DOs and DON’Ts for setting up your game

Posted by (twitter: @IcarusTyler)
December 13th, 2011 10:06 am

During the last Ludum Dare 600 games were developed. The one before that it was 380 games.

I played them all.

And after witnessing the same “setup-choices” over and over again I decided to write this assortment of DOs and DON’Ts, which will hopefully make your game more appealing to other players and judges.

These things are important. The games who are easy to start and play get more votes, plays, word-of mouth and ultimately publicity. If a game is a puzzle in itself to start, we will have to move on, so that we at least may sample more of the (probably) 600+ games available.


//Edit – Sos created a nice complementary list with more details about engine/framework-builds. Give it a look


DO make a webbuild. If that isn’t possible, a windows-standalone is fine. Mac + Linux-versions are a nice bonus, but shouldn’t be the only versions available. While mobile-versions (iOS, android, windows-phone) are nice too, installing them is (compared to the others) a hassle and only few people have the devices and/or know how to install custom apps.

DON’T require extensive framework-tools to start your game. XNA is acceptable, as many people already have it and many games are made with it. I guess JAVA is too. The same goes for “only in browser X”-games, which require me to download/install/start an unknown program. Many people will also pass over your game if it requires and installer, or a registry-update.


DO call the executable of your game something other than “LD22.exe” or “the_theme.exe”. After a while I have 20 of these on my desktop, which makes it difficult to locate a file, should I want to play again, or give a better rating. “kitten_simulator_2” will do.

DON’T hide the executable of your standalone in the_game/the_game_unzipped/binaries/system/system64/exe/1182772/localized/the_game.exe. The longer it takes to slog through your files, the higher the chance of me rage-quitting gets.

DO use an easy-to-access download-service. Dropbox is fine. Please no “wait 60 seconds, then enter undecifferable captcha, then close 3 pop-ups with forced audio”-hosting-sites.

DON’T keep me from playing the game once I started it. Hampering the start-up with more than one tutorial-screens or lengthy videos/credits is tiresome (you’re making a /game/, not a movie or a book).


DO actually end the executable when quitting. I have encountered several games which don’t “unplug” after quitting them, and still show up in the task-manager where they slow down my system.

DON’T require players to read instructions or a manual outside the game to understand it. Put vital instructions right inside it.ย  NOBODY reads readme-files, unless of course they’re called something like “WHY WOULD YOU READ THIS ANYWAY”, which might peak my interest.


DO have international-keyboard-layouts in mind. German and French keyboards have different key-locations, and when the keys don’t react people have to find find the replacement-key, and distort their fingers. Or alternatively mess around with keyboard-layouts.

Following keys are taboo (on qwerty-layout): Y Q Z. These are the major swapped ones internationally and the most used ones in games. EVERY symbol (% & * + – > | ยง # ?) has a different international location. Stay away from them. Games which have their controls on Y+Xย  <- bad.ย  Move them one key to the right on X+C however, and you just made your players from two major language-zones happy.

DON’T use the caps-lock-key in your game. Refrain from using the shift-key, as hammering it will cause a popup in windows. Everything around the landmine that is the windows-key should also be approached carefully.


DO play other games and give a vote. And don’t restrict yourself to the popular ones.

DON’T make the kitty sad.

I hope this helps :-)



25 Responses to “DOs and DON’Ts for setting up your game”

  1. RedWater\wzl says:

    >> Games which have their controls on Y+X <- bad.

    just have z and y do the same action and you should be safe anyways ๐Ÿ˜‰

    thanks for the insight though

  2. Scipio Xaos says:

    As for key problems. You could set up a options for controls to allow the user to change them. Then it’s practically universal.

  3. SusanTheCat says:

    Great Do’s and Don’ts! Thank you

  4. nickfla1 says:

    Really useful! Thanks

  5. johnfn says:

    The post is great, but I just want to say that you are my hero for voting on 600 games last time. That is mind blowing.

  6. uncade says:

    I hadn’t ever thought of the international keyboards porblems, thanks a lot!

  7. ericdpitts says:

    Great list, thanks for taking the time to put it together (and the time to play and rate 600 games last time!), you’re awesome. I won’t be able to get a web build this time, but I’m going to go that route for the next LD. And I’ll definitely keep international keyboards in mind, that had never even occurred to me before.

  8. AzP says:

    Great post! I’m GNU/Linux only, but I’ll probably find a way of doing a Windows build somehow. Feel very limiting to do a GNU/Linux-only release.
    The horrible PITA of setting of a working build-system on both Windows and GNU/Linux could probably ruin a whole day of programming, so it’s probably worth-while to do that at least a day before launch. That is permitted, right? Building framework, empty project files, etc etc?

  9. WASD on intl keyboards IS possible! There is a really nice solution for people who want to use the common w,a,s,d movement keys for their games that works on international keyboards:

    W,A,S,D = up,left,down,right


    Z,Q,S,D = up,left,down,right

    No keyboard detection required, these can both be implemented concurrently!

    See this image for details:

  10. krangGAMES says:

    I actually got bit a little while back for using a WASD format for movement in game. It was a Flash game, and for some reason its popularity exploded in Russia (I think?), or somewhere where people were using AZERTY keyboards a lot. Probably don’t need to worry about it, but something to think about it. If it’s not too difficult, including multiple formats for your controls is awesome.

    • krangGAMES says:

      Acutally, I notice now that that’s like exactly what McFunkypants said up there… o_O
      Sorry for double post, but I guess it goes to show that it DOES actually happen ๐Ÿ˜›

    • Osgeld says:

      I dont like wsad only setups, I am a lefty and always use my right hand on the arrow keys for movement and left for mouse / action keys (ya know on the side where the most keys are)

      usually when I do one of these things I do wsad AND arrow keys along with 90% of the time joypad … game controllers are trivial to implement and tween the 3 no one can really bitch about the control layout due to preference while saving you the time to put in a mapping option

  11. iforce2d says:

    wow. I had wondered if there was anyone out there who played them all – a big thankyou!!

  12. mildmojo says:

    Nice list. Definitely agree on the web builds making it much more likely that the game will get played. I’d never considered international keyboard layouts; thanks for the pointers.

    Cross-platform is definitely an admirable goal, but I understand when I see single-platform entries. I tried to get a group of friends together to play the Artemis starship bridge simulator (not a LD game), and we couldn’t come up with three Windows PCs with 3D hardware between us! Not everyone has access to a build environment on every platform, and only one of the three is freely available & downloadable if you don’t already have it.

    This is actually why I switched to HTML5/JS; many fewer headaches getting things to run cross-platform, much lower barrier to gameplay.

  13. Tourgen says:

    I was going to use WASD + Q & E for turning. Maybe I’ll map the numpad too for international people.

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