The Game Jam Survival Guide

The Game Jam Survival Guide
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Table of Contents
Sample Chapters
  • Enthusiastic and light-hearted, glimpse the excitement and frantic creativity of game jams.
  • Motivating, encouraging and infectious, it is sure to help you reach the finish line.
  • Follow this handbook from brainstorming an idea, over bitter obstacles and on to the sweet finish line: a complete, playable, fun game.
  • Each stage of game jams is described with task lists and anecdotes relating common experiences, the trials and the tribulations of past game jam champions and losers.
  • Packed with interviews, tips, tricks and wise words from Ludum Dare and Global Game Jam organisers among other well-known game jammers.

Book Details

Language : English
Paperback : 114 pages [ 235mm x 191mm ]
Release Date : April 2012
ISBN : 1849692505
ISBN 13 : 9781849692502
Author(s) : Christer Kaitila
Topics and Technologies : All Books, Game Development, Games

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Before the Jam: Prepare Yourself for Success!
Chapter 2: Hours 1-12: Your Quest Begins!
Chapter 3: Hours 13-24: Deeper into the Jungle!
Chapter 4: Hours 25-36: Breaking Through The Wall!
Chapter 5: Hours 37-48: Getting to the Finish Line!
Chapter 6: After the Jam: Fame and Fortune!
Appendix A: Game Jams
Appendix B: Game Engines
Appendix C: Helpful Tools
Appendix D: The Community
  • Chapter 1: Before the Jam: Prepare Yourself for Success!
    • Finding freedom in constraints
    • What the experts say: Eric McQuiggan
    • Game Jam survey stats
    • What the experts say: Jason P. Kaplan
    • Go with what you know
    • Preparing your base code
    • What the experts say: Mike Kasprzak
    • Preparing your art tools
    • Practice makes perfect
      • Forming a team
      • Social networking tips
    • Things to avoid
      • Don't try a new language
      • Sleep is good
      • Real life matters
      • Food = Brain Fuel
    • What the experts say: Mike Hommel
    • Maintaining relationships
    • What the experts say: Ian Schreiber
    • Chapter 2: Hours 1-12: Your Quest Begins!
      • Learn from others' mistakes
        • Don't forget the sound!
      • Dealing with the Game Jam "theme"
      • What the experts say: Chevy Ray Johnston
        • An example of a winning entry
      • Coming up with a plan
        • Building a game by first creating concept art
        • Using graph paper or board game pieces
        • Don't worry about making it beautiful!
        • Avoid the latest fad—go low-tech
      • What the experts say: Dr. Mike Reddy
        • Chapter 4: Hours 25-36: Breaking Through The Wall!
          • Keep It Simple, Stupid!
            • No-art (rectangles) gameplay proof-of-concept
            • Distil to the essential features
            • Finishing a "working" basic prototype early
            • Occam's Razor
            • Break the rules of computer science!
            • Brooks' Law
          • "War Story": Diary of a failed Game Jam
          • Common mistakes
          • Reducing production time
            • Hand-crafted versus computer-generated content
            • Iterating the prototype to find the fun
            • FIRST make it work, THEN make it pretty
          • What the experts say: Christopher Nilssen
          • Chapter 5: Hours 37-48: Getting to the Finish Line!
            • "Captain's log"—diary of a winning entry
            • Avoiding headaches
            • What the experts say: Pekka Kujansuu
            • What to do when you think you might not finish
              • Don't beat yourself up!
              • Cut-and-run: chop out the bad parts
              • Heinous hacks and ugly code are A-OK.
            • Common features of winning Game Jam games
              • Polish, polish, polish
              • Beta testing: fixing the difficulty and controls
            • Packaging your game
            • Submitting your game
              • The importance of your game's name
              • The importance of your game's description
              • The importance of your thumbnail icon
              • Top 100 icons (best)
              • Bottom 100 icons (worst)
            • What the experts say: Foaad Khosmood
            • Chapter 6: After the Jam: Fame and Fortune!
              • The voting process
              • What the experts say: Phil Hassey
              • The next steps: post - Jam professionalism
                • Writing a post-mortem analysis
                  • What goes into a game post-mortem?
                • Sponsors, portals, and app stores
              • What the experts say: Chris Hopp
              • You made it!
              • Appendix A: Game Jams
                • Finding a Jam: a list of Game Jams around the world
                  • The Global Game Jam
                  • Ludum Dare
                  • The Experimental Gameplay Project
                  • The Game Prototype Challenge
                  • The Super Friendship Club
                  • Klik of the Month Klub
                  • PyWeek
                  • Reddit Game Jams
                  • Newgrounds Game Jams
                  • TIGJam
                  • Dream.Build.Play
                  • Blitzkast
                • Appendix B: Game Engines
                  • Choosing a game engine
                    • Flixel
                    • FlashPunk
                    • Unity
                    • Ren'Py
                    • Game Maker
                    • Multimedia Fusion
                    • Corona SDK
                    • haXe + NME
                    • CryEngine
                    • XNA
                    • BlitzMax
                    • The Unreal Development Kit
                    • jMonkeyEngine
                    • Stencyl
                    • Torque
                    • Construct
                    • HTML5 game engines aplenty
                  • Appendix C: Helpful Tools
                    • Essential tools
                      • Recording time-lapse videos
                      • IRC chat clients
                      • Generating sound effects
                      • Level editors
                        • OGMO
                        • DAME
                        • GLEED
                        • MapEditor
                        • Mappy
                        • TME - Tile Map Editor
                        • TileStudio
                        • tIDE (Tilemap Integrated Development Environment)
                    • Appendix D: The Community
                      • Social networking links
                        • Google+
                        • Twitter
                        • IRC chat rooms aplenty
                        • Reddit
                        • TIGforums
                        • Other websites worth visiting

