Future Dare

Posted by (twitter: @mikekasprzak)
April 28th, 2010 11:11 pm

I’m supposed to be working, but Sol_HSA’s thread got pretty big pretty fast. This is probably a good time to get an official word out there, to avoid future uncertainty, and to catch up those that missed it.

We had a pretty intense discussion some months back about how we were going to manage Ludum Dare’s growth. Ludum Dare today is a far bigger than any of us imagined it would become, and it wants to keep getting bigger and bigger.

On the one side, it wants to be more and more inclusive. We’ve relaxed the rules to include pretty-much every piece of gaming making middleware available today (even Unreal 3, our old example of what’s “not allowed”). The previous problem of enabling anyone to create sound effects quickly was practically solved by the introduction of sfxr. Aside from allowing outside content, the only thing we haven’t given the thumbs up to was teams (well, other than a slight rules page oversight this compo).

On the other side, we have what’s probably best described as classic Ludum Dare. A strict set of rules, everything from scratch, full source, the cliche “real men write their own compilers with soldiering irons” angle (not to disrespect the ladies, but we are the pig-headed kings of extremes ;)).

Unfortunately it’s not a simple matter of taking one side and growing that way. Or maybe it is, but that’d be like shooting ourselves in the foot. As things become more open, rules start to fade, keeping things fair becomes more and more difficult. We also have our legacy to consider, and we know from experience rules and restrictions keep things focused and produce results. After all, we are the 48 hour competition.

So what’s our solution?

The new Ludum Dare we hope to create in the coming months is something I like to call “The Ludum Dare Competition and Jam“. As expected we’re combining the two camps, but the tricky part was coming up with what we think is the best way to do that.

The Ludum Dare Competition is the same Ludum Dare you all know and love. It’s a competition. We tighten up the rules a bit, specifically, changing them in to eligibility requirements. Solo, include source, all content created in 48 hours, etc. Not much different than what you’re used to, but the emphasis here will be keeping things fair and realistic.

The Ludum Dare (Online) Jam is the new open Ludum Dare. Bring in a friend, keep your source to yourself, take an extra day (but just 1). Ludum Dare is a serious game making event, synonymous with the idea of prototyping a game in a weekend. We exist to be your reason to create something. And if you participated, we want everyone to know. Unlike the competition, there is no voting in the Jam.

So like always, you tune in Friday night for the theme (timezone respected), and you make a game. If you end up breaking the rules (competition eligibility), oh well, you can still submit it for the Jam. If you’re running late but still wanted to make something, again, you can still submit it to the Jam. Or if you regularly work with a friend or team, make it a Ludum Dare weekend! Crunch a playable prototype during the weekend, share it with us via the Jam, and submit it to the App Store a week later.

You could even take steps to create separate Competition and Jam versions of your game. For example, someone that’s both a coder and an artist could submit an eligible version of their game without sound and music, and a Jam version with help from their sound designer friend.

In a nutshell, that’s what we’re thinking the new Ludum Dare should be. Share your thoughts in the comments.

55 Responses to “Future Dare”

  1. fydo says:

    I like jam!

    This sounds great, and should make everybody happy, I would think. :)

  2. sf17k says:

    Great idea! There seems to be a lot of entries that are more appropriate for a jam rather than a compo. Separating them would alleviate some of the burden of compo voting!

  3. ChadyG says:

    So the competition and the jam would happen at the same time, and the Jam sort of acts as the catch all for LD entries that don’t fit in the stricter sense of LD?

    • PoV says:

      Correct. There’s been a lot of concerns lately about what’s fair and whatnot, so we can spell out the requirements for competition without having to exclude people that just want to make something with us.

  4. madk says:

    I like this idea a lot, and I am all for it. I’d like to see competitions stay thrice-yearly, but there could be a Jam every month or two.

  5. Kimau says:

    As madk says I would love a compo 3 times a year but a monthly jam would be pretty awesome. Especially as the need for voting is eliminated.

    I know you’ve already asked for a web designer but I think a KEY factor to making this work is refitting the website to handle large amounts of submissions and authors at once. The blog format is just not suited to the large amount of content. It feels like things are lost.

  6. I’m all for it, myself. This satisfies both sides of the camp.

  7. allen says:

    This is a brilliant idea, I hope it works out well!

  8. xhunterko says:

    I have a question about this rule:

    “Premade engines, libraries, basecode, and game makers are allowed. Ludum Dare is about creating games, not about writing A* for the 8th time. If you want to start from scratch, great. Lots of people start from python + pygame, or just with DirectX. But other people prefer to start with a higher grade engine, and that’s OK. What’s not allowed are libraries that other people don’t have a reasonable chance to be able to use. If you had to sign a NDA to get it, it’s probably not allowed. This is to strike a level playing field for everyone.”

