Four Things I Learned From My First Completed Game Jam

Jason Dookeran
4 min readFeb 7, 2024
The Game’s Page

I’ve been a game developer since Unity used to have version numbers. For those who aren’t counting, that’s about 2011-ish. Since then (more than a decade), I haven’t completed a game jam until now. I submitted an extremely hard game to Samurai Game Jam, my first attempt at a platformer ever. And that’s partially because I really hate platformers. However, despite all this, I did submit that game. And I learned a lot about doing a game jam during that time.

Scope Small, Then Scope Smaller

Photo by Logan Moreno Gutierrez on Unsplash

I know if you’re a newbie game dev, you’re probably fed up with people telling you to scope small. Sure, you should know what by now, but you never really realize what people mean when they tell you scope small. Let me explain with this example.

The plan for The Nameless Samurai had me designing three levels. I even had music tracks picked out for them and everything. By the time the last day rolled around and I was still squashing bugs, I could only finish a single level. Scoping small helped me, but even so, it wasn’t enough, and I still had to cut out some content.

Leave Enough Time For Bugfixing

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I compiled and submitted the first version of the game for people to play, only to realize that bugs were sitting inside the code. To start with, the build had some severe scaling issues that made it unplayable. Luckily, I did that about 18 hours before the deadline, giving people ample time to warn me about the bugs.

Even with all that, the final build still has a giant bug that I never mentioned (but would make for a decent feature). The player only has 30 projectiles. I don’t mention it anywhere, but eventually, players realize they’re out of stars. It’s an oversight in a single variable, and it’s not unplayable, but it does increase the game’s difficulty tenfold.

Make Your Game Beatable

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

I found out about my bugs early on because I had good friends who wanted to play and see if they could beat the game. Giving people with experience playing a game is a crucial way to iterate on what you’re building. It’s very easy to lose sight of the forest but for the trees.

The friends I gave to play this game were all people who were good at platformers. Even though I could beat it, I wanted to be sure others could as well. The pride I felt seeing a friend send me a video about his completion of the game was the most intense feeling I’ve ever had as a game dev, and it makes me want to continue doing this.

Time Is An Illusion When You’re Working On a Deadline

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I am a little satisfied with what I made, given the timeframe. I had 14 days, and despite having to do tons of work in between, I managed to submit the game on time. Yet I almost missed the boat because other real-life responsibilities took precedence, limiting my time.

I had 14 days’ worth of time, but I probably spent less than 20 hours developing, sourcing assets, and fixing bugs. I think that seeing a 14-day window makes you think you have all the time in the world until it’s one day before your submission window, and your player keeps eating his weapon.

What’s Next For Me?

Photo by Olesya Grichina on Unsplash

I will probably be too busy in February to do a game jam, but I will still try to create at least one simple game this month in the time I have. It’s good to develop a development hobby and stick to a schedule for it. I may consider doing the 7-Day Rogue-Like jam in March, but I don’t think I will finish that one. I have never once completed a roguelike, and I don’t know if seven days is enough to finish one.

I want to complete at least one jam or game monthly for the rest of this year. It’ll help me build my portfolio and show off some of my skills. It’ll also help me get insights like these to share with you, constant reader. Thank you for reading. I’m Jason, an indie game dev, among other things. I do content like this as regularly as possible (hopefully more frequently as time passes). Feel free to subscribe to my Medium for updates. Once again, thanks for reading, and hopefully, we accomplish a lot in the coming month.



Jason Dookeran

Freelance author, ghostwriter, and crypto/blockchain enthusiast. I write about personal finance, emerging technology and freelancing