What do you want out of a SA Game Jam?

(SA Game Jam is an annual game jam Free Lives with some cash prizes, the next one starts on 21 September 2018)

Last year Free Lives ran SA Game Jam and while there were some awesome entrants and a bunch of prizes were given out, myself and Free Lives didn't do a good job judging and keeping up with the needs of entrants.

So I want to ask, assuming you're thinking of entering SA Game Jam (this year we're allocating R30,000 to the prize pool), what do you want out of the competition?

Obviously everyone would like to win, but at Free Lives we're hoping that this competition can provide more value than just cash prizes to the community. I'm disappointed in our performance last year, this year I want to do better.

Any thoughts and criticisms are welcome. There's still 7 weeks before the jam and we have time to course correct where necessary.

Comments

  • What were some of the needs of the entrants that you feel you didn't keep up with?
  • @Tightrope I think last year we didn't do a particularly good job of judging. I think we chose the right entries, but I don't think we gave enough feedback and we didn't communicate terribly well at the end.

    I think also we wanted the community to help each other with feedback, so that some people would play every game, but we didn't incentive this enough. Or for whatever reason it didn't happen. So there ended up being a couple entrants which weren't awarded a prize, and so didn't get a write-up by judges, and ALSO no-one from the community played. And for a person that tried their best and spent a full weekend making a game, this is a pretty shitty outcome.

    Though that's a difficult problem to solve.

    Hopefully we can improve upon these issues this year... but I also want to know what other improvements we can make. I don't necessarily expect this community to come up with ideas to improve the competition (though that'd be welcome), but just hearing what people want out of the competition, what their best outcomes are, would help us design it better.

    So if you know why you'd want to participate, or know what's lacking that causes you to not participate, I'd love to hear it.
  • First of all yayyy you guys do great work and I really appreciate it :)

    I think that issue that we had with judging is something that we can ask the community to help with but I don't know if that'll necessarily work. Maybe it's something like Ludum Dare (forever my model of excellence) where people who participate should really give feedback on at least a set number of games. And then try to not all jump onto the same game - if we see a game has already gotten some feedback, try jump to other, less spoken-about game.

    But I also know that a few of the participants valued the feedback that comes out of free lives guys - and you know, with good reason.

    I really can't think of much else besides feedback that would be what people need that's relevant to a game jam...

    Mentorship?
    Advice to go to market?
    Approaching publishers?

    I don't think these are relevant to jams. So yeah, can't think of much that people might get out of a jam.
    Thanked by 1EvanGreenwood
  • Maybe some sort of feedback giving system, something like Ludum Dare (though maybe simpler) isn't impossible?

    There's a bit of work happening on this website at the moment... perhaps this can be inquired into?
  • edited
    I don't know if we should build something into the website to try and mimic anything like LD (even though simpler), because that's a really deep rabbit hole we could fall into...

    If an honor-based system wouldn't work, maybe building enforcement is overkill?

    We're game designers, we just need to write simple, clean, clear rules of how we'd like people to behave, right? :) (especially for people who are invested in a thing already)
  • @EvanGreenwood you could always just ask Itch.io if they would add a feature that requires people to give feedback to a certain number of people before it's judged.

    Their game jam system is pretty robust already, and they often add features for people who request it. There could also just be a requirement to post the game to MGSA.
    Thanked by 1Tuism
  • edited
    Ludum Dare's way is a bit better than that, in that the games are displayed based on how many reviews have been left, so teams that don't review any games have their entries buried.

    There's no enforcement per se, it's more of a get-what-you-give system that incentivises tit-for-tat cooperation.

    The trouble with doing it through Itch.io is Itch isn't going to have a way to see the community engagement here at MGSA.

    If Itch.io were then to build these features, it then makes sense to base the competition on Itch.io primarily and have most of the feedback happen there. That doesn't align with the goal of using the competition for community building at MGSA (although maybe that goal isn't a useful goal in the first place?)

    It's a shitty solution, but we could just require entries to try two games and assign them randomly (which could be achieved without building a system, just by PM'ing entrants two random games they should try). I'm not fond of enforcement strategies though.
  • Yeah LD has a whole system going and it's a huge system so I don't think it's even wise to attempt anything close to that.

    I think that just giving clear and loud guidelines (1. GIVE FEEDBACK TO OTHER ENTRANTS' GAMES, 2. TRY AND GIVE FEEDBACK TO THOSE THAT HAVE THE FEWEST 3. GIVE AT GOOD CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK TO AT LEAST 2/3/4 OTHER GAMES) to entrants would be enough. And then we can during judging say "hey these people ignored our very clear guidelines and haven't really reviewed much which goes against the spirit of things, so we're not going to consider their entry"

    We don't even have to assign stuff. People can autonomously sort that out. I think that's good enough?

