Thursday, January 24, 2013

How to Kick Game Jam Buttocks!

Someone partaking in the #1GAMCrunch that I just followed on Twitter (@dreamwinterlab) wrote this article on Surviving a Game Jam. It gave me the idea to write up the lessons I've learned partaking in several as well!

Note that the jams I refer to in this post are all 48-72 hour competitions where a theme is given when the counter begins, and are done "alone" from home. I say "alone" because Angel still helps with coming up with ideas and stuff, but the development is completely done by me. Also note that I'm in the Eastern time zone in the US for times


Every jam I've ever taken part in began late at night. The #1GAMCrunch begins at 5pm, and Ludum Dares begin at 9pm (I think? Maybe 10, I forget). Because they begin so late at night, it's easy to think about waking up as late as possible in the day to get lots of work done right away, and I did try that in the past... But DON'T DO IT! Seriously! In most cases, the competition begins at the same time as it ends, so if it begins at 9pm on Friday, it ends at 9pm Sunday or Monday. If you wake up at 2pm and you normally don't, you're going to screw up your sleep pattern AND on the last day, you'll only have from about 2-9pm. In my experience, the last day is the most vital; it's when you wrap things up and fix the last few things that you can. I've never sat there in the last couple hours or so and said 'hey, I'm done, sweet!' It's always 'DOH! I still need to balance these levels out a bit, test some more, fix up some graphics...'

Finally, within the 24 hours or so before the jam, take some time off! Relax, watch some movies, play some video games... In fact, check out other game jam games that did well, play those! They're usually very short so you can play lots and see what they did, and they're usually very diverse in genre/graphics/gameplay, so it'll give your brain lots of ideas as well!

The Announcing of the Theme

So, the time has officially begin, the theme is announced. Wait, what's the theme again?? How the heck am I gonna make a game out of that? Oh I know, I'll make [whatever] with it, that'll be easy!

STOP! Before you run with that idea, how cliche is it? If you Google the basic concept, how many thousands of versions of that game will there be?

For me, pretty much EVERY theme announcement goes like this (seriously, like 75% of the time!):
  1. Wait, what? I'm never going to come up with something for that!
  2. Got it! I'll just make a 'catch the falling [whatever] as a [whatever]', that fits perfectly!
  3. No wait, I've already half-made three of those... How about I take this one awesome idea I've had for years and make a short demo of part of it, that'd fit!
  4. Nah, I don't want to half-make another game, I want a full game, and that game would take at least a few weeks to make!
  5. [after about an hour and a half of staring at a blank notebook] (said out loud so Angel hears it) "Geez, coming up with an idea for [theme] is tough!"
  6. Angel: Why not make a game like [whatever]. Me: [part] would take too long and I've never done it.
  7. About half an hour later, with discussion, a great concept is found!
What's the point? Talk to someone! Discussion with someone you can trust, who won't make you feel stupid and who likes games is the most important thing you can do to come up with an idea! I've never done it with someone online, but I'd imagine that would work just as well, perhaps a little slower since you can't sketch things out and just show it to them without scanning, and typing is usually slightly slower than verbal speech.

Making Your Game

Work work work! No breaks, no sleep, no TV, no cooking, no going anywhere; live on energy drinks, sugar cubes and whatever you can shove down your throat while still working with your other hand.

Sounds slightly extreme, but we've all been there... "Geez, there are only 36 hours left after sleeping and getting my idea, I have to make every second count". You're right, but not the way you think. Read the article I linked to at the beginning for much more detail on this, but my way is:

FOOD AND DRINK: Energy drink in the morning. I'm addicted to caffeine; soda will keep the headaches away, but energy drinks help me wake up a bit more (like coffee!). I ONLY drink the one, though... After that, it's alternating soda and water. Snacks are fine, but I don't eat any differently than a normal day. I still spend time eating dinner, I still get away from the laptop for a while to help make lunch and breakfast.

BREAKS: Take em! Some people say every hour, some say every couple hours, or every half hour... I take breaks when it makes sense to me: after finishing the menu, after completing something tricky, etc. Nothing throws me off more than working on the first 10 functions that make the basics of the game work, juggling variable names and all in a notepad file, then having to take a break in the middle of it.

