Game Jamming During A Game Convention: A Convention Jam Tale

Our Super! BitCon BoothThis past weekend, Willis and I had a table at Super! Bitcon, the local retro/indie gaming convention created and operated by the Oklahoma Retro Gamer Society. This is a great event for anyone who loves gaming.

We decided that getting a table there would be a great way to build up buzz and brand recognition for our company as we really step up our development efforts this year.

As such, we got this table and decided to show off some of what we have done. For this we needed something to show off. We had a number of games that we made last year, but we needed them to be in a convenient game playing package.

So what we did was we took one game we made last year, and then based our entire demo station off of it. So we took our Amazing Mazes game, put a fun mock-Gameboy border around it and then added two new games to go with it. As we described in our last post, this was a retro styled vertical shooter and an adventure game prototype we made as we prep for our next game project starring Charnette.

This setup was a really big hit. We had a lot of people come by to play these games and we received some great comments and some critique. One of the best things is that people loved the Manly Boy theme we put on all the games. We got a lot of great laughs as people reminiscenced about the classic Gameboy.ManlyBoy Game Select

But that was not all we did. We also wanted to do something no one else at the Con was doing. We decided to do a personal game jam over that weekend. We set up each of our dev stations with two monitors, one facing us and the other mirrored and facing the convention goers so they could see what we were doing.

To start us off after setting up the booth, we picked one of four themes from a bucket and then one of four genres. With that, we picked a Water theme and an Adventure genre. This was a good pick for us as our major game project is an adventure game.

So we set out to make something water themed and adventury. After about 30 minutes or so of brainstorming, we came up with the idea of a water drop trying to find its way through a cave and back to its watery friends in the underground river/puddle/lake thing.

This was a pretty great experiment for us as the two of us haven’t sat together in the same room making a game at the same time. Neither have we set such a deadline for ourselves to complete a game.

The first day was a pretty interesting experience. The first hour or two was spent fleshing out the game idea which you can read our notes in this Google Doc. These notes are really simple but straight to the point. We had to make sure that what we did can be made in the roughly 13-15 hours of the event.

Once the planning was done, we began work on the actual game. By the end of the first day, we had a slightly playable prototype going on. We had a walk animation for our main character and the basic logic of the little fireball enemies.

Once the second day rolled around, we really stepped up our game. In the first two hours, we had the main character fully animated with the two player abilities, a water slash and a puddle transformation, programmed into the game with two game objects that require those abilities to bypass.

Then we go our fireball enemies working. Unfortunately, these guys had a number of bugs associated with them that took a lot of work to try and fix, although we were unsuccessful in fixing them completely over the weekend.

Glug Cave running on our game stationBy early afternoon, I was busy adding a few convenience features and controller support so that convention goers could play the game. By the last hour, we had the game, as it was after 13 hours of development, playable on our main screen. We had a few people come by and try it out.

We didn’t have too many people play as the convention was closing and most people still attending were in the vendor room trying to score last minute deals on classic games. But we got some good feedback from those who did play.

Overall, it was a great experience for us. It was a great team building exercise for us. It helped us get a better feel for working together more closely and during a deadline.

So let us take a look at what we learned during this event.

Glug Cave Title ScreenThe Good:

  • The game jam was a really great way to get people to our table and keep them there as they would ask us questions about game development. People responded really well to this.
  • Having a game to play at our table was a great hit. Especially with it being three games in one. We had a lot of people come by and play all three games.
  • The game jam itself was a lot of fun and we made a good product that I think, with a little more polish and some added features, would make a fun completed game.
  • We had a bucket for people who wanted to sign up for a newsletter. We got a fair amount of emails from that. This is a great way for people to keep up on our work as well as build word of mouth for our up coming games.
  • We had little fliers with our website, Twitter and Facebook accounts on it. We handed out a lot of those and have already had an uptick in followers on Twitter and Facebook.
  • We got a lot of feedback on our Manly Boy games. Because two of them were somewhat competitive as there were top scores, we would have groups of people competing with each other to get the top score. This kept a steady flow of visitors to our table and kept us busy.
  • We knew our tools and the limitations of them and had few hangups. This is key for most any game jam. Many developers fail to complete game jams because they try learning something new during the jam rather than work with what they are familiar with.

