Interlude – Reflections from TOJam May 14 – 16, 2021

CyberSoviet V0.1 – done!

Well, I did it! I participated in my first game jam and completed my first ever original game. It’s a rough prototype, but it works, and it’s winnable! Check it out here and below. It’s a Unity Engine version of CyberSoviet that I hacked together using all of my skills learned in C# to date. This weekend definitely pushed me to the edge of my knowledge and comfort zone: to review skills I’ve learned over the past few weeks and also learn some necessary new ones. I could tell that I was definitely working at the edge of my knowledge. While this was a great experience that showed me what I could do, I definitely realized that I need a lot more work at the fundamentals before I take another shot at making some of my dream concepts. And that’s a great realization to have!

Graphic for CyberSoviet (which was hard to get into the game properly)

You can play CyberSoviet on the game hosting platform itch.io here: https://gceh.itch.io/cybersoviet

Some of the Games from the Jam on itch.io

Unsocial Gathering

The weekend was a fantastic time to focus and have a shared goal with 300+(!) other local people in making games. That was super motivating! It was a shame however, definitely caused by COVID, that it was not very social. I didn’t meet anyone new, though I didn’t try incredibly hard and it’s very difficult over these digital platforms. On the flipside, I would suggest as contrived as it may seem – some kind of random, serendipitous networking affordance is designed into these kinds of things for people who want it. Randomly matched Coffee Chats for instance. Or some other way to connect on interests. I did post a link to the discord, but it got no reception at all. I was surprised there was nothing on a platform like Gather.Town.

The Challenges of Hacking Through

Overall, it was a fun time. I suppose I cheated a bit because I already had the game concept established going into the weekend as opposed to coming up with something from scratch. I think this is fair though, it still took me at least 2 out of the 3 full days to complete the mini project at my current skill level, so I think that’s made up for it. I spent a lot of time just struggling with getting the UI to show up and the game to display correctly, so spending a day or more on game design itself would have been out of the question for my participation at this point. The project really helped me with my understanding of classes and inheritance in C# though – and spurred me to just get this iteration done!

Making the prototype a reality.

I learned a ton, and while there were some challenging moments of hacking through things, I don’t think I would have done much differently. I was well prepared given that I only started learning these tools and languages recently. You’ll see from playing the game that there is definitely huge room for improvement. The tutorial/instructions and game feedback is one of them, even though I iterated them a few times. I would also love to add a score mechanism and high score. I think the music could have played through consistently, but I ran out of time. I am proud of how I figured out the music, but more on that in another post. I look forward to getting more into the basics of sound design.

Final Thoughts

It’s time to set aside CyberSoviet for a couple months as I work more intensely on my Major Research Project (I am now adding an interest in experiential/participatory futures “in silica” as an element to that!). I have lots of ideas on how to turn CyberSoviet into an isometric-country-builder-economic-puzzler, so I am writing them down to be sure that when I develop my skills further, I’ll be ready to make this likely my 6 month project.

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