SLEEP: DO IT! Seriously! I need lots of sleep to function properly myself... I can work all 48 hours of the competition if I really want to, but the last 28 hours or so are going to be garbage. When I'm awake and can focus, I do work about 10 times faster than when I'm sleepy, and it's much easier to create needless bugs when you're sleepy by misspelling something. MAKE SURE TO KEEP A NOTEBOOK, PEN AND LIGHT SOURCE NEAR YOU WHILE YOU SLEEP! Especially during a time like this, all sorts of awesomeness will come to you while you try to sleep, while you sleep and the minute you wake up. You really need to be able to write these down or you'll lose clarity of the idea, or the idea altogether! I suggest doing this every night, but particularly during a jam.

MAJOR BUGS: During every single jam, at one point I've run across some kind of major bug. It makes absolutely no sense that it exists and no matter what I do, it won't work properly. Just like any other bug, give it some time to try to fix it, but if you can't within, say, half an hour... Turn off the computer and walk away for a while. Take a shower, go for a walk, play a game, watch a TV show, whatever. I seriously had a bug during one game jam that I spent HOURS trying to fix late at night; I gave up, shut the laptop off and went to sleep. In the morning, when I woke up, the game worked fine. Computers can be really weird sometimes, and Flash is no exception :)

VERSION CONTROL: Regardless of what you use to make your game, once you have it functioning, save it as something different and leave it alone ("AwesomeGame-WORKS"). Once you add a feature and it works for sure, do it again ("AwesomeGame2-AddedLevel2"). Do this EVERY time, especially as time is running out; you never know when you'll add something that randomly breaks the whole game that can be fixed with a half hour of bug hunting, but you only have 20 mins left. Also, you never know when some sort of personal emergency will come up. Sure, you have plenty of time, but maybe some sort of emergency happens where you're gone for a while and now you're not sure if you can fix everything up to where the game is playable again.


There it is! That's how I kick some rear end, and I hope that it helps you do the same! Here's a quick summary:
  • Keep your current, consistent sleep pattern going; don't throw it way off just to have more hours awake at the beginning.
  • Take time off before the jam if you can, you're going to need it!
  • Talk to your equally-significant other, a friend or loved one about the theme. Bounce ideas back and forth, and don't go for something too cliche or too complex.
  • Eat and sleep like you normally would; a reward of some kind of special snack, drink, etc is fine, but don't live on sugar or caffeine the whole time!
  • Take breaks when they make sense to you, your body, mind and fingers will thank you!
  • Sleep! Keep a notebook and pen within easy reach for any thoughts.
  • Step away for a while if you get stuck, it's better than randomly messing with things til something works.
  • Save different versions of the game as you go, so that you don't accidentally break everything and have nothing to go back to late in the competition, or if some sort of emergency comes up.
And, above all, just have fun and be proud of yourself! Even if you end up in last place, even if your game isn't terribly fun, or is partially broken, or anything else... You made it through and you learned a LOT in a short period of time! Be proud of yourself for your accomplishments!


  1. If there is a change in the search engine algorithms, it is also up to
    the service provider to keep a watch on such activities.
    If you encourage your visitors to write their original
    reviews about your products instead of coping reviews from competitive websites to show you have circulation and satisfied customers, your website is more likely to earn higher ranking in the major search engines.

    The tools include efficient internet marketing, proper usage of
    keywords, flawless content and creating social media buttons.
    SEO (search engine optimization) and keyword density are
    terms that scare many a writer who want to write for the internet.
    A dedicated SEO expert will devote all the attention and effort in enhancing the visibility
    of your website or business in the online world.

    It would cut the marketing project to fit it into your budget.
    They make their strategy according to the audience their client is targeting.
    The thing that needs to be emphasized is to create text of your website in
    such a way that the algorithms find them easily. Isn't that something you and your business should be a part of. People these days use the Internet for a varied purpose. Arrange the H1, H2 and H3 tags serially with proper hierarchy. Don't Forget to Replace the Default Favicon with Your
    Logo. Moving your hosting to a nearby country such as Canada or an offshore Caribbean host may provide the same latency times, but reduce the risk
    of having your website brought down by a mistake.

