Friday, April 20, 2012

GameDevStories: The road to TOJam (and an introspective look into design)

While this is fresh on my, I might as well post about it.

The Toronto Game Jam (better known as TOJam) will be taking place in three weeks, and last night was the pre-planning/matchmaking session, an event for people to find teams and people to work with.

OK, I may have jumped two steps ahead, so let's step back for a bit:  A Game Jam is a typically an event where people put together a game in a short timeframe (and in this case, in 3 days).  People will come in with different expectations of what they want out of it, but considering a 3 day schedule, you'll want to work with people who are working on the same wavelength as you as far as planning, ideas, and work methodology if you have want any legit chance of cranking out something that resembles a usable game.

This is my first time doing something like this, and I'm really just following the lead of Nick (a 2D UI guy I used to work with who's done this before), and my objective was sort of simple: find a programmer(s) or anybody, to form a team.

Two interesting things happened:

1) Well, the whole matchmaking setup was a bust for me: all the matches didn't have the right numbers setup, so my "schedule" of organized matches were kinda for naught.  I ended up talking to randoms around, which was an interesting, and slightly different outcome.

2) Most people I've talked to weren't exactly looking for TOJam partners either.  The few that were were trying to fill holes in their gap: a programmer here, an artist there, etc.  The rest were actually looking at this as an networking area for people on their other outside projects (be it as a business, hobby, etc).  In both cases, nothing really came out of it.

So now I come out of it still without much of a team.  Possible contacts, but not much of a direction... and I find that odd because of one really consistent and oddball thing:

In talking to most people about what I do (design), the first thing they ask is "So what game idea do you have in mind?"...

...wait, what?

And in talking and listening to the other teams, most actually do have an idea in mind already.  Some have worked out mechanics and planning, and the theme will just be jammed in somehow afterwards. I'm left utterly speechless.

To me, the idea of having a game idea before the theme (no, the theme hasn't been announced) seems utterly absurd.  When I look at design, I work and shape ideas with the restrictions and limitations I have: theme, the people, the resources, the platform I'm making things on.  There's no point of me drawing up plans while I still have that many moving parts on the resources I can depend on.  I'd tell people, you let me worry about design when the time comes, obviously, that wasn't how must people were doing things.

Am I thinking too backwards in this?

In the current and worse case scenario, it'll be me hacking away on an iOS game in 3 days.  Sounds like a decent plan if I ever heard one.

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