    I’m just curious if that’s still case. Here’s my reasoning. I took libraries and basecode, and game makers to mean a few things. For this LD, I thought, well, since basecode and game makers are allowed, I thought I’d use MMF2. Now, for mmf2 we have project files that act as basic “code” sets. Engines, more or less. For instance, I had this old version of knytt that had a minigame with spaceship that acted like a jet pack. (Since, I didn’t want to do a platformer, a jet pack sounded uinique.) So I thought, okay, I can use that since it’s a code engine for a game maker, it’s allowed. I just need to create everything else from scracth. (Why you didn’t allow game makers before is a silly notion to me but that’s for another discussion.) The reason the game failed to finish in time was that I didn’t understand what the code meant after doing all the graphics.

    So, about libraries. The Flixel api is a library I’m guessing. And if I wanted to use flash, I would have to program with flixel. (Using mappy to create the tile maps.) Since I’m still new to flixel, I wouldn’t know how to make any suitable game mechanics at all. So I thought, okay, libraries and engines are allowed, so just make a bare skeleton of most some game classics/genres and then tweak those for the next compo. That way, I’d have a knowledge of how to do things plus a slight head start other then what I did this time. So, am I still doing things the right way here? According to this rule, sure! According to this post…I dunno?

    • PoV says:

      Lets put it this way. Would doing what you suggest make you feel like you’re cheating? We do operate on the honor system, and middleware tends to be suited only to certain styles of games. It’s up to you what you want to get from the competition. If you want practice skinning an engine for whatever theme comes up, all the power to you. If you want to explore a new idea, perhaps using a style of game as a basis, then there’s that too. We want everybody to create something that benefits them. Either through the practice of just making more games, or coming up with concepts or designs they can take above and beyond the competition. To the IGF, other game festivals, or to Steam and the App Store.

      I’ll add a note to our todo list, to try and clarify the middleware, engines, libraries and basecode situation.

      We used to have a ruling “no game logic”, but that didn’t seem appropriate anymore with the introduction of more and more middleware in to the competition, physics especially.

      • xhunterko says:

        “Would doing what you suggest make you feel like you’re cheating?”

        No it honestly didn’t. Because the rule said it was okay.

        And, unless the rule is changed, what I’m trying to do with flixel is okay too.

        What made me not feel okay, is thinking, “hmm, i don’t know what to do with this now…mebe if I find an example and download it. NO, That’s cheating!” So I stuck with what I had and tried to work something from it. Because, had I downloaded something else, and used it, then that’d feel like cheating. Using a base code and tweaking it to make something new out of it? Nope, not a bit.

        Slightly off topic, how often are Ludum Dare’s held? (not counting the mini ones)

    • TenjouUtena says:

      Here’s some more thoughts:

      It’s very very hard to distinguish between what is an ‘Game Maker’, ‘Engine’, ‘Framework’, and raw code. Is Unity 3D a game-maker or an Engine? What about UDK? Is XNA an Engine or a Framework? What criteria do we use to decide? If you use GLUT or D3DX, does anyone care that you’re using a next level up from OpenGL or D3D? Who’s going to have time to evaluate everything everyone wants to use? Even if different levels of competition are established, someone still needs to decide what goes where. We might be big enough to only compete within our own toolkit, but the stratification gets obscene. (Is GLUT in with just GL calls? etc.)

      Once we allow things like GameMaker and Unity, is it really fair to disallow ODE or libtocd, just because they aren’t a native language feature? 72HGDC tried to do this, where you could use a game maker, OR an framework, but no Engine; and it was always pretty confusing.

      Once all these pro and semi-pro tools are allowed, is it fair to disallow people who like to use the code library they’ve already get established?

      Honestly, I think this whole logic can be used for Sound and Graphics tools as well. We allow things like drum-kit samples and fonts out of practicality. What’s really the difference between using a game maker / engine where the programming is (mostly) done for you, and using pre-made art assets where the art is (mostly) done for you?

  9. KavuDX says:

    I liked the idea, but I don’t think we need it so badly now…
    95% of the people did create everything from scratch so, I think the most important aspect should be the definitions of what is “your creation”.

    I mean, using pre made textures, or default graphics from an engine, and etc for graphics are ok?
    And in the sound department, can you record music that you did played, but did not compose? That would be a problem even to FX, as a “coin grabbing” FX is widely used, even if it’s not copied from game to game…

    • Osgeld says:

      I dunno if defaults are cool or not, at first I was thinking HELL NO! why should you get the benifit of premade stuff when …. i just click a few filters in the gimp or genetica and move on


    • thedaian says:

      I think it’s the perfect time to do this. The community has gotten big enough to support what is essentially two different events at once, and the rules can be better defined to remove any questions about what is and isn’t allowed.