    An SEO strategy should combine a number of elements that work together to get results for you.
    Create a general, high-level category in which you want
    to manage all phrases'for example 'global,' 'online,
    ' 'channel,' and so on. Why. You need to try to find reputed SEO consultants. SEO is becoming the most rewarding career nowadays. Such companies know the best about industry and market trends. Yahoo style guide.

    My web-site - Rodney Guido (rodneygui) -

  2. You cаn also buy bundle dealѕ, which most radіo stations
    оffer, to decrease the overall ad cost. Αnоther thing yоu'll need is some strength to endure, because there's a good chance you'll be your own producer for the show or perhaps the best producer the show has. These include the artist-branded music channels such as The Grateful Dead Channel, Eminem's Shade 45,
    Jimmy Buffett's Radio Margaritaville; there is even the classical music Metropolitan Opera Radio channel.

    my weblog; linked web-site

  3. Αfter lοoking into a few of the blog articles on your wеb page, I
    tгuly lіkе уоur teсhniquе оf ωrіting a blog.
    Ι book-maгκeԁ it to my boоkmark webpage list and wіll bе cheсkіng back ѕoon.
    Please cheсk out my wеb sіte as ωell
    anԁ let mе κnow уour оpinion.

    my ωeb-site ::

  4. Wonderful goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and
    you're just extremely wonderful. I actually like what you've acquired here, certainly like what you are saying and the way in which
    you say it. You make it entertaining and you
    still take care of to keep it smart. I cant wait to read much more from you.
    This is really a great web site.

    my homepage radiosender

  5. Und dieser erste Schritt ist im Internet das Ansprechen
    mit der ersten Mail. People can control their blood sugar levels regularly
    according madhunashini Vati. Because tinnitus is a
    condition that afflicts many people, and yet there is no surefire cure to the problem, there are many different methods for tinnitus

    Look into my web page - 5-10 kg abnehmen

  6. It can, however, be pre-ordered, as its release date
    is in the near future. So even at young ages and relatively low levels
    of the sport, goalies will have their helmets designed with various colors, prints and patterns, shapes or designs,
    and more. Wherever you click you are instantly overwhelmed with special offers:
    book this, buy that, fly with us, hop on this, reserve that.
    So, in conclusion, removing the headphones from your MP3 player is not bad, provided you don't yank too hard on the cord. Of course, the layout of the apps is completely customisable, so you can place your most commonly used apps and widgets within easy reach, so they can be instantly accessed after unlocking the screen. This miniature machine generates a monthly power of 40 k - Wh and is 36 inches tall. Today, the scenario is entirely different. The so-called colloidal silver "blue man," Paul Karason, was back on the Today show this week. Today, the company has over 1. We have witnessed this first hand in this business.

    My web page - Usuario:MaisiePaq - GULTGU wiki

  7. I realize that there is not a ton of variety in this list, since
    Rogue and i - Net - Hack are essentially the same and Sorcerer #1 and #2 are
    more overtly the same. One way to test yourself is to deal
    yourself hand after hand in front of a mirror and watch yourself as
    you react to the cards. However, make sure that your phone is equipped
    with a powerful processor to enable deeper searches and devise a strategy to give a challenging game of chess.

    Here is my web blog:

  8. The particular electronic cigarette ego basic starter kit is
    fantastic for new users. Continually letting a battery drain will make it die much faster then it normally would.
    For the first generation, you'll need to release the back cover from the unit by running a shim along the edge of the unit to release all of the clips holding the backing on.

    Also visit my homepage ::

  9. Over time, many of these radio personnel will be readily agreeable to featuring the entrepreneur
    whenever they release new products or services.
    If you want to know what folks are listening to and talking about on
    the opposite coast, Fly - Cast is terrific. You can in
    fact lend your ears to varied musical programs on rock
    music, jazz, country music and many more.

    Also visit my weblog; 2013 a las 4:06 am

  10. Hi, Neat post. There is a problem together with
    your web site in internet explorer, may check
    this? IE nonetheless is the market leader and a big portion of people will pass over
    your great writing due to this problem.

    My page ... weightloss calculator

  11. Another special gift of Gemini is youthfulness. Go to your favorite
    search engine and look up Tarot decks. Even so,
    if you want to make a difference this is a good time to make an work to
    get in form.

    My web blog :: are psychics real