Monday, June 19, 2017

Countdown To Tears

Over the last 18 days, and more specifically this last weekend, I worked on making a small game with some friends for the Idle Thumbs game jam, Wizard Jam 5. The jam ran from the 1st of this month to yesterday, though we weren't working nearly every day on it, this being a pretty low-commitment group project.

You can play our game, Countdown to Tears, in a desktop browser. I also made an collection of my favorite games from this Wizard Jam, since I'm playing all of them, which I encourage you to check out. There are some really cool ones in there.

The rules of the jam are simple: make a game based on an episode name for an Idle Thumbs network podcast. My team of four (eventually five) met with lists of our favorite episode names, brainstormed how they might be turned into games, fleshed out a few concepts, then settled on "Countdown to Tears." Our game is about babysitting a friend who inevitably breaks down in any scenario, and mitigating the disaster that that person becomes.

We had a lot of fun brainstorming our ideas and seeing them come to life. I forgot how productive, educational, and generally inspiring game jams are. I haven't participated in one since about 2010, so I figured that Wizard Jam would be a good way to break my game development dry spell. It's so much more motivating to work on a project when there are other people believing in it and working on it as well. It's been said before, but making a game is a lot of work, always more than you hope, but working on one with a good team makes you work all the harder. With two programmers, one writer, two artists, and everybody making design decisions, this game took on a life and character that it wouldn't have if I had done this jam alone. I'm immensely grateful that Colin, Brian, Rhea, and eventually Max agreed to join in this game jam with me and work on something fun together.

I learned a lot in this game jam, both in the practical nitty-gritty of game making, but also in organizing a team to conceive and work on a creative technical project like this. It was important to me that we designed the game as a team and all had input, and also that everybody's individual talents were used in a constructive way. My favorite part of our game actually had the least to do with me: the hilarious opening dialogue was written by our man Colin, animated by Rhea, and programmed by my roommate Brian at literally the last minute, because he's a champ and a pro. Despite having a LOT of things left with it we didn't get to do, I'm happy that we managed to craft a complete game, with everybody's fingerprints on it.

Honestly the whole process has me energized to do more. I have a better idea of how a group development team works, having relearned the importance of proper team planning and regular communication. I want to go through the whole process again, from hanging out with friends and brainstorming, to prototyping, to planning, to development with all its research, to closing the loop and tying everything together, to playtesting and iteration, and compiling and scrambling to get it all uploaded. I want to try making different types of games with different engines, and practice my design, programming, writing, and teamwork skills. I want to see my page get bigger. It's time to make more games! If you want to jump on the next jam, hit me up! I'll be perusing them and picking another one soon.

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