Spirit Run / GlobalGameJam 2016 post-mortem

This year I participated to the Global Game Jam 2016 [GGJ] at BellecourÉcole in Lyon, France. This is a school that hosted an official site of the GGJ with 240 jammers, 27 games were made there this last week-end.
As I came on site after team creation time, I walked from one room to another asking who were in need of a game designer / programmer. I’m a bit shy and I felt uneasy at first with this process but this sensation left me when I had finally found a team which welcomed me with open arms as they were lacking of a programmer.

My team at GGJ16

(I’m at the middle, wearing a white t-shirt)
These guys are students of first year and second year at BellecourÉcole, they’re learning graphic design, 2D animation and game design.

Spirit Run

Screen capture of Spirit Run

We’ve created this game named ‘Spirit Run’, it’s a 2D side-scrolling runner. You’re a shaman running from temple to temple, executing rituals at these places, if you don’t run fast enough you’ll lost your soul!

For the moment, the game can only be played on Windows with a XBOX360 gamepad.

  • Left Joystick: Move
  • Y: Jump
  • (On temples) Hold both triggers (RT & LT) down: Switch to ritual mode
  • (In ritual mode) Both Joystick: Execute ritual moves

Here’s the page of our game on GGJ site.

Project management and communication

Our team was composed of 6 game designers with different specializations, being the only one able to program I played also a key role in defining what we could achieve in 48 hours. In this context I took the decision to dedicate my efforts to programming and trying to give a project frame for the team and let them express their creativity.

I attached to get everyone participating and being interested in the idea we chose to go with. Ownership feeling is necessary when it comes to dedicate huge load of work on a project in a short time.
I refused to be called ‘Project lead’ or whatever in the same style, as I told them: everyone’s word was equal, I was only there to enable them to reach their goal.

The decisions were taken at the majority agreement. I wrote regularly the needs and advancement state on the whiteboard to keep a clear track of project progression.
We ate every meals together, a simple act that I think has a certain importance to get a team to work well together.

I learnt a lot about problems of communication because they have a more graphical point of view while I’m heavily influenced by software development perspective. This lead to some minor confusion, I tackled these problems by adapting my language and showing things rather than using words.

What went right

  • I took care of my health properly.
    For me it’s an important point. Compared to last jam, every hours spent working were effective.
  • An overall good relationship in the team.
    It was very pleasant to work with this team, there was a joyful mood during the whole 48 hours. Despite many technical hurdles we cooperated with the smile all the way.
  • We shipped a game before the deadline.
    YEAH! This is certainly not the next Call Of Duty but this is our game and we’re proud of it. We aimed low to be able to deliver a game at the end of the GGJ, this was at the top of our priorities list.

What went wrong

  • Working prototype came really late
    This was caused by me being blind to what I’ve got in hands. Saturday midday I had written the code for the core gameplay except rituals at temples that I replaced by a placeholder, I should have made a quick level and got everyone to test it.
    Instead I created some scripted prefabs and gave it to one guy to start working on level design. The ‘real’ prototype was assembled Sunday at 13 o’clock.
  • Unity projects hell
    We started the jam with 2 PC on 6 that either was full of virus or launched blue screen at random. Creating a game with proper tools is too simple. Also Unity installation on these PCs seemed damaged, the whole thing making transferring project from one PC to another an ordeal even with the packages system. Hours of work were lost due to this.
  • Full animators’ work loss
    I take responsibility for this disastrous event. Two teammates were skilled at 2D animation and did a great job on Adobe Flash to animate the character, before starting the work they asked me if Unity would accept Flash animations and later they found a free module in the AssetsStore to convert Flash animation to Unity prefab.
    I should have asked them to test integration in Unity right away because at the end of the jam we were unable to get the prefabs to work on the final version of the game.
  • Difficulty to keep everyone busy and duplication of work
    A team of 6 starts to be a big number of people to manage, especially when 5 of them have the same skill set. As I was the only programmer I was the bottleneck of the production process and some teammates had times when they couldn’t do anything to advance the project.
    Also lots of compatibility errors encountered by transferring project from one PC to another lead us to lost work done and having to duplicate it. It suffice to say we were throwing hours of work by the windows.
  • No explicit tutorial or indications
    A consequence of assembling the prototype so late in the week-end and wasting hours of work on different problems was that we didn’t spend any time on creating at least a little tutorial and not even a GUI to represent the timer running.

P.S.: We definitely should have used BitBucket instead of GoogleDrive.

Future of the game

We’re willing to continue working on this game for sure. We really enjoyed this game jam and are enthusiast at refining our game.
From my point of view we’re not gonna commercialized it but use it as a portfolio element and maybe we’ll put it on itch.io.

P.S.: My favorite game of this GGJ16 (besides ours :p) is Anu & Ki, this is a cute dance game you should really check it out. As well as the source code which is a great educational material.