Dette indlæg er alene udtryk for skribentens egen holdning.

Starting a games business in 48 hours: Can a game jam lead to a successful game?

28. april kl. 11:23
Nordic Game Jam
Illustration: Nordic Game Jam.
The latest Nordic Game Jam wrapped earlier this april, but what does it take to turn a game jam-productions into a full-fledged game? Lead Organizer Daniel Todorov takes a look at the proces via the games 'Baba Is You' and 'Stikbold'.

At game jams people who are strangers to one another, with a passion for games, show up at a venue for a weekend to mingle, form a team and deliver a game based on a theme announced at the start of the clock. This is normally done in a very short time - in the case of Nordic Game Jam - less than 48 hours.

Nordic Game Jam and other game jams show off with the number of attendees and games created. The numbers that measure the success of the jam are easy to communicate and understand, but often the quality of the games is far from a competitive title. Most games are barely playable and full of game breaking bugs, let alone something to base a business on.

And yet, when the team works well together, has a simple idea that can be completed within the Jam’s timeframe, and their game works in a bare bones format, it is possible to create something special. Something that captivates the whole audience with a minimal execution of a great idea.

From Jam to Published Game

While rare, it does happen. Fantastic games are created and become crowd favourites instantly. Only one thing is even rarer - the team getting together after the jam and deciding to keep working on it to completion. That path from a weekend prototype to a full game release can be much, much longer and harder than one would expect. 

Artiklen fortsætter efter annoncen

Making games is hard, despite all the tools available today. What jams do well is get the idea out of the door quickly and see how it performs. Similar to a startup mindset, just in an extremely tight timeframe.

2017's Nordic Game Jam winner Arvi Teikari / Hempuli managed to make their idea into a full game. It has taken two years to bring their 2017 winner Baba Is You, from initial prototype to full game. 

“Baba Is You” screenshot from the Nordic Game Jam 2017 submission (left) and screenshot from the released game (right)
Illustration: Baba is you.

Another game that finds its roots at Nordic Game Jam is the 2016 title Stikbold. Stikbold is the spiritual predecessor of Oddballers which was recently released by Game Swing.

“Stikbold” screenshot from the release in 2016, the game won won a “Most Fun” award and came in 3rd overall during Nordic Game Jam 2013
Illustration: Screenshot.

Titles taken from a game jam prototype to market

If there is a consensus of making fun games or popular titles it must be that it is very much a "black box that no one truly understands"

Artiklen fortsætter efter annoncen

Success in games is always a mix of many factors that come together, often, but not limited to: team, gameplay, timing, marketing, and a hefty amount of luck to make all variables align. 

What helped you the most on your journey from a game jam game to release?

»It's hard to say because there are so many different things that contributed to the final release, but one standout thing might be the group of testers. From a very early point, I had people I could send builds to who'd very kindly give feedback on how the game felt and what did and did not work about the various elements. This feedback both helped keep me grounded and concentrated about the project, but also helped a ton with understanding what kind of level design worked best with the game. The first version I sent to testers in early 2017 was a huge mess in hindsight, and a lot of back-and-forth was needed to make the kind of levels the finished game has.«

- Arvi Teikari, creator of Baba Is You

Where a game jams come into play is to give you the place and time commitment to try. Try, fail, learn, repeat. Every Jam has a unique vibe and setting to challenge ideas you would never have in a team you would probably never work with if it wasn't for the Jam.

A typical view of a group developing their games during the Game Jam-weekend
Illustration: Nordic Game Jam.

One of the trends over the last years is for Jams to create a space to be playful without the burden of competition. Game jam organisers from the Nordics are moving away from competition and pushing for being more experimental is a common trend. We are moving into a world of games full of quirkiness and fun that don't just fit in the world of gaming, but expands the definition of it. 

You just finished your jam and you have a game that works in a never seen before way that is both captivating and fun. You got all positive feedback, people jokingly said they will spend tons of money to see this happen. What comes next?

Moving your game from prototype into production

As mentioned, an amazing prototype is just the first step in turning a 48 hour effort into a successful business. As seen in our examples, it takes years and jumping through hoops and it is impossible to fit all of it in this blog.

What was the main drive for you to take your game jam idea and work for years towards a release?

»Baba Is You was a game that very clearly had a very strong base concept that hadn't been done before. I think this trust in the concept (in part caused by other people telling me how unique it felt) was a very very big part in driving me to keep at it. It also made the development process feel very enjoyable most of the time – it felt that I was working on something very cool, and brainstorming & implementing new ideas for the game was a lot of fun for the most part.«

- Arvi Teikari, creator of Baba Is You

Here in Denmark there are many structures and events to help you bring a game jam idea to a store. 

  • Vision Denmark organises Copenhagen Matchup
  • Spilbar gives free opportunity to share news to the gamedev community and also is a place to test
  • There are dev groups like Dev, Test, Repeat 
  • DFI offers support with both Danish game funding, but also EU programmes
What experience can you share with people looking to turn a game jam production into a game?

»Usually when I try to turn a game jam project into a full game, I'll end up scrapping the game jam version entirely. In a jam there often isn't enough time to really consider how to make everything work in elegant or versatile-enough ways, and I tend to cut corners so that everything behaves well enough to be showcased at the end of the jam. Sometimes the cut corners are at the very core of the engine, and thus it makes sense to start from scratch instead of reworking the engine to be more suited for a full-fledged game. However, Baba Is You was unusual in that I actually built the final game from the same base as what I submitted for the game jam.« 

- Arvi Teikari, creator of Baba Is You

Sounds both doable and scary, but there are people who make it, why shouldn't you lead the next big Nordic title?

With Nordic Game Jam recently wrapping up there are still many other nordic local or online jams to attend. Here are some to list a few:

-Ludum Dare (Online)
-Godot Wild Jam (Online)
-Finnish Game Jam (Finland)
-Moxie Jam (Sweden)
-Create Jam (Denmark)
-Level One Jam (Denmark)

Nordic Game Jam has had a long history of inspiring creativity and bringing developers and enthusiasts together to have fun doing what we love. You can see the games from Nordic Game Jam 2023 on itch here, and you can comment below if you find a game that seems to have the potential to become a full title.

You can also check the Baba Is You and Stikbold mentioned in this blog post on Steam and other platforms they are on. 

Ingen kommentarer endnu.  Start debatten
Denne artikel er gratis... det er dyrt at lave god journalistik. Derfor beder vi dig overveje at tegne abonnement på Version2.

Digitaliseringen buldrer derudaf, og it-folkene tegner fremtidens Danmark. Derfor er det vigtigere end nogensinde med et kvalificeret bud på, hvordan it bedst kan være med til at udvikle det danske samfund og erhvervsliv.

Og der har aldrig været mere akut brug for en kritisk vagthund, der råber op, når der tages forkerte it-beslutninger.

Den rolle har Version2 indtaget siden 2006 - og det bliver vi ved med.

Log ind eller opret en bruger for at deltage i debatten.