GitHub Game Off 2016 Post-Mortem

So this is something that I’ve also been meaning to write for quite some time. I was turned onto the jam by my cousin about a week before the jam started. It sounded like quite a daunting undertaking, but at about the last minute I decided that it is something that will be worth doing though.

The Theme

When I saw the theme and how vast it was it demotivated me a little. I sometimes struggle quite a lot with coming up with my own ideas for most creative ventures I attempt, which is why I mostly try to source help or some guidance from someone else. Unfortunately we were attempting to take part in this jam individually so I just decided to stick with what I knew and go with my original concept I used for the first Entelect Jam and build on top of that.

The Idea

My main idea was to try and make a little space mining game with some more realistic 2D physics, well realistic to the point that all the asteroids in the game world would exert some form of gravity on your ship. Once you’re mining asteroids though you’ll use those resources to then go ahead and build some weapons, which in turn would allow you to reach some sort of objective. I had no idea what my objective would have been, but I thought it made more sense to rather just see how far I get with the rest before I tackle that.

The Execution

I’ve mentioned on multiple occasions that I’m a software engineer. Well this was one of the games that just showed me how much I think of proper design first before really thinking about what the design should achieve. We’re mostly used to someone else figuring out the fancy bits of what the software should do, yeah sure we sometimes have to facilitate that process a bit, but original ideas from me is something that does not come by very often.

I had slowly allowed myself to be consumed by trying to design a better way of doing things than actually building a game. I optimized and fixed my original gravity calculation learning some very basic vector maths along the way. I even managed to fiddle around with a camera that would lead ahead of your ship to make distinguishing objects you might bash into more easily. Two thirds into the month I basically had nothing. I had a ship that would be moved by it’s surroundings, a laser firing turret that would pan back and forth and firing when it detects a danger in it’s line of sight, but not really anything more than that.

It’s still probably one of the more important game jams in my career since I had forced myself to really start thinking more of how I structure what I do and prevent myself from just falling into the pit that Unity3D can so easily cause you to fall into: namely just making everything some script. I’ve had to battle cross dependencies doing strange things many times before on other projects I’ve undertaken and grew a bit sick of it.

The Results

In the end I realized I had allowed scope creep to creep up on me and basically never managed to yield any amazing results. I have learned quite a lot though and I’ve been able to bring a lot of the knowledge that I’ve picked up along the way into the later games that I’ve been attempting to build. I believe I still have a long road to walk with all this and it’s likely that I’ll have to start flexing some other skills other than my coding abilities as it seems it’s mostly my stronger coding abilities holding me back.

Overall it was great fun knowing people all over the world are making games with you the whole month long and it served as a great motivator to just get me to do anything. I would definitely suggest that someone attempts to do a month long jam as it really brings a whole different feel to what you’re doing.

Author

Sas van der Westhuizen

Intermediate Software Engineer at Entelect; "engineering" since 2015; loves games, rock climbing; been trying my hand at making games, but nothing good yet!