Game Jam BYOG 2017 – From a developer’s perspective

We took part in a game jam last week. BYOG 2017 organised by Nasscom Gaming Forum. This was our first ever game jam and I will be sharing the experience we had during the course of 48 odd hours developing a game from scratch.

To be really honest with you, I have never been a fan of game jams. I thought to make a game you need time. A lot of time to think, to conceptualise, to design, to code and to make anything worth even playing. And I always told myself “All you can do in 48-72 hrs is make a crappy game devoid of any feel” . Infact I always doubted if i can ever make anything worth showing in such a small amount of time. So when BYOG 2017 was announced, I gave it a read and gave it a skip. As I was already busy working on our upcoming project HitMe . Though I did join the chat on slack out of curiosity and when the topics were announced I had a look at them later that night. One of the theme was FairyTale and instantly a few ideas started creeping in my mind. I thought lets give it a try this time.

We decided we would be making something very simple yet engaging. A game with a small scope so that we can finish it up within 48hrs. That night was spent in conceptualising the game and the overall game design. So by the time we slept off, it was decided we would be making a game on the story of Rapunzel. A vertical scrolling game, where the user will just have to climb up and reach to the top. While fighting some obstacles on the way. This solved a couple of problems.

  1. Took care of the fairy tale theme pretty well and gave us a good story to work on.
  2. Kept the design extremely simple.

So we sat down designing the game in Unity and building a basic prototype. Quickly looked up some 2D tutorials (we have never made a 2d game before). And within a few hours we had a simple cube moving up and down using arrow keys on static background.

The next day it was decided to add some fun into the game. So thought of using magic orbs as the player climbs up. The orb was made pretty quickly with the help of particle system and a couple of youtube tutorials. Our artist was in Bangalore on that day and he sent me the sprites over the mail. The prototype assets were quickly replaced with proper artwork which included the prince and his animations, the seamless tower texture, the seamless hair texture and some art for the menu and end scene of the game. The next step was to code how the magic orbs would attack the prince. We did not want to keep it just random or too predictable. Hence 12 different kind of scenarios were coded and each one of them would have a different way to survive. That provided the much needed variation at the same time keeping the gameplay simple. (Using just 4 keys. Up/down arrow keys to move. Left/Right arrow keys to attack the magic orb).

After playing it a few times we thought it lacked a bit of depth. Hence came another enemy, witch attack; which requires the player to rapidly press up button for some duration to break free and move ahead. This acted as mini boss battles during the entire gameplay. Then the sound effects was added quickly and a very basic intro screen was made. The game still lacked a lot of things, especially in the UI section, but there was not much time and we thought that the overall game has come out to be good. So after around 35 hours of work interrupted with a bit of sleep and food, we submitted our game.

          

I must admit that on multiple occasions I thought of giving up and letting it go. Whenever we were stuck in some implementation or i felt that it is coming out to be crap, I thought about just leaving it and continuing with our other work. But the will was strong and we took it up as a challenge. (This might sound ridiculous to people involved in game jams regularly. But for my first experience, yes it did take some toll on me and i needed a lot of self motivation to keep going). Another thought that kept me going was that it aint gonna last long. So just put in some rigorous effort for the next few hours and it will be done. (Done or not the game jam would be over :p ).

So what do I take away from the jam? A lot to be honest. It was a wonderful experience. Events like this help push your limits and help discover new things. They teach you a lot in a very small duration of time. And if all goes well, at the end of it you will have a game which you can build upon and release in the future. I have always spent weeks conceptualising and designing games before i  get anything worth playing. And here it took us just two days to get a complete playable version up and running. Well, okay, not complete. The graphics are still very simple. There is no parallaxing backgrounds. The hair isnt moving as it is supposed to be. The animation at time does not look very fluid. Not much of an UI. The game is very very raw. But it has given us something which we can polish, add a few effects, a bit of juice, tweak some level designs and we are ready to release it in the market. And by the way the game isn’t too bad. Its still pretty fun and challenging to play. Reaching to the top will take some doing 😉 .

Here is a small tips & tricks section which might help anyone participating in future jams.

  1. Choose the topic very carefully. As a designer we all have our strengths and weaknesses. A topic might look very interesting and with a lot of potential but choose something which is easier for you to implement.
  2. Keep the scope small and simple.
  3. Make sure the game has some meaning and an end to it.
  4. Try to make the core gameplay fun and exciting before moving on to the other aspects.
  5. Polish and juice out only if you have time.
  6. Try to reuse assets you have already created. But make sure it blends well with the game.
  7. Try to complete it even if it comes out to be a crap. Making something in 48 hrs is rewarding in itself.
  8. Do not stop once the jam is over. Implement features in the game you wanted to but could not due to time constraint. polish it, test it make it a complete game and make sure to release it. After all a lot of effort has been put to submit the game for the jam.

And yes, you can play the game we submitted for BYOG 2017 over here http://gamedev.nasscom.in/game/rapunzel . We will be working on it and releasing it in the near future. You can subscribe to the blog to stay updated with the development process .

Please feel free to comment, criticise or provide any kind of feedback. Thank you for reading. 🙂