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A repository of handy things to get you started

Getting started

Use a Simple Idea

One month might seem like a long time but, unless you’re working full-time on the game jam (which is unlikely and not something we’d encourage), it’s going to pass by really quickly.

Keep your game design and mechanics simple, and don’t overscope. If you finish earlier than expected then great! You can spend any remaining time iterating on your original design and, more importantly, polishing what you have in place.

There will almost always be additional problems during development that you weren’t expecting, so keeping things as simple as possible will give you the buffer room you need to resolve anything that’s blocking you.

Design First, Act Second

Before you even so much as touch a computer, get your game design written up in enough detail for you/your team to follow. It’s fine to experiment and deviate from the originally intended design once you get started but you should have an initial design doc in place from the start. Don’t attempt to just make it up as you go along.

Think about how the game plays from start to finish (if there’s a finish) and whether you want win/lose states. What will be interactive and what control will be given to the player? What type of art assets will be in the game? What type of audio will be in the game? How long will the intended experience be?

Choose the Right Engine

Depending on your level of ability and whether you’re working alone or as part of a team, you’ll want to use an engine that you’re either already familiar with or can get to grips with very quickly.

For more experienced developers, Unreal or Unity are the normal go-to engines for games development, but you’ll already know if you want to use them or not.

If you’re coming at game design from a beginner or intermediate level, you can either learn how to use Unreal or Unity through their respective tutorials (which may take a bit of time), or take a look at some alternatives. Here’s a few suggestions:

Phaser - If you have basic coding skills or think you can learn basic coding fairly quickly, Phaser uses the HTML5 platform and Javascript, and can be used to create games very easily. You’ll need to host them on a web server but the website includes a guide on how to set one up on your local computer.

LÖVE - This is a great engine for 2D games if you’re comfortable with coding in LUA (a very easy programming language to learn).

Gosu - If you’re familiar with the Ruby programming language (another really easy one to learn!), Gosu can be used to make relatively basic games quickly, and is ideal for a game jam. Getting it set up can take a bit of time, though.

Stencyl - If you have no coding experience and don’t mind the idea of using a visual interface to simulate the code, Stencyl can be a good option to create 2D games that can run on multiple platforms, including PC and web. Its interface is simple to learn and use.

Gamemaker Studio 2 - Another engine that can be used by anyone with no coding experience (although with the option of using its own C-based code, GDL), GameMaker Studio 2 offers you a free unlimited trial version that’s suitable for a game jam and can export to multiple platforms.

Scratch - If you want something really simple to create with, Scratch was originally designed for young people with no development experience, but is now used by people of all ages. It offers an easy-to-use interface that allows you to focus on the creative side of things. You can even build your game entirely using a web interface, or download the desktop client.

2D vs 3D

Unless you’re very experienced and confident about developing a 3D game (or you have a very, very simple idea for a 3D game), you’ll probably want to stick to 2D. If you’re unsure which to pick, go with 2D.

Game development in 2D is always easier, from creating assets to functionality, and you’ll likely end up with a much more enjoyable and polished experience. A 3D game may be tempting and could stand out a bit from the crowd, but developing it in a short space of time will increase the likelihood of bugs and the amount of time you have to spend on functionality.


If you’re planning to do some coding for your game, don’t try to create pretty codebases or follow any of the best practices you may have learnt elsewhere in the industry. Your code only needs to be functional and you should aim for that, rather than using a load of your time on code that you may never revisit.

Even if you’re potentially planning to continue your project after the game jam, invest time afterwards to beautify the code and not during the game jam. That way, you’ll have enough time to focus on everything else that goes into your game.


Generally speaking, make sure your game is easy to access and play for everyone. The most ideal platform for anything submitted to a remote game jam is obviously a web browser, so if you’re able to develop something that can be hosted and played from a webpage you should go down that route. If not, make sure it’s a single download that can be executed without any installation dialogs or dependencies on plugins/frameworks that wouldn’t already be installed on most people’s computers. There may be a good reason to have an exception to this but, if so, make sure it’s a really good reason.

You should also try and keep controls for the game as simple and flexible as possible. Don’t require a player to use a gamepad, but support the use of one if it’s practical. If you have enough time and the ability to do so, you could even add an option to remap controls.

Bear in mind that approximately 1 in 12 males and 1 in 200 females are colour blind. Particularly in the case of males, you’re likely to have at least one of them play your game. When conveying any information, try and use highly visible, contrasting colours - especially if you’re using colours to represent two opposites (e.g. health vs damage, friendlies vs enemies, etc.). This is useful even for non-colour-blind players.

You can see a simple colour-blindness chart designed for game designers here.

Finally, try and mirror any visual cues with audio cues, and vice-versa. This can help make your game more inclusive to any players with limited sight or hearing.


There are a lot of things you may need for a game jam. Unless you or your team have an incredibly mixed and versatile skillset, you probably won’t be able to do everything yourselves.

Here are a few very useful resources that might come in handy:

OpenGameArt - A huge collection of artwork for games, including both 2D and 3D assets, textures, SFX and music, most of which is freely available to use as long as you credit the artist.

FreeSound - This site offers a varied collection of different sampled and synthesised sound effects that can be freely used. It’s not focused on games but it’s easy to search and filter for something specific.

Incompetech - A decently sized collection of royalty-free music, searchable by genre/tempo/etc. You usually only need to credit the artist.

Textures - A massive collection of textures you can use on 3D models, this resource is widely used throughout the games industry. You can download 15 textures a day for free.

Jammer Resources - A more comprehensive list of resources you can use for game jams, including engines, put together by Global Game Jam® organisers from around the world.