1. Keep it simple!
When designing a game which should be delivered in only one weekend it is important to start with simple game mechanics and a feasible storyline.
2. Lack of artists? Stick to 2 Dimensions.
Often game jams lack of artists. When designing your game it might be helpful to stick to two dimensions instead of trying to force a fancy 3D game.
3. Use a simple game engine.
At a game jam developers with different skills and experience levels are supposed to work together. Hence, even for experienced game developers it might be reasonable to stick to development editors which are easy to learn and use such as GameMaker (https://www.yoyogames.com/studio) or Unity (https://unity3d.com/). This will facilitate not only the development process but also the distribution process (see next point).
4. Make your game playable & distributable.
You want to develop a game for people to play it! It is easier to show the game to friends in a web-browser than on your phone or as an exe which must be downloaded first. Choose the game engine to support your “target” group / platform, or in the best case choose an engine, which already comes with distribution possibilities to several platforms.
5. Hacking is welcome.
In contrast to traditional coding projects, in a game jam it is absolutely OK to write code which might be not super reusable and is not optimized, nor fully commented. Main goal: In the end it should work. However, it might be helpful if you still try to write code, which is readable for you (if you want to change something, or are looking for bugs) and your team partners.
6. Finish your game!
Goal #1 is to finish your game. Even if you submit a game with minimal functionality, you shipped a working game. Ensure this by prioritizing the game functionalities (from VERY IMPORTANT to NICE TO HAVE) and scheduling them accordingly. Another very imporant tool helping you to achieve this goal is the usage of a subversioning system! (e.g. https://github.com/ or sourceforge.net/) Only submit working versions! This will ensure that you can submit a working version at the end, and also allows other jammers to test your game at different stages (see tip 9).
7. Art can wait. Work with placeholders.
If you are in lack of artists and team members it might be helpful to work with placeholders first and concentrate on the mechanics instead of spending too much time on designing objects and the environment.
8. Audio is more important than you might expect.
Even if it does not appear important during the development phase, audio elements are one of the most important parts of a good game. Even small effects (e.g. jumping sounds) or a nice background music will dramatically change your games’ atmosphere.
9. Test, test, test!
Of course you should test your game for bugs, but don’t forget to test your game for fun! Ask other jammers to play your game to give you tips, and test other games to give tips!
10. Have fun!
Even it is stressful and you lack of sleep and have a pizza and coffee overdose – you should remember the game jam as a fun experience – so avoid arguments with your team mates and don’t forget to stick to regular breaks for food, coffee, and sleep!
Tools & Resources
– Unity3D (2d and 3d games .. wonderful tutorial for 2d games: http://pixelnest.io/tutorials/2d-game-unity/)
– and lots of other brilliant SDKs for programmers!
Art & Environment:
– Audio: Audacity
– Download Resources: http://opengameart.org/
In the case these 10 tips were not enough please go and find 16 Tips at: http://gamedevelopment.tutsplus.com/articles/tips-tools-and-resources-for-your-next-game-jam–gamedev-12084