Learning from failure

Last week Sergio and I signed for the “it’s a race” Mini Ludum Dare and he did a pretty good work with his Boost Power, but the same can’t be said about me.  This one has been my first game jam where I tried my best, but at the end I didn’t make it. It’s a shame, but I still think that still worth it.

My try is about a little mole fleeing  from a sure death under the horrific mower of doom. You can help the little mole by smashing your keyboard and evading some obstacles jumping over them. My hours playing Track & Field some years ago have to take some blame for my smashing button addiction.

Click the following image to access the “game”

My failed game for the mini LD. Click to play

My failed game for the mini LD. Click to play

What has gone wrong?

A game jam is somehow like a bigger video game project with a deadline of 48 hours, and in both cases everything might go wrong. When a project is cancelled, even if it’s for a game jam, a good option is going back and find out what was wrong (or what did well, sometimes is a lot easier). In my case these was some of the keys of my failure:

  • Using new development tools:
    • As I said some time ago in my post Moving to Unity (or die trying), I’m trying to learn Unity as fast as possible, and as this jam had an entire week to work on the game, I went crazy: I decided to use Unity  and  Spine for animation. At the end instead using 48 hours for the development, I spent 50 hours learning how to use both tools and 10 hours for the development.
  • Something won’t work as expected:
    • “I can animate and finish the main char in less than 2 hours”…  Huge mistake! After some hours trying to fix an issue with the mole texture, the time spent on it was much more than the expected 2 hours.
Broken mole texture

Broken mole texture

  • A day has 24 hours, and sometimes is not easy to find a while for your hobby:
    • Is easier to avoid some incidentals and gather more time for a weekend game jam, but during the entire week I had to interrupt my workflow several times each day, turning the time I’ve planed to work for the jam in small pieces of less than an hour.
  • Bad timing:
    • A common mistake when using a new tool is sub estimate the time needed for each task. In my case I applied what I explained in an older post about adding some more time to  any initial estimation. Still not enough…

Looking for the bright side

OK, the plan didn’t work at all, there is always something positive to learn, even from cancelled projects. In my case, the game is not finished, but every hour I spent on it worth it:

  • Learning new tools:
    • The jam was the perfect excuse to spend some time with Unity and as initiation with Spine2D. Video tutorials, web searches…next time I’ll be ready to rock :P.
Mole animation with Spine2D

Mole animation with Spine2D

  •  Learn from the mistakes:
    • Considering my mistakes on this project for the next one is the best way to improve my skills, but is not as easier as it sounds!
  • Timing experience:
    • I’m pretty sure that my next time plan will be wrong again, but it’s going to be at least a bit better than this one. For a game jam you must end the game in time, and aiming to reach the end line is a great lesson for future projects.


Here ends today’s post. Next Ludum Dare is in December and I’ll try to be ready for it!

Thanks everyone and see you soon!


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