In this post I basically talk about how I approach game jams in each stage, from brainstorm to development plan. I hope this can be useful somehow to you in your own endeavors.
If the game jam you’re participating allows you to participate in the theme selection by voting, you usually get access to the possible game themes. Here I try to think of what I want to make, either something that I’ve been wanting to but never had the time, or a new feature or genre that I’ve never worked on before. Those are completely unrelated to the themes, but I attempt to find any possible correlation with each other.
In that example I’m thinking that I want to make a Puzzle, Physics-based game or a FPS, and I’m using the previous LudumDare theme finalists as possible theme options.
Layers, Control the world, not the player, Nomad, Connections, Stuck in a loop, Day and night, Clockwork, Summoning
Decay, Connections, Stuck in a loop, Feeding the monster, Delay the inevitable, Contain it, You can’t save them all, Summoning
Control the world, not the player, Feeding the monster, Contain it, Shipwrecked, You can’t save them all, Death is not the end, The world changes when you are not looking
After the theme is revealed I start to connecting the dots between the things I wanted to make and how they can fit the theme. I usually spend 1 or 2 hours brainstorming ideas (in a 48 ~72h game jam). I set up a spreadsheet to help me with all the fields that are necessary in the following steps.
Idea List #1
I this table with around 10 ~ 20 entries. When you take note, it’s important that you put emphasis on the gameplay instead of the setting.
If the theme is “Night” and you think about “the power went down”, it’s too vague. Try to think of it from a gameplay perspective:
“you have limited sight from a top down perspective and have to dodge bullets”
|Unseen Bullet||Bullet Hell||Dodge bullets to survive during x time with limited sight|
Idea List #2
Here I try to narrow down the previous list to 5~10 entries. With fewer entries I can go more in depth and evaluate how capable I am of making each one of them during the time frame, and also stablish a clearer vision for each idea.
|Describe a memorable moment (5s)||What excites me?||How is it challenging? (Difficulty tuning)||Features to be implemented||Visual style||Does it fit the scope?|
|I dodge-roll at the last millisecond under a chain of bullets coming towards me and survive||Coding bullet patterns, Experimenting with occlusion shaders, hectic gameplay||Window of opportunity, Relative speed, Relative size, …||Bullet pattern shooter, player controller, dodge ability, upgrade system||pixel art, top-down, enter the gungeon||Yes|
Idea List #3
At this point I probably know the idea I’m gonna use, but sometimes it’s a tough decision. In that case, I fill this for the finalist 1 ~ 3 ideas to better visualize what each first playable will be like.
|What does 30s of gameplay looks like?||What are the controls?||How are you going to code the game’s rules?||What aspect ratio fits the game the best?||What’s the win/failure condition?|
|You move through X, Y bullet patterns and then you switch a lever by walking on top of that to do A, B and C||WASD + Mouse||I can do a class that makes X Y Z and then use the shader A to simulate the lights, and …||1:1 since it won’t have any UI and you have equal amounts of screen from each side||Game restarts if you get hit and you win if you reach the final room alive|
And here we should be done with the brainstorm - of course new ideas tend to come while you’re working, take notes and keep going.
Now that I have established a clearer vision for what my game should be. I can commit to my idea and start prototyping.
Things that I try to have working before I sleep on day 1 (usually 4~6 jam hours):
- Win/Defeat condition
- Core Interactions/Mechanisms
It depends on the game’s scope, but I usually have those done by the end of day 2:
- Progression? How long?
- Systems complete
- Game Interface
- Gameplay tuning
To avoid getting stuck here I ask myself:
is there anything about this feature which is distracting or broken?
If there is, I fix it asap and then move on.
Those are eventually implemented during the last day when most of the systems are already in place:
- Camera Effects
- Balance & Tweaking
- Victory/Defeat screen
Some of them can be made after submission, while others can’t. It depends of how much time you got:
- Store page
- Saving systems
- Scene transitions
- Scenery variation
- Story cohesion
- In-game Tutorial
That’s basically it, I hope this can be helpful for you guys somehow (:
Subscribe to my mailing list so you don’t miss any post or game I publish.