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Hosting a game jam

Hosting a game jam is a great way to get together game developers for an event or cause to do what they do best: make games. itch.io’s jam system allows anyone to create a game jam instantly, no longer does the need for custom software to get in the way of your game jam idea! All that’s required is a free itch.io account.

How it works

"Game jam" is a pretty broad classification when it comes to trying to define how things are run. The spectrum ranges from ranked submissions and very specific deadlines, to no deadlines and no ranking. Some jams are held only on the internet while others are associated with a physical gathering. itch.io hopes to accommodate all of the kinds of jams imaginable. What is available today is only the start and the functionality will continually be expanded upon. If you would like to do something custom then don’t hesitate to get in touch.

To give you an idea of what game jams can look like on itch.io here are some examples:

TOJam 9The Public Domain JamGame Changer Game Jam

Jam customization

All jams have a wide range of tools to customize how they look and how they're run.

Ranked jams

itch.io’s basic jam system is closely modeled after Ludum Dare, a popular 48/72 hour game jam. Jams have a starting and ending date. Games can be submitted to the jam any time between these two dates.

If the jam has voting enabled, after the submission deadline passes the voting period commences up until the voting end date. Otherwise, the jam is over after the submission deadline

For ranked jams, after the voting end date passes, the results are calculated and everyone can see the how the games have been ranked.

In a ranked jam you can control who has permission to vote:

  • Restrict to only those who have entered into the jam (optionally including any contributors to games for team efforts)
  • Approved judge accounts
  • Anyone with an itch.io account

Ranking criteria

When creating a jam you have the option to pick the criteria that entries are rated on. You can add as many as you like and they can be whatever you want. If you've got a theme feel free to pick criteria that represent the different components of the theme. Each criteria is rated on with a 5 star system.

You can pick create and edit criteria from the Edit jam page:

Editing jam criteria

After a jam’s rating period is over, all the entries in the jam are ranked by the average scores in each criteria. If there are multiple criteria then an Overall rank is also calculated from the average of all the criteria results.

Once rating period has started, it’s not possible to edit your criteria. Please double check them before publishing your jam!

Primary criteria

By default, entries are ranked by the average score of all the criteria. If you'd like to have one of your custom voting criteria determine the overall ranking then you can select it as the Primary option from the criteria editor.

When you provide a primary critiera an automatic Overall ranking will not be generated when there are multiple criteria.

If there is only one criteria, then it’s primary by default and it’s not necessary to mark it.

Manual ranking

For jams that have judges determine a ranking of entries outside of itch.io’s voting system, you can use the manual ranking option. This will enable any jam host to enumerate the ranks for each game that ranked in a particular criteria.

It’s not necessary to rank every entry, and entriers can share the same rank if there was a tie.

When Manual Ranking is enabled for a criteria, it can not be voted on. Manually ranked results will only appear after the rating period is over. If you don’t add them in time, then they'll appear as soon as you add them.

Manual ranking

Judges

Jam hosts can elect judges from their jam from their jam’s edit page. Judges are given special permission to rate any submission (normally, only people who submit to jams are allowed to vote). You can further restrict your jam to only allow judges to vote with using the Who can vote on entries? option on the jam’s edit page.

When judges comment on entries or posts in the jam’s community they are given a Judge badge so participants can identify them.

Jam hosts have all the same permissions of judges, but they get a Host badge instead.

Judge Feedback

Judges have a special method of giving feedback outside of the regular comments system provided on jam submission pages. The use of the feedback system is optional, and you should consult with your judges to see if it’s something that makes sense for your jam.

During the rating period, a feedback form will appear for judges on the submission page:

  • Feedback can always be left, even if comments are disabled
  • Feedback appears in a special area on the entries page, above the comments
  • Feedback doesn’t appear on the game’s rating page until after the voting period has ended
  • Feedback is anonymous, doesn’t have a reply button, and it shown in a random order when more than 1 judge has posted

Judge feedback is only available for ranked jams.

Custom fields

In addition to criteria, you can also provide custom fields that are required along with a submission. For example if sourcecode a requirement for submission you can create a Sourcecode field, or if you your game must be released under Creative Commons you can create a drop-down for that.

Just like criteria, the custom fields are free-form so you're free to make them whatever you want.

Editing jam fields

The responses to the custom fields are visible on the jam submission page of the game.

Non-ranked jams

If you select Non-ranked on your jam’s edit page then no voting will take place after the submission deadline ends. This is great if you want a simple way for people to submit games to over a certain time period. You can still use all other jam features, like custom fields and communities.

