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PsyKnz

So I participated in my first game jam last weekend...

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PsyKnz    195

This is a quick account of my experience at the Perth site for Global Game Jam 2014. I felt I needed to write this for my own sake and this feels like the most appropriate sub-forum.

 

Global Game Jam 2014 (http://globalgamejam.org/) took place between the 24th and 26th of January, last weekend. This was my first time participating in a game jam, something I've been wanting to do for a very long time.

 

For those that don't know Global Game Jam is an international event held at multiple locations around the world which simultaneously (adjusting for time zones) run a 48 hour event where groups of game developers ranging from professionals to amateurs get together at registered locations to build prototype games. The majority of participants will develop video games, although some will make paper games. Everything is done from scratch or using freely available public resources. The events draw together an awesome assortment of programmers, artists and composers who combine their talents to produce something related to the theme announced at the start of the event. This year the theme was the sentence: "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."

 

Being my first jam I had no idea what to expect. I've been programming games for years now on and off but just as a hobby. I've never worked with anyone else on a project and have no formal qualifications in IT. Hell It's been years since I've even finished a project. I attended the site in Perth which was being hosted at Edith Cowen University. The site was set up thanks to Letsmakegames, a local game development network. The site had a maximum capacity of 80 participants and got 76 which was pretty good. The jam started at 5pm with registrations, a keynote speech, revealing of the theme and some team matchmaking games.

 

I quickly found myself working with a team of students who didn't know each other. The organizers of GGJ prefer for participants to work with people they've never worked before to try and encourage creativity. Sadly at my site most people showed up with a team in mind. I've not really been a part of the Perth game development community due to working regionally so that left me as part of the scraps left over at the end. Our team had me and another fella as the developers, we had two student 3D modelers and an amazing chip tune artist. Chip tune artists are something to behold, writing their music on modded out original Gameboys.

 

800px-Chiptune-Setup-Game-Boys.jpg

 

A quick look at our teams strengths and it was pretty clear that we were going to be making a 3D game in Unity. Now the slog begins.

 

Jamming's no different to any other weekend long event. You tend not to sleep, eat or drink properly while trying to make the most of your time. You crack straight into your craft and immerse yourself in what you're trying to achieve while meeting the more experienced people around you. It can be overwhelming as well. There's a lot of things going on around you and a lot of people you want to meet. People who have their own things going on which you have to respect. Everyone only has these 48 hours and everyone wants to make the most of them.

 

It took a bit of a lost somber brainstorming session to get an idea which all of us were happy to work on but once we had it, we had it. Now it was time to make our idea a reality. I instantly felt swamped. The reality is I'm not comfortable developing in Unity. It's a great engine for fast prototyping, and even for producing legitimate products, but it's not something I'm familiar with. Prior to this event I'd maybe spent bout 6 hours with it, 6 months ago learning a couple of the basics, including the syntax for C#. Thank god I've spent all year doing stuff with Java for fun or I'd have been in trouble. C# and Java are so close to the same it isn't funny. By the end of the first night I was feeling stressed. I was worried I was going to let everyone down. I live 15 minutes cycle from the site so I went home to try get some sleep. Sleep didn't come, just a dread of heading back the next day and under performing.

 

Thankfully day 2 went a lot better than day 1.

 

When I got in around 7am the Saturday morning most of my team was there already. One of them hadn't slept that night either, and you could tell. I set up my workstation, loaded up Unity and mentally prepared to tackle the challenge. All it took was a couple more hours with Unity and C# and I'd found my sea legs. It's hard to describe how good it felt to realize I was gong to be able to make a real decent contribution to the project after only the day earlier thinking I was going to be dead weight. I'm not the kind of person that gets stressed but that Friday night was something else. The day rolled around and we made some real and amazing progress on the game. Come the end of Saturday it wasn't playable yet, but t wasn't far off. Some Occulus Rift dev kits had started to float around the room as well for experimentation with peoples projects which was very cool. However the kits also made something clear, one of our 3D modelers had lost interest in the project.

