Jam #4: Black River

The largest turn out and most completed project to date, Black River is a dystopian adventure game inspired by classics such as Loom. Originally the brain child of our Senpai, Richard Anaya whose direction and vision helped guide the team throughout development.

While we struggled at first to adapt to the new larger team and the new format, the results speak for themselves - a fully fledged adventure game complete with a functional save system, dialog system, inventory, puzzles, and oodles of custom art and story. I couldn't be prouder to have gotten the opportunity to work with such amazing jammers.

Media

Timeline

56 Hour Game Jam - 10:00am January 6th 2017 - 6:00pm January 8th 2017 Eastern Time

Git Repository

https://gitlab.com/game-jammers/blackriver

Jammers

  • arec
  • casey
  • darrylk
  • democore
  • drburd
  • ehasson
  • hsmith
  • richard
  • skiastra
  • thegoatee
  • undertakeg
  • waking_the_witch

Post Mortem

Key Takeaways

  • The largest turnout for any of our jams
  • The most completed features of any jam to date
  • The most individual art assets produced in any jam to date!
  • The number one positive piece of feedback was how hard everyone worked (which is shown by the all the previous new top metrics achieved) and how much passion they had for the project.
  • The number one negative piece of feedback was communication and coordination

As for the specific statistics from responses - we were all over the place. A lot of this has to do with a new format and an unexpectedly high turnout rate, so we weren't quite as prepared to do as much coordinating as we were expecting, but Richard and the rest of the gang did an excellent job getting over the initial hurdles and getting us moving in a coordinated fashion.

What We Did Well

Hard work has always been our specialty, but this jam I think we set a new high bar for sheer willpower pumped into a project. The incredible amounts of passion and dedication by all the team members was astounding to me. We produced a surprisingly well put together game in the amount of time, complete with puzzles, dialog, sound effects, music, and all the features you might expect from a ship-able product. I was even surprised at the amount of extra polish we were able to add on as the end approached, and this really could only have been done with such a dedicated and passionate team.

What We Could Do Better

Coordination

The biggest struggle we had with this jam was several different jammers having a different concept of what the game was, what the direction was, and what we were all trying to build. While there is something fun and exciting about emergent story, mechanics, and even art styles that comes from independent creators developing the game in their own directions, and while not everything can make it into the final game, I do think in future jams we can do a better job ensuring that we aren't working at cross purposes - especially in the early design phases of the jam.

In person jams solve this problem a little easier, there's less latency in face to face communication, and easier to reach consensus, but I do think we have the necessary tools moving forward to prevent these kinds of misunderstandings to cause as much disruption.

Solution: I think a clearer one word topic is the best to set the tone of the jam, followed by everyone working together to make sure all ideas that are expressed continue to be clearly articulated to those joining the jam later in the process. We actually did do a pretty good job of documenting progress on Black River, unfortunately some important details were still left ambiguous, and in the absence of details, two developers went in two separate directions. More cross talk, more documentation, more coordination at a higher level both early on and as more people join us is the way to go here.

We should also consider ways to define clear sections of ownership, people like to jam so they can contribute, and in the design phase clearly establishing what features, concepts, mechanics, or art work can be developed independently allows us to quickly divide and conquer any game idea.

Personal Thoughts

Unfortunately, I'm returning from a long break (nearly 3 months!) between the actual jam and getting the opportunity to put together this post mortem, so all I have are some notes I've taken, Slack history, and the post mortem surveys we sent out, however, I can say that I do have a very strong sense of pride and satisfaction pulling down the repository and replaying the game we build back in January. As always, I want to give many thanks to all the developers who took time out of their busy schedules to come jam with us, and an especial heart felt thanks to Richard Anaya for agreeing to take on the challenging job of Senpai on this particular jam.

I am excited to get going on our next jam, more details coming soon!

Thanks for reading, and I am looking forward to jamming with you very soon~
-Howard