Unlisted jams and moderation

If you're running a private event you can make your jam unlisted: it’s only available to those who have the URL. Additionally, as a jam owner you have the power to moderate submissions. If something isn’t right you can remove it from the jam.

Additionally you can elect new jam admins to share edit & moderation access.

Jam contributors and hosts

Many jams are team efforts, and so we have a contributors system to allow you to give other itch.io accounts access to your jam. Every contributor has few different options:

  • Host — Shown on the jam’s page as being a host
  • Admin — Allowed to edit the jam and submissions just like the original creator
  • Judge — Allowed to vote on entries, even if they didn’t submit. You can combine this with judge only voting to limit voting to a specific set of people.

Additionally, on a jam’s community page, you can elect moderators if you need help managing your community.

Jam communities & comments

Jam owners can can optionally enable a community: a message board where anyone with an itch.io account is free to discuss anything about the jam. All communities on itch.io come with a robust set of features to make management and moderation simple. Read more about itch.io jam communities.

Jam submissions automatically get comment threads on their submission page its own comment thread right on the submission page.

Locking changes to submission files

For ranked jams, jam hosts can use the Lock uploads option to prevent participants from adding or changing the files on their page during the rating period.

The lock is ony active during the rating period, after the jam has ended submission owners are fee to release their post jam builds. Additionally, if the submission period is still active, files can still be changed. Submitting early will still let you publish updates right up until the deadline.

Participants are free to update their submission page design and content while their files are locked.

The submission process

When the jam enters the submission period people who want to enter the jam can navigate to the jam’s page to find a submit button. This brings up a game submission dialog where you can choose from games you've created on itch.io to submit. If you haven’t uploaded your game yet you'll be guided through the process.

Because jam submissions are itch.io project pages, you get all the features that itch.io provides. Your files and screenshots are hosted, and you can design a custom game page. A nice side effect of submitting to a jam on itch.io is that you automatically now have a nice page containing your game ready to be shared and distributed.

Submitting to a jam

Late submissions

Did you, or someone in a jam you host, miss the deadline? No big deal, jam hosts can generate late-submit links from the jam’s edit page.

In order to submit late, the entry must have a completed project page on itch.io uploaded and published. Afterwards, the link to the project can be sent to the jam host and they can paste it into the late-submit link generator. The late-submit link can be sent back to the game’s creator and they can use it to fill in any information and complete their submission.

Jam hosts can find the late-submit link generator on the Edit submissions tab of the jam editor.

Rating and commenting on games

For ranked jams, after the submission period the rating period starts. Anyone who has permission to vote can now vote on games from their submission pages.

If you have any feedback about the submission you can leave a comment on the submission’s page.

Rating an entry

Browsing submissions

On of the bottom of the jam’s page you'll find all the submissions. If you're logged in to itch.io the clicking on a game will bring you to the special submission page for the game. On the submission page the game be downloaded, commented on, and rated.

Jams also have a dedicated entries page if you need to link directly to them.

If a ranked jam is currently in the process of voting, the order of the games is randomized to ensure visibility to as many games as possible.

After you've rated a game, its thumbnail will be marked with a check, and it will stay on the bottom of the list.

After the rating period is over the results of the jams are instantly calculated and available. A results page is made available where you can browse how well games have done by the average of all the criteria and even by individual criteria. You can also see the results for an individual game on the game’s submission page.

Browsing results

Jam emails

Everyone who joins your jam is put on the jam’s mailing list. You can use this to email everyone who’s participating. This is great if you have a reminder message, updated rules, or maybe a theme announcement. Additionally, after the jam is over, you could use the list to email the participants about future jams or any other information about the completed jam.

When drafting a jam you can pick the recipients from the following groups:

  • Everyone who has joined
  • Those who have submitted
  • Those who haven’t submitted

People who have left your jam, or are unsubscribed from emails from itch.io will not receive your message.

Automated messages

itch.io will send out an automated reminder email to all participants when a jam starts reminding them that it’s time to submit. It’s not necessary for you to send an email when the jam starts unless you need to announce additional information, like a theme.

Promoting your jam

We love seeing successful jams. We promote jams we think are interesting on our homepage, social media accounts, and through email. If you want to be eligible for promotion please make sure to fill out all the appropriate fields: description, summary, cover image, etc. We're watch for new jams every day so we'll spot your jam once it’s published.

If you're hosting a bigger event, or something you think we should know about, please get in touch. We can help facilitate your jam, and make sure you have the support you need to run it effectively.

Create a jam today!

Now that you've seen what itch.io offers for creating game jams you can begin creating your own: