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Global Game Jam 2016 - Postmortem of our project
Last weekend, this year's edition of Global Game Jam took place all around the world. Just like in previous years, I participated in 3City Game Jam - a site in Gdańsk, Poland. It is a big one, with over 150 participants, organized by Playsoft company in their office. Theme this year was "Ritual". Regarding technology, Unity was most popular in our site, with just few games using something else: Unreal Engine, HTML5, GameMaker and C++ with SFML.
We have also used Unity. Our team consisted of 3 programmers. Here you can see our game: Bloody Eclipse, but it is far from being finished or playable. Honestly speaking, in my opinion the project on this jam went exceptionally poor. We didn't even make it to the top 10 best voted games to be presented on a big screen. That's why I'd like to share some conclusions, for you as well as for my future self.
First, it were not environmental issues that caused any problems. We all had our hardware and software set up before the jam, with Unity, Visual Studio, Git client and other tools already in place. Internet worked perfectly with transfer up to 80 Mbps in both directions. Second, it was not a lack of knowledge or skills. Our work in Unity went quite smoothly. We could deal with C#, 3D math and Git pretty well. Third, it was not because of the lack of artists in our team. Sure, graphics is very important for overall experience, but the guys who made The Bad Ritual also didn't have artists in their team and they somehow found a consistent visual style for their game, made it fun and pretty. There are many possibilities to make minimalistic and yet visually pleasant game, just like there are many free assets ready to use in Unity Asset Store.
The biggest thing that was missing in our team was management/leadership. I deliberately don't call it planning or design, because in a hectic environment like a game jam it's not enough to design the game at the beginning and then just execute. Things are changing fast, new ideas come to mind, time is running fast and new obstacles appear (like bugs or difficulties in development), so someone should have an authority to decide what to do next, keep the list of tasks "TODO" and update it constantly with priorities assigned so the most important things are done first. Noone took this role in our team. As the result, we've spent almost whole Saturday developing and polishing algorithm for enemy movement and around half an hour brainstorming and then voting for the game title, while our game used untextured, placeholder cubes and spheres as models until the very end :)
Conclusion: It's not enough to know how to code. It's also important to decide WHAT to code so that best possible result can be achieved with limited time and resources.
But the Global Game Jam as a whole is not a contest (despite our site actually was one, with PlayStation 4 for each team member as first prize) but just a fun, creative event. Despite all the problem we had I think it was fun. I had yet another opportunity to use Unity, which is a great technology. I realized I can handle Git pretty well, despite I don't feel like an expert knowing about "rebase" and such advanced stuff. I realized I still remember how to use the so much unintuitive inteface of Blender, which I learned many years ago to use in my master thesis. I could play many interesting games created on this jam, like my favorite: Witch Rite (it took 3rd place) or the one that won the contest: Acolytes: Ritual of Ascension. And finally, I've met many interesting people who do all sorts of crazy stuff, from running a company that produces medical software and hardware, to visiting escepe rooms and practicing celtic dances :)