Hunkering Down for the Long Haul: From Jam to Final Development

Hunkering Down for the Long Haul: From Jam to Final Development

Any game requires a lot of effort. It is an artform that combines applied skills from the fields of visual art, design, motion, music, and even psychology. One way to help overcome the initial hump of effort is to put a strict time limit, and a reward at the end. Game jams do just that, and are a great way to kickstart a project, and get feedback on it before deciding to finish it. 

I had done a few small jams before, often working in a small team of 2-3 people. But I wanted to bring some of my favorite people to work with together into the biggest team I’ve been a part of, and try to tackle something bigger - the world's most relaxing and chill platformer, and make it procedurally generated! 

We barely finished, after reducing our scope a lot, and were happy with our result after 2 weeks. Other people were too. The jam we participated in had over 60 entries, a panel of judges mentioned us in several categories, and by a popular vote, we won 3rd. The team decided we wanted to finish it up, add some of the cut content back in, and release it. 

When we got to month 4 of development, and have made a lot of progress, and I thought I’d ask some of my team members about the differences between the jam experience and the post-jam development until now.  


Jamie (Composer):

 So for me, I learn and relearn that the first 85-90% is fairly quick to get down, but that last 10-15% will take much longer. The polish, the iteration on sounds and testing to find something that’s not just “really good” but ideally “the perfect fit”. It’s worth it to get there but it’s a lesson I have to remind myself over and over - it will take more time and more effort to go from “good” to “great” and even more to go from “great” to “amazing”

Jams - especially the 10-15 day jams - have everyone ready to collaborate at any time pretty much - we’ve all reserved that time. But you’re essentially stealing that time from future-you, and you can’t sustain that through the entire development cycle (unless you’ve got the funding to reserve 40 hours of everyone’s time each week). So the expectations have to change post-jam on timetables. At the same time, the jam plants a seed that you get to water and nurture over time. There will be great ideas and great additions to the game that don’t come up in that condensed crunch period. So it’s more of a quiet maturity as opposed to a loud splash that a game jam provides

Colin (Programming):

I don't think this is going to be a huge revelation, but for me, the biggest difference post-jam is the lack of urgency. During the jam, there's a deadline looming from day one. I cleared my schedule, made sure not to make plans, and worked when I didn't really feel like it, because if something on the game didn't get done soon, it would be too late. Post-jam, there's none of that pressure. That's freeing, but it takes self discipline to keep yourself working on a project with no expiration date. 

Doug, our project manager, set a few soft deadlines, which helped. I know that if I miss them, nothing particularly bad was going to happen, but just the goal of having my stuff turned in at a certain time helps bring that sense of urgency back.

Christine (Character Artist):

I suppose during the jam I was much more heavily focused on concept art and design. After the jam, the designs had all been already confirmed, so it was more just fleshing out the sprites, adding variety etc. During the jam, the game was like what occupied all the extra space in my head, but now I have some days where I forget about it, and that's probably not great.

YiNa (Background Artist)

I think the jam was much needed to get us started on the game. The limited time forced to make decisions quickly and commit to it. If we had all the time in the world, we would probably still be in the brainstorming stage since people obsess too much over finding the perfect idea. Also, with the jam, it was possible to get feedback and see how we rank amongst other games. 

Throughout the jam, I learned how to make a panoramic, seamless background, something I never did before but is extremely useful for future use. It was also nice collaborating with another artists, it helped cut my workload in half, haha! 

In terms of post game production, it was mainly focused on refining the final 20%, which takes 80% more time. (I know, ironic isn't it?) I helped out in making new environment assets but also improving the games UI/UX. ( I worked in UI/UX before in case you didn't know) I did worry a bit about getting extremely annoying about making changes to the UI, such as repositioning the bar, changing the font of the text and even adjusting the negatives spaces between icons and other elements just a tad bit. But I’m sure my teammates appreciated the feedbacks since everyone has the same goal, which is to make a great game. 

The workflow with the team did stagger a little post game jam, but that is understandable since we aren’t in a rush to make a game in 2 weeks, and everyone has other responsibilities outside of the project. I am currently attending animation school and I know my new animation skills will be a great asset for future projects.

Doug (Manager / Programmer):

As a manager: The pace of a game jam might be the best way to get a rapid prototype of a game idea to see if it's good. It's exhilarating to see each day some big progress, and It brings with it a good mindset of prioritizing what to accept as good enough, what actually needs more work, and what needs to get cut. Each feature needs to be evaluated on the value added to the game per effort to create. Those same decisions need to be made for post-jam too. But with more time, you can change your cut-off points for level of quality, value added, and effort. As a hobbyist indie dev without a planned release date, it's easy to think "Oh, it adds value, even though it takes a long time to implement I'm not on a time crunch now" But I urge you to think of yourself as your employee too. If you imagine paying someone a reasonable hourly fee for this feature, is it worth it for what it will add? Can you afford the time?

And getting feedback is tough, because people can only point out the top things that bother them, and only after you fix that, will they notice something else. This gives the unfortunate expectation that the game is almost perfect except for this one thing, and then twenty things later there is still more to do. 

As a programmer: We are now 4 months past the end of our 2 week game jam. The core concept is similar, but we doubled the number of enemies, characters, story lines, and platforming content. We re-vamped the UI, added menus, and altered a lot of lighting and visual effects. And though I'm not dumping an additional full time job's worth of effort, I am consistently making progress every week. Had I known how much of the slapped-together-jam-code I would have to re-do, I would have started fresh post-jam after spending a day to fine tune the organization of it. Sometimes it feels like a drag, and I wish I was just done. Sometimes it feels like big leaps of progress happen overnight. Having a team of people relying on me to finish it up and to be accountable towards is a big motivator to keep going on a down day. The effort is not small, and what may look like over 50% of the content from the game jam is really much more like 15%, because not all the content is flashy even if it is necessary. This is why the project manager needs to be choosy with the scope. Be kind to your employee-self.

The left is from the game jam, and the right is from the current build. 

It’s easy to see we added mist, a midground, artwork to turn glowing circles into crystals, and move the UI around to be more intuitive.


It’s hard to see that player movement has been re-written twice, the music makes some procedural choices, and alters as you play, and that there are 3 times as much platform variety. We added touch controls, beetles and worms, and the leaders of the flutterers and mushrooms as entities to interact with, and to help and get help from in return.

Our Steam page is live, and we pushed our release date out until March, so we would be able to achieve the level of quality we want without feeling stressed about it. 

You can find us at our website: 

Steam: Elowen's Light on Steam (

Itch:Elowen's Light by juzek, ChaosConstant, ChubbyWorm, A103 Productions, yinawang ( 

Twitter: @SweetPowerSauce

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