Glug Cave GameplayThe Bad:

  • 15 hours just isn’t enough time for a game jam. While it was a great idea and people loved it, we probably should have started the game jam the Friday before so that we were further along first thing Saturday morning. With only 15 hours, we really didn’t get as much done or get it playable for convention goers soon enough.
  • I took part in a game development panel on Sunday afternoon. While the panel was great and I loved the experience, it really cut into game jam time and delayed playable launch of our game that afternoon. If I were to do a convention jam like this again, I would either not be on a panel or prefer to have it on Saturday.
  • We had a tip jar on our table in the hopes that people would drop a dollar or two in it as they played our games. Unfortunately, this was not at all successful. We made about $3.50 off this. We talked about this as we were closing down and felt that we would have made more money if we had something for sale rather than a tip jar. Next time we go to a convention, we are going to have CDs/DVDs with the game(s) we have on our demo station. We think this will be a better way to get people to hand us their money.
  • I take part in a podcast on Saturday nights and did so the Saturday night of the convention. This again cut into time we could have spent on game development. If I do a convention jam like this again, I will likely have to cancel any kind of appearance on a podcast for that weekend.
  • While we knew our tools and their limitations, we weren’t able to compensate for some of those limitations without ugly hacks. For example, the character we used was 16×32 pixels, but the game level was based on 16×16 grids. This caused some issues with the implementation of the collision detection between the player character and their surroundings. To compensate for this, we cut the player into two sprites, the upper half and lower half. This allowed us to overlap the top half with the level and base collision detection on the lower half. But it also introduced a lot of headaches to animating and playing the character that wouldn’t have been there if we used a single sprite.
  • We had stickers at our table, but they just were not that popular. I think that the limitations on use (they can only be stuck somewhere once) was the key factor. Something reusable like a button or badge or a toy would have been better. The developers behind us had paper beaks that people could get (their game was a bird themed game) and people loved them. We saw tons of people around the convention with them. We would have loved to have had something like that for our table.

Other Lessons:

  • Having a game on display for people to play was a great idea. However, one should spend more than a few nights a week for the two weeks before the convention to put it together. I was busy almost every night the week before getting this game ready for the convention and was up super late on Friday fighting to get the game running on the hardware I wanted to use. Eventually I was unsuccessful and had to switch the demo station hardware around and I ended up with a subpar machine for my work station. This hurt me as a developer as I had to struggle with a keyboard layout I didn’t like and software I don’t use regularly. So we need to make sure the demo station works long before the jam so there are no last minute surprises.
  • Next time we do a convention jam like this, if we do it again, we need to plan and bring our own food. We ended up having to hunt down food which cost us development time. Bringing a sack lunch and some snacks would have been much better.
  • One thing that makes game jams work is regular updates to social media during it. We completely failed at this. We posted no updates to Twitter or Facebook during this at all. We should have planned on posting one update to each platform every hour. It would have only taken a few minutes to take a screenshot and write a short sentence or two about the game and would have been worth it.
  • When doing a game jam of any sort, it is good to have goals set for the entire length. We had a single goal of “This game will be up and running on the demo station by Sunday afternoon”. Things probably would have been better if we had some sub goals for specific milestones during the time between.
  • This game jam taught us a lot about what we need to fix for our upcoming game. We decided to base the resolution of the jam game and its sprites on what we have planned for our current major project. That was a great idea as it taught us both a lot about what we can improve and avoid in our adventure game. We are happy to have learned these lessons now rather than learn them when it is critical for our other project.
  • This was our first convention and first game jam as a team. Now that we know a few things about both events, we feel a lot more confident going into other ones in the future. We might not ever do a convention jam like this again, but I would say no if the opportunity came up again.


Would we do a game jam again? Yes, definitely. We loved the experience and the break from our current project. It got a lot of creative juices flowing and we just could not stop talking about our next game and what we can do to improve it.

Would we get a table at a convention again? Absolutely. This is a great way to meet and talk to people and get them excited about our work. In person marketing like this is wonderful. We just need to make some better choices about what people can get from us.

Would we combine the two again? Maybe. I think the experience was great and the fact that it was unique for the convention really helped us out. It was also something interesting as our current project is not anywhere near convention stage. We plan on having a playable demo later this year and I think we would much rather have people playing that and investing time and money towards its development rather than be distracted by a game jam during the convention.

Would we recommend a convention jam to other developers? Only if they really want to. Take a look at our lessons learned and see if you are prepared for all that. If you still want to try it, by all means go ahead. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything (expect maybe for a giant pile of money ;).

Exciting News For Super! BitCon

We got our stickers in the mail. These look great and we hope that those who come by our booth love them.

Divine Knight Gaming StickersWe also have a great gaming setup to have on display. We will have an Ouya hooked up to a tv with a Gameboy themed game bundle for people to play while they visit our booth. This bundle will host three games that show off a little of what we can do.

