Jerk Driver Post Mortem

Introduction

Hey folks! Now that Jerk Driver has wrapped up and the jam voting is almost finished, I figured I would write up the things that worked and didn’t work during development.

Things that worked

  • The overall gameplay – It’s a pretty fun game to dick around in for a while. There’s a lot of joy that can come from just jumping a car off a ramp into a trampoline with your middle finger out.
  • Cutting features quickly – I had a lot of big ideas early on that I tried quickly, but didn’t pan out immediately, so I cut them. This is the biggest trick when participating game jam: Lower the scope of your game until it’s realistic. A very large number of jam games fail because they aimed too high and tried to stick to it. That results in broken and unfinished games with one or two cool things about them. Never get caught in the sunk costs fallacy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunk_costs).
  • Unity – Fuck I love Unity. It makes stupidly complex things SO easy to do. Same goes with C#, it’s such a clean language. I work with other languages and tools in my day job, so it’s such a joy to spend some serious time using Unity.
  • Magix Music Maker – I use this for all of my game jams. It lets you take simple pre-built loops and mix them together into unique music tracks. It even figures out some of the timings for you. I barely know anything about music, so this lets me create stuff that doesn’t sound like complete garbage. A sound engineer friend pointed out that the drums in my main track don’t loop right, but it’s close enough… It’s definitely not perfect, but for a guy like me, it’s great. (Check it out here: http://www.magix.com/ca/music-maker/)
  • Probuilder – A tool for Unity that lets you build rough 3D models inside of the Unity editor. I’m no 3D modeler, so having a tool easy enough for me to use made the game possible to make. (Check it out here: http://www.protoolsforunity3d.com/probuilder/)
  • Easy Roads 3D and Edy’s vehicle physics – They let me focus on things other than vehicle controls and road splines. Edy’s vehicle physics gives you a nice physics based vehicle system, and Easy Roads lets you create complex road ways without having to model anything. (Check out Easy Roads here: http://www.unityterraintools.com/demovid.php and check out Edy’s Vehicle Physics here: http://www.edy.es/dev/vehicle-physics/)
  • The dumb jokes – I think this only really worked for me personally, but the dumb jokes and references make the game fun to keep developing. I easily burned like half an hour playing the game once I had the middle finger and fart horn in the game. Everyone I showed the game to in person just kind of smiled politely while probably wondering if I’d gone simple.
  • Twitter – This was my main way of promoting the game and it pretty well. It also let me communicate with other folks making games or doing LPs easily. That said, it didn’t get me a lot of votes or anything, but it was still useful in getting the word out.

Things that didn’t work:

  • Easy Roads 3D and Edy’s vehicle physics – I know I put these as things that worked, but they’re also things that didn’t work… Let me explain. This was my first time using both tools, so I had to learn them as I went along.With Easy Roads, I received a beta version around mid day Saturday, which was awesome, but I had to burn time learning how to use the new tools and also dealing with all of the beta bugs. I lost count of the amount of times I had to delete and restart my road systems because something broke. It worked out in the end, but it could have easily screwed me over.With Edy’s Vehicle physics, there were a few times I had to make changes to it’s source code to make it do what I wanted it to. It’s source code is also in JavaScript, and my source was in C#, so flipping back and forth between the two was frustrating at times. You should never use JavaScript in Unity by the way, just learn C# and you will be happier for it. It’s not hard. Aside from that, the tools prevented me from getting really crazy with the trick system I had in mind, if I ever build this into a full game, I will be writing my own vehicle physics system from scratch so I can do whatever I want.
  • The trick system – I wanted to have all sorts of crazy tricks and things like grinding on rails. That whole idea was too ambitious, and it cost me time that I should have spent elsewhere.
  • The traffic system – I wanted to write a somewhat complex traffic system, but I had to scrap it really fast because having 30 plus cars dynamically handling traffic flow ruined the game’s performance, and I didn’t have time to make it actually run well. Traffic in the final build just follows way-points and only stops when the player or another car is in the way. I also kind of cheated and just deleted most cars that caused traffic jams.
  • The time spent on my dumb jokes – I burned a crazy amount of time on that weird Slenderman gag, and I think I’m the only person who finds it funny. I spent way less time on the giraffe and the Tanooki tail after that.
  • My “artwork” – Like I said before, I’m no 3D modeler, and it shows. Most of the models are super rough and barely resemble what they’re supposed to be. My texture work was also pretty bad. I utterly hate that grass texture, it’s everywhere and it’s super gross!

About the jam in general

  • Game Jolt – Game Jolt kind of dropped the ball here. The game jam voting system is pretty broken, you can’t vote for games on the actual game’s page, you have to go to the game’s jam page, which is entirely separate. There wasn’t even an official link to the jam pages until about halfway through Monday. It was kind of frustrating to see lots of people playing my game, but next to no game jam votes.With that said, the folks at Game Jolt acknowledged all of the problems and have said that they are going to make game jam voting smoother in the future. So, good on them for working to make things better.
  • Pewdiepie – This was HIS game jam and he did next to nothing to promote it! He posted one video letting people know that it was happening, and after that, just occasional Twitter posts. The guy gets millions of views on his videos, and he’ll probably make crazy amounts of cash for his videos showcasing the winning jam entries. The least he could have done was encourage people to vote and show them the correct way to vote.I’ve come across games that had ZERO votes! For people who worked their asses off for an entire weekend, that’s heart breaking. Luckily there are other folks helping to promote the games like Jupiter Hadley, newbornkillik, and Selzier. They’ve been showcasing tons of jam games, and deserve props for what they’ve done.

In the future

  • I won’t be using untested beta products.
  • I will probably never do another Game Jolt jam.
  • I will waste less time on dumb one-off gags.
  • This wasn’t really mentioned above, but I plan on using analytics in my future jam games so that I can have some usage statistics in my games going forward.

In closing

So to end this off, I want to say thanks to everyone that played Jerk Driver, and I want to say double thanks to the people that actually voted on it! I had a blast making the game, and you can expect more things from me in the future.

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