This year in the Global Game Jam, which ran from January 26-28, I partnered up with Alex Grace, a friend from Tasmania to create a game in just 48 hours. Every year artists, coders, designers, producers and musicians meet up to create games over a single weekend. There are no prizes, it isn’t a competition – everyone does it for the fun of it. We attended the Melbourne jam site, which was among the top ten attended sites with over 300 participants (jammers).
Having participated in last year’s global game jam I had a good idea of what to expect. Without realizing it I had been in quite a large team. The average is about 2 or 3, but mine was 5 people strong. That was great because it meant that I had had another programmer with me, but this year I was more confident and wanted to try to make a game in a team where I was solely responsible for programming. You can attribute that confidence to me dedicating myself to full-time Unity development last year. Teaming up with Alex, a talented 3d artist, meant that we had a complete team between the two of us.
There were quite a few things that worked well about our weekend. First, we gave ourselves enough time to throw around about a dozen game ideas, chew over the ones we liked and what the design of each would look like. In the end I think we settled on Pirate Radio because it had a clear goal for the player – steer a boat while also managing a radio station.
Producing the game itself was in some ways relatively straightforward. There was clearly 3 different areas for me to work on: steering the boat, queueing up your playlist of songs and getting feedback from the listeners on whether those songs were chart-topping. For Alex he primarily only needed to focus on a player boat, with a variant for the police, the enemies in the game, and a boat interior of the radio studio. This meant that he was able to dedicate himself to making all the details look superb. A unique challenge was that because the boat was dynamic we couldn’t rely on any static lighting from Unity. Instead, for the interior, Alex relied on ambient occlusion from within Substance Painter to simulate ambient lighting. Another nice touch was the portholes were not transparent, and instead were just reflecting the skybox, which actually made it look like you could see outside from the internal portholes.
Even though our progress had been consistent, we still managed to come down to the wire for the deadline. The game really only felt complete in the final minutes and even then I badly wanted to do smooth out the rough edges in some post-jam updates to assist new players.
Over the next few weeks I did most of the tweaks that I wanted, though the game is still missing some highscore bonuses that I would have liked to include. After creating a trailer I posted it on itch.io because it felt like the right way to finish off the project. That turned into a fortuitous occasion; we were featured on the front page of itch.io under the “Fresh Games” section.
That in itself was a little surprising but it also meant that we then had roughly fifty thousand people see a link to the game on their homepage, 793 game page views and 263 downloads. While the click-through rate (number of links presented vs clicked) to our game was about the norm, around 1-2%, of those people that viewed it, a third of those downloaded the game.
For a game produced mostly over a weekend I consider that a win. I think the fact that people noticed us is a testament to Alex’s artwork and the idea being eye-catching – it’s about pirates! – just not those kind of pirates.
All in all, a great experience. It has definitely spurred me on in making games, but also to take care in how to present them, especially trailers and screenshots that will be a player’s first impression of a game. You can play the game right now if you haven’t already. Thanks for reading.