App/Game Jam in an enterprise; why, what and what was the outcome.
Last month, we had decided to start an enterprise App/Game Jam internally. The concept behind a jam is to run a 48h straight event with the objective to create a prototype by the end of it, allowing as much freedom as possible to a given team while they respond to a given theme.
This jam's theme was "Rewards".
To begin with, the main goal of this jam was to reunite the developers and designers at Appearition together and have them work in a single team. While we do know each others across the different offices and had worked together on various occasions and projects, we never had experienced a single project with all of us working towards a single outcome at once.
Additionally, each of us knows more or less what others do, but a jam (along with the pressure it provides) is the best way to bond slightly further and learn more about out various skill sets, especially secondary skills and things we prefer. During this jam, some of us found out that one of us had artistic skills, another with a preference for making UI rather than code, and another with a strong desire to learn game programming. Allowing this type of event helped learning about out strengths and weaknesses, as well as helping each others here and there when needed.
While most projects we do are on an individual scale or much bigger scale, this was a great opportunity to test how we would find solutions for time zones and remote work for a project with a close deadline and heavy pressure.
Lastly, this was a great opportunity to change from what we usually do, which is more along the lines of R&D, enterprise application development, proof of concept, etc. Quite a few of us had actually never worked on a game before, or not for a long time. Being able to develop a prototype for a different type of use and audience was going to challenge us, as well as being refreshing.
Doing the jam
We started the jam with 6 of us:
2 Programmers (1 lead and 1 mechanic developer, both actual developers)
1 Game Artist (actually R&D developer but could do game art)
2 UI Designers (one pure UI Designer, one who prefers UI design over development)
1 Project Manager
We use Slack as our main communication tool, and ZOOM and Skype for group calls. We started the jam all in a call, were briefed about the theme, then decided to individually explore the theme and return as a group to talk about our findings. Once on the call, we proposed several ideas, projects, talked about them and expanded them. After making sure each of us had something to work on, we hanged-up and started working. The team was divided in two locations: two people in one house in Australia, and the rest of the team would meet at the office or at somebody's place.
We agreed to work on an Appearition Simulator, which would be a game inspired from Game Dev Tycoon (2012, developed and published by Greenheart Games), where the player starts as our CEO, takes on projects, expands the team and builds the whole company from scratch. Part of this idea also helped explaining what the origin of Appearition was, and how it became what it is today.
The prototype of the game was meant to be a 2D horizontal management game, where the player controls several employees by selecting them one by one and giving them orders individually. Our CEO would receive calls about a client wanting a project, along with requirements and modules.
Once accepted, all those requirements would appear on a blackboard as tasks (like a Kanban workflow, to-do, QA, done, etc) of different field of practice. Each of those tasks could be assigned to employees, who would have skills and preference in said field.
Upon project completion, each team member would receive skill proficiency, happiness if they worked on skills they liked, and food. The company would also get the money from the commission, and the client would gain trust in our company. If the project was not finished in time, the company would not earn a cent and every employee would lose happiness.
Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to push the project to a prototype level within the 48 given hours, mainly due to the way we worked as a group, and had to ask for an extension in order to complete it.
That being said, the primary objectives were more along the lines of team-bonding and having a good time with colleagues by doing something different, and we did great on that. Additionally, most of us actually learned a lot from working on a non-enterprise project, since this isn't what we're used to.
Through most of the jam, we were using Slack to post work in progress of what we were each doing in order to keep the team informed. Once any of us had any struggle or was done with their task, we would get in a call together and keep ourselves updated. On the last day, we had a nearly constant group call ongoing to ensure that we were going to deliver properly, and go through the problems we had.
Overall, we were happy with this opportunity given to us. Once presented to the entire company, we agreed on expanding this project as an introduction to Appearition, as well as a way to learn more about our colleagues.