      With a strict set of official rules, and a separate ‘rules free’ event, it lets people ‘compete’ without worrying about ‘cheaters’, and it lets people who just want to make something in a weekend do that with a community to back them.

      Plus, a ‘rules free’ event means that people will stop bitching about someone breaking the rules.

  10. jovoc says:

    Great solution! I love it!

  11. Perrin says:

    This sounds really good. I love Ludum Dare but am not so interested in competing, just want to make the game.

  12. brandoncash says:

    I quite like the idea of two concurrent events! A lot of people, myself included, are more interested in creating something for others to look at than to just try and win a competition.

  13. One thing I like about the Jam idea is the relaxed time limit. One of the reasons I have yet to complete a Ludum Dare is because other events seem to often coincide with the Ludum Dare weekend, robbing me of precious time! Saturday of the last LD, for example, I wasn’t able to get any game development done. Being able to take an extra day to wrap things up will certainly help a lot!

    Then again, if I actually take the time to put together some base code instead of rewriting everything from scratch every time will also help a lot (how many time have I rewritten animation and tilemap code?). My laziness makes more work for me later :(.

    • PoV says:

      Being able to take an extra day to wrap things up will certainly help a lot!

      I’m a fan of the idea too. We get so many posts near the end of people dropping out because they need just a few more hours to tidy things up. Perhaps they’re falling asleep, the kids suddenly demand attention at a bad time, etc. It’s a way those first 2 days of effort aren’t wasted. The backup plan. “I need just a little more time… urgh! I’m so close! Okay, lets Jam it instead!”

  14. bluescrn says:

    I like the Jam idea. For me, LD has always been more of an ‘event’ than a ‘competition’. It’s been becoming increasingly hard to judge LD entries fairly, given the increasingly wide variety of tools/tech/basecode involved – particularly since Unity became popular. (And rating 200+ games is near-impossible for someone with a full-time job!)

    The Jam would work well for wannabe-teams, anyone with their own engine, or existing assets. And could mean less drop-outs

    What about themes? – It’d be probably best if a theme for the Jam was announced around 12hrs earlier (so UK/European LD-ers could start jamming on Friday night) – but that would mean the compo and jam themes would have to be different…

    I’m not sure about what should become of the compo rules, though. I think Unity has made things a fair bit more complex. A lot of people like it, so banning it may prove to be unpopular. But maybe the compo should ‘go hardcore’ – a limited set of languages (Python, C/C++, C#, Java) and ‘middleware whitelist’ (mostly image loaders and sound libs), and no base code. Maybe some standardized ‘LD basecode’ for each language?

    LD48-Hardcore – More like classic LD, stricter rules, more competitive

    LD48-Jam, relaxed free-for-all game-making in about 48hrs. Entries can be submitted and rated, but no ‘winners’ announced

  15. bluescrn says:

    The other question on the competition… what exactly is the LD48 competition

    1) A game development competition (production values > originality/use-of-theme)


    2) A game design competition (originality/good-use-of-theme wins)

    It used to feel more like 1, but seems more like 2 these days?

    • Codexus says:

      For me it’s simply a challenge to do the best I can do in 48 hours. So yes, production value is very important but if my game isn’t fun to play then I’ve failed in that area. Originality is nice but it’s useless if the game production is bad and the game isn’t fun to play.

  16. Codexus says:

    I’m not sure I really like the concept. If the rules of the competition part become more strict, I’m not sure I want to go back to the hardcore programming days of doing everything from scratch. But if I join the Jam, then I’ll lose the possibility of someday making a great game and winning this thing (hey, one can dream 😉 ).

    But then if the Jam has no rules, I might as well just choose a week-end to make a game on my own. There is no longer a strong sense of participation like with the main LD.

    Overall I feel, that this is more like a disguised way to go back to old style of LD while providing a less satisfying alternative for those who won’t do that.

    • Jpfed says:

      If you want to win, you have to have competition, but to have meaningful competition, you have to have fairness. The post itself wasn’t super-explicit about what that fairness entailed except that in the future the rules would be more clear and explicit. There is still an ongoing conversation about what “all content created during the competition” means, and it’s highly unlikely that it will mean “don’t use openGL; poke into video memory to set pixels manually”.

      As a sort of pie-in-the-sky thought, it’s conceivable that video game contests could have “weight classes” in the manner of wrestling/boxing/etc. where different middleware was allowed for different weight classes, but that does add layers of administrative effort. PoV’s suggestion in this post kind of looks like a tentative step in that direction, but without having admins spend too much effort figuring out whether various kinds of heavyweight middleware offer more advantage than others.

