• Walter Hill

Move Fast and Game Jam - Production II Dev Log

This past Monday marked the end of week two of my Production II course. That meant another prototype to pitch and present. Another prototype to craft from a conceptual seed to a full bore and ready for prime time tree.

Going into the week, one of the major points of improvement for our team was the desire and need to begin laying the foundations of our prototype, in terms of design, code, and documentation, much earlier into our one week sprint cycle.

That plan started off on the right foot. By Wednesday night, our team had solidified our game concept and was ready to build the foundation for a prototype that we would be proud of. I also made sure to mention in that Wednesday meeting, that I would be effectively incapacitated for the better part of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I would be organizing and participating in Champlain College's Global Game Jam site.

This meant the team and I were under the gun. We knew we wanted to get our work started and rolling earlier for this prototype and the looming game jam spurred me to do just that. As Friday rolled around our prototype was well on its way, but it hadn't yet taken its full shape. Despite this, I went off to begin the Global Game Jam festivities on Friday afternoon.

The game jam was a success, with 44 submitting participants, 5 Champlain-made games, pizza, and a whole lot of fun. I ended up participating as a one man band. I decided to go it alone for the first time ever at a game jam. Every year, game jams serve as a way for me to grow as a developer. Sometimes that's learning how to lead a team or pitch a design idea. This year, I learned a lot about myself as a coder.

I took the opportunity to build a game on my own as a challenge. I had already felt how working in a team through Production II had helped me grow. So I decided to stretch myself in the opposite direction. So I took the them What Home Means To You, found a whiteboard, bounced ideas off friends, and zeroed in on an idea. After that portion, there was little left for me to do but sit down, open Unity and code.

That Friday night, head down and headphones in, I coded without distraction for five densely productive hours. I had found that elusive flow state that so many developers talk about. The world faded away almost as quickly as programming tasked passed from "to do" to done. It was a really great feeling those handful of hours. The nagging voice of impostor syndrome was nowhere to be found. It was just me and the game I set out to code. This feeling didn't last the entire jam, but it set the foundation for a successful game.

By Saturday, I had caught a mean cold and the moment was gone. But I knew then that I had found something gold to take with me once the final jam presentations had all wrapped up and everybody returned to student mode.

The game jam this year reminded me how to push aside the world for a moment, crack my knuckles, and just code. That is something I want to carry forward with me throughout the rest of this Production II course. Especially in the prototype phase, the team needs something playable, and we need it fast. That means I have to do my best to code a strong foundation that might make it to mid-mortem and even beyond.

This year's game jam forced me to trust in my keyboard fingers and my programmer brain. I moved fast and broke things and have a neat little game to show for it. And maybe this year I've broken through too.