Ludum Dare 31
Theme:
Entire Game on One Screen

Judging ends in:
It’s time to Play and Rate Games!

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Tips – What I’ve Learned From Previous Jams

Posted by (twitter: @Gemfruit)
August 13th, 2012 3:31 pm

With only 11 days left until the latest jam, I’ve been going over what I’ve learned, and how I’ll be tackling this latest Ludum Dare. I’ve entered and failed to complete the last two jams, though I did get a lot done, and learned quite a bit. Here’s a few bullet points I’ve come to learn / accept.

  • As fun as it seems, do not get drunk. Unless you’re a coding guru, or a game development master, you will cripple yourself beyond belief by getting drunk. Twice now I’ve thought that a good buzz / drunk would help loosen me up and fuel some good work time, boy have a I been wrong. Staring at a computer screen trying to solve one run time error for 4 hours is not progress haha. Do yourself a favor, don’t go beyond a very light buzz, if you drink at all.
  • Snack food is a must. Eat some actual decent meals when real hunger comes on, but always have some snacks right at your computer. Keep cold drinks readily available as well, canned or bottled anything is great, but water is even better.
  • Keep your project simple. Do not touch polish until your entire core game is done. If you fail to follow this rule, you’ll likely find yourself without any time left, and only a few cool eye candy screen shots to show.  Develop the core of your game in it’s entirety, add polish if time permits.
  • Take actual breaks. Leaving your computer for a few hours will make every hour you go back to your computer afterwards much more productive. Play some games, get some exercise, just do something that isn’t your project. Ideas will come to you while you’re away, and you’ll prevent yourself from getting entirely burnt out.
  • SLEEP, it’s your friend.  You might think time is limited, and that you absolutely have to stay up, but you’re wrong. If you try pushing yourself to go 48 hours on energy drinks and wings (an excellent meal, no doubt about it), you will crash after 24-32 hours, if not sooner. Go to sleep at a normal hour on day 1, then push to stay up until the deadline on day two. This makes you actually effective during the majority of the jam, and only slightly tired at the very end, which is generally thwarted by excitement.
  • Make a playlist or two ahead of time. Listening to music while you work does absolute wonders for your productivity. For me, it helps keep me focused, and often drives visual ideas of the game world that would otherwise not exist. If you don’t feel like having a playlist made already, pick some stations on Pandora you’d like to use, as any time searching for what you want later, is time wasted.

So those are my tips to you. I may not have successfully completed any of these jams yet, but I’m sure as hell capable of analyzing where I’ve failed, and the above is sure to counteract doing so this time. Hope to see you all around when things get going, until then, happy prepping.


4 Responses to “Tips – What I’ve Learned From Previous Jams”

  1. Zanzlanz says:

    Pretty legit tips! Even though these tips look simple, I just know a lot of people will forget about them when they’re actually in the dare.

    You should tag this post “tips” because it’s something a lot of beginners like to search xD

    Unfortunately the dare begins at 8pm where I’m at. This means my schedule is really strange. What’s your opinion? :)

    • Porter says:

      @Zanzlanz – People will definitely forget, and even though there’s a billion lists laying around, I felt few, if any mention not to get drunk, as common sense as it may sound, so I had to spread the word after my previous experiences haha.

      As for your starting hour, Puzzlem00n has the right idea. Get your idea down, write out your mechanics, enemies, etc, and just brainstorm. Get in a couple hours of programming if your regular schedule permits (I go to bed at 4AM or later, so this would be possible for me). Don’t stay up later than you normally would, and fall asleep thinking of your idea. When you wake up, have an actual good breakfast, set up your snacks and all that jazz, and get to making the plans from the night before come to life.

  2. Puzzlem00n says:

    Ah, I’ve done the same thing recently, listing mistakes. Of course, my tips are in a much longer format… Nice job on being concise!

    @Zanzlanz: Mine starts at 9, and personally, I’m very glad it is! Here’s what you do: Spend that first night after the theme doing concepts and mind-mapping, and, if you’re eager, start coding together some basic stuff that wasn’t in your library, a.k.a. some minor stuff to support the mechanic that just popped into your head.

  3. mcc says:

    Here’s what I’ve learned:

    – Do the music early
    – Do the ending early

    …both, like, if possible on the first or second day.

    Why? Because these are the two things which are easiest to cut for lack of time, but they make a huge difference in terms of whether your game feels “complete”. It’s REALLY easy to put the music off until late, put the ending off until late, and then spend 18 hours at the beginning of the third day laboring over some detail or mechanic that in the end you realize wasn’t the most important use of your time.

    What you want to do, I think, is get a complete-if-short game together as quickly as possible– coherent start, coherent end– and then grow it “from the middle”. This way if the last 10 hours of whatever you work on is a wash, you can just ship your most recent build and it will just seem a little shorter than you expected rather than the ending being weird and cut off.

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