Global Game Jam 2011

Posted on January 31, 2011

This past weekend I did something I’m not particularly prone to do. Instead of taking it easy and enjoying time with my wife and family I participated in Global Game Jam 2011 at SPSU, conveniently just minutes away from home. This meant gathering with artists, designers, and a lot of programmers to take a theme (“extinction”, in this case) and, in groups, build a video game in 48 hours.

I ended up in a group with several other Techies and a very talented artist from UGA who did all of the art for our game with her Macbook’s trackpad. I came in as a designer/programmer and, after the concept was decided on, spent much of the weekend learning the Unity game engine (and C#… a trivial task with Java and AS3 experience) while the other programmers worked at breakneck speed (our lead programmer, Vu, actually worked himself sick). In the end, my contributions totaled to one script, some simple fixes for other scripts, and design participation. I’m thankful for a talented, well-spirited team who didn’t mind me taking the project and weekend as a learning opportunity.

The final project can be played here (Unity web player required, it will link you if you don’t have it) My high score is 17,926. I’m definitely interested in hearing of any higher scores.

I learned many things this weekend other than Unity and C#. This was my first beginning to end experience working with a team to produce a playable video game. The distribution of roles and responsibilities (probably determined before the weekend, when I joined) worked very well to keep the project moving and enjoyable. It is important, especially with an accelerated timeline, to know who is ultimately responsible for each part of the game to minimize conflicts and confusion. I will end this semester having been on a team for at least three games and at least one other software project (a healthcare organization platform) and I count the experience invaluable. I don’t know how I’ve managed to go so long without learning the ins and outs of team software development (every interviewer asks about it with good reason).

This weekend was an excellent precursor to this semester and the next 18 months for many reasons and I am thankful for all of them. Now, about all of the homework that I didn’t have time for over the weekend…