The Big Game Jam Compilation Page
A little bit about all the jam games, on one big page.
I've taken part in a lot of game jams over the years now. My intention is to add a page for every single one - detailing the process from idea to finish and post-jam thoughts for each one (I noted all these things down at the time - I just need to write them all nicely into something coherent!).
But for the time being, this post can be a general catch all for all my jam entries, their results, and a little paragraph about each one. (And some interesting? stats maybe). This is basically a post-mortem page for all the jams, in a chatty format. Hopefully some of it is interesting!
The table below contains all my jam entries so far with theme/placement and some stats regarding the project itself. All my jam entries are done in 48 hours (or less) even if the jam allows longer. I stick to this time limit as it makes it much easier for me to gauge if I am improving or not (in scoping ideas, time management, speed of implementing mechanics etc)
Dev Time (hours)
Lines of Code
No Death State
TRAINING WINGS: ENTER HELL
Thumper and the Freaky Forest
Climb the Tower
Rupert the Robot
There Are Twenty
Frippy Can't Drive
Pong Pong Protector
Watch Them Grow!
Cloudy With a Chance of PIRATES
If You Can Hold This Button For Sixty Seconds You Will Win This Game
Now, lets take a closer look at the entries.
Theme: Sixty Seconds
You just need to hold a button for sixty seconds. Can't be that hard, right?
It's a long title I know! This was a jam I didn't originally plan on entering as I already had a fairly busy weekend planned. But when the theme was revealed it was the one theme that I had marked as 'I can do something quick for this'.
I started working on the entry at midnight Saturday, giving me a maximum of 24 hours until submissions were due. The initial plan was to make a joke entry where you have to hold a button for 60 seconds, nothing else. I finished this fairly fast and then decided to make the button move around the screen a bit to add a tiny bit of challenge. This turned out to be surprisingly fun to play, which gave me many more ideas, so I formulated a new plan for the game (uh oh, scope increase!) and went to bed. The plan? Make the button bounce, and dash, and teleport, and other things!
I got up around midday on Sunday and spent the next few hours creating all the new mechanics, which I won't spoil too much, you can give it a play (It only takes 60 seconds surprisingly!). They didn't take too long to do and the game was mechanically complete by around 3pm. I still had a distinct lack of sound for this entry; my solution to this was to hop onto BeepBox and pop out two simple loops, one for the menu, one for in-game. I recorded a few random noises to try and use as effects, but only one didn't sound terrible (see if you can spot it, shouldn't be hard, being the only sound effect!). I then decided to record a voice over for the game, with lots of voice clips, and gave it a narrative with a comedy focus. I spent about two hours recording random voice lines and putting them into the game.
I was still left with a fairly large chunk of time before the submission deadline and at this point it was clear the entry wasn't entirely a joke entry anymore, so I wanted to get it to a nice polished point before submitting. I added a victory screen (with a medal/rosette for the victors!), and a game over screen that made a reference to Dark Souls. Both with different text and voice lines for your first/second and so on tries. The game itself also remembers your attempts and changes the introduction for you. You can even skip typing 'START' after a few tries, as you're now a 'loyal customer'! All these additions added some nice polish to the game and helped strengthen the comedy aspect.
I was surprised by this game. Initially meant to be a joke but turned into something a bit more serious. I've grown fairly good at scoping large jam games into the 48 hour timeframe, so it was a nice change to try something different. I kept the scope small and I played to my strengths (fun little mechanics, minimalistic art). My jam entries usually follow the pattern of work hard for 40+ hours, with a minimal amount of sleep, so this was the complete opposite. I always enjoy the crazy stressful jams, but this was very enjoyable in a different way. I'll probably switch things up in the future, maybe alternate between full on 48 hour no sleep crunch entries, and more relaxed small scoped ones.
Theme: Falling Apart
Your cloud is falling apart! You must dig up other clouds to refuel your own cloud. (and watch out for the pirates!)
