Would You Kindly Get Me Into the Gaming Industry? GameJam Special Part 1 of 2

Our contributor Nathan continues his journey into games design.

Course update: Everything is going well, which is great news. There will be another article regarding this shortly, however I thought it would be best to share my experience at Train2Game’s GameJam 2014. Please note that I will be protecting the identities of my team name and the members of my team.

It all started off earlier this year where I registered my interest in taking part in the GameJam, an event where fellow students on the course take part to create a working game in 48 hours. Teams were decided by using a matchmaker and I ended up in a team with 5 other students, 2 artists/animators, 2 developers and a QA tester/level designer. My role was designer, a job that oversaw the project and helped out where I was needed.

Now we started off well and came up with a team name that was a mix of everything we submitted, however then things took a turn for the worse. We did not hear from one of the developers from the word go so we had to rely on just one. The game’s theme was decided without my input but as it was my first Jam, I thought it was best not to intervene and go along with it. However, the team captain decided to go along with a dictatorial style of leadership which needless to say, annoyed me greatly. He started assigning jobs to the team members that weren’t best suited to their skills. I should have had a job researching and documenting the game’s assets, sounds, scenes and objects, but I was told to do the artwork. An artist was telling a designer to do the art work. This is when I started asking questions about his leadership. I then said I couldn’t do the art, but here are some ideas I had for the game including characters and scoring system. This went down well with the group, but it was obvious I ruffled some feathers with the captain.

The next major issue was my holiday mid March. I explained to the team that I was going to be away for a week, but I would still be in contact and pick everything up when I get back. The team seemed fine about it, except the captain. Surprising right? He said that it was a big problem and that I wouldn’t be able to go to the GameJam. I spoke to our assigned mentor and he said it was fine, just as long as I could make the event. I explained this to the captain and he proclaimed that I would have to pick up where I left off when I got back. Now my feathers were ruffled and I’m not someone you want to annoy because I can be a real stubborn asshole when I want to be.

So I get back from my holiday and not a lot of progress has been made. I add to the team as much as I can and then learn that our QA tester had to drop out as he couldn’t get the time off work. This meant we were down from our team of 6 to 4. Things weren’t looking good and started to think maybe I should drop out too because I didn’t like the idea and I didn’t like the captain. However I persevered and went to the event.

I arrived at the University of Bedfordshire apprehensive at first but a quick pint settled that. I finally found my team mates and had a quick hello before venturing into the lecture theatre for our introduction. This is where I learnt that all the work leading up to the event may have been in vain, as there could be a theme set for the entire event. I was hoping for a theme as I wasn’t 100% with our idea. Unfortunately, no theme was selected which meant we would have to do our original idea.

So we went into our computer lab and gathered round to have a discussion about our game. Now as we only had one developer, our idea had to be scrapped as the developer only had capabilities in 2D and our idea would not work in that format. I was relieved and we started planning our new idea. I was tasked with designing the levels, researching games and downloading and cropping the sound. The artist and the captain were of course responsible for the artwork and the developer had the monumental task of developing the code. We were doing really well to begin with, had some basic artwork, the research and sound was solid and the code was starting to take shape on a basic level. However we had to stop at 1:30 am as the developer was stuck and the only person who could help him had gone to sleep. We decided to call it a night and enter our “sleeping area”. This was a cold, hard computer lab floor and thank god I had a sleeping bag and a pillow otherwise I’d be one grouchy bastard in the morning. Nevertheless, the door to lab was constantly smashing against the door frame every time came in, I probably got around 3 hours sleep total. Grouchy bastard was an understatement the next morning.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I encounter a mix of anger and delirium.

Nath

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