Game Jam Lessons Learned From Godot Wild Jam 26

Posted on Sun 01 November 2020 in Tech • 4 min read

Godot Wild Jam 26 Details

After dabbling in Godot for the past couple months, I decided to try joining a Godot-specific game jam. There's a monthly game jam that starts on the second weekend of every month called the Godot Wild Jam. I joined the October event, which was Godot Wild Jam #26. Usually these jams have one theme, but this was unique in that it had 3 possible themes:

  • Prehistoric
  • Spooky
  • Bread

To enter, you could choose one or more themes for your game. Godot Wild Jams also have 'wildcards', where you can optionally include some specific limitations for an added challenge. The wildcard options were:

  • Hey! Listen! - Feature a companion character in your game
  • Cheater! - Put cheat codes in your game
  • Delightfully Mundane - Put something fun and trivial in your game

As with most game jams, the intention is to start a completely new project on the first day of the jam, and submit it before the last day of the jam. This jam ran from October 9, 2020 to October 18, 2020, so I had 9 days to create an entire game from scratch.

My Submission - CarbLoader

As I think is common amongst game jam participants, I started off with large aspirations. I thought about combining all 3 themes, but combining prehistoric with bread was tough. I did some research on prehistoric civilizations with the thought of doing some kind of strategy sim, but I figured that would be tough to complete. After pondering bread a bit more, I thought I could make a bread delivery game where you deliver to various spooky citizens. During development, I decided to just focus on the bread part, with the idea that I could make things spookier later if I had time (spoiler: I did not have time!).

The final outcome was a game called CarbLoader, where you pick up bread from the factory and deliver it to houses based on random requests that generate over time. Considering my short experience with Godot and game development in general, I'm very happy with how it came out and the fact that I had a finished game. I also am proud of how I created the graphics, music, sound, game mechanics, and a global leaderboard in the space of 9 days. Aside from the usual "I wish it were better" aspects, I learned 3 main lessons from this experience.

Lesson 1 - Have An Actual Game ASAP

While I had an idea of what I thought a good milestone would be for having an actual game, I didn't have a playable game until very late in the game jam. This worked out fine, but if I had a playable game earlier, I could have tweaked some of the settings better. I wanted the game to be a challenge, but I didn't have time to test out some settings (such as 'time between new bread requests' and 'collisions with corners of roads'). My gut feelings on those turned out to be a good challenge, but I think I could have done better.

Lesson 2 - Watch Someone Play Your Game

After submitting my game to the jam, I finally let other people play it. Thinking back, I was a bit scared to have people play it, with the fear that they would bash it or just tell me all the things that I already knew weren't good. However, just the ability to watch my wife fire it up and play a couple times made me instantly aware of how I could have improved the UI, help screens, and sound effects with very little time and effort. I took for granted that I made the game and knew how it worked, so having someone else try without me giving directions could highlight these things.

Lesson 3 - Test The Exports

The first time I tried exporting the game from Godot was a couple of hours before the submission deadline. I had everything working in my editor (the classic "it works on my machine!"). When I set up the HTML5 export, I found out that my global leaderboard didn't like taking requests from the web version due to CORS issues. I got it figured out, but exporting earlier would have made this less stressful. Also, my Windows and Linux exports that I posted on the site didn't actually work. I didn't test these because I'm on OSX, but I could have had others try them and it was an easy fix.

Worth It

I'm really happy that I managed to finish a game in 9 days. It also seems like people had a lot of fun playing it, and the global leaderboard made it so there were random people I didn't know who took the time to get better at my game in order to get a higher score. This was an incredible feeling of knowing that people were willing to play my game beyond the first try just to rate it for the jam. Providing enjoyment for others, even if just for a couple of minutes, has proven to be worth every second spent over those 9 days making the game.