Alberta game jam 2023 reflection
last updated 2023-08-25
A meditation on my most recent game jam.
Me and 8 other cool peeps made Spy on the Fly over a weekend.
What went well?
- serendipity in team formation; a group with surprisingly great skills and abilities; taking a risk and believing in people, especially newcomers!
- I must admit I was afraid of failure in team formation. I've been in many jams before where the team fails to coalesce on a shared idea or vision, or even right in the middle of the jam where an obstacle breaks the team. It feels like a waste of a jam when that happens. It's frustrating and disappointing. I must admit when I ended up with a team of newcomers I thought "oh god. we're not going to get anything done." But I was very wrong; I underestimated everyone and they ended up being very skilled. So did I get lucky with team formation this time? Or is it possible that many improvised teams can still succeed, given dedication and grace? I think I should continue to form and join new teams. At the very least I meet new people.
- rising to the task of being a leader for less experienced jammers
- I had a collision with reality when one of my peers pointed out that I was the most experienced one on my team. Goodness, has it really been that many years already? I certainly don't feel experienced. But I am also usually the first one to understate myself. This jam was a good reminder of the optimistic bravado I used to have, before COVID. I need to trust myself more, be bolder, take more risks.
- using Godot Engine (cross platform, lightweight, vigorous)
- This is tricky because people come into the jam with expectations and goals of what they want to do (like using a particular engine). They are forced to either compromise on their ideas, compromise on a team, or even both, if they want to make anything at all. Maybe a change of jam philosophy is necessary here: it's about what you can make in the moment with the people there, not about the baggage you brought. Let go of your expectations, and you shall receive.
- going with the flow (allowing the group to stumble across creative decisions; guiding with a light touch and reigning scope when necessary)
- managing scope and pacing well ("That would be cool, but if we want a game at all we need to do this part first.")
- This was especially relevant for a team of gamedev newcomers. They don't know what they don't know. (Don't we all?)
- created a game (!) of substantial scope, design, and polish (!!!)
- Making something even half whole at a jam is a huge achievement. As someone creatively frustrated this is especially cathartic.
- committing to the whole event in person (meet and get to know lots of cool folks and hang out and talk shop!)
- Fortune favours the bold.
What didn't go well?
- Going off the script of the agreed upon design consensus ("Let's see what happens when I do it this way...")
- NO! You won't have time to switch it back later. The features you implement the first time are what you will be submitting. Improvising to your detriment is mere ego.
- Ambiguity in agreed upon designs / communication errors
- Tension between designers and implementers. Not sure what to think of this. Needs an ambassadorial attitude.
- working remotely is riskier than synchronous, in-person working
- Godot external resource uid conflicts in git
- This broke our scenes once. I don't understand the significance of the external resource uids enough, and how to commit them to version control. Version control in general is a hard problem in game jams. Godot usually holds up really well with git, but this is the one gap. Godot performed admirably otherwise.
- Artists and non-programmers still shouldn't need to learn hardcore git/version control. I don't see any way around this though. They have to either learn to use some form of git, or forfeit the engine and implementation of their assets to the programmers.
What to do next time?
- have faith in team formation. I'm there to meet cool new people, so go into it with an attitude of curiosity and abundance. Let go of expectations of how I want the jam to go. Believe in new people.
- communicate very clearly with team members. Don't make assumptions about design decisions. And don't go rogue!
- figure out how to handle Godot resource UIDs in version control.
- brush up on my engine before going to the jam.
- commit again to the whole weekend! Go HAM!
- keep meeting all the other people at the jam, even people not on my team. Maybe try contracting my artistic abilities out to multiple other teams?
- keep up my outgoing attitude and diplomatic yet decisive approach to teamwork
- keep having fun with the whole process :^)