    If we want to be really nice we can openly ask people to track their own feedbacks - like on their own entry page keep a list "have gave feedback on these games:". We only really need to check them if someone is eligible to win, and if someone is eligible to win and they're really cheating the system and haven't given feedback, well then they really are being a bit of a douche aren't they?
    Thanked by 1EvanGreenwood
  • What do I want out of the competition?
    Same as every other Jam, it provides the opportunity to make something playable in a short amount of time.
    You can totally do this outside of a Jam, it just seems that in my case, the definitive deadline is really effective at getting me to focus on the more important things that form a playable game loop, instead of procrastinating on things that have their importance values waaaaayyyy down the production line.

    Thoughts and criticisms?
    I think the fact that there were so many entrants last year should speak for itself, don't be so hard on yourself :D There's a lot of value gained by just making something at all, regardless if it 'judged' or not.

    Enforced engagement sounds horrible, and I agree that sending traffic away from MGSA seems counter to the goal of community building. Double posting across two sites sounds like 'more' work, we need less effort as a requirement.
    A better solution might be to figure out a way to lower the barrier of engagement, but specifically extracting value from forumites to benefit the thread posters in the development of their games.
    What's the barrier? Writing a few lines of your thoughts in a little box about something you see doesn't seem that difficult, yet if you look at the views to reply ratio in any of the threads they tell a different story.

    The question I'm asking myself here is how do you extract value from the lurkers. (me). How can you get valuable input from me and not ask 20 - 40 mins of my time for a considered reply.

    Idea for lowering the barrier and increasing view count to thread value ratio during a jam.
    Custom polls in threads would allow for such a thing. The interaction is a small ask to go from opening and reading the first post, to clicking an option in a poll to help the developer confirm their ideas. Also it has the benefit of anonymity and very low time cost. The heart system seems to be loved by many, lets leverage the system that people are already sort of using.
    maybe there's 3-5 default questions, even less work for the poster.
    • Total voters 50
    • Unclear gameplay loop
      |-------------------|70%
    • Clarify visual feedback
      |-----|5%
    • Unintuitive controls
      |---------------|50%
    • I didn't get it
      |---------|8%
  • edited
    [ ] Good idea
    [ ] Bad idea
    [ ] An important point of consideration that hasn't been brought up
    [ ] Dunno
  • @Pomb I think you've got a good point about trying to lower the barrier for feedback.

    I think custom polls are a thing that probably could be built into the site without too much pain... And maybe for something like the SA Game Jam there could be a standard poll (so that every entry has a poll next to it?)

    I wonder if doing a poll, something that is really simple to fill out, might actually lead into giving more feedback... Like, after you've voted on "Encountered bugs", "Intuitive Controls" and "Visual Feedback" there's a "Further Comments" section, and a person who didn't intend to write any feedback ends up writing a short post after the poll because they've already started leaving feedback. i.e. Maybe something like a poll can do better than to just convert lurkers to poll voters.

    On the other hand maybe someone who was going to write a post ends up just using the poll? But I think that's less likely if they're the type of person who wanted to properly explain themselves to begin with.
    Thanked by 1LloydN
  • I think that's a good idea. The scenarios in which someone who was going to write but then ends up clicking a poll seems unlikely because someone who was going to write would write.

    Though I thought game owners might be unsatisfied with ending up with a poll rather than actual inputs, but it's still better than where it was, which was nothing. Worth a shot.
  • I think you should incentivize feedback from people that are not participating, but are a part of this community.

    Throw together some menial prizes for feedback, the couple of finalists that you choose can vote for best feedback that might have helped them make the finals. The way I look at it, the participants don't really have time to play a few minutes of every other entry and work on their own game, which is completely understandable, but there should be some lurkers and people not working on their own entry in this community.

    As for the actual judging feedback, I don't think it's fair or acceptable for judges not to look at all entries, if the competition is structured with judges deciding on their own, they need to look at all entries and they need to give enough feedback to justify their decision on the entry. If time and the amount of work doesn't permit this, then the competition should be structured differently. Have a first round where all the participants vote in some general type of categories, (graphics, sound, story, UI, originality...) after the submission deadline has passed and then the judges pick the top 10 or 20 that will be judged by them.
  • edited
    critic said:
    the participants don't really have time to play a few minutes of every other entry and work on their own game, which is completely understandable
    I disagree with this. Every Ludum Dare I rate about at least 20 games, sometimes I push it to 50. Once I did 100. And I always give a bunch of in-depth feedback.

    The feedback doesn't happen DURING the jam, it happens after. Judging goes on for a while. It's not instantaneous.

    Of course I understand everyone has different time constraints, I'm not even saying that EVERYONE must do 100, 50, or even 20. TWO will do. TWO. If that's too hard........

    The problem isn't whether there's time or isn't time.
  • Tuism said:

    The feedback doesn't happen DURING the jam, it happens after. Judging goes on for a while. It's not instantaneous.
    Yeah, I think we are on a different page, the feedback I'm talking about is the one that happens during the jam, so you can actually do something about it.

    And TBH if time is not a constraint, judges should just take an extra few days and give everyone feedback that they deserve,

  • edited
    Nah, there's never been expectations of feedback during a jam - at least not in any jam that I've been part of. The feedback is for after a jam. If you're on site with other people, one could ask people for input, but pretty much as a rule, there's no time for feedback iteration loops during any jam 48 hours or less.

