AND THE THEME IS...
The theme for our fourth Extra Credits game jam is connect.
First, take a minute or two to see what first impressions are entering your mind when you hear the game jam theme. You may (or may not) want to write down these first impressions. Just be mindful of them as you proceed forward.
A very popular technique for brainstorming is “mind-mapping.” This is basically an word-association exercise where you start off with the game jam theme, and record the multiple trains of thought and branching paths of inspiration that stem from them, when you think about the theme as just a word. Many people like to do this with paper and pen, drawing lines between ideas to create a messy series of “paths” linking the flow of ideas. You can also do it on the computer with either a digital text document or your choice of drawing/art software.
Please note that during the game submission process, you will be asked to write down a brief sentence or two about how you interpreted the theme. It doesn’t have to be poetic or elegant, just honest. Remember, there are no wrong answers!
A note about placing limits on yourself beforehand: it’s totally OK to have decided already that you want to make a visual novel/platformer/puzzle game/whatever; it’s good to make the jam be as logistically accessible to your skills as possible. But don’t be afraid to consider ideas that may arise that don’t necessarily seem to “fit in” with the type of game you want to make—that random, seemingly out-of-place idea may be in fact what helps you create a particularly standout, interesting game that doesn’t conform to genre conventions!
Some ideas will start really sticking out to you as “the good ones.” Take note of these. Categorize them--is this an idea that’s more about a possible art style? Great! How could those translate into or complement potential gameplay?
As much as possible, try to see all the facets of your game as being slices of the same pie, instead of each being their own entirely separate (albeit delicious) pie. Occam’s razor is helpful to remember here: the best design solution is usually the most straightforward one.
Example: If you were making a 2D side-scrolling platformer where the player-character can only move at a snail’s speed—it probably feels like a stronger narrative for the player-character to just literally be a snail, rather than being a random human character accompanied by a long-winded text-only prelude explanation of why in this fictional world all humans have to move at only a snail’s speed. If you’re still really attached to using your story about this slow-humans world, you might realize that traditional platforming mechanics aren’t the most logical tie-in, and you decide to make it a stealth game instead.
You may want to explore a few ideas at once, or you can stick with just one, when you begin your paper prototyping.
A “paper prototype” doesn’t have to literally involve paper, by the way. The point is to do a practice run of your basic game development plan of action, which also makes it much faster to change your mind about a particular feature before you’ve accidentally wasted a ton of time wrestling the user interface of a software you’re learning just for a feature that ultimately takes too much time to develop.
The digital or physical tools you use for the final game doesn’t matter, in the end. On the one hand, yes they do matter (to you, because you probably want to use tools that you’re familiar with or are easier for you to learn!), but ultimately the mechanics should make sense and be demonstrable well before you have a finished, final game to show off. Of course, sometimes you might have to pretend to be both the player and the A.I. at the same time, but it’s still a worthwhile exercise and valuable use of your development time.
Once you (and your team, if applicable) seem pretty pleased about the prototype you made, you can get to work!
It may be tempting to skip over some of the previous steps, but even if you are very pressed for time (such as if you started more than halfway through the jam) it’s still a good idea to still go through these steps in a more condensed timeline. A little planning and preparation now will help you have more time later for polishing and bug-testing, which can really make a game shine!
MORE TO DO
Here is the official list of 100% optional challenges put together by some of your fellow jammers! You can incorporate some, all, or none of these into your game as desired. There are no external rewards for completing these.
Extra Open: Be a good person and open-source your game so others can learn from your work! Include the source files on your published game page (Credit: yusdacra)
Extra Remix: Include a feature/asset from a game or any other creative project you've worked on before, even if you didn't use it in the final version (Credit: wezu)
"Extra"-Vert: Make a game that can be played with other people, in-person (Credit: Mr. Jam)
Extra Monochromatic: Use only a 2 color palette (Credit: EnioLotero, SmallTestAccount)
Extra Kuleshov Effect: Use the principles of the Kuleshov Effect to your advantage. This is the most recent Extra Credits episode! (credit: Extra Credits)
I finished my game! Now what?
Tell the world about it on your social media channels! (Feel free to use #extragamejam if you’d like!)
Commit to playing and leaving (constructive) feedback on at least 1 other game submitted to the jam. Stick around in our Discord community to exchange design ideas and playtesting comments.
Decide what your “next steps” look like. Maybe this game jam makes you want to keep spending some free time on improving your game development skills. Do you want to keep working on just this game? Create an accountability plan for new features and assets, so you can maintain your motivation even without the external pressure of a limited-time game jam. Do you want to learn or practice your mastery of a particular game dev skill or software/tool? That’s also a great goal!
Celebrate that you made a game! You put some art and creativity back into the world. Thanks for being you and expressing yourself through game design!