Ludum Dare 30 - RVA Game Jams
This past weekend myself and GameSkinny's el presidente, Stephen Johnston, attended RVA Game Jams' Ludum Dare meet up here in Richmond Virginia. Ludum Dare is an international accelerated game development competition. RVA Game Jams is a local group created by Lauren Vincelli and William Blanton. Lauren explained that she and Will had been friends from a very early age. Will had always wanted to make games and Lauren was an experienced event planner. Sounds like they stumbled across the perfect duo to create a game jam group!
Turns out that RVA Game Jams just had its two year birthday, so send them your best wishes on Twitter with @RVAGameJams!
I have not had this much fun in a long time, building a game in a matter of days alongside many others trying the same thing. I went into the RVA Game Jams event for Ludum Dare knowing nothing about making a game... but I left with a game to call my own, truly doesn't get better than that.
I thought about jam for a while before covering the event, trying to decide if I should take part or just sit back and observe. I went ahead and did a little of both.
Meeting everyone there was great.
We all share a common passion, gaming, even if from different angles. One participant came in with the goal to become better at character development and story telling. Another came in as an animator with the goal of learning to take his animation skills into a game. Many others came in with lots of experience, just wanting to throw together another game to add to their extensive list of work. One of these happened to be a developer who worked on our mobile app for our sister-site Guild Launch, small world!
The Only Reason You Need
This is what I would pin down as the best part about any game jams: it's a huge learning opportunity as well as a networking opportunity. Like I said, I came in with zero experience and left with... some! I should mention it definitely helped that I already have web development experience, the knowledge translated over pretty well. I've now met a handful of talented developers from right here in town also.
If this wasn't enough for you to be sold, then I'll give a few more. I've always wanted to make games, I just never sat down and did it. With the constraints of Ludum Dare being two to three days of development, I had no excuse not to jump in. It was motivating. I didn't have to think to myself, 'well, I can fit 3 hours of work into my first game tonight, but what about tomorrow and all the other days? How much time can I really dedicate to this?' All of those worries flew out the window - I just had to dedicate the weekend.
A Glimpse Into "Their" World
The barrier to entry into game development is not anywhere near as high as you may think. Obviously a general knowledge of code will give you a leg up, but it is not that far out of reach. The amount of resources available online are endless, if there is something you want to do, the solution is explained somewhere out there in the ether. You aren't going to sit down for the first time and make a Blizzard polished game, but you can learn some things. You will probably learn enough to boost your respect for the developers of AAA games by a huge amount.
Being involved in the creative process gives you insight into the world of game creation.
It's much like the work I do on my car. I like to think I am quite knowledgable about it all and that all the modifications I make actually make improvements. With that knowledge I have a huge amount of appreciation for the immense expenditure of time and money that must have gone into that finer car that just blasted by.
Being involved in the creative process gives you insight into the world of game creation and you see how much you really don't know and how much you can admire those who make a career out of game development.
To give you perspective, imagine World of Warcraft for a moment. Think about how enormous the game is and how many things you can do in-game. I'm willing to bet the code necessary for our entry to Ludum Dare would be about the same amount of code required to make vendors work in World of Warcraft. Maybe even less. Think about that next time you complain about a tiny bug in any game. It would probably take someone the better part of a week to figure it out and fix the bug.
If you ever intend to get to that level of expertise, you have to start somewhere. I don't think there is a single thing better at introducing you and getting you started than a game jam. Jump in and start learning, the decision may turn out to be the best you've ever made. As I've been telling myself for years, I wish I had started when I was much younger, by younger I mean like when I was twelve and got my first computer for my room. (See Thomas Suarex: 12-year-old app developer, much jelly) I would be so much better at what I do now, Will would agree with me.
Why Stop Here?
Now that I've participated, it's gotten me energized and motivated to continue. Stephen and I still work on our game, TwitForce, here and there, trying to make the game a more fun experience. That is yet another great thing about accelerated game development. You are given the topic and you just have to go. No arguing back and forth about what you do here and what you do there. You come up with an idea that is within scope and you go. Luckily for us, our idea has inspired us to continue, and I wouldn't be surprised if most Ludum Dare entries have done the same for their makers.
You can check out all the games submitted from RVAGameJams specifically here under the Recent Games section.
This should be your cue now to go looking for the next Game Jam event near you! Seriously, do it! I promise you will be glad you've done it. If you have an idea for a game, you can build it. It just takes resolve to figure it out.