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Allison Day
Allison Day

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Our Personal Game Jam

A game prototype a month, every month, for a year.

Depending on how much you've worked on games, this either sounds totally doable, or completely impossible.

It's practically our very own game jam!

Are we absolutely nuts?

Yes, yes we are.

The first question is... who are we?

My husband (who shall henceforth be referred to as "Son" - yes, that's actually his name; no, he's not my kid) and I are traditionally web devs, as you may have guessed if you found me though my Gitmas series. He has his master's degree in computer science, and worked at Yahoo! for a while before turning to consulting work; I was a dancer when we met (15 years ago!) but always loved math and science - he quickly turned me on to programming, and we've been working together (both on client work and on our own projects) ever since.

photo of me and my husband

While we still do plenty of React work for clients (and you'll continue to see plenty of web dev-related posts here), in the past few years we've begun to delve into the world of game dev. In our free time, we stream coding, cooking, and occasional gaming.

Okay, but... why are we doing this?

Games are a ton of fun to make, and we actually released a free mobile fishing game called Bobber Bop last year. It was an amazing experience (and we're so proud to have actually launched a game!), but when you're focusing on getting a single game to launch, you don't have the opportunity to play with other game dev techniques and learn other skills.

Ultimately, Son and I want to be developing for AR and VR, and to be versatile devs. (There's a lot of overlap between games and mixed reality - creating 3D objects and effects, and being able to move around within and affect a 3D space are a necessity for both.) But the way we see it, being bogged down working on a single game with a limited scope for months or years... can be great if you want to be focused on releasing one big game, but doesn't quite align with what our goals are.

photo of me using a cardboard VR headset

Thus the prototype-a-month project. Working on a bunch of different prototypes achieves some specific goals for us:

  • we get to try out lots of game ideas in a short period of time, and decide which are worth pursuing, and which aren't great
  • each prototype has a different focus - so we learn a wide variety of techniques and can play with different art styles
  • lots of practice brainstorming game ideas
  • impossible to get hyper-focused on one game or technique, to the detriment of all others
  • forces us to jump off the deep end - it's a lot easier to mess around and try out new things (like, ahem, Blender - we were definitely tempted to stick with Voxels, since we were already comfortable with that from Bobber Bop) since "who cares, it's just a prototype, it doesn't need to actually look good"

Did I mention we're doing a good bit of the development live on our Twitch stream? We're only a month in, and we've already been tempted to abandon the entire project and continue developing our first game - so it's helpful that chat keeps us honest!

What are we using?

At the moment, all of our development is using C# and Unity. Most of our 3D modeling uses Blender, although Bobber Bop was made with MagicaVoxel and it's very possible we may occasionally do some voxel art again.

so many voxel fishes

What's next?

We just finished the prototype for January (there will be a post all about our first game soon!) We're super hype about the first game, and as much as we don't want to stop working on it, we know the whole point of this prototype-a-mont project is a prototype... every... month.

We're definitely not saying goodbye to January's prototype for good, though. If we have time outside of streaming/work/blog post writing/video filming (free time? what's that?) we may continue development here and there, but more likely, we'll be picking it back up again either as another one-month project this year, or sometime next year.

I'll be continuing to blog about both web and game dev, so let me know what you want to see me write about. (Don't worry - I'm still working on finishing out the Gitmas series... and yes of course Christmas season continues into February, why do you ask? Next Gitmas post is just about ready!)

Before I wrap this up, I want to know - what are you working on right now? What do you want to learn? Leave a comment below and let me know!

If you have any other questions about game dev or requests for other topics you'd like to see me blog about, please leave a comment! And if you're enjoying my writing, consider supporting me on Patreon, following me on Twitter or checking out my coding or cooking Twitch streams.

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