St. Louis Summer GameJam 2011 July 11, 2011Posted by Jesse in : Game Development , 2 comments
This weekend was the 2011 St. Louis Summer GameJam. This is my second time participating in a game jam, and I’m really glad to have been able to go. While it’s still fresh in my mind, I’d like to write up a quick postmortem of my experience.
Our team (left to right): Jesse Chounard (programming, animation), Peyton Hediger (art), Randy Phillips (level design, art), Ray Phillips (programming), Leslie Neal (story, voice acting), Kelli Michelle Andrews (art), Brendon Diedrich (QA), Dave Derrington (project manager)
What went right
- Better time planning
- Working with a team
- Building on existing technology
- A really cool premise
For my last game jam I wasn’t expecting to be able to stay the entire duration, so I worked alone rather than annoy a team with my random comings and goings. This time, I made plans early enough that I was able to stay the entire time.
It was really cool to have a team (in fact, a very large team) to work with. There was always someone available to bounce ideas off of, and when I started to get stressed, I could take a break and have a conversation and laugh a bit.
Last jam I thought it would be a good idea to build everything from scratch at the event. That was a really poor idea. This time, we used Demina, Gleed2d, and the platform collision code from Hero in Training. Everyone seemed happy with the tools, and we wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much done without them, so I’m really happy we had them available.
The theme for the jam was “Twice Upon a Time.” My idea was to use an old story (the kind that might start with “Once Upon a Time”) and change the main character to have multiple personalities. So for our game, we used Little Red Riding Hood as our premise. But in this version of the story, there was no Big Bad Wolf. Instead, Red’s got a bit of a Tyler Durden problem, and is unknowingly doing all of the bad stuff. You’d play as both Red and The Wolf, and when you reached Grandma’s house, she’d realize that she was the one responsible for what had happened to poor Grandma.
What went wrong
- Biting off more than we could chew
- My management skills
- Our demo
This is, of course, the single greatest problem you hear about games at jams. I fell in love with the premise immediately, and decided to run with it even though I knew it was way too big for a single weekend. Another developer suggested a Wario Ware style game. Maybe I should have joined that team.
As I mentioned above, we had a really huge team. Two programmers, two artists, a level designer, a story writer, a tester, and a project manager. Yeah, that’s crazy. I’m counting myself as a programmer in that list, but I really didn’t get to spend nearly as much time coding as I would have liked. I animated the two main characters (Red and the Wolf) in Demina. We also had a bunch of problems with tools and with subversion, and I spent far too much time trying to fix them.
We worked on the game until about five minutes before the deadline. This means that the demo we cobbled together was slightly less than polished. We still got a few laughs, and it didn’t crash, so that’s positive.
Overall, it was a very positive experience, and I look forward to future jams. (The next one scheduled is the Global Game Jam starting January 27.) For the next one, I think I would like to have a small team in place before the jam. The organizers were stressing that it was best if you work with a new team. It was fun, but I’d really like to be able to accomplish a bit more. So a small team who already know the tools, with one or two additional members picked up at the jam would work well.
Here’s some samples of what we put together.