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3 days… that is what I had this past weekend to finish a game in a Game Jam. My first Game Jam ever, and it was quite the experience.


I led a small team of 4 members to create a game. My team’s name is “The Jolly Jolly Roger Studios”, as a way to remind people that we are from the Caribbean and - for some odd reason - Puerto Rico is somewhat of a Pirate island. But not all pirates are bad, though. We, as a “Pirate” team, all we want to do is make games for the gamers, which is more than I could ever wish for.


The guy in a gray shirt to the left (next to the paper towels), that's me.


It all started on Friday at 7PM. We got there like an hour and half late, since our programmer got out of personal matters late. When we got there, we were told that 4 members are Maximum and that there was one other designer that wanted to join a team. I shook his hand and said, “Welcome to the team”, questions were not asked. After we got our equipment set, we had to see what theme we were going to get. We had 3 tries in a game that is called “Choose our Theme” where bunch of balls of paper were scattered in the table and we had to pick one and open it to see the theme. We could try 3 times. First, we got “Robots”. None of us knows how to make Robots in 3D or 2D, let alone own one in our personal library so Unity, RPG Maker and Game Maker were out. Secondly, we got “Meat vs. Vegetables”… Like, really? Who made these themes? Lol but again, same engines are out. But the 3rd time was the charm: “Earthquake”, which was easy for me to do in RPG Maker.


Everyone that knew that we got Earthquake as a theme got jealous, because it was the easiest theme in the Game Jam. So after a few lols and trying to debate what engine we were going to choose, we sat down to write a concept. Since we had little time, I had a concept I was working on to speed things up: Lunar Trace.



For those who do not know about Lunar Trace, it is an RPG game I’m developing in RPG Maker VX Ace featuring several GIO members. The ones that will be used for the game have been chosen by the start of this year, when I saw GIO’s blog section even more active. So we sat down, crunched a few things, and then I remembered: I was going to do a story BEFORE Lunar Trace’s story. So for those in Twitter that I personally reached because I needed their help with something, this is why… Rather than making Saint’s story in a video, I will make it a playable game. That’s right! Saint is getting a Prequel Game!


While I still need to re-master Ace’s story to include later, I had little time and had no idea how to start off. So the team and I wrote down a list of important things we needed and design the game from top to bottom until we had something 3 hours later. By this point, we have NOT even done anything in computer, let alone touched RPG Maker. The new designer was also his first time using RPG Maker, so I had to teach him a few tricks. And our programmer was also his first time coding in Ruby for RPG Maker, and guess what? We made it work.


Saturday hits by Midnight, and we haven’t even touched the engine. We wandered around talking to other developers and finally seeing the Oculus Rift Development Kit, since one of the developers was working in a game for it. So after a few inspirations by looking many of the developers, we actually started to get our hands dirty with the engine.


Our programmer testing a script. 


I was stuck getting several stuff done like statistics, give the player a level up attribute curve, giving details and attributes, etc. The girlfriend was also in charge of getting a list of items, a list of historical facts (to implement tangential learning) and some other stuff I can’t seem to remember. Our programmer has been given a task of reading a few scripts, learn them and see what makes them tick to make his own snippets. And our new member? He was also designing maps and dungeons before hand. It is his first time so he was playing around with it for a while.


Around 4 to 5 AM, the new guy and my girlfriend went to sleep in a room where the other developers that got tired went to sleep. Was a pretty big room, and everyone else had a spot. I was still working with a few things and the coder was trying to understand something about light effects. We were mostly beat up by this time. So an hour later, we went to sleep. For about 2 hours.


We woke up around 7:30AM and took a shower, ate breakfast and it was back to work. We had Items, we had characters, we had plot, had ideas written down, we had everything except enemies and skills, which we promised to work on later on the day. So we started to work in the intro, a few quests and dialogues, Inns and Taverns, shops, etc. We worked on all that for one day. We had roughly 10 maps done. After that, dinner and talking with other devs outside. We were talking about the industry’s course change and that it seems that there is an exploit of games again, somewhat similar to the events that led to the crash of 1983, but since gaming has different branches and various genres to explore, plus a lot of casual gamers it seems like it is unlikely that we’ll face a crash. It is kind of a good topic to talk about with developers from time to time.


By 9PM, we were already designing the dungeon, working with enemy stats and talking about adding several stuff in the game that the engine won’t allow us to do normally (light effects around torches and all that stuff). We had a few difficulties since the first stats I gave the enemies were low. So I tried to reset them and reset the player’s stats to try again. But just as I was going to reset everything, something evil happened. My computer stopped responding and closed the program without saving! Imagine my frustration.


So after I went out to blow some steam, used the bathroom 3 times (I was sick and had a faster bowel movements), ate some snacks and hydrated I went back to re-do everything I lost. Once I finished everything, my programmer tells me that we had a saved back-up game folder in our homegroup folder for such an occasion. I literally forgot about it since it was hour 15 that I was working.


3AM and everyone in my team, plus like maybe 85% of the other developers, went to sleep. I was still awake and talking to other developers about their progress. So I went and talked to a composer to see if he was available to do one song in particular for us. He agreed, but he wouldn’t have the song ready until later in the day. I got kind of nervous, considering there are a few hours before crunching time (which means get everything set because judges will play the game to rate them and demonstrate them in a museum’s theater room). So I went back to my station and kept working. I added several events, modified stats and skills, made a few dungeon puzzles and re-wrote several dialogues. Seems like a lot, but it wasn’t much for me. However, it did start taking a toll.