      • Codexus says:

        Yeah, I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the rules for the compo are going to be.

        All the great entries using Unity convinced me to use it. I haven’t really invested much time in learning how to use it yet (I’ve only used it during this compo and the previous one) but I’d like to. If it gets banned from the compo I’d be very disappointed.

        • Hamumu says:

          The rules are (I believe) what you are used to, not stricter. They’re just more explicit, and backed by actual ‘disqualification’ instead of “eh, whatever”. Disqualification means “moving your game into the jam”. I made a draft of proposed rules (the main gist is to condense them down to a few short, giant print, rules, with fine print for the details that is hidden by default because you don’t really need it). I would share it, but I don’t know if I am allowed. But anyway, it says the same stuff you old-timers know the rules to be, it’s just clear about them. Unity is legal (it says that in the fine print!).

  17. geti says:

    This is exactly what I wanted to happen 😀
    Be nice to have monthly jams too, to give us something to do in the gap, but yeah, awesome. Very much looking forward to the next one.

  18. nitram_cero says:

    Great initiative!
    I love the idea of double uploads (one strict and other not)

  19. jolle says:

    Is there a strong reason not to have voting in the Jam category? Not even some simplified rating?

    • Diet Chugg says:

      My guess is people are still allowed to comment but not judge. As for why no judging could easily be because these games could keep getting changed over and over as they are online? not sure really myself

    • PoV says:

      Is there a strong reason not to have voting in the Jam category? Not even some simplified rating?

      We’d rather not over-promise and under-deliver.

  20. DrPetter says:

    Make sure that you add a clear message in future LD introduction to the effect of “entering the competition has a community cost associated with it” – i.e. if you feel that your entry is sub-par with no chances of placing decently, don’t enter it into the competition. I hear other compos have something similar.

    It obviously can’t be a rule, but it’s a fair code to observe. A lot of people readily admit that their game is crap, and it shouldn’t have to consume hours of collective rating unless they care about its cometitiveness.

    Perhaps there could be a self-culling process when all competition entries have been submitted, where you get to see a list of the final entries and you can voluntarily revoke yours (moving it to the Jam) if there are many of them, and you feel that yours will likely place in the bottom half. We don’t want to end up with only five final entries, but we also don’t want to vote on 150 if most of them are crummy, now that there are two bins.

    50 is probably a decent target number. That’s a lot but not a drowning mass.

    • Codexus says:

      Self evaluation is a terrible way to judge what should go into the competition as there is very little correlation between what the author thinks his entry is worth and an objective evaluation.

      Basically you’d just end up selecting entries based on the personality of the author. Arrogant jerks will still submit their crap games while interesting games made by more humble people will not get submitted.

  21. demonpants says:

    I honestly don’t see the point in limiting the time for the jam at all. Personally, I’d rather have some idea of what I want to make, work for a couple hours every day during the proceeding week, adapt things to whatever the theme happens to be, and then just work for another 6 hours or so that weekend. For me spending every single minute of a weekend coding (even if we get an extra day, we are pretty much doing that) is just not fun or possible. I am a full time game developer already, so making the next week of work sure to suck by getting no sleep and burning myself out over the weekend is not really a good idea.

    So, yeah. It’s a jam. Why not make it completely and totally informal for people like me?

    • lluudduummddaarree says:

      So you want a game development ‘event’ without time limits or rules?

      Isn’t that just plain-old creating an indie game?

  22. So you can’t use Unreal or Unity for the compo part – only the Jam part, right?
    That’s how I understand the above. Am I correct in this assumption?
    Sounds totally fair, after all “from scratch” should mean starting from an empty text file.

    • dertom says:

      >So you can’t use Unreal or Unity for the compo part – only the Jam part, right?

      No. What let you think that?

      • Sorry my mistake.

        So we CAN use middleware (Unity, Shockwave, Gamemaker, Unreal) for the main compo.

        What about home-made middleware? My understanding (and again I could be wrong) is that if I have my own game engine with three years of fulltime development put into it… I can’t use that.

        The rule being that you can use middleware that everyone has access to, but not your own internal game engines or modifications of other games you’ve made in the past. I’d love to make a game using previous work as a starting point but I don’t want to be disqualified.

        Am I right about the commercial middleware ok, homebrew middleware not ok rule?

  23. dertom says:

    >Am I right about the commercial middleware ok, homebrew middleware not ok rule?

    Yes. If you want to use your homebrew middleware you have to publish it a couple of days before the competition

    • Sounds fair. We can use homegrown game engines as long as they are available to anyone else who may want to use em. As long as 100% all gameplay, graphics and sounds are made during the 48 hours, it sounds like we can use any engine we want. Perfect!

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