    And I think while yes would be nice for judges to give everyone feedback, I think it's a good decent thing to do for participants who want to get something out to put something in. That's the basis of LD. Different scale, same principle.
  • My impression is that there is a focus to try give feedback during this jam (so ppl can use it, like @critic pointed out). This was the case last year IIRC. It's good to make the distinction tho!
    Thanked by 2critic KleinM
  • Tuism said:
    Nah, there's never been expectations of feedback during a jam - at least not in any jam that I've been part of. The feedback is for after a jam. If you're on site with other people, one could ask people for input, but pretty much as a rule, there's no time for feedback iteration loops during any jam 48 hours or less.
    I don't know the default expectation, as I rarely ever 'jam', but in such a small community as ours, I feel like some feedback during the jam could point me in a different direction at a very early stage.
    Tuism said:

    And I think while yes would be nice for judges to give everyone feedback, I think it's a good decent thing to do for participants who want to get something out to put something in. That's the basis of LD. Different scale, same principle.
    You can send me to cry you a river, but it's a different ballgame when you get no feedback from the judges in what was pitched as a closely nit and friendly jam. I was one of those entries that is being addressed by the OP and that experience left a sour memory that I wouldn't mind not having. If it was LD, I wouldn't care, why should I, this was close to home though.
  • edited
    I never did last year's SA Game Jam, the one I did do was the first one and I was on-site in CT, and never even looked at the forums during the jam.

    I just went back to look at what was advertised in the setup of last year's SA game jam, and yeah there was a line about giving and getting feedback to better the game. I didn't know that, cos I wasn't in one.

    Well, hope everyone who wants feedback during the jam will give feedback during the jam, that's the only logical way it's going to happen.
  • I've personally found that time spent editing feedback to make it clearer and more thoughtful is prohibitive.

    I really like Pomb's idea, because it feels like it significantly lessens the burden of writing thoughtful paragraphs while still offering feedback.

    Something I'd like to try in general is to get used to writing short sentences instead of giant essays. I tend to write longer things because of a fear of misinterpretation or offence, and editing takes so long that I end up giving up writing at all, which is arguably a worse outcome.
    Thanked by 1Tuism
  • By the way:
    critic said:
    I don't think it's fair or acceptable for judges not to look at all entries,
    Did the judges not look at all the entries? I think that's a highly improbable thing to have happened, but I'll leave this to be answered by someone involved.

    I think the judges didn't have written feedback for all the entries, but they certainly DID look at all the entries. There's no way they just arbitrarily decided what not to look at.
  • Tuism said:
    By the way:
    critic said:
    I don't think it's fair or acceptable for judges not to look at all entries,
    Did the judges not look at all the entries? I think that's a highly improbable thing to have happened, but I'll leave this to be answered by someone involved.
    I don't know if they did @Tuism, because there was no feedback for a few entries, which leaves the person wondering if they did look at the entry or not. Regardless if they did or did not look at all of them, it's unacceptable for judges not to look at all entries.
    Tuism said:

    I think the judges didn't have written feedback for all the entries, but they certainly DID look at all the entries. There's no way they just arbitrarily decided what not to look at.
    I don't know how you can be that certain, unless they told you. Anyway It would have been nice if they took 5 minutes of their time and wrote something for all entries.
  • edited
    Well, like I said, I said I'll leave this to be answered by those involved, and also I have that much faith in these people whom I do personally know and know they've helped the local game dev scene in time, effort and least of all money in no uncertain terms.

    But I can only speak for myself. I can't speak for anyone else and won't.

    I'm leaving this topic of perceptions on the previous judging outcomes alone. Sorry for bringing it up.
  • The guys are doing a lot of good in the community and I respect that, they are not perfect, but they are trying and this thread is evidence of that. However, they themselves are acknowledging that there was a problem and are asking the community for feedback on that problem, to brush everything aside because of who they are or what relationship one has of them is bordering on counter-productive.
  • edited
    I didn't brush anything aside, I was making reasonable deductions. But like I said, I'm not continuing on this topic.
    Thanked by 1critic
  • I can confirm that for the past 2 SA Game Jams (there have only been 2 so far, right?): the judges did look at all of the games. Some of the games got some more consideration, mostly to try pick the winners, but none of the games were discounted or dismissed or ignored.
    Thanked by 2critic Tuism
  • I wonder how much feedback received during a 48 hour game jam is truly considered in one's effort and actually affect the outcome of one's game. I tend to think not a lot. Because time is limited, you understand that you are working with an imperfect game and therefore don't improve on all of your own criticisms let alone that of others. Also because feedback is built into the judging criteria of the competition, the temptation to leave superficial feedback will always be there. I also think the distinction between feedback during a jam and feedback post jam is an important one to make, since I don't think feedback post jam is any less valuable. It might not have helped with the participant's current competition entry but will still be valuable to his/her development in the long run which I feel should be the ultimate goal. Perhaps the competition can allow a 24 hour period after the actual jam for participants to write in-depth and considered feedback.
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