Long term tips for multiple short game jams for programmers

I see multiple blog posts around the internet for tips on just doing a single weekend game jam, these tend to be pretty obvious like drink water and get sleep. What I don’t see that I think is harder is strategies in getting better after doing several and how to stay motivated to keep doing them as a programmer.

I keep motivated doing gamejams/hackathons because I find it’s the easiest way to follow some great advice in The Pragmatic Programmer. The book suggests learning at least one new programming language or big tool every year and reading one technical book a quarter. Easy to remember and great advice. Even if I’m not doing a deep dive that weekend, I still get a good sense about what makes engines or platforms different and get out of habit. This is different from the common designer motivation of using the tool they’re most comfortable with so they don’t need to spend a lot of time in tutorials and can focus on a mechanic.

I assume that most people’s 1st or 2nd gamejam is consumed just by trying to complete a project so these tips mostly only apply to once I started being able to scope and complete projects.
Strategies I use for making progress on my 3rd+ gamejams and still feel like I’m growing as a programmer while still having a finished concept others can give feedback on:

  • I don’t focus on multiplayer if people need to judge it on the internet. The friction is too high, you can’t keep a populated server and even in the case of local MP most people don’t have friends around.
  • I prefer working with tools that making having an online build easy. When trying to get others to play quick games, low friction is even more important than in a f2p game. This isn’t to say that I don’t play around with native stuff, but it factors in that I won’t get much feedback.
  • I timebox myself when I feel like I’m “going down a rabbit hole” and trying to make a new tool do something it doesn’t want to do. When I feel like I’ve sunk more than a few hours into a feature like getting water working or glow shaders, and it just isn’t happening I try brainstorming a replacement once a set time has past so you don’t waste too much time. If I get it done within that time, great, if not just come up with an alternative
  • If no good ideas come to me for the theme I just start playing with tutorials. Official new tutorials often showcase the strengths of a new tool you might not know, so it gives good direction.
  • I figure out where my resource holes are before starting. This gives me some idea of how much time I’ll end up looking for art or sound, or whether someone else can fill those in.
  • If I have friends that tend to like to have ideas but haven’t made a game before, I try to help them make their own game in twine or something similar before being on a formal team together. It helps when everyone learns scoping skills before working on a bigger team.
  • The biggest motivation is doing things you’re not allowed to do at work.For me that’s my cynical based humor.

This is by no means a complete list I’m sure. These are just the things I’ve found that other people have disagreed with me on but I feel work really well personally.

Ludum Dare 33 “You are the Monster” Entry

I wasn’t really inspired by the theme this Ludum Dare and I think that always tends to show. You can see the game here and vote on it here. Since it’s just html, css, and non-obfuscated js feel free to look at the code.

My main takeaways were:

  1. Keeping a blog makes me significantly better and showing my progress.
  2. CSS animations have gotten WAY easier to work with since I last did them.
  3. Kind of obvious but when making games in niche genres it’s easier to get attention from the hardcore fans. My game got a fair amount of hits from the clicker/idle subreddit.
  4. I managed to finish something even after I sort of lost motivation and had several other things to do during the weekend, so that’s a big improvement over previous jams.


  • Visual Studio Express 2012 Web
  • jQueryUI

A few in progress shots of the order I did things in:

  1. Skeleton layout
  2. 1Layout

  3. Button Handcursor And Satisfying number animation complete with formatting of dummy info
  4. 2HandcursorAndNumberAnimation

  5. Stats Popup
  6. 3StatsPopup

  7. Dynamic Button inserts and Tooltips
  8. 4DynamicButtonInsertAndTooltips

  9. Button content updates
  10. 5ButtonContentLiveSite

  11. Logic working on everything
  12. 6LogicWorksCostsGrayedTitleBarUpdates

  13. Real art
  14. 7RealArtIsFun

  15. Floaty Text!!!!!!
  16. 8FloatyTextInAllBrowsers

  17. Toast Popups and Save load
  18. 9ToastPopupsAndSaveLoad

  19. Win condition
  20. 10WinMenu

  21. Final  including weird css bug fixes.
  22. 11Final



What happens when you’re really tired and google for transparent images because you’re trying to figure out a really dumb IE fading bug:

Speedy Free Flash Game Programming Review

I’ve been away from flash for a few months and decided it was time to do a quick review. But after being a professional flash developer for several years what to do? Also I had the additional problem that I didn’t have access to useful tools like oh I don’t know the Flash Authoring tool.
I wanted to do something that was easily skinnable so it had the feel of a normal flash game that suckers would buy you would see on normal portals.

This is what I came up with after a day: FIV Find it

I used a few public domain images, FlashDevelop IDE, Paint.NET, and goldwave. I’d recommend this combination to any exploring programmer with limited art resources. Making an entire hidden object scene in a few hundred lines of code.

As for the numbers you get on Kongregate for putting less than a day of work in something and not having an artist: 200 plays and 17 cents after 3 days. Fun fact. This is with only facebook shares and being briefly listed on the new games section.

Making this tiny game was fun enough where I’ve rejuvenated my plan of constant side projects.