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Three Global Game Jam 2021 Entries by PreviewLabs Team Members

Last weekend, the thirteenth edition of the Global Game Jam (GGJ) took place, this year virtually. The GGJ is an event in which people all over the world come together to form small teams to create games within a 48 time frame. Since the start of the company, we’ve been participating in game jams – as you can see in the other articles within the Game Jam category on this very blog.

In this post, we’ll share how the three teams with PreviewLabs members fared and what they learned.

Smooth Sailing at the Game Jam

Our business developer and game designer Chris Janocha, participating in the Global Game Jam for the second time (previously worked on a game called Scrapshoot), focused on game design in this project carried out by a seven person strong team.

In Smooth Sailing, you navigate depending on the direction of the wind (indicated by the white flag) and by adjusting the sail.

If you played The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, you’ll likely notice some similarity. This is no coincidence – while Chris’s thoroughly enjoyed the game, he felt that the sailing mechanic in the game could have been better, and decided to explore the possibilities.

Chris’s advice for people seeking to participate in a game jam:

  • Anything that you’d do to prepare for a long session of work is what I’d recommend to do, so you don’t need to do it during the 48h of the game jam. If you’re a coffee drinker, keep coffee close. If you like to eat granola bars, keep them close. In my case, I bought some energy drinks and got in my favorite comfy clothes.
  • If you’re interested to get into the games industry, you should participate in a game jam. I only started in my senior year but I regretted this and wished I had been doing them all the time.

Chris’s global game jam entry can be played on itch.io.

Family Reunion Makes Life More Colorful

Osayd Madi, game prototyping programmer, came up with a personally meaningful marriage between gameplay mechanics and story. Having moved from Palestine to Belgium shortly before he started working for PreviewLabs, he is eagerly awaiting reunion with his family. Expressing this in his game, the world starts in a bleak greyscale environment. As you collect the puzzle pieces representing the family, the world becomes more colorful, which simultaneously allows to solve the puzzles in the game.

Osayd showing us his GGJ entry while streaming the game directly from the Unity Editor to the Oculus Quest 2 using this method using Virtual Desktop.

It’s not the first time for Osayd to create a meaningful game – during his first GGJ last year, he made a game about the Australian bushfire, in which the goal is to help the trees to grow again and save the Koala from the flames.

Osayd’s advice for people seeking to participate in a game jam:

  • While it’s possible to do a game jam on your own, as I did, I found it to be more motivating to jam together with a friend, like I did in the 2020 Global Game Jam.
  • Don’t be sorry if you have to cut some features from your awesome idea if you want to make it in time.
  • I’m not sure if it’s a good tip for everyone, but during a game jam, I like to get out of your comfort zone and pick new technologies and topics I want to learn. If you follow this approach, it may amaze you how fast you can learn under pressure.
  • Sounds effects are as important as good visuals, try to have enough time to think about it.

Osayd’s game is not available for download yet, but he plans to make it available through SideQuest some time in the near future. When he does, we’ll make sure to add it in the comments below.

Squeaky Snake vs Santa Claws

Last but not least, Jerry van den Heuvel, Studio Manager of PreviewLabs Belgium, and Bernard Francois, founder of PreviewLabs and Studio Manager for our US office, used this edition of the GGJ as an opportunity to do get into some programming together for the first time.

Together with 3D artist Sebastian Mollet, they brainstormed and came up with a game with a two player online multiplayer game, in which one player plays as a snake at the bottom of a ball pit, while the other player plays as a claw machine, trying to pull the snake out.

Jerry focused on the multiplayer implementation using Photon Unity Networking (PUN) and the claw machine, while Bernard focused on the snake game and the physics.

Footage of the multiplayer gameplay - showing the point of view of Squeaky Snake as well as Santa Claws - which was implemented by Jerry using PUN.

The team’s advice for people seeking to participate in a game jam:

  • It’s important to eliminate any distractions before the jam – for instance by removing any clutter from your room, or by creating an empty user account on your computer.
  • It’ recommended to take a power nap before you start – just an hour of sleep can make a big difference to get you through the first night.
  • During the jam, rather than not sleeping at all, getting in 2-4 hours of sleep twice in the 48h period can do miracles, especially when you want to maintain a high feature-to-bug ratio.
  • Jerry decided to sleep on his couch instead of a bed – to avoid getting too comfortable, making it easier to wake up on time.
  • Make sure to do a meeting roughly every 12 hours to verify that everything is still on track, or to adjust if needed.

While this was the first time participating in a game jam for Jerry, Bernard is a Global Game Jam veteran who previously participated in the 2009, 2010, 2011, and in 2015 game jams as an attendee, in 2018 as a judge, and in 2020 and 2021 as a co-organizer through GameDevCT.

Squeaky Snake slithered its way to its home on the Global Game Jam webpage where it’s available for download.

Getting Excited?

We all thoroughly enjoyed participating, and are already looking forward to next year’s game jam.

For more advice on how to set yourself up for a successful game jam, check out our earlier video about how to be successful at game jams. Can’t wait until next year? Consider participating in Ludum Dare, a 48h solo game jam.

Need our skills to develop a prototype for your project? Don’t hesitate to contact us.

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