Charity Game Jam postmortem

Posted by (twitter: @laaph023)
December 4th, 2013 11:09 pm

I hope this is okay to post here, but since the Charity Game Jam website doesn’t have a place for such things, and I really want to write about it, and while I could write about it at my web page I have a larger audience here.

Hi!  I’m laaph, you may have played my other games before, you may have met me if you go to local real-world meetups in my area, and I might be a game jam junky.  I learned this the hard way when I was asked to help out with a class on Twine.  I thought “gee I should give Twine a spin since it’s been some long since I’ve used it”.  So….  I started out with a simple thing, not really planning on doing anything serious.  Then I stayed up all night continuing it.  I showed up to the class late, taught the class, and didn’t worry about it.  Meanwhile, stickied at the top of Ludum Dare, and all over my twitter feed, were the announcements that Charity Game Jam was on!

So I went with it.  It was too much fun.  I may have blatantly ripped off a bunch of games a played a very long time ago, including Pirate Adventure, Colossal Cave Adventure, Slime Quest Adventure, and a Bugs Bunny cartoon.  I poured a lot of my simplistic and stupid humor in to it.  And, if I can’t hype this game anymore, let me try advertising that this game has –

  • Japanese lessons
  • Multiple recipes for soup
  • A ninja
  • A bird sanctuary
  • A rocket ship
  • A dragon
  • An evil maze, which I would have said was more evil than the one in Zork, but I then realize only because you can drop things in the Zork maze to be able to map it
  • An evil scoring system, which is far more due to rushing to get the game done than my evil intent

Go play it here:  Opening screenshot below is a link.

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 8.55.09 PMAnd then, if you are feeling charitable, perhaps donate to one of the charities involved (I listed EFF, The MADE, and The International Dark Sky Association as the charities I wanted to support, but perhaps you have other preferred charities).

This game almost was just a “stream of conscious” flow.  I did ask a lot of people for ideas and whatnot, but really I just went with whatever seemed most fun at the moment, until I realized I had to cut a lot of stuff short, and even then (“I’m gonna have a bird sanctuary, goddammit!” it’s only three rooms and little/no puzzles and the joke is not funny) I still went a lot with “what would be most fun?  This made making the game incredibly fun and exhilarating.

Ooh!  Another exciting comment is that I learned my way around Selenium a bit.  When you have to playtest what happens at the end game, it really helps to have some automated clicking going along the way.

So that’s just some of the excitement.  What would I say went wrong?

  • Who plays text adventures?  I can usually get my friends to give any game jam a spin, but all of them this time politely played through just once and said “that’s cute, I died <some creative way>”.  Lousy testers.
  • Twine is a great text adventure engine, but it’s still a 90% awesome thing.  This is evidenced by the fact that I know personally two people making text adventure engines (or else I know strange game developers, which is more likely), but the number tweaks, headaches, annoyances bothered me to no end.  No arrays?  No loops?  WTF?  However, if you read about on the internet, people have hacked everything in to Twine and you can even embed Unity in your Twine.
  • Text adventures, no matter how quick you think it is to put things together in Twine, take an incredibly long time.  Every time I write one this has been my experience.
  • The number one issue I had with doing the Charity Game Jam is illustrated by this gif:

I spent near 40 hours on this game!  I have work to do!  If it weren’t for the Thanksgiving break, there is no way I’d be able to spend that much time on a game!  I still managed get in trouble for not doing my day job because of this!  This was not okay!  (actually they did forgive me it was Thanksgiving after all no one else was doing work either.)

This has been my experience with other week-long jams – for example, I have started, but never finished, the 7-day RogueLike challenge many times, and that will probably happen again in the future.  A weekend is doable – but even then I literally host local meetups because otherwise it is really hard to dedicate a weekend – laundry has to be done, friends need to be visited, the shopping has to be done, etc.  A week is just much too much time.

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 10.01.28 PMIf I kept this rate up for the entire month of November, I could submit it to NaNoWriMo.

Having said that, I had way too much fun writing this!  If I could get someone to pay me to continue writing this, I would!  I probably will be adding features and edits (in particular, the rocket ship needs work, so does the bird sanctuary for that matter) despite not getting paid but I can not dedicate that much time to writing this.

I hope you all go play it (link again) and have as much fun playing it as I had writing it.

In other exciting news, I finally got around to fixing my website ( which is about 50% Ludum Dare games, which is why I am mentioning it here.

TL;DR Had lots of fun, spent too much time on it.  Go play it!


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