 

The last day was a mad slog. We didn't get a playable build finished until 1 pm on the Sunday. Then it was 3 hours of intense work ironing out bugs to get something acceptable enough to upload to the GGJ site before 5 pm. Our environmental modeler was really excited to get character animations gong using rigging (something I know absolutely nothing about) so we asked him and the character modeler to get together and work out what had to be done to the models to make it happen. The character modeler tended to have a lot of time on his hands. We'd ask for something and he'd spit it out as fast as he could, tending not to worry about the final quality of his product. For example we'd ask for some legs and we'd get an upside down U with no feet. It often felt like he wanted to be told exactly what to do rather than actually applying a bit of his own creative insight to the project. I understand wanting to do something everyone else is happy with, but when you disturb your developers every two minutes to get feedback on a model which you've put almost no thought into while they are having to solve debilitating problems it gets frustrating. In the end he didn't even try to look at how to animate his models, preferring instead to just abandon his workstation to pester other pressed for time teams.

 

At about 4:50pm we got a playable build uploaded to the GGJ website for our game 'Animal Disco' (which you can find here: http://globalgamejam.org/2014/games/animal-disco). I think every other team submitted although a number of them didn't wind up with something playable. Once the submissions were completed there were presentations with Carry the Fire (located here: http://globalgamejam.org/2014/games/carry-fire) in my opinion the most impressive entry from our site.

 

I think we were all proud to get a game playable and submitted, even if it still has its fair share of bugs and issues. I had a lot of fun, and a lot of stress, and the global game jam is definately something I want to participate in again next year. Anyone else here who is into game development should check out a local site as well next year. You don't need to worry abut how experienced you are because there is nothing to lose.

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+Urthor    10211

inb4 move to tournament reports

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Sounds like an awesome experience. As for the game, looks good. Some obvious collision issues but that's to be expected since it's just the start. I'm not sure what to do there exactly and how the fire thing comes into play. Unity creeps me out, maybe it's ok, I've never been into 3D games as much as 2D.

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PsyKnz    195

Of course by collision issues you mean no collision. I had to strip almost the entirety of the collision scripting last minute because it wouldn't play nice. Collision was one of the best examples where having prior knowledge of Unity probably would have saved me a massive headache (since its inbuilt collision system system has a bunch of unwritten rules you have to follow).

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+rei+    34640
If I was someone with a solid understanding of programming concepts (control structures and syntax) but not really sure where to dive into game dev as a hobby, where should I start?
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PsyKnz    195

In all honesty Unity is a great place to start nowadays. It's a fully fledged engine with some very robust debugging features. One of the major benefits for a fledgling hobbyist is you can see changes you make to your code almost immediately making it easier to understand what you're doing. The downside is that a lot of core components are hidden from you so you will want to step outside of Unity at some point to learn the nitty-gritty for building custom engines.

 

Alternatively I'd look for a graphic processing/game development library for your favorite language and start there. The reality is game design can be done using anything, you'll just need to take some tutorials to get comfortable with core features of game programming like vector math, working in delta time, collision systems, etc. If there's a library, there's a tutorial.

 

What languages do you prefer to work in?

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┬╗victor    6400

C++ is the way to go for video games.

 

What do you know about computer graphics, rei?

 

EDIT: What kind of game do you want to make? Web based? Or do you want to use something like Gamemaker?

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PsyKnz    195

C++ is the way to go for video games.

 

This is true, provided you want to move towards professional development or you have a preference/experience working in C++. However if you're starting off from a hobby perspective without experience in C++ you would be better off to learn something where you can see the fruits(and bugs) of your labors much faster. Because even if you can quickly get the libraries you'd want to use (like SDL) under your belt pretty fast, you would be constantly butting your head up against high level issues like finding optimal ways to structure game objects, making them interact, and presenting them properly. The beauty of using something like Unity (or even Gamemaker) from the get go is that you can get a good feel for how elements in games need to be built and how they should interact. To put it in perspective Unity has pre-existing support for almost any standard feature you would see in game architecture. It's much easier to include these features and debug your implementation when you can actually pause the game  in the editor and see how things are interacting with each other.

 

If after experimenting for a while you found yourself comfortable working and coding game mechanics and you wanted to push your skills forward, then by all means C++ is the step to take. C++ is what the majority of professional games are written in.

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