                        Christer Kaitila

                        The author of this book, Christer Kaitila, B.Sc. is a veteran video game developer with 17 years of professional experience. A hardcore gamer, dad, dungeon master, artist and musician, he never takes himself too seriously and loves what he does for a living: making games! A child of the arcade scene, he programmed his first videogame in the eighties, long before the internet or hard drives existed. The first programming language he ever learned was 6809 assembly language, followed by BASIC, Turbo Pascal, VB, C++, Lingo, PHP, Javascript, and finally ActionScript. He grew up as an elite BBS sysop in the MS-DOS era and was an active member of the demoscene in his teens. He put himself through university by providing freelance software programming services for clients. Since then, he has been an active member of the indie game development community and is known by his fellow indies as Breakdance McFunkypants.

                        Christer frequently joins game jams to keep his skills sharp. Over the years, he has programmed puzzle games, multiplayer RPGs, action titles, shooters, racing games, chat-rooms, persistent online worlds, browser games, and many business applications for clients ranging from 3D displays for industrial devices to simulations made for engineers.

                        He is the author of the book “Adobe Flash 11 Stage3D (Molehill) Game Programming Beginner's Guide” and is the curator of a popular news website called which boasts over 30,000 articles and zero ads. He is one of the administrators of Ludum Dare, and has hosted a mini weekend jam with the theme of “all talk: dialogue and conversation”. He also created the keynote lecture for Ludum Dare 21, an 8 minute video filled with words of encouragement and advice. His client work portfolio is available at and his personal game development blog is where you can read more about the indie game community and his recent projects. He lives in Victoria, Canada with his beloved wife and the cutest baby son you've ever seen.

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                        Submit Errata

                        Please let us know if you have found any errors not listed on this list by completing our errata submission form. Our editors will check them and add them to this list. Thank you.


                        - 1 submitted: last submission 24 May 2013

                        Errata type: Typo

                        Under the section Go with what you know in Chapter 1 the line that reads There is a list of popular game engines in Appendix 1 Game Jams should say in Appendix B Game Engines.


                        Sample chapters

                        You can view our sample chapters and prefaces of this title on PacktLib or download sample chapters in PDF format.

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                        What you will learn from this book

                        • Preparing for the jam: conquer the theme, pick design aids, prototype quickly, choose the right tools for the job, and cut the right corners.
                        • Bombastic brainstorming: power up your idea generator and run with a theme, gain more votes and please the masses.
                        • Building a game jam entry: pick your weapons, follow your plan, cut the bells-n-whistles, scramble over “the wall”, submit a game on time, and with a little luck, attain fame and fortune.
                        • Why Mike “PoV” Kasprzak (Ludum Dare administrator) thinks game jams are a good introduction to the realities of the game industry.
                        • The reasons why Dr. Mike Reddy (organizer of the Global Game Jam) thinks designing on paper is essential.
                        • The best ways to find creative inspiration and develop an idea to fit a theme according to Eric McQuiggan (founding member of The Dirty Rectangles) and Chevy Ray Johnston (author of the FlashPunk engine).
                        • What Foaad Khosmood (director of the Global Game Jam) suggests you do to ensure you finish before the deadline.
                        • The worst way to prepare according to Pekka “pekuja” Kujansuu and the best way according to Phil Hassey (Ludum Dare administrators)
                        • What one piece of advice Jason P. Kaplan (founder of the Game Prototype Challenge) would give to newcomers.

                        In Detail

                        Game jams are fun. They are a creative, exciting, social experience. The goal of a game jam is to design a video game, either alone or in teams, as fast as is humanly possible; usually in a single weekend.

                        The Game Jam Survival Guide, written to help you have more fun and achieve greater results at your next game jam by building a successful game without burning out, leads readers through each 12-hour phase of a 48-hour weekend game jam.

                        Weekend warriors: dominate your next game jam! If you follow the system shared in this book, you will be able to build an amazing game that you're proud of and will entertain players, all in just one crazy 48-hour game jam weekend … and survive to tell the tale!

                        Embrace the best practices and techniques of past game jam winners and avoid common pitfalls along the way to the finish line. You too can survive a 48-hour game development marathon with your mind intact and an amazing game to show off to friends and family!

                        With The Game Jam Survival Guide you will learn the secret techniques that master game jammers use to create winning entries. It starts by showing you great ways to brainstorm and design a game based on a theme. It then moves on to highlight the best tools and techniques to finish a game in a weekend of coding. Anecdotes and advice from past winners and losers combined with humorous words of encouragement are sure to help you on your way. The author presents a list of game jams around the world, online communities worth checking out, fantastic game engines, and art resources. Finally, learn how to monetize your game by gaining sponsorship from big gaming websites. It's the fun way to make your own video game in one weekend!


                        The Game Jam Survival Guide is an insider view of game jams packed full of expert advice; leading with tips and tricks on how to build a great game with just 48 hours; but clearly defining what should be avoided at all costs during Game Jam mayhem. The reader is led through each half-day phase; from the beginning of your quest in hours 1-12 to breaking through "the wall" on day two and finally reaching the finishing line in hours 37-48.

                        Who this book is for

                        Although the book is intended for beginners and experts alike, the reader will already know how to program (in any language). He or she will love games and want to learn how to best make their own game in a wild and crazy 48-hour period.

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