I’m writing a book on game jams!

Posted by (twitter: @McFunkypants)
July 18th, 2011 10:04 am

Hello Ludum Dare friends, I am writing a book on game jams.  As part of the research I wanted to ask you if you had any anecdotes or advice you’d like to share for achieving game jam success!  In particular, funny stuff is what I’d like to hear most. =)  One liners, haiku, yoda-like wisdom… you name it. Update: I’m loving all the haiku (5-7-5 syllable poems) please submit more!

blog: www.mcfunkypants.com
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50 Responses to “I’m writing a book on game jams!”

  1. PoV says:

    Great, and best of luck with the project. I wanted to do something like this years ago, but never had the time (a pseudo gems-book of jam wisdom from multiple authors). Glad to see someone else taking the torch (an LD regular too :D).

    Oh and “The Game Jam Survival Guide” for sure. One does not “do” a jam, you “SURVIVE” it. ;D

  2. spliter says:

    Hm.. my advice/wisdom thing would be:
    “If you don’t fail the first couple of times, you’re not doing it right.”
    yeah… I think that works.

  3. Yrael says:

    The jam is starting,
    And features are creeping in;
    A way to fail it.

  4. LiquidAsh says:

    Sounds very cool McFunkypants! I’d be particularly interested in seeing some analysis of the highest ranking games in various jams: how different communities differ, the importance of graphics versus theme integration, etc.

    Re: “What kind of games are most likely to WIN?” Every game is a winner!
    Re: “What is the best way to make it to the finish line?” Start smaller than you think you should, and expand as time permits.
    Also: Try to avoid planning as much as possible, it eats time and blinds you from serendipitous opportunities.

  5. Folis says:

    Gotta make a double submission, based on my 3 LD experiences.

    “Those who survive more than 3/4 of a jam, achieved more than many other contestants.”



    You start planning games.
    The competition starts now.
    Use the time you got!

    (btw. feel free to change anything, however it fits your needs.)

  6. LegacyCrono says:

    Above all things, have fun.
    That’s my two cents. 😛

  7. I had to share this awesome Zen master koan that was posted on my blog by randomnine:

    A student entered a game jam but was unable to complete anything of note. He turned to the developer beside him, whose game was lauded by all.

    “Master,” the student exclaimed, “please teach me how to choose a path as you have. I considered a thousand game ideas, yet I could not decide the best one.”

    “I wish I had your problems,” the master sighed. “I only had one idea, so could not choose at all.”

  8. Milo says:

    Advice: It’s needless and torturous to stare at your computer screen for 48 hours. Your brain is probably going to think about your game when you’re not at your computer. Or, in haiku form:

    Do not stare at code
    Let your mind free of it or
    You might go insane

  9. Shelby says:

    This will be my first ludum dare (in 30 days), so here’s hoping this advice helps.

    • Shelby says:

      Oh, and I’d like the overall structure of the book to be something like this:

      -Section on game jams, maybe a bit about the history of them

      -How to prepare (Both technologically, physically, mentally, emotionally. cactus says to eat, drink, sleep, and have an idea before starting).

      -Actually starting the game. Whether or not to work on art, sound/music, the engine, or the actual game, or to just plan it out on paper. I do forsee some definite debate on this. Some say to work on the engine, while many say that just jumping in and going for the whole thing at once is the right thing to do. I myself would design on paper.

      -Keeping your head up, and advice on how not to quit.

      -Finishing on time and avoiding feature creep

      -Writing a post-mortem

      Methinks it would be nice if each section to have some paragraphs on the subject, followed by the advice given to you by these wonderful developers.

  10. austinbreed says:

    LD is great because it gives you the push to try new ideas.

    I attempted to bring game jams to Newgrounds.com, and the community has done a lot with it. If you’d like to talk about it, let me know. austinbreed@gmail.com

  11. madpew says:

    Not much to say about this. My advice only applies to themed-competitions and it’s about the decision which way to go when the theme gets announced.

    Route 1: “My ideas aren’t good enough”
    If you can’t find an satisfying idea for a game matching the theme, step a little lower and keep searching for more-obvious gameideas. Sometimes a good and/or complete but kinda ripped-off game is better than some half-baked, unfinished (read un-playable), game-of-the-year-2042.

    Route 2: “Ah that’s easy I’ll start doing …”
    On the other side, don’t think to easy and take the first idea that comes to your mind. A game for “falling blocks” doesn’t have to be another tetris clone. There will be enough other contestants doing exactly this.
    Relax and take your time. 2 hours “wasted” on finding a great idea will be worth it when you come up with something cool. If you don’t, those 2 hours wouldn’t have made your tetris-clone shine.

    Route 3: “Hah! I’ll copy **** but with a twist!”
    Taking the Twist-route is dangerous.
    When you DO have an idea that almost completely copies another game except one (or more) twist(s) be sure to implement them as soon as possible. A clone with great music, awesome sounds, sweet graphics will still be just a clone if you lack the time to implement (the unique point of sale) your twist.

