We started the Game Jam this past Sunday with a strong start. Our team got together for our usual daily stand-up meeting and set out planning around the announced theme, “Stronger Together”.
Previously, we had an early planning meeting to lay out choices like game engine (Unity) and art direction (we eventually settled on 2D). Our team also set soft goals for learning and exploring game development skills we have little practice in. Conor (lone-pine) set out early to avoid any and all programming, and chose instead to work on sound and story. Mateus (Gainos) and Mitch (supersoup) would flex into roles as needed but held the responsibility for art and programming respectively. As for myself, the plan was to try my hand in any area we may need assistance in, sticking mainly to writing, art, and updating our development blog.
One of our last team decisions was on some general design themes. We wanted to make a multiplayer, web-based online game to practice a lot of different things we haven’t done at once. Also, it turns out everyone on the team loves card-based games, and we all agreed to explore that in some aspect during the jam.
Our first official Game Jam meeting started with an examination of a card game Conor had built previously, built around the prisoner’s dilemma game theory concept. Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that the card game did not match the theme as much as we’d like. The decision was made to use the science fiction themes from Conor’s game, which featured Artificial Intelligence battling against one another.
Inspiration started to come fast and loose; Mateus and I spoke at length exploring different settings and enemies the AI players could fight.
And then, my power went out for three days. I’m living in central Texas, and I weathered the Icepocalypse at one of the worst possible times! While I was trying to stay warm in my unheated apartment I could only contemplate if I’d ever be able to contribute. And as of today (2/18), I am back at it, helping the team catch up on pixel art and card design.
his is my first game jam, so I won’t claim to speak from experience. But it’s my understanding that most game jams come with a set of parameters. Rules as to which libraries and frameworks (fundamental programming building blocks) are or aren’t allowed to help speed things along. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when you’re under a time crunch.
The Brackeys Game Jam (https://itch.io/jam/brackeys-5) in which we are now adrift is remarkably friendly in its restrictions. Basically, there’s no engine, framework, or library that’s off limits. And it’s a week long so you can actually get a little sleep. With all these options on the table, it would seem that the biggest challenge is simply settling on which frameworks and libraries to use.
So naturally I sidestepped the issue by deciding to build most of it from scratch.
We are using the Unity engine, and the exceptional Mirror networking library (https://github.com/vis2k/Mirror), but beyond that the code is all soup from floor to ceiling. Soup for days. Handcrafted, slow-simmered, impeccably seasoned soup.
… No, the stress hasn’t gotten to me. Why do you ask?
With the rest of the team handling design and art duties, that leaves me as the single on-ramp to the wide world of Unity. Writing code is just part of that process. The rest of the time, I’m putting Gainos’ beautiful frames together into animations or giving tangible and visual form to the Pine & Mime’s rapier wit and prose. It’s hard to see so many great ideas on the cutting room floor, but I’m still thrilled from prow to poop deck at how it’s coming together.
It’s a success any way you look at it. Whether or not we manage to submit a build on time for the game jam, we all gained invaluable experience and tried something equal parts novel and stimulating. And given the fact that the rest of the team seems to share my excitement, I suspect this game jam won’t be the last you hear or see of this game.
There’s a world here. We just need to tease it out into the open. One line of code and art frame at a time.