FAQ: Things To Know Before Attending the Progressive Game Jam
What’s a Game Jam?
A Game Jam is an organized get-together with the intention of creating a full game – from conception to completion – in a pre-determined, short period of time, usually one weekend. The difference between a typical game jam and the progressive game jam is that teams will have 9 months to develop their game!
What happens at a Game Jam?
A bunch of folks bring their laptops and get together in one place, find out the theme for the jam, break up into brainstorming groups, then form teams with a mix of skillsets, and get to work!
Why can’t I just do this at home?
You could do this at home, but the primary goal of the Game Jam is camaraderie, teamwork, and making friends. We want the game development community in Sacramento to be united and grow, and that will only happen through the unity that comes from events like this one.
I’ve never made a game before, can I still participate?
Absolutely! We have had participants as young as 7-years-old, and we have had professional game developers with decades of experience in the industry. All are welcome, of all skill levels. You’re sure to learn something no matter what, have fun, make friends, and create some cool games in the process! Many participants also get a chance to meet and work with potential employers, or potential employees! As one attendee described it, “A Game Jam is like an internship in action.”
What should I bring?
Depends what you want to do. If you’re a programmer, bring a computer with your programming tools installed. If an artist, bring a sketchpad, pencils, paints, crayons, digital pens, or whatever you’re comfortable using. If a designer, bring a notebook, graph paper to design levels, or whatever you think would be good. If an audio person, bring a mixer panel, or a keyboard, or a microphone, or again, anything you want. The point of the jam isn’t to force you to use things you’ve never used before, but to take advantage of whatever skills you already have, and let you use those skills, improve those skills, and network with others with similar interests, to see what kind of cool creative things you can make.
How much does it cost?
Not a dime! We have been very fortunate to always have very generous sponsors who provide us with space, wi-fi, food, and sometimes even T-shirts and other cool swag.
Will there be computers there for me to use?
Nope, sorry, you have to bring your own equipment. If you want to get on the internet, it must be wifi-capable.
So who isn’t this for?
We’re not sure yet! Our advice would be to show up and see where we can fit you in. If you find yourself without much to do you can always go home. We usually have plenty of non-game-related tasks that need doing too, in support of the event. Take pictures of the different teams, help out as a tester, do an hour-by-hour blog or twitter feed of the event, help out as a “gofer” to run errands and help the event run smoothly, there’ll be lots to do.
I have a wedding to go to on Saturday. Should I bother coming for the rest of the time?
Yes! We’d love it if you can make it for the entire time, but we know how life is. If nothing else, you can do some ridiculous voice acting for the 10 minutes you’re there.
I’m really not interested in making games, but I’d love to observe. Can I still come by?
Sure! But please still register so we can get a count of how many people are coming.
Can I keep working on my game after the Jam?
Yes! It’s highly encouraged, even. We want these games to stand as a symbol of Sacramento’s strengthening game development community, so we’ll be doing what little we can to promote them long after the Jam is over. If your game is a little better than can be accomplished in 24 hours it only makes everyone look better.
What technologies can I use?
You name it! Everything from GameMaker, to homebrew Nintendo DS development, to Assembly, to Pen and Paper will be accepted. Be aware that some technologies will make sharing your game more difficult, so if you want people to actually play your creation you will need to use something appropriately widespread.
What technologies do you recommend?
Hands down, one of the easiest ways to create a game. Simple to use drag and drop interface for basic games, and a full scripting suite for more advanced ones. Slightly limited version is free. Full version is $20 US. There may also be free trial codes available at the jam so you can get a full version, just check with the site organizer to see what’s available!
Game Salad is another easy-to-use toolset.
Create cross-platform games easier and free.
All with one codebase.
Unity makes 3D hardware accelerated game development way easy, with impressively short development times. 2D game development is slightly tedious, but hardware accelerated scaling (aliased), rotation and full alpha transparency make that hurdle worth jumping.
For people who love 3D, but don’t love creating engines from scratch there’s the Unreal Engine. It’s awesome and it’s FREE! (but it’s still a lot more work than 2D, so make sure you’re being realistic)
Torque Game Builder
An amazing scriptable hardware accelerated 2D game builder.
Free and apparently very nice.
Simple Directmedia layer. It’s an industry standard that goes way beyond graphics. It’s also cross platform.
Haaf’s Game Engine. Want to use C++ and want 2D graphics accelerated by a 3D card? Here’s a free engine that makes it easy. Before you get too excited you should know it’s Windows DirectX only.
If you’re a programmer who wants to write real code, but doesn’t want to worry about things like frame timers and double buffering this is probably the way to go. The code is written in C# using the Visual Studio IDE (or Express), and the XNA libraries take care of most-everything complicated for you. Your Windows games can also be compiled and run on Xbox 360 and Windows Phone. And all of that is FREE.
But you can basically use anything you want. If you have an existing engine from a prior project with all of the essentials in place, just go ahead and use that.
So I can use this time to finally learn Assembly, right?
Uhhh, no. You’re going to want to come into this with a technology in mind and the knowledge of how to make a game with it. If you’re spending your time learning a new technology from scratch your game will suffer for it, guaranteed. However, IGDA Sacramento will be implementing a monthly game development curriculum so be sure to keep an eye out on our Meetup Group.
What if I don’t know how to program? Is there a place for me?
Probably! People will likely break out into teams of coders, artists, and sound people, with many people taking on double-duty. Making icons for power-ups and putting together highly repetitive title screen music using free software will lighten the load and go a long way toward improving a game. If you still want to get your hands dirty with the game creation process, spend a few nights brushing up on some of the GameMaker tutorials prior to the event. It’s surprisingly easy!