I teamed up with Kwis for this one, whom I've worked with on previous jams. We decided to go for higher resolution art for this again as we'd done this on our previous game (Frippy Can't Drive) and had good reactions. We spent a few hours trying to come up with an idea and eventually settled on 'travelling on a cloud'. We then spent a further 4 hours arguing (as you do in jams!) about whether to do a side scroller or a 3/4 top down, but eventually settled on the 3/4 top down perspective. Had a quick sleep, then got up to start.
Mechanics wise this was an interesting game to create. We needed solid clouds to stand on, that you can anchor your own cloud to, but they also needed to be able to change in size. We solved this by building our clouds out of lots of tiny cloud sections. These sections were then all grouped together to create one collision mask, allowing us to shrink/grow the cloud whenever we liked. This sounds fairly simple now, but it took quite a lot of time to perfect, especially with the resource clouds that you can anchor to. When digging these clouds, we needed to move the player as the cloud shrinks to stop the player falling to their death as they gather the resource. We also needed to move the resource cloud closer to the main cloud as it shrunk so that we didn't strand the player on the very cloud they're digging up. This was solved by comparing the masks of the resource cloud and main cloud, and shifting the resource cloud into the main cloud as it shrinks, and also gravitating the player towards the resource clouds origin point when it shrinks until there is a valid cloud surface beneath. We could have just let the player fall off as it shrinks, but decided that would be more annoying than anything else.
Another challenge for the clouds was the movement. The player moves the cloud by walking into an edge and 'pushing'. This is all automatic, and not too difficult to implement in theory. But our clouds change in size! Luckily after the previous work on managing the changing sizes, this actually worked fairly flawlessly without much extra development time.
The pirates were added as a way to add some challenge, otherwise it was just a very simple resource gathering game. The pirates will move their cloud towards you if you're within visible range, otherwise they will ignore you. Meaning the player can try to avoid the pirates if they want, or fight them. Shooting your pistol uses up cloud matter so you have to be careful. Knocking the pirates off their cloud will kill them, but the pirates can also knock you off your cloud, which will cost you all your held cloud matter.
The asteroids were the last addition to the game. These fly across the screen causing damage to any cloud they hit. They also cause large knockback if they hit the player or a pirate, so it's a good idea to avoid them! You can shoot them with your pistol to deflect them away - but the larger the asteroid, the more hits it needs to be moved.
We added highscores (how long you survived on your cloud) as they are always a good way to drive competition between players. And with that - game complete!
I've always known to not underestimate how long things will take, but this game was a great example of how much you can underestimate something. The cloud collisions (with the growing/shrinking/moving) took me almost half a day to get right, if a little bit longer. I'd originally only planned for that to take an hour or so. It's just collisions right? Famous last words. Luckily the rest of the game was fairly manageable scope wise, however if that hadn't been the case I think we'd have been left having to cut some content out to make sure we reached the submission deadline.
Theme: Watch Them Grow!
The garden is under attack! They're destroying the grass! Grow flowers on the grass to protect it - but be quick, they require time to grow and must be watered! Guard the Garden, Guarden Gnome!
When this theme was revealed, it was a happy moment, as we'd had an idea for "something to do with plants" floating around for a while, and here was our chance! The idea: tower defence, but the towers are plants that you have to grow, and the grass (your plant place-able area) expands with new plants, but shrinks when the enemies destroy it (taking any plants with it!).
The development for this game was rather uneventful to start with, as we knew where we were going with it from the start. The one major issue we had towards the end however, was balancing, and the 'fun' factor.
We steamed ahead with the game, built the mechanics, added multiple towers(plants), added an upgrade shop and multiple enemies. And then we realised - we haven't actually tested this, is it actually fun to play? And the answer at that point, was, no, not really. The balance was completely off and it was lacking a feeling of purpose. You're a gnome guarding a garden, but, why? What is the point to all this?!
We then spent the next few hours or so just playing and tweaking balance until it was difficult but doable, and we added a narrative arc to the game - with a rhyming introduction story when you first play the game (with some nice hand drawn art by another friend!). There are also short (also rhyming!) introduction lines at the start of each level.
