(Edit: this is the game I made, if you’re curious. I will be posting my own late post-mortem and list of favorites next.)
The past couple of weeks have been insane, and I got way too carried away with meeting so many people through Ludum Dare that Twitter’s system suspended my account under suspicion of my being a bot. I took this as an opportunity to step back and take a look at all that has happened.
Ludum Dare is not the only game jam, but it’s the most significant. Because of its size and reach, long history, and incredibly strong community, each Ludum Dare creates actual ripples in the game developing world.
The best examples of how awesome people are to each other in LD are the game reviews and the posts on favorites. There is a lot of effort put into encouraging people to see the qualities of their games and how to improve. No matter how unfinished the state of the game, sometimes even unplayable, the comments are always incredibly encouraging. There is always something awesome about it.
It has moved me deeply to see what a wonderful gateway into game making this is. For me, being so readily embraced even though I had never made a game and knew absolutely nobody before the competition caused something long dormant in me to awaken. I’ve learned many lessons that, if it’s not too corny, I’d say might have saved my life.
I’ve always had a lot of trouble finishing things. From the time I was very little, taking a project to its completion was nearly impossible for me. This was a source of much frustration and disappointment throughout my life.
I had spent the last three years struggling to work on a project that was going nowhere. I felt more and more like my future was folding before me, and that there was no way out. I was pretty depressed.
When I reached my lowest point, I decided I need to do a 180 in my thought process. I remembered that indie devs repeatedly said in interviews that sometimes you get sucked into making a game for ages and it makes you bitter even before you can tell if it’s a good game. That’s why you should always prototype.
I decided to really take that to heart. Ludum Dare was coming and it was the logical first step, but the problem was convincing myself that I had a shot at completing something as complex as a game, or even a prototype, without programming knowledge.
What did the trick was stumbling upon this article. I had always been suspicious of tools that allow you to develop without touching code, but the author seemed to really want to help people like me find their way. I chose to believe it and abandoned my purist, perfectionist asshole tendencies. It was the best thing I’ve ever done.
Stencyl was awesome, and the freedom from expectation gives you an unbelievable power. Maybe you’re different from me, but I have always been a perfectionist, and good was never good enough. Once good was not even part of the equation, I could get into this zone and just let my inner gamer speak, and the core game mechanics were done by the end of the first day.
The fear of not completing drove me far more than the desire to make something amazing ever did. I wanted to make a game. And I did.
When I was done, I was not very confident about it, and I thought maybe 50 people max would play it. Yet I felt incredibly happy, and incredibly satisfied that I had completed it. It was a real game, and not too bad. I could show my friends, maybe have a few comments back.
Because that was all I wanted, I was able to do it. In other words, Ludum Dare was the best medicine for my illness, my soul-crushing desire to make something too big, something that I simply could never make.
If it had been just that, it would still be amazing, and I had a boost of confidence to move on to the next project. But it didn’t stop there.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the whole experience for me was how warmly the community received me. As soon as I sent my first tweet, Zed saw it and urged people to follow me. It was my first indication that there was something special about this competition.
Thanks to so many new friends that so kindly spread the word about my game, it was able to reach and connect with literally thousands of people. It was covered on several sites (including here, here and here). I met dozens of people through Twitter and received overwhelming feedback that convinced me to improve and expand the game.
More than that, I was convinced that being able to connect with people through something you make can really come from simple, heartfelt gestures, rather than ardous long endeavors.
I don’t think this could have happened anywhere else, in any other field or event. Nobody cares where you come from or what you have done before. All that matters is that you got here.
As I see it, Ludum Dare is itself the best entry for the Tiny World theme. It’s a little synthesis of everything that is awesome about the independent game scene: a powerful sense of passion, community, originality, and love for creating beautiful things.
In this Tiny World anything is possible, everyone is welcome to press start and continues are endless.
Thank you so much.