I Helped Make A Game!! (Seattle Game Jam)

For the past few years, I’ve toyed with the idea of making games. I love games and I love making things.

Not only are there a zillion avenues to begin learning how to make games, which is intimidating in itself, it’s a huge undertaking when you do pick one.

In addition… Although it’s not uncommon, I have this bad habit of not starting things out of fear that I won’t finish or keep up with them. Game development is one of them.

I’ve always wanted to do a game jam, but somehow always found out about them too late and am unable to attend.

This year was different, and I found out about PlayFab‘s Seattle Game Jam with weeks to spare! I didn’t have a full time job yet, and it was on a weekend anyway. The reservations were free, too. I nervously contacted the event coordinator, asking if it was newbie-friendly. The response I received was very positive and encouraging, and that made me feel better. I made sure to thank Tom for that when I figured out who he was 🙂 

Over the weekend, our team made this game, called Gravefighters. A 2D, top-down pseudo-tower defense with 3D animations and all custom music and sounds!

Here’s my general conclusion about participating in my first game jam, and below is the day-by-day breakdown of my experience.

Overall Thoughts

I know I was with a really talented and accepting team. Even though I know next to nothing about how the building of a game actually works, am not an artist, I felt welcome. THANK YOU TEAM!!

I wasn’t able to help as much as I wanted to be able to.. The other teammates were definitely more busy than me, most of the time. For this, I felt so helpless.

At the same time, I do know that my contributions were valued and that it’s a great feeling to be a part of something bigger, even if it was a much smaller contribution than others. It’s also in the nature of the roles and timing.

Simply being around every aspect of the development was totally worth coming for! I’ve learned a lot about the project management of a game, how the teams and timing work together. It was a completely invaluable experience!

It’s re-sparked interest and furthered motivation in the field, even as a hobby. I’m excited to pursue more development aspects and do this again some time!

THANK YOU TEAM!!!

I was so impressed with our game and all of the other teams during presentations. The results of hard work, creativity and each team’s take on the theme was great to see. So many possibilities had come to life!

Though we didn’t win, the two teams that did were more than deserving!! Read about them here on PlayFab’s blog post.

Day-by-Day

Day 1: Pitches, team formation and planning

The theme was “It’s Alive”. I was only able to come up with a small, open-ended concept, but with no idea how to do anything behind it. I did choose to pitch it, and it was received well, but not enough to make the main cutoff. Which was TOTALLY OKAY!! because there was no way I could lead a team when I had never done anything like this before. 

I chose to check out one of the other pitches that I found really funny and that sounded like it could actually be done in two days: Grave keeper by day, necromancer by night.

At night, you resurrect your buried bodies to defend your graveyard from rival graveyards’ undead to keep your graveyard the nicest. Silly, right?! 

Though I have no experience, I was accepted to the team. It had grown quickly to 10 of us. I offered to help with sounds, organization and UI design. 

Narrowing down the concept to a two-day project was difficult. We all had really awesome ideas! But we needed to make sure that the scope wasn’t so farfetched and the gameplay concepts were sound.

With a fairly solid lead, we parted for the night, preparing for the grind the next day.

Day 2: Get a move on!

Everyone knew their role and they quickly got to work. Since we had another person on UI/project management, I took the lead on sound effects and made a mini studio out of a conference room table, USB mic and beanbag. 

For never doing them for reals before, I think they came out pretty well! I’ve cut and done basic mixing/editing for fun before.

Using Adobe Audition, I was able to record various noises, add audio effects, mix and edit. The engineers were able to initially implement most of them by mid-day. 

I had help and inspiration from our youngest teammate, the son of another teammate, to use a tablet to work with music. Using MAGIX Music Maker Jam on my Android tablet, I was able to put together some loops to use as one of the background music loops.

I must say that that app is way too much fun. Especially the pack called “Bro Step Vol. 2.” That generated a lot of laughs! 

The artists were working hard to make things really pretty, and the engineers got things to actually work. 

It was so awesome to see the progress throughout the day!

Day 3: Crunch time and Judgement Day

All of the sounds, music and UI screens were completed, so I didn’t have too much to do since I don’t know Unity. 

A couple of us collaborated on story, introduction and instructional copy, and I was able to help edit one of the 2D art pieces! I added a highlight..YAY I’M USEFUL!! #IAmAnArtist (HAH. No I’m not.)

We all got a chance to playtest and point out major bugs and the occasional spelling error. Seeing everything in action was fantastic! 

Every little bit by each person made it silly, fun and actually functional. Priceless!

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