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Lessons From My First Gamejam

Hi! I'm Zak. This is my first blog post. About my first Gamejam. And the first game I've made since university.


I'm a software engineer that studied computer science with a game development concentration, like a bunch of people. I'm also recently unemployed and decided to take a swing at building a portfolio to better pursue game development positions. Enter: Brackeys Game Jam.

The Jam

The theme was "What's Behind That Door?". I was honestly hoping for "Web", but hey, what can you do? It was voted on by the participants and who am I to disagree with the most holy of democratic processes.

The Lessons

Design and Plan Early

Okay, yeah. This one is kind of a gimme. But seriously, DESIGN AND PLAN EARLY. I didn't really have a concrete idea of the game I was going to make before my hands hit the keys. That was my first mistake, and one that I really shouldn't have made after working for 6 years in software consulting. The result of this was that I ended up not really incorporating the theme as much as I wanted and I didn't have any idea of what I would minimally accept as "done".

I would recommend planning out in more detail than you'd expect what you consider to be a complete game. I'm talking things like sound, credits, UI, all of it. Establish your "Levels of Success": without them you won't really know where you're going and you don't have any way of knowing that you've arrived when you get there. Trust me, it'll save you time re-evaluating mid-development and keep you from spending the limited time allotted in a jam working on things that aren't really that important.

Know Your Tools (optional)

I built my game using Unreal Engine 5.3.2. It was my first honest attempt at building anything in Unreal Engine so I was doing a lot of learning over the course of 7 days. Personally, that's why I chose it. Having a concrete goal like that is motivating to me and helps me keep after it with a new tool. That may be true for you, too, and that's great! If you're shooting for polish and prizes however, I'd recommend using something you're more familiar with to avoid sinking time into doing things the "wrong" way or having to look up how to do things in your engine/framework of choice.

Build Often, Test Often

Familiarize yourself with the building and packaging process of your chosen framework early in the process. If you can, get an end-to-end build going early. This means making sure you know how to work the editor, make a debug build, make a release build, upload it to the destination, and then download/play it to verify functionality. Do this with the simplest level you can construct with your given toolkit.

Why do I recommend this? Because I didn't do it, of course. I did almost all of my testing in-editor and with debug builds, which resulted in me spending several hours troubleshooting strange errors I was getting while trying to package my game for submission. About 5 hours before I would no longer be at my computer to submit it before the deadline. Don't be like me. Give yourself room to breathe.


I had a blast and learned a ton. If you're interested at all in game development and have the time and energy, I'd highly recommend participating in any of the numerous jams hosted on

Top comments (2)

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Good stuff

jess profile image
Jess Lee

What did you build?