These small additions gave the game a purpose, and coupled with the new balancing, the game felt good to play. It's surprising how a bit of balancing and a quick story can add so much.
This jam highlighted the importance of testing as you go. Don't leave it until the end. If we'd tested the game as we went, we'd have been aware of the issues and been able to work on them as and when they appeared, instead of having a big panic at the end! It also showed us that, even if we have an idea in our minds, we should still spend time fleshing it out at the start of the jam without just diving in. The balance and fun issues only arose because we dove in head first without planning things. We were over confident with the idea and paid for that later in the jam.
Theme: Two Sides
Defend your castle from the hordes of evil! Bounce your magical orb between the paddles to damage and defeat the enemies. Use your magical spells to aid you in your defence!
This was the first jam that I almost gave up on. When the theme was revealed, it was one of the potential themes that me and my teammate didn't want. We had a few rough ideas but nothing that inspired us. But, that is the nature of jams, you don't always get something you like! So we sat down to discuss ideas which usually takes us an hour or so, but 7 hours later, we still didn't have anything we liked. We had multiple ideas noted down, heaven and hell, light and dark, up and down, the arcade game pong, all those kinds of things. None of them really inspired us, we knew there would be lots of games following those ideas already and it's always fun to try and do something different. So we decided to throw in the towel on this one, and started closing down. But then we had a final random thought; "What about our pong idea, but with tower defence?"
This peaked our interest, we instantly knew we were on to something here. You play pong with both paddles, and the ball you bounce damages enemies. So even though it's Pong mixed with tower defence, there aren't really any towers. It's a strange one to describe to people. We'd lost a quarter of the jam time so far, but we now had an idea we both really liked. Fairly large in scope but it did play to our strengths as these sorts of games weren't new to us (rogue-lite-ish with upgrades/progression and abilities).
We spent a further hour finalizing the idea. We decided on 5 levels, 4 enemies, and a few active abilities and passive upgrades. Progression/customization is super key to making these sorts of games fun, so we made sure to include lots of upgrades for the user to acquire during their play-through.
The paddles themselves don't follow natural physics. I did some research on Pong and it seems that Pong bases the bounce angle of the ball on the distance the ball is from the centre of the paddle when it hits the paddle. This made sense as it allows for more precise aiming. You want it to go horizontal? You bounce it in the middle. Up? Bounce it in the top half. Down? Bottom half. It took a little bit of getting used to when playing but once you were used to it, it allowed you to make nice precise bounces and added a nice high skill ceiling to the game.
We won! Unexpected after how the jam started. But maybe not so unexpected when you take a step back and look at the game - it mixes two well known games/genres together, in a fairly complete package. Everybody knows Pong and tower defence games, so when you play the game for the first time, you already feel like you know the game. Couple that with a bunch of different upgrades and some progression and a fun core mechanic, it's not a bad little package (If I do say so myself). Clearly shows the strength of a simple idea that you believe in and are inspired by, and highlights the importance of spending quality time on your idea before starting. It doesn't matter if it takes a while - spend some more time thinking about and fleshing out your idea!
Theme: Small World
You've crashed your ship and need to repair it! Gather resources and complete tasks to leave the planet. Be careful though - the larger the planet gets the more unstable it becomes.
Afterthoughts Make sure you test your games! We were proud of this game, mechanically and visually, but it was let down by the balancing. One resource (iron) took a much longer time to get, effectively bottlenecking the game and causing playtimes to be very long. Some people played for over 90 minutes to finish it! However, the fact they played for that long is proof that the game itself had promise and was still fun enough to persevere with, even with the bottleneck. Moral of this jam - reserving some time to do some testing and balancing is important!
Theme: Climb the Tower
Theme: 64x64 Resolution
Heart has lost their colour, help them find it again! Search for heart shards around the world. Heart is a pacifist so can't fight, you'll have to find other means to deal with danger and hazards!
Theme: One Button
Theme: A Loop
Theme: No Death State