Last weekend (January 29-30th, 2010) I participated the Global Game Jam 2010,a 48 hour event of game development with a bunch of guys you may never worked before. It was my second time (and here’s the post about the Global Game Jam 2009 event).
This year’s theme was Deception, and the game should have incorporated at least one of these elements: a room, a broom, and a loom.
Evil Pigeons is the result: A 2-player game between an evil pigeon master and a mad car owner.
Although it was an exciting experience, I felt kind of disappointed. It is not the event that disappointed me, it was myself, my own experience. There were things that bothered me, irritated me, and I was mainly angry with myself.
When things like that happen I try not to drown in the bad feelings. It’s better to use these feelings to learn a lesson in life. So the experience was not as good as I expected. The question is why? And what can I do to make it better next time?
Let’s start with the good things:
- I developed (another) game. The core mechanics are operational, it has great art, and it delivers unique (and even fun) game experience. It still amazes me how much can be done in such a short time with focus and a great team.
- I lead the team that consisted of a programmer (Alon Levy) and 2 artists (Omer Nainudel and Ori Cohen).
- The game concept is (loosely) based on the initial concept I suggested:
- Originally, it was a one player game where you needed to identify a target (a fat rabbit) out of other dummy figures (fat cardboard rabbits) and shoot it.
- Later the idea transformed into a 2-player game where one of the players controls the real target (now became an elephant riding a broom) and the other figures, that look the same, are controlled by the computer. The competition is between the player that tried to identify the human-controlled elephant and shoot it, and the human that controls the elephant, and need to eat – together with all the other elephants – all the peanuts in the screen.
- This idea later was transformed again into our game (Evil Pigeons) and another game (Fake Out, which is a competition between a thief and a cop).
- I wasn’t dead tired. As last year I had even the time to get a good rest during the night.
Sounds great right?! A good result, I lead the project, influenced the game design, had a great team, and it didn’t kill us… but there were few details that made the experience not as good as I expected. Here are the bad things:
- The brainstorm
- In retrospect I feel we didn’t do enough brainstorm. Too early I pressed to have a decision and go for the execution. I think we could invest a little more time in it.
- I wasn’t productive enough during the brainstorm. We had only one good idea, and I already learnt from Pixar’s CCO “Never to come up with just one idea”.
- I wasn’t prepared enough for the occasion, and trusted too much on getting a great idea without any technique. And there are some simple and easy creative techniques that can be utilized to generate ideas.
- The team
- Team members – this time I worked with people I knew before. I even worked previously with Alon (the programmer) on a different project. I know, it’s not a bad thing, but I felt I took the safe path here… 🙂
- Team spirit – most of the time we didn’t work together. We worked as a full team only until Friday afternoon. After that I worked face to face with Alon and through Skype with Omer and Ori. It worked well, but it wasn’t as intense and as fun as it was last year.
- Original assets
- We created the game concept and the art, but we didn’t have any sound designer, so I used free music and sound effects that I found on the web. It wasn’t bad, but still it wasn’t as fun as creating the sound effects by yourself.
- Game presentation
- This is the main reason I am so pissed off. I just blew the moment. I could touch so many human moments there: the common memory of pigeons shitting your car, or the game experience that has some dare feeling.
- But I didn’t. I came to the stage not ready enough, got stage fright, forgot my team mates names, and presented the game like a teenager (I felt like I was again in my Bar Mitzvah).
- The game concept also was not clear enough because we didn’t rehearse, so when people so us shooting pigeons they didn’t understand the unique experience of the game.
That’s it. Few issues that damaged my feeling of achievement.
So what should I do next time (I’m planning on going to the Global Game Jam 2011 of course):
- Don’t rush the brainstorm. It is the most important phase, and the most fun. It should be managed and focused, but it is important to get to an inspiring idea.
- Use creative techniques. You might stumble upon a great idea just by yourself, but there’s no reason to be ashamed of using techniques to help you think.
- Mingle. It is, after all, an opportunity to work with people you never met before. As we saw at the presentation event – there are a lot of talented people who want to create games.
- Work together. Try to work as a team, together, on site. Bring your PCs. It is much more fun to work together, to see the game developed right in front of your eyes, to get feedback in real-time from all team-members, for smoother communication.
- Make your own sound effects. If you have the time – do it. It’s fun. It’s original. Of course, you can use free sound effects, but you will be more proud of the result.
- Get prepared for the presentation. Pitching your game is important. After all, you worked for it. And everybody are watching. I know it is important for me. So you better understand the strength point of the game, its uniqueness, find where it touches people and use it to deliver the message. Also if you are using team-mates to present the gameplay, better let them do it at least once before the presentation itself…
A week after I wrote these words, I can say the experience wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Still, the lessons learnt are good. Also I played Evil Pigeons with many friends since than and got great feedback. The experience is unique and fun. So I am proud after all.