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5 Game Jam Tips from an old Pro

In my experience, there are 5 learnings that I wanted to share. These can help in places outside of jams, especially in the context of the professional world.

This is my nth game jam... I sort of stopped keeping track unfortunately. The Ludum dare is always my favorite and I've participated in an LD event every year for 11 years. Ah, so many good, stressed out memories. Over the years, there have been things that have stood out: I usually don't need a full 48 hours, I always end up with more work than expected, and my "Fun" rating is always one of the lowest... 🥲 I never admitted to being good at making jam games, but I am experienced.

In my experience, there are 5 learnings that I wanted to share. These can help in places outside of jams, especially in the context of the professional world.

1. You don't actually need 48 hours. Get sleep. Live your life. Find a balance, don't celebrate burnout.

Jams are a great time to practice a lot of skills. Time management and work/life balance can be skills to practice as well. Learning to manage time can be just as beneficial as learning a programming/art skill.

2. Scope to one singular game mechanic/feature, and prioritize off of that. Never take more than twice as long as you initially expected. It's better to abandon one aspect than run out of time with no finished game.

If you get stuck on something, zoom out and check your priorities. You might need to just move on. Make and update a to-do list periodically, and when you get stuck, check back with the list and make sure you always have the full view of the project in the back of your mind.

3. Practice with your tools. Don't learn a new tool the weekend of.

Game jams are a great playground to learn. But I would recommend at the very least doing intro tutorials for all of the tools you plan on using ahead of time. You don't want to get stuck on export settings with 20 minutes left to go.

4. Develop a personal asset library

That list of unfinished projects you have? use it. Organize it, use it for inspiration. IF you have a texture that you like, or a model that fits well with anything, keep it in a safe place and make note of it.

5. It may be boring, but do a retro.

You don't need to share it but for your own sake, write what you did well, what you could improve for next time. Game Jams are an opportunity for learning.

6. BONUS TIP

If your goal is to get the most people possible to play your game, please please please export to a web GL build. I don't like downloading random people's executables onto my machine. All computers have a web browser too. You can read my tutorial here. How To Host your Jam Game on the Web - The Byte Bistro

I hope these tips help anyone who is new, and looking for ways to improve their jamming. I am by no means an expert, but I have progressively gotten more out of these jams over the years, even with less time and energy.

In my experience, there are 5 learnings that I wanted to share. These can help in places outside of jams, especially in the context of the professional world.

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