    I hope that somehow makes sense :)

  12. Entar says:

    You like to make games?
    Tough to make in forty-eight
    Don’t forget to sleep

  13. I’m loving the haiku (5-7-5 syllable poem). Here’s mine:

    Many ideas.
    They all seem to fit the theme!
    Must I choose just one?

    and another:

    Coding late at night.
    Can’t stop now, I’m in the zone!
    I’ll sleep on Monday.

  14. jovoc says:

    Here’s an old post I made with a list of tips:

    Here’s an article I wrote on how programmers can make better game art for jams like LD:

    Feel free use any of this material in your book. Sounds like an awesome project, I can’t wait to read it.

  15. Mikhail Rudoy says:

    Even my best game,
    however much I polish,
    has programmer art.


  16. Entar says:

    Early morning code
    You really ought to get sleep
    More caffeine could hurt

  17. medice says:

    stock up on the beans
    there’s no leaving outside
    the death of hygiene

  18. jonbro says:

    I think this calvin and hobbs comic is pretty on point: http://mlkshk.com/r/5KYA

  19. onefineline says:

    Trouble deciding
    What to do, but did my best,
    Which wasn’t too bad


  20. Folis says:

    Am I really done?
    Can I take my game further?
    It could turn out great!


    Thought of it while hacking and mashing on “Dodge! (2.0)”

  21. jonbro says:

    I am kinda new to game jamming (I think I might have done 5 of them now?) But I have been jamming on a number of different mediums for a while now, comics, music, etc.

    I think knowing that you are going to fail harder than anything else ever is pretty important. Also when you get confused by your game, just follow the rules. If you are having difficulty dealing with the rules then just ignore them. In the end you are doing this for yourself. If other people happen to like it, that is neat, but it isn’t for them, so make something terrible.

    Use an engine that you know nothing about so that you can blame your problems on the engine. You will learn more than you would had you read the manual. Use an engine that you know inside and out, and you find bugs that you have never run into before.

    You don’t really need the full 48 hours, sleep well, go to a bbq, cut every corner possible. See the jammers over at glorious trainwrecks for what can be done in 2 hours.

    Focus on the core of your game, cut out everything else.

    Enuff truisms? Fucking jam, you can do it!

  22. Entar says:

    Five syllables here
    Seven are in this here line
    Making games is fun

    … But for reals:

    Personal hygiene
    The most difficult challenge
    Don’t forget to floss

  23. droqen says:

    It’s true what jonbro says. You need not devote the entire 48-hour period to your game, and it likely isn’t for the best in most cases. I went to a wedding that took a whole day (laptop in vehicle for a bit, though) and I still finished a good game! (undermine! wooo)

    It won’t be easy,
    but you will not find the time
    to squander your time.

    I think the best part of jams is that they keep me focused — it’s awfully easy for me to lose interest in a game, or to lose sight of where I’m really trying to go with it. When I’m jamming a game, there isn’t enough time for me to waste any of it. I don’t mean it’s difficult not to waste time; the time fills itself as long as I’ve decided I’m participating.

    Three features: a crowd.
    Just a second to play off
    the pearlescent first.

    Definitely feature creep is not good, but… well, a -little- bit can’t hurt. If you don’t put your mind to it, it -is- easy to run out of time and not be able to accomplish everything you wanted to right from the beginning. But if you feel flexible enough to do it, don’t turn ideas away just because you’ve already thought of something else. Choose for quality over quantity, but don’t choose whoever came first. (Obviously, do take into consideration how much is done already and how much time remains :p)

  24. bretboy129 says:

    This is an awesome idea! I’ll post something later. 😛
    -Bretboy129 ~ Bret Hudson

  25. ToxicLogic says:

    LD21 will be my first solo competition, but I have some other game jam experience. I participated in two 24h jams at Full Sail University, both of them with about 20 other students. Definitely a unique experience!

    Here’s some things I learned:

    If you’re working with others, you will most likely have at least one person who will try to use the opportunity to build their dream game. I don’t necessarily have any good advice on how to deal with said person, but just prepared for them. And make sure that it’s not you!

    It might seem counter-intuitive for such a short project, but start out by making a schedule with milestones every four hours or so. You WILL miss deadlines but it will keep you on track and help avoid feature creep. I plan on doing this even for the solo event.

    Also, if you’re doing a group jam and you end up with a good turn out, consider these two possibilities: either break up into multiple teams and make different games, or still break up into teams but for different features of one game. (A level design team, a front end team, etc.)

    Hope these ramblings help!

  26. code_glitch says:

    My experience is:

    If you game library works perfectly and its bug free – your screwed
    If you have 48/48 hours available – you’re still screwed
    If you have a plan – you’re uber-screwed
    If you fail the first time – you got the point.
    If you enter the LD challenge again – you obviously didn’t understand its meaning yet.

    Just my ‘british’ £0.02…

  27. God at play says:

    I just made a blog post about what to expect at a game jam, might be useful/inspiring since it’s aimed at beginners: http://www.meaningfulgameplay.com/2011/08/what-to-expect-at-a-game-jam/

    And I think it’d be great to talk about the future of game jams. How they could evolve, etc. I have an idea for a jam format that would benefit the development community, which I talk about here:

    It’d be great to talk more about game jams. I love game jams :)

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