I’m the first to admit that we haven’t done a lot of game jams. In fact, we’ve only done two, and those were both in the last two months. But, I have to say that in both cases it was liberating. In these days of freemium, in-app purchases, top grossing lists, and ‘monetizing’ (whoever first applied that term to making games should be shot) it becomes all too easy to forget why we started making games in the first place: for fun. Take away the constraint of designing a game to make money and suddenly it all becomes fun again!
I’ve already talked a bit about the game we made for the Oculus VR Jam “Space Marine Boot Camp“. We didn’t win a prize (or even get selected as a finalist), heck, they might not even put the game up on Oculus Share – but we sure had a lot of fun making it. In hindsight having the game ‘revolve around’ (you’ll get that pun if you’ve played the first level – ‘Human Centrifuge’) being sick and puking was probably not the best way to endear ourselves with the judges. Especially when motion sickness is probably the #1 hurdle in the way of virtual reality becoming mainstream.
The point here is that we didn’t make this game to make money. Sure, winning a prize would have been great, but the cool thing is we now have a fun, new, six-level game that was started and finished in three weeks. Will something come out of it? Maybe (the vomiting was pretty satisfying and may find its way into a future mobile game, you never know…).
However, based on the reaction of players we won’t be developing it any further. And this is a positive thing. Here’s why:
When you are working very closely on a game you become so focused on it you no longer have an objective view of it. I know I always think whatever I’m currently working on is ‘the best game we’ve ever made!’. Which is fine (in fact you probably shouldn’t be working on a game if you don’t think that at the time), but the risk is that it may not actually be as good as you think it is. If you keep beavering away pouring more and more time into it you may not ever see a return on that time investment. This is where having a deadline (like the end of a game jam) is good. It makes you get the game into a finished playable version and get it in the hands of players. Then, based on the players (and judges) reactions you know whether or not you have a game worth developing further.
I’m convinced the key for small developers in the mobile market is the shotgun approach: release a lot of small games into the market and see which ones stick. Then pour your efforts into adding features and updates to make the successful game into an even more fun, full-featured and polished game. If you add all the polish and features before you know it ‘clicks’ with players then you are setting yourself up for a lot of wasted effort. That’s a very risky way to do business. We tried it with our game ‘Team Awesome‘ released last year, and so far the return on investment doesn’t compare to some of our other games with shorter development cycles.
This brings us to our next game jam the ‘Indie Speed Run‘ (thanks @Dom2D for letting us know about it) . For this jam you had 48 hours to create a game using a theme and an element determined randomly by the contest server. Our theme was ‘Reincarnation’ and the element was ‘Alarm Clock’. Here’s what we came up with:
We think it’s really cool – probably ‘the best game we’ve ever made!’. Have a play and see what you think. If you like it, head over to the Indie Speed Run website after October 7th and give it a few votes. Also, see if you can beat my daughter’s time of 5:18 (I’ll need a screenshot as proof)!
We also took a few screenshots during the jam to show how it progressed over the 48 hour period:
Hopefully we’ll get a good reaction from players and judges so we can develop it further. But, if nothing else we’ve got another cool game to add to our website, and who knows, maybe Peter Molyneux, Notch, or Ron Gilbert will play our game?!?
So what are you waiting for? Get jammin’!