You can try all of my jam games here for free.

 

So what is this #1GAM thing? 

#1Gam or the One Game a Month game jam for it’s less catchy name is a great way to flex your creative muscles whilst pushing your comfort zone. The idea here is that you create one small game each month and then move straight onto the next months game. This is great not only because it teaches a valuable lesson of dropping projects with less potential because we all know that we can become attached to an idea that we come up with and yes, I do this too, but it also helps you learn to focus on the important mechanics and where your skills could do with improvement. Finally, it comes with a snazzy website where you can register a free account to help keep track of your monthly progress, check the monthly theme if you really want to break out of your comfort zone when creating a game concept and you can even earn experience and achievements if you’re into the gamification type thing. So if you haven’t already, go sign up and start your journey of creating 12 games in a year.

 

January #1GAM 

January’s theme was “Rebirth”. My entry, also called Rebirth because why not just reuse the name of the monthly theme is a simple puzzle based platformer where the player must kill the character, be reborn and use their own corpse to get past previously unpassable traps. This concept actually stemmed from my initial concept which was to be a top-down or third person narrative heavy puzzler with the same concept of being reborn to bypass traps and puzzles. I’d also hoped to include body possession so that you could be captured, disarmed and body swap with enemies for some extra depth.

 

 

The Bad 

  • Time Constraints: January was a busy month for me with the completion and final stages of delivering my third Pluralsight course, ending one of my YouTube tutorial playlists and trying to plan the next as well as being blessed in the UK with our tax return month in January.All of this left me with very little time to actually work on my #1Gam entry and in fact, I only spent part of the last week of January working on the game with most of that time being spread across the final weekend.

 

  • Scope: Closely linked to my time constraints, the concept detailed above including narrative, body swapping and 3D movement was well out of scope for the time I had available. Unfortunately, I had created this concept at the beginning of the month with the hope I’d get more chance to spend working on the game, however, I didn’t consider rescoping the project until the final week.

 

  • Style: The game lacks any real style or cohesion with the theme or concept. All of the assets except the character model are from the Platformer Starter Pack from the Unreal Marketplace as I knew that I would not have the chance to create all of the assets from scratch.

 

  • Story: It doesn’t have one, though I guess that works for Fortnite right?… I had really hoped to spend some time creating a short simple and hopefully comical backstory to this entry as that’s something I’d never really had the chance to focus on and still haven’t.

 

The Good 

  • Quick Refactoring: I was able to take the main concepts that had interested me in creating the larger project such as UMG dialogue, rebirth based puzzle and bad humour, and refactor them into this small platformer.

 

  • UMG Skillz: I rarely spend much time thinking about UI or working with widgets as more of a gameplay programmer. However, this entry really lets me utilise a lot of really cool things in the dialogue system such as animation for the typewriter style text system.

 

  • Dialogue System: It’s a fairly simple cue based dialogue system but it let me create little hints based on where the player is in the level such as if they’re nearing an edge which only leads to death and I’ve even included different retorts from the character based on how many times the player dies for some hopefully humorous moments.

 

  • Tutorial: It has one and I usually forget to spend time making this. For this type of game, the tutorial was able to be kept simple and fairly intuitive as the player cannot leave the safe zone without at least grasping the basic controls.

 

  • Polish: As I was stripping back a lot of the content I made sure to spend time adding some Squash and Stretch to the character as well as including sound effects, particles and some smoothing to all of the camera transitions. This just helps make such a basic game feel a little more satisfying to play.

 

  • Humour: I was able to inject a tiny amount of the originally intended humour into brief self-aware dialogue messages the character has with himself as well as the hidden messages that only appear if the player dies an excessive amount of times.

 

Lessons Learned

  • Plan the concept accordingly: Whilst my initial game idea would have been tasking for even a month of work over many evenings and weekends, it was going to be near impossible to fit into the space of one week at the end of the month.

 

  • Refactor quickly: Thankfully I only spent several hours prototyping the initial idea and quickly moved onto something much more realistic in scope. The final game still ended up being shorter than I would have liked and far less refined but I ended up with a playable game and released it within the month.

 

  • Start early: A month seems like a long time, that is until I remembered that I was not treating this like a usual game jam where I would have made sure I had no other obligations for 2-3 days and just dedicate most of my waking hours to the jam game. This game, however, was intended to only be worked on during my evenings and perhaps occasionally on weekends. If I’d started with just an hour an evening at the start of the month I would have been able to create a much bigger experience as well as starting a positive routine.

 

  • UMG Rocks!: I’ve always been one to steer away from menus and widgets in general but after spending more time with UMG I’ve come to appreciate how intuitive creating menus and widgets inside of Unreal can be and how simple it can be to create interesting animations and effects.

 

  • Design simple: Thanks to having just left/right movement and jump, all I needed to add in the way of a tutorial for the player was a small safe section of the level which could not be cleared without learning how to press forward and jump. This was a good refresher on basic game design theory but also really useful to keep in mind for future jams. 


Summary

So the game ended up being shorter than I’d have liked, it was a completely different game from the original concept and needed to use 3rd party assets. However, I think it’s fun to play for a few minutes, which you can decide for yourself by downloading it here for free. I was able to inject a little of my terrible humour into it and create my own event based dialogue system whilst learning more about the UMG system. On to February to try and work out what I could possibly do to work the music theme in.