How to make a good computer game in 48 hours or less

Lets get right to business, coming back from the Global Game Jam I got to see a lot of people make games in under 48 in teams, and I made a game in under 24 by myself on the side of working on another project, so I think I’m reasonably qualified.

Find people to support you– This is a no-brainer, having others pick up tasks for the game is going to save time and it’s a great motivator. Even though my game was a side project to something else, the support and attention of others not only gave me motivation, but their feedback helped me quickly understand what steps I had to take next.

Make a game not a game engine-Unless you are a professional programmer with a pre-built framework you’ll need to pick something like Game Maker, MultiMedia Fusion 2, Unity, or Construct 2 to work with… these are all great high level languages designed specifically for making the process of creating games as simple as possible and simple to the experienced means fast. Someone with a solid grasp of any one of these tools can get a complete game running in mere hours. Personally I love game maker, a solid review of it can be found here

Take breaks the right way– Eventually you will get tired and you will get hungry. If you need a break go on a walk, sit in the park just get away from the computer and relax yourself, don’t surf the internet or play video games. If you are hungry go out and eat something healthy. If you’re tired sleep, don’t try to force yourself to wake up if you are going to end sleeping later on, you’ll only be more exhausted. This is supposed to be fun, you can work hard and finish without feeling like you beat up your body, I did. I actually found the simplicity of the game jam to be rejuvenating, I didn’t have to worry about anything other than making games, and the times I spent sitting in the park relaxing gave me my best ideas. 

Understand your priorities– This is the most important lesson I can give you, what order to take things when you make a game. The core of every game is the gameplay, a game is still a game without art, without sound, without a story, but without a gameplay you don’t have a game, as such the first thing you should do is:

  1. Decide on what kind of gameplay you want and plan out how you can achieve that. I decided I wanted to make a game about the thrill of throwing a boomerang while moving around and using it to fight off enemies. I decided I needed in terms of art a image of the character holding the boomerang, one of them throwing it, and images of the boomerang rotating. For the sound I needed one that played, on the throw and one on the catch. For the Programing I-this is getting too long to write!
  2. Implement this basic core idea as quickly as possible, just get it to work. Needless to say I was able to get the basics up and running very quickly. I used every shortcut I could to get to it, even making different colored clones of the player as enemies. 
  3. Congratulations you have a game in a few hours! Now that you got that out of the way its time for the hard part! Making a GOOD game. You’re going to have to decide what direction you want to take with the gameplay and continue to add to it while sticking to the same rules, focus on something, figure out what needs to be done and do it, In my case I wanted to have waves of randomly generating enemies come at the player, then I wanted to create different enemies, then I decided to add health, then power ups, each thing was isolated and broken down, I was careful never to build on anything I had not already firmly established in the game, so if it turned out to be a dud, I could quickly move on to something else. 
  4. At a certain point you may decide that you have had enough adding features you want to polish the game. Polish is a word I like to use to describe those little details that although small and time consuming can bring up the quality of a game or at least make it feel more complete, good examples of this is flashy graphical effects, playing with the friction of the game or in my case I wanted to find a way to teach the player how to play my game. I ended up making a tutorial level that gradually brought the deeper gameplay mechanics to the player. In the time it too for me to do this I could have easily added a series of levels for the main game instead, but it would have meant little if the game’s initial difficulty scared away players.

 

The biggest mistakes I saw at the Global Game Jam was people adding features or even polishing details, when their core was still not functional. Remember make a complete simple game first, build upon it next, and finally polish, fix the stuff that could be better, throw away the stuff that doesn’t add to the game.

Remember its all code-Everything in the game is being stored as 1’s and 0’s and it’s the programmers job to put it all together, all the art sound and good ideas in the world won’t make a computer game.

I hope you found this informative, I highly recommend How to make a game in 4 hours by Cactus. If you are going to watch it open up this write up too which covers the same event:  http://www.tigsource.com/2009/03/23/igs-09-the-four-hour-game-design/

Amendment:

Looking back at this article and thinking about my own struggles I realized I missed something, something so obvious it stands right in the face of everything, but still needs to be mentioned.

The most important factor, this significant integer is SKILL. Nobody just wakes up one day and decides to make a great computer game in 48 hours. They spend years developing and refining their skills and their output in this constrained time is some reflection of that skill. In the above article I merely wrote my observations of what successful groups seemed to have in common. But what really made them successful was the years of experience and skill they had brought with them.

If you are reading this you are probably still not completely satisfied with your abilities, and that’s a good thing. As long as we yearn for more, as long as we see what we could have done better next time, we will continue to grow. A crocodile only grows if it eats, so stay hungry my friends and bite off more than you can chew. 

5 thoughts on “How to make a good computer game in 48 hours or less

  1. Pingback: Fear and Loathing at Global Game Jam :: cyborgDino | RAWWWR Dev Blog!

  2. Tarun Luthra

    I completely agree with the kind of approach that you are following. I have even learned a much on the issues i used to make mistakes. This a pretty good lesson for me to learn what should be the step-wise process to develop the game.
    And a game in 24-hrs, amazing…Hatts Off !!
    Pls forward me the game(if you can), I wanna learn more.
    Please keep in touch with more game information.

    Reply
  3. mcteapot

    I think some thing you did not touch on, are the role of programmers in the project. Most programmers them to be lone wolves and introverts that want to keep to them selves. This mentality can only work against you in the end. Something that most coders lack is the ability to delegate different parts of there code out to a team. When one has a top-level view of how the general architecture of an application is going to come together, they are going to end up with a stronger product. So it is advisable to take some time to pre-plan on how the game is going to be built. I am not sure if this is a skill that comes along with time or something you have to actively work on, but it is crucial when you have to work with a team of people.

    Reply
    1. Jonathan Post author

      That sounds like a great addition, but Its something I don’t have experience with and I haven’t seen done effectively, and thus can’t write about. Furthermore I think it isn’t necessarily to have more than one programmer in order to complete a game, and its more a matter of teamwork, something which I only touched briefly as something that helps in the development of a game.

      Reply

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