Monday 19 October 2015

Game Jams as a Catalyst for Busy People

...or how to build a game without p!$$ing off the missus. 

Using a Game Jam as a tool to kick an idea into action. All while being fair to those who share our lives.

Face it, we're all busy people.
Modern life is filled with distractions. Some more deserving of our time than others, some are essential and spending time on other things could be seen as neglect - but we won't dwell on those things. The distractions are there whether we like it or not.

Here's a few of the most common ones. Although it's not an exhaustive list. See if any of this rings true for you...

Most aspiring app or game developers have a day job. 

This takes between 7.5 to 8 hours a day from the pool of available hours, OK - it pays the bills, but it's not the ideal use of that time. Unfortunately, unless we catch a break, we cannot ditch the job. Most of the time the job is in a similar field as the idea (e.g. Software engineering) and when we return home after a grueling day of meetings, code and stress - there's not a lot of mojo remaining for that million dollar idea.

Some have partners.

Significant others who rightfully demand time. They too feel the hours taken by the day job and are often reluctant to allow or simply can't understand why there is a desire to put additional hours into a similar thing that their loved one was just complaining about five minutes ago - but has some idea they want to try which means more time alone. This one is the most tricky to deal with because partners are usually very forgiving and will tolerate a little time - but it's easy for this to become unbearable and they quickly put their foot down. This can lead to a lot of friction. (been there, got the tee-shirt)

Some have children. 

Similar in a way to the demands of a partner, children absolutely need time and don't like it when they don't get that time. Although, children can make good assistants if the game or app is written with them in mind. They make good testers and sometimes can provide their talents too. (Sounds, art etc)

Then there are competing hobbies.

like sports, going to the gym, the cinema, bowling with friends, parties.
These are the activities of a healthy life and a sign of a well rounded individual (apparently).
They're also a massive time sink leaving very little time to develop that killer app.

So how can we proceed? Most of these activities are essential or not easily avoided, so they take their price in hours, leaving very few hours remaining to get any work done and often leaving the developer very tired afterwards.

There are three options.

1. Abandon the idea. 

Knowing that there will never be enough time to devote to the idea to allow it to grow enough to see whether it would be worth extra development or not - may as well give up.

2. Steal a few hours from here and there. 

Hoping that a few hours will be enough to get into the zone, to focus for long enough without interruptions to make sound design ideas. Stealing a few hours makes the project take a very long time to get into a place where a clear path to completion becomes apparent.

3. Have a Jam. 

Book some time with your significant other, have a party and invite like minded friends to help - make an event of it. Brainstorm and see what you can produce in a few hours. This allows you to put the idea to the test very quickly. If you have helpers they can get parts of the application or game built while you focus on other parts. Setting goals to meet will keep you on track and at the end of the session, you'll have something to show for your efforts. Further more, you'll have had an entire day of uninterrupted work, you'll also have cleared it with your partner who will most likely use the time and have fun - all while knowing that they'll get you for the rest of the time.
It's also a great way to get the prototype ready so that you can demonstrate it - often buying more time to work on it.

Jams are worth their time investment a hundred fold.

Dean and I gave a talk about this very subject on the 1st of October 2015 at the Just Eat HQ in London.

We discussed our experiences in trying to get projects off the ground, the obstacles we'd come up against and our attempts to solve them. 

One of these attempts being the Game In a Month initiative. A very strict set of rules which if followed will produce a game in a month, but it may take several iterations before it comes out. 

Dean did produce a game using the system though, although he did stress that it was exhausting.

If you want to try it, go to

Then we discussed the tools we used during the process. Note the prominent placement of git. Having a source control system is essential in any project. We've lost far too many projects to the failings of hard drives and when working in a team, it is essential to have the ability to share and modify code without stepping on each-other's feet.

Most of the tools on the list are free or very reasonably priced.

So in summary:

A GameJam lets you focus your attention on the idea guilt free. It lets you collaborate or compete with others and gives you the opportunity to see if the idea bouncing around in your head is actually worth pursuing. Afterall, if the idea isn't worth it, it's best to know quickly before pulling all-nighters to get it polished and released.

London GameCraft 2014 Part Deux

Last year Dean and I attended the London GameCraft jam.
It was in an assisting capacity - providing video and effects support to any developer who wanted them.

This year, we're going again. Only this time, we're taking part!

We will be making a game in around 10 hours based on a brief that no-one will know until the morning.

It's going to be a blast and if last year is anything to go by, there'll be some amazing games made.

So if you want to go, there's still a little time remaining, so register by following this link.