Get Ready for the Global Game Jam: January 20-22!
January 13th, 2017
Just a week until game jam time! Are you ready?
The Global Game Jam in St. Louis will be hosted at the University of Missouri, St. Louis in the Social Sciences and Business Building, with registration starting at 5 PM. For directions, check out this post. But beyond that, what can you do to prepare? Well, since you can’t get started on your game (that’s cheating!) here are a few tips to get yourself all ready to jam.
Get your hardware ready
UMSL is providing the space for the jam, but you’ll need to bring the tools. If you are making a board game, those tools might just be pen, paper, and a few sheets of cardboard. But if you want to make a video game, you’ll probably need a computer.
A computer may not be the only thing you need. If you’re using a laptop, digging out a USB mouse makes things easier, especially since your team members might not be used to the finicky nature of your touchpad. This isn’t an indictment of you or your laptop; every laptop touchpad can be uncomfortable to someone who isn’t used to it.
If you’ll be bringing your desktop to the event–and plenty of people do!–it might be a good time to clean out the dust from the fans and wipe down the screen on your monitor. Headphones might be a good idea, too, since you’ll be working in close proximity to other teams. While we all want to hear your game, we might not want to hear you tweaking that Wilhelm Scream in Audacity for thirty minutes.
Also don’t forget a power strip! In past years, there have been extension cords and power strips at event but it’s better safe than sorry.
Get your software ready
Even if you know an assembly language, it’s not recommended to start from scratch when you only have 48 hours to make a game. Middleware and specialized engines can make the process faster and smoother. And if you’re not planning on being a programmer for your team, you’ll need your preferred art and sound tools. If you already know what programs you want to use, make sure they’re updated on your jam computer. If you don’t, there’s a list of completely free tools at the end of this post to get you started.
Get your body ready
Game jams can be exhausting. Even if you’re not the type to stay up all night working on your game, you’ll probably be pushing yourself further than you do on your usual weekend. Make sure to get some sleep the night before and prepare for a grueling session of game development.
Check out our pre-jam event
Want to know more about game design? This Wednesday, January 18, 2017, the St. Louis Game Dev co-op is hosting a free talk by John Coveyou of Genius Games and Webster University about design principles. It will be at the St. Louis Science Center in the Maker Space from 6-8. While there will be time for team forming at the jam, this might also be a good event to network with potential team members. For more details, check out our event page here.
Watch some tutorials
If you’re going to jump into a new engine–or you’re completely new to game development entirely–it can’t hurt to have some ideas. While you can’t start making your game until the theme is announced and your team is formed, you can certainly study up on your tools and make sure you’re comfortable with the basics. Check out the videos listed along with the engines below!
Don’t stress out
Game jams are exciting. They are intense. They are fun. But they shouldn’t be stressful. If all of these suggestions sound like a lot of work, don’t sweat it. The next great indie game might emerge from this game jam, but no one should be working themselves to the bone to make the next great indie game. Game jams are about experimentation, learning, and making new friends and connections. Even if you can’t successfully run your game at the end of the 48 hours, the jam can still be a success for you and your team. To paraphrase a cliche, a jam is more about the journey than the destination.
Unity 3d (Standard version)
Unreal Engine 4 (free until you start selling and making $$$)
Gamemaker Studio (Basic version)
HaxeFlixel (2d games)
Ren’py (Visual novels)
Twine (Interactive fiction)
PICO-8 (14.99 via Humble)
Free Image Editors
Free Sound Editors
Now that you have a plan, head on over to www.stlgamejam.com and sign up!