal with something new to build a game in 48 hours. And we did it! I like to think of the game jam as a way to express yourself within a limited amount of time, just to say “okay this is what I thought and what I could do in that amount of time”. I didn’t know I would have liked it so much! I am the kind of developer that prefers to make a game having time, thinking to more than one approach for a given problem, thinking about reusability etc, but, as I said earlier, I think having more than one “weapon” in our knapsack can be only beneficial!

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I really enjoyed coding for that amount of time, alternating learning, adding features, debugging, breaks in such a small amount of time. The environment was also great: people put music after midnight and that contributes to the overall feeling of the jam: just normal people who love what they do and want to show it. As the video of the global game jam suggested, is not really about the game, is about “showing up”.

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Thanks to all the developers who took part to the jam all around the world, who shared the passion of making games in this fantastic event. It was an amazing experience, where I learned a lot, improved myself, had fun and well.. made a game!

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