This section contains some general tips around the gamejam. Even if you are a grizzled veteran gamejammer, you probably want to at least read the section about our projector setup, to avoid presentation issues and ensure a flawless victory.
48 hours is a short amount of time, and you will likely spend most of that either sleeping, eating or programming. Make sure to get enough sleep during the jam, and keep yourself hydrated — otherwise your productivity levels will suffer.
If you are planning to stay for longer periods of time, make sure beforehand to bring the hygienic necessities. We provide access to water, tea, and coffee at all times, and we usually try to provide free food on certain days, to save you the trouble of getting food yourself. For the other times, you will need to bring your own food or cash – ask an organizer about nearby sources for food, if you don't already have a favorite place. We may occasionally organize pooled "food-runs", to save you the trouble of going to the store yourself.
There is no need or requirement for you to actually be present at our locale at any particular point in time, save for the registrations and the showoff at the end. Some people prefer to go home, and program in a quieter environment. But that way, you will miss out on our cool talks, the free pizza, and general camaraderie, of course!
Even before the theme is announced, you probably want to figure out who you want to team up with. Try to find people who either complement your skills well (such as artists if you are a programmer, etc.) or who are on the same page as you, so that you can work together on the same things. If you have two programmers on your team, it'll be beneficial if both know the same framework, or at the very least are both familiar with the language you are going to use.
Once you have found your teammates, and the topic is announced, it pays off to spend some time thinking about what you want to do. It's not unusual to spend an hour fleshing out your ideas. Having a clearer picture (and the same picture for every team-member) of what you want to do will help you to create more concise TODO lists, and help focusing your efforts better on the things that matter. Towards the end of the deadline, you will always have to kill off features that you originally planned to include, and the better you structured your priorities, the more graceful your game will degrade from "ideal" to "possible".
Making a game in 48 hours is quite a challenge, so make sure to adjust your ambitions accordingly. Game jams are supposed to give you the possibility of implementing some cool ideas you want to try out, without having to waste too much time on it, if it doesn't work – and the given theme is supposed to restrict and focus you. But in the end, it is entirely up to you to determine what you want to work on, and what you want to achieve. Learning to use a new game-engine, a language you don't know yet, or even making your own game-engine may be very rewarding educational experience, even if you end up with a sub-par game. If you want to focus on the actual game-design itself, it is most likely best that you chose a framework that you are already familiar with, that is quick to work with, and that doesn't place too much burden of low-level tasks on you.
Unless you planned out your workflow very well beforehand (which nobody ever does), you'll likely experience quite a few ups and downs during the 48 hours of development. In our experience, there is usually a particularly strong drop in optimism on the second day, when it looks like some of the cool features you initially thought possible will have to be dropped, the art style is still not coming together very well, et cetera. But don't give up at that point! If you keep at it, you will see that at some point things will suddenly start to come together, and your game will almost magically transform from "a bunch of stuff on the screen" into "hey, this is almost an enjoyable experience now!" in a fairly short amount of time.
It is recommended that you beforehand designate a fixed amount of time prior to the deadline where you do a "feature-freeze" – for example, spend the last two hours only playtesting the game. This will help to re-focus your efforts; stop working on that drawing now, and fix these game-breaking bugs you just discovered instead! If you don't find anything particularly wrong with the game, you can still use the remaining time on the final polish.
Remember also to pack up an archive of your game at least 15 minutes before the deadline! A common mistake is to attempt to send in the game 5 minutes prior to the deadline, only to find out that your gigabyte-sized game will take hours to upload through your 9600 baud modem. In the worst case, you can of course always just give your game to one of the organizers on a USB flash drive, or somesuch – we are generally fairly lenient with these kind of things, and may consider extending the deadlines by a few minutes if it's only for the sake of technical difficulties.
Use a version control system! BitBucket offers free private git and mercurial repositories, and github offers free public repositories if you want to develop your game in the open. Even if you're the only person programminh, a version control system's "revert" function can be your saviour, if you've coded yourself into a corner you need to back out of really fast.
Remember to include your sourcecode and a screenshot with your final submission!
At Sonen Game Jam, the winners are crowned immediately after the presentations by popular vote. That has the advantage that you get to know right away whether you've won or not (and take your prizes home!), but it also means you have to put a little bit of thought into how you want to present your game, to convince people it's the greatest. Everybody gets about five to ten minutes, so you may find it valuable to think a bit on how to get the most out of your time. A lot of people make the mistake of starting up their game (which may have cool and complex emergent gameplay scenarios that take a bit of time to occur), play it for 60 seconds, say "well, that's about it" and then disappear. Use your time to the fullest, and make sure to explain non-obvious mechanics and strategies while you (or somebody else) play. Also make sure to choose a memorable game and team-name, to ensure that people remember which game was yours.
Some notes about our setup and common issues:
Everybody gets to vote, so make sure to use your voice! It's best to have a piece of paper around during the show-off, so that you can note down games you liked, for later reference. If you want to vote for a game, but you cannot remember the name, make sure to ask one of the organizers or ask the developer (or anybody else in the vicinity), they should be able to help you out. We will generally also interpret votes for "that game where you killed the space-pope" correctly, though...
When voting, consider which game you thought was best overall. Some criteria you may want to consider could for instance be:
In the end, it's up to you, but try to make your vote fair and balanced!
Sonen Game Jam is played in good faith, so please refrain from tactical voting et cetera.