Guildford Game Jam: Nov 2016

The very first game jam I joined. With a baby on the way it was as good a time as any to focus on my own skillset so I signed up to a local game jam in Guildford. Held in Rocketdesk's offices, it was possibly the best way to show how woefully underprepared I was game development.

I decided that rather than hinder anyone with my lack of experience, I'd run solo for this game jam and learn what I could from speaking to others.

The theme

Two choices

The plan

A simple(!), top-down, LAN multiplayer game. Multiple players would run around a map shooting walls to turn them to their colour. The weapons were all forms of the Harry Potter duelling effect - nice fast-ish beams that could be countered and would look pretty while doing so.

When a player was killed they'd explode and turn the floor tiles their bits landed on the colour of their killer. This means that while you could win with wall colouring, you'd get safer points by killing people, a nice risk / reward balance for offensive / defensive play.

The result

My skill set was massively underequipped for this task. I got some simple movement working that had a bit of the Quake 3 Arena floatyness-feel when jumping (see the header screenshot) but the wheels came off quickly when I tried to get LAN-based multiplayer working. To put simply, there was a gulf between what I'd read in Unity's documentation and actual implementation (see the large number of blogs I wrote on implementation off the back of this).

The game jams tend to start of Friday night, run through Saturday, and into Sunday. The basic controls were working relatively early on Friday but I gave up trying to get multiplayer working on the Sunday morning. Some sleep was had. Not much.

This meant that my end result was I had nothing to display and was massively disheartened with it all. After taking a break and coming back for the presentations later that Sunday, I found it impressive what some teams had come up with. No one else had attempted online multiplayer, oddly.

The learnings

Probably the main learning wasn't get more skills first, as the experience was still highly useful to learn from. Being around other game developers helped focus ideas and seeing how people worked and what ideas they came up was good to see.

For producing something by the deadline the most important lesson has to be scope. It's something I'm still working on for game jams but will hopefully get there by 2026...

Another highly useful idea is that if you want multiplayer, try local. It's way easier and makes demos more fun when others can join in.