The game will have three parts. The first is an Ouya port of our Amazing Mazes game. This is a great game and it has a lot of potential for people to compete with each other as they try to reach the top time on the mazes.

Amazing Mazes Gameplay

The next game is one I actually made this past week in just two days. I wanted to get my creative and development juices flowing for the event and making this game helped a lot.

This game is a vertical shooter with a space theme. This game will also give people a chance to play and try to beat each other’s top scores. The game is actually pretty difficult once you get a little bit into it. But that is by design.

Space Battles GameplayFinally, this bundle will feature the prototype for our next game. This prototype will also act a bit like a precursor to our current game project as well. Providing a little back story about Charnette’s family and the island she finds herself stranded on.

DK Adventures Gameplay

But that is not all. During the course of the two day event, We will be making a game during a personal Super! BitCon game jam. This is a challenge we are taking up to kind of set our booth apart from others in the area.

During this jam, Willis and I will have our computers set up with monitors facing outward that will mirror our development screens. This will give people visiting a chance to see how we work, what tools we use, and a final game by the end of Sunday. We hope that you like what we make.

During this time, we will have a tip jar both physically and digitally set up and people can donate to our cause while they are there. Everyone who donates will get a Sticker. Also, everyone who donates will get the first copies of the game we make at the event if they leave us their email address.

We hope that you like what we have planned and we look forward to seeing you all there.

What To Expect From Divine Knight In 2015

Happy New Year From Divine Knight Gaming2014 was a fun year for us. We decided that we would try to make one game a month. While we did not succeed in that goal, we did manage to make more games this year than we have in years past. They weren’t the biggest games or the best, but there were complete games. It felt good to have that on our plate.

Along with that, we attempted a Kickstarter for Demon’s Hex. Unfortunately, we could not get the attention and support we had hoped for. So we decided to put it on the back burner for the time being and focus on something else.

So that is where we find ourselves at the start of 2015. We have decided that our goal is to create an adventure game in the vein of Legend of Zelda, Alundra and Illusion of Gaia.

We plan on showing off the concept at Super! BitCon and subsequent events. We also want to hold a crowdfunding campaign for this one but we want to make sure that the game and campaign are as impressive as possible.

We are still planning on making a few smaller games along the way too. This year, we plan to take some time to actually participate in one or more Ludum Dare. We have seen some pretty cool games from other developers sprout from those events and want to take some time to challenge ourselves with them.

Last year we learned a great deal about HaxeFlixel. We even got to make some modest contributions to the HaxeFlixel API. We hope that this year we can do more to help build the library we know and love. We want to contribute more to the the community.

We also got familiar with Tiled Map Editor and had quite a bit of practice incorporating levels created with it in our games. This tool will be a huge help in bringing our next games to life.

This year we have plans to incorporate a new tool into our pipeline. Spriter is an animation tool for creating 2D sprites and animations for games. We backed the project when it was just a Kickstarter campaign. We love how powerful it can be for creating all kinds of games. Our next project will give us a chance to actually work with it and figure out how to use it to make the coolest characters we can.

We can’t wait to show you what we plan on doing this year and we plan on updating the site on a more regular basis. We even will get Willis to make some contributions from time to time. He is a difficult person to get online, but it will happen.

So keep following us for some great news and updates.

We Are Still Here; We Are Still Working

So, we are still around. We may not have updated in a while, but that doesn’t mean we have stopped working.

After the failure of the Demon’s Hex Kickstarter, we took some time to do some soul searching. We decided that we were going to put an indefinite hold on Demon’s Hex and work on something else.

We are going to be working on something a little more action oriented for our next game. Willis and I both have a lot of fond memories of action adventure games from our youth. Some of our favorites are the Legend of Zelda, Alundra, Illusion of Gaia and Secret of Evermore.

So we are working on our own action adventure game. We don’t have anything to show just yet as we are currently in our design phase, but our hope is to have something to show by the end of January and a playable demo by March.

We also hope to make this game available on the Ouya, PC, Mac, Linux and other consoles as funding and fate permits. We want it to be fully playable with a variety of controllers on a variety of platforms. Of course, we will have keyboard controls for those playing on PCs if that is their choice.

We want you guys to keep watching this space. Over the course of the next few months, I am going to be posting updates on our progress. We want to build up interest in this project, something that we were not able to garner with Demon’s Hex.

Our main goal is to be able to have this game demoed at Super! BitCon at the end of March. We want to have people playing the game at that point. We feel that by then, we should have something that people will enjoy and can then start looking for funding.