Around 9AM, I could not see right. I was WAY too tired and almost had problems dealing with combat stats and information. So I went and took a nap. To my surprise, I slept a lot. Considering that my programmer and my new designer woke before my girlfriend and me. I woke up exactly when showers were open, which was around 12PM or 1PM. So I had little time to finish, considering that it would take me a few to walk to the showers, take a shower, walk back again, put all the dirty clothes away, brush my teeth, eat breakfast and back to work. So after seeing how incredibly slow I was, I was back in my work station around 3PM… Crunch Time Hour.



At this point, we’re rushing like never before. We were working in the dungeon so fast that we had several teleportation problems (which is when you reach an area to enter another room. We had that problem). Continuously, we kept encountering bugs and dialogues giving us error codes, problems with the lightning effect code and reflection in the water code that we almost scraped it all. Almost. Not only all that, the composer has not yet even started on my song. So, we’re like 45 minutes away from judging time and we’re experiencing bugs like no other. We actually went into panic mode.


So I went ahead and split the tasks a bit. Since we had 3 tasks to work on, my girlfriend had a break considering she wasn’t feeling well and took a short nap in the work station. So my programmer is left to scrape the water reflection code and work on the lightning effect code, the other designer was in charge of designing the dungeon and I was left to finish several stuff like regions where specific enemies would appear, some dialogues and changing several stuff like changing the screen tint at some points. We literally finished all that in 30 minutes.


15 minutes to finish, I asked the composer if he started. He has not. He confirms, however, that he’ll start in 5 minutes. He did. While he was working on the song, my other designer is passing me the dungeon that he created. After all the maps have been set and passed, I went ahead and tested it before the Game Jam ended. We had 8 minutes at this point, and yet we encountered something ugly: our teleportation events got mixed up… literally.


Composer at work. 


We had around 38 maps. So literally, I had to fix 38 maps in under 6 minutes at this point and had problems. I saw that every map had problems and fixed them quickly in under such pressure. And it is even worse when you have everyone in your team and several others breathing down your neck. Not only that, one of the judges was actually my boss… so do the math.


Lookit all those maps in the lower left box!


I finished fixing all the problems and was 2 minutes to the end of the Game Jam. The composer quickly says that the song is done and that we’re good to go. Problem was that we were sharing files and folders through a homegroup folder in which he could not access because he was using a Machintosh Laptop. So we quickly searched for a USB drive and took the song. Exactly when I updated the battle sequence song and an event song, the Jam has ended. It was judging time.


My boss playing the game. He got hooked to it!


So we got the judges to play the game and experienced half of the game, answered the questions they had and kept updating the game (that wasn’t the playable game) for future release. One hour later? We had to give a presentation of our game.


The Jolly Jolly Roger Studios presents:
Lunar Trace. *Alpha State* 



The girlfriend playing the game. With an Xbox 360 controller!


So for our first time in a Game Jam, we did pretty good despite our rank. 5th place out of 6 teams doesn’t sound all that good, but I figured out why. One of the judges isn’t an RPG fan, which dropped our score and lowered the curve. If it wasn’t for that, we’d be set around 3rd or 4th from what my boss told me.


Best. Experience. Ever!


So, what does this mean for Lunar Trace?


Many who have been following me and the game already know that before the Ibela’s Arc, Lunar Trace’s main story, I was going to make prequels to build up tensions for the game. Ever since I finished Ace’s Arc in the first prequel, there were various things that didn’t make sense, which led me to follow up and clear those things ASAP. Many did not agree with me taking the method of making prequels, but I told them: “Hey, it’s how I want to do it. It’s how I want to design it and it’s how I feel like directing it. There’s nothing wrong with making amateur moves”. But even at that, I felt at times that I should have not done that. But I digress.


So everyone knows that I was going to make a prequel 2 explaining those holes that were not in the first prequel (which I have to re-master soon too). And it was going to feature Gameinformer’s ownSaint as the main character. While there were other characters included in the first part, I felt that it needs a key character in all this. So… why not Saint? Might as well give him credit for all he has done for the GIO community.


But my plans to make a video as a prequel fell apart. My time is now critically crunched together, in which I have to assist in gaming related events in Puerto Rico, beta test games for various companies and indies, Full Sail assignments, the girlfriend, finding a job and developing a game. I can hardly blog now, even with the plan that I had about pulling off the 365 challenge (which is to blog every day for a year).


So I came up with a solution: why not make Saint’s story the prologue of Lunar Trace? It is much easier and I could squeeze some time into it since it falls into my development time. So to Saint and the others I asked for some feedback and help, this is why.


I already have a half-done team to work with it and it isn’t that I’m asking for help because I can’t get my team to work on it. We are working on it, but it would be somewhat nice if I let some GIOers experience some development work, no? A game featuring GameInformer users (maybe even staff too but obviously not in a direct way of it neither to avoid copyright issues) worked by several GameInformer users. Not only that, they also will beta-test several areas to give feedback. But I’m playing it fair. By the end of the week, I should upload an alpha of the first part, which is the work that my team and I did for the Game Jam. This way, people know we’re working on the game and that we’re dedicating our time to it. Bear with us, we’re still trying to set a full team.


So with that, I should get back to work. Need to keep looking for sprite artists and composers. But here’s a toast for my team’s work in the Game Jam, since it was the first one of many for us!


Long live the Jolly Roger!



-Michael (Shotgun65) Figueroa

Lead Designer & Creative Director of The Jolly-Jolly Roger Studios


Photos of the event taken by Gustavo F. Rosario.