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How The Most Expensive Game Jam In History Crashed And Burned In A Single Day

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Here's an interesting article about something that happened this past weekend. It seems like a simple and pretty good concept: Organize and film a game jam to give folks a view into the ups and downs of indie game development. If you don't know what a game jam is, it could perhaps be summed up as an event in which game developers gather (often in one physical location, but not necessarily) and design and create a game in a short period of time (usually between 24-48 hours (a weekend) to 7 days (a full week)), often based on a theme or idea. They're mostly a non-competitive, fun, coding challenge almost like DonationCoder's own NANY, except done over a week(end). It's a great outlet for creativity and experimentation, and the short time limit liberates you from worrying about it being an utter failure or total crap. And many game jam games have been further developed into full fledged indie titles that are relatively popular.

Personally I found the first several paragraphs of the article hard to follow, as if the author was trying too hard to wax poetic and write prose rather than trying to describe what happened. But once he starts describing the events that took place, it becomes an interesting read about how one person when given too much power, can ruin things for all involved.

That natal idea, and one of the themes central to all 11 developers agreeing to travel to Los Angeles for the shoot, was the production and filming of a game jam for a televised audience (or at least a YouTube audience) with the intent to document the ups and downs of actually developing a game – hopefully sharing that experience with a viewership likely ranging into the hundreds of thousands, possibly millions. More importantly, it would be an opportunity for the group to share the closely-knit spirit of togetherness unique to indie development, presented through the lens of popular YouTube personalities with massive, mostly younger built-in viewerships. A slam dunk, you might say, created in earnest to shine a kind of light into the often misrepresented world of creating… or at least, that's what everyone thought.

At some point GAME_JAM outgrew itself, attracting the attention of major sponsors as well as a couple of our "high creative" production executives from the adjacent office down the street, and over the next four or five months the show began phasing into something less documentary and more docu-tainment. A sort of competition, held between four teams of "Jammers" (the developers), and "Gamers" (the YouTubers), as they battled it out to see who could come up with the best game combining both development and entertainment skillsets. Plus to see who could win a healthy array of branded prizes, generously procured by said sponsors and totally un-vetted by anyone who actually understands game development. At some point which remains unclear, the show wholly dipped into a scripted reality slant and became less about making a game and more about creating drama for sake of the audience, less than one day out of the four blocked off for shooting available to sit down and jam. The rest of the program, as it turned out, was filled with arts and crafts, physical challenges, and competitive gaming – once again, totally unrelated to game development. But that wasn't communicated to anyone, and through Polaris' local contacts the developers were signed up and flown out to Culver City, where they awaited their first hurdle in Maker's legal department.-
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It's a pretty good story about how standing up to and being united in the face of what essentially equates to bullying can really change the outcome. That is to say, from my perspective, I think that a lot of the developers here have a bitter taste in their mouth from the experience, and yes it's true that the game jam was cancelled, but it could have been a lot worse if it had continued on the path it was going down. The event may have been a failure, but I see this as a general success in doing the right thing in the face of adversity.

Read the article here:

And it's also worth reading about the experience as described by three of the developers who attended:

Zoe: (She was contractually obligated not to write about the specifics, so it's a little less directly related)

Very interesting read  :Thmbsup:

Another article on the topic, this time giving general advice about legal contracts:

I am not a lawyer. Never claimed to be, never wanted to be either. I am a game developer that has assisted independent developers with hundreds of contracts and negotiations, and I try to advise developers that are less versed in legalese.

Like everything in the indie scene, some people know more about certain subjects than others and we try and share and broadcast that knowledge as much as we can. A lot of the more business-savvy developers help out with reading contracts. I just happened to know everybody involved in this story, so they came to me. As you read more legalese, and deal with more companies of varying sizes, you start to recognize certain patterns, phrases and tones in contracts.

In the restaurant, five minutes of my life are spent in disbelief: the contract is awful.-
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He summed it up thusly:

How The Most Expensive Game Jam In History Crashed And Burned In A Single Day

That's a pity, because I don't know how it could have been stopped once the Big Media train started rolling out of the station.

My best layman's intro to game jams is Ludum Dare. Sure, a lot of the resulting games aren't my thing, but I (vaguely!) recall a couple here and there were worth a fun afternoon of silly true-indie gaming fun. (And I keep trying to invent concepts for jam-games! The Throw-Spiders-Out is my best one, but my satirical runner up is "how hard can you make it for the user to install their program?" based on that other thread, via several times before.)

This is where my memory begins to get fuzzy so don't quote me, but I think I recall a few quote snippets out of Ludum Dare interviews that would have nailed the original spirit. They went roughly "So we had this idea and this idea and this idea and it was an awesome concept. But then of our team, the Graphics guy got stuck making the renderer behave, the Gameplay guy got his part to work and we didn't like actually playing it, and the admin girl almost ripped her hair out trying to hold the micro chores together." A little honest yet soft film editing and that could have worked. (Plus, a few "victory" scenes of another team who just hit the sweet spot and started cruising.)

I notice they say this thing tanked on *day one*. Ten hours isn't a lot of time for anyone to realize something is out of control. This isn't a five week project. So maybe someone even smelled the rat, but more rats appear in the two hours it takes you to kill the first one...

I notice they say this thing tanked on *day one*. Ten hours isn't a lot of time for anyone to realize something is out of control. This isn't a five week project. So maybe someone even smelled the rat, but more rats appear in the two hours it takes you to kill the first one...-TaoPhoenix (April 01, 2014, 04:04 PM)
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I don't think it takes much time at all to recognize when someone is as obviously wrong as this Matti fellow was. And when you only have four days for a project from start to finish, ten hours is actually a fairly significant chunk of that time.

And on the topic of game jam documentaries done right, this one looks to be good:


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