We Showed Off Our Games In Front Of Other Oklahoma Game Developers

Every month, there is a meeting of Oklahoma Game Developers. This gives anyone attending an opportunity to show off their projects. So we took some time to show off our progress on Demon’s Hex and our January One Game A Month entry, Dragon Canyon.

We plan on showing off each of our One Game A Month entries at each meeting this year. It gives us a goal and a deadline for completion. Something that we didn’t have last year when we tried it.

You can see everything else that happened at the meetup over at

Demon’s Hex Video Update: Walls, Spinners and Win Screens

Hello everyone. I have uploaded a new video showing off the latest updates to the game. I haven’t had a lot of time to work on the game this past week, but there is still some progress being made.

This video shows off a few of the new features since the last video. In it, you get to see a bit about the creation of the spinner that determines which player goes first. This spinner design will also be implemented in battles between tokens that have the same power. It doesn’t work yet, but the spinner does show the winner in one to one matches. The beginning of the video shows off the Dice Test that I used to create the spinners.

The next feature is the walls. These are put between spaces on the board that prevent two tokens from attacking each other. These can be used strategically by you and your opponent to gain the upper hand.

Finally, there are some win/lose/draw/perfect screens now that give you the opportunity to play again. These screens will be expanding in the future to include more features and information.

That’s it for today. I think the next video will be an inside look at token creation. So look for that soon.

New Demon’s Hex Upload

Demon's Hex

I uploaded the latest version of Demon’s Hex to the website. You can play it over on the Demon’s Hex page.

This version incorporates the walls feature and the starting player dice/dial thingy. There is also the beginnings of a dial system showing the battles that take place when taking part in battles between equal powers.

That last feature, while functional, is not complete. I want to get to where it shows off each challenge in order rather than all at once. Not sure how to tackle that at the moment. So for now, it just points to the winner of the battle.

Finally, there is a very basic win/lose/draw state that lets you relish in your victory or wallow in your loss depending on how the tokens fall. From these screens you can start a new match or go back to the main menu.

There is also what is listed in the main menu as a “dice test”. This is just a series of buttons and a token that spins when clicked. I used it to test out the dial animation that I use in the game. Just something interesting I thought I would leave in for now.

I still have a ways to go, but at this point, I think working on the enemy AI is probably the best bet. The enemy is still pretty lousy. Sometimes it gets lucky and actually wins, but most often, it just plays stupidly.

I hope that you enjoy the latest update.

Demon’s Hex Now Has Walls

Walls in Demon's Hex Battles Prevent One Space from Attacking an Adjoining Space.I am surprised at how easy it was to implement these things, but I have added an additional feature to Demon’s Hex. I had wanted to add some type of wall or block between spaces in order to add an additional bit of challenge to the game. So I did it.

What these walls, the grey bars between spaces, do is prevent an attack from one space to an adjoining space. If you look at the screen shot, the Dark Knight in the top middle space was unable to attack the Heads in the second row second space because of the wall between those two spaces blocked her attack. This will allow for an additional challenge to players to work with when playing the game.

While early in the match, it may not matter, the later in the match you go, the more troublesome the walls will be. Especially if you have few tokens that can attack from the openings. These walls will result in prefect games being even more rare.

It turned out these walls were a lot easier to implement than I had originally thought. But as I started fleshing out the concept, it all became a simple on/off check. I had all the other checks already in place.

I am still experimenting with a good balance of walls that are fun, unique and not too limiting. so far it seems that around 5 or six walls dispersed on the board is more than enough. Any number more than that becomes too challenging.

I had originally considered just randomly dropping some on the board but realized that I would probably go crazy trying to make sure that certain spaces are not walled off completely. So I will be creating a certain number of predefined wall layouts to use in the game. Which one you get and how challenging it is is up to chance though.

Predictability Can Be A Bad Thing In Games

As I was working on Demon’s Hex, I came to realize something that might have been a bad thing for the longevity for the game. It was way to predictable. Every move you made as the player had a very predictable and obvious outcome. That was not good.

Why is that bad, you might ask? Well, let me tell you about it. The game has some very basic rules. You place a token on the board. Whichever sides has an arrow, the token will attempt to attack that side. If your attack power was higher than the defender’s power, you won and captured the token. If it wasn’t you didn’t capture it.

That is when I saw the flaw. When the attacker’s attack power was the same as the defender’s power, the defender won by default. While not a huge deal, this rule reduced the fun of the game. There are a whole heck of a lot of times when the player will have only tokens with the same attack power as the enemy.

So I decided to change the game up a bit. I decided to roll the dice, so to speak, on those scenarios. However, instead of a simple flip of the coin, I decided to make a dial with various weights depending on the actions taken. Let’s take a look: Continue reading »

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