Lessons Learned From A Month Long Game Jam.
IGMC 2018

IMGC is a month long game jam run each year by Degica Games the makers of RPG Maker. This year however you could use any engine and there was no theme to follow, the twist was they were looking for prototypes rather then finished games. Three of the top games would recieve 5000$ and possibly a publishing deal. Anyone who has interacted with me on twitter or reddit knows I swear by game jams as the best way to learn to make games, but up until now I have only ever participated in 48 or 72 hour jams. Aside from the obvious incentives, I wanted to see if the extra motivation and devEnergy, weekend jams provide, would last a whole month. That being the best takeaway from the last month, it absolutely pushed me to get a ton of really good work done. Alas the contest didn't go totally smooth which is how I learned so many lessons from it, and as you may have noticed i've yet to link to or discuss the particulars of the game I made this past month because I didn't finish.

1. Jumping The Gun

I found out about IGMC right as it was starting, In the excitement about joing and not wanting to waste any time I jumped right into developement without any planning. I immediately started work on an idea I had been wanting to make for a while unfortunately this idea just wasn't a great fit for this timeframe. Hindsight 20/20 but I'm pretty sure its somehting I would have noticed right away if I had taken the time to map out the project.

2. Genre Genre Genre

I picked the worst genre to make a game in for this competition. With a 2D platformer I could have hammered out great controls and a gameplay gimmick in the first weekend and had over three weeks to polish and design levels. Instead I decided to make a JRPG which are a notoriously systems heavy, which I have never made before, and ontop of that my take is far from a standard jrpg. That decision meant come submission time I had 90% of the systems working but no content. Dialog systems with no lines wrtten and Inventories with not much to loot. Lastly I choose jrpg just becuase i've had one in mind to make but seeing as Degica makes rpg maker and rpg games the submissions are like over 50% jrpgs which would have made it even harder for my game to stand out.

3. Make Tools Not War

So this ones actually something I did really well! Early on in the project I created a unity editor extension that let me set all the data for a level. This meant I had to come up with a clear structure for it which ended up helping every other system communicate easier. By the end of the project its become the true work horse. Whenever a level is openned in the unityeditor it opens my editor as another unity window and reads all the tile data and shows every npc, chest, object, and enemyzone in the level and you can set all the details right in the window such as items in any given chest, npc dialog, what enemies spawn where and at what level. The editor took close to a week of work but over the course of making a full jrpg would save months of time.

3. Don't Disapear

I think everyone struggles with social media in one of two ways they love it and waste too much time on it or its just not natural for them and it takes real effort to take part in it. I fall strongly into the second camp putting myself out there in that way is unnatural for me but I also know its important as an indie dev. Plus when I have done it and interacted with players or other devs its always been a great experience. This past month I convinced myself that because I was under time pressure I should just not bother with social media. I'm not a full time indiedev at this point so i felt like any time available to work on my game I should use it for that and nothing else but in the long run those twenty minutes I might have used each day on reddit and twitter would certainly not have made the difference in whether i finished. They may have even taught me something new that would have helped with my project.

Overall im not bothered by not finishing as I'm really happy with what I made and where its going but it was important to stop and consider how I could have made finishing a lot easier. On the subject of the game I was making, I know I have't said much substantive about it and thats because I think it has a lot of potential. I plan to make a post purely about its design and going forward into the next few months it will be my main project. Maybe even keep an eye out for it on Kickstarter in February.
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