In all the guides I’ve read and people I’ve talked to, the advice is the same. In order to get the most out of a game jam, you need two main things: some plan of what you want to get done and a good working knowledge of the systems you will use. If you blunder into a game jam with no idea, you probably won’t get much done. If you decide to start with a new game engine that weekend, you will spend most of your time learning the code instead of working on your game.
Those are both very good rules to follow and, of course, the exact two I chose to break for the mini-Ludum Dare this past weekend.
It went like this: Last Thursday night, I saw the announcement for the game jam on CompoHub, remembered I would have some free time on the weekend, wrote a note to myself, and then completely forgot about it a few hours later. Saturday morning, re-finding the note to myself (a situation that occurs more often than I’d care to admit), I sat down and tried to figure out what to make a game about.
Two things occurred to me: 1) I needed to practice drawing my own animations and 2) I’d been wanting to learn to use Jaws JS.
Hours into the game jam, I got out my ruler, some paper, and began to draw cells to the approximate size of 6.5 by 5 inches (roughly 640×480). I tried out some different models on one sheet, but settled on the two things I can actually draw: circles and squares. In one scene, I made a robot and in the other a person made of circles and lines. I named the first Totally-Evil Robot and the other Bob-Oh-Bob. Having scanned in those images, I turned my attention to the adventure game I wanted to make in JawsJS.
However, as you can imagine, I had problems trying to learn a new system. Spending a few hours trying to work out mouse collision and pathing code at the same time, I eventually gave up and settled on key-presses. I then tried my hand at making animations and, while I had much more success in that, I also had to spend time cleaning up my own drawings.
(If you are willing, he is looking for feedback on his game. Head over to Google+ thread he started to leave a comment. He’s especially interested in how it fairs in different browsers and on tablet hardware.)
Quickly recording some background music and adding it to the game, I cleaned up my code, uploaded it to my site, and then created my entry. After which, I crashed for several hours, fell into a laughing fit over word pairs, and finally went to sleep.