Ludum Dare: too easy to cheat!

Posted by
December 21st, 2012 7:56 am

The Jam is the all-inclusive version of Ludum Dare where we relax the rules so newbies and teams can enjoy the experience along-side the hard-core competitors. I like that, a lot.

What I don’t like is how relaxed the 48 hour competition rules are. Now I know these suggestion might be heckled as ‘not in the spirit of the competition’, but really, with over 1,000 entries, it’s about time we tighten up the rules so serious competitors can sink their teeth into a real challenge.

Here are a list of things that bother me about the competition rules:

#1. Anyone can change their submission after-the-fact.
This is the biggest hole in the competition my friends tell me about.   It sits very uncomfortably with me too.   There should be a single submission server with a cut-off at the dead-line. This would ensure people don’t make updates after-the-fact. Even presentation upgrades after-the-fact can give an entry a big boost, so I would like to petition to remove updating the entries at all. Challenge is all part of the spirit of competition.

#2. Theme is too vague.
You could make any game with these themes and slightly modify them, or their titles, to include the theme.  This is the number 2 flaw my non-coder friends point out.   There needs to be technical and artistic limitations – more tough rules- otherwise entries could be almost completely finished before the competition even starts, minus a few theme-inspired assets.

#3. No file-size or other technical limitations.
Back in the day we had Speedhack and there was a file size limitations of 512Kb compressed. This limitation is important for many reasons. #1 it separates those who know how to code efficiently from those who use sloppy techniques.  It also makes it much harder to pre-make a massive game/game engine and plop in some theme-related content during the competition.

#4 The worst rule of them all: Base code
Base code should be strictly FORBIDDEN. Much like the last three, this one is about being able to extend your ability to work on your game before or after-the-fact. One could literally write an entire game before-hand with lots of flashy sprite animation helpers and things, then come competition time simply make new graphics and sound for the engine. This ruins the spirit of competition.

My non-coder friends hate these rule flaws. They realize that the competition means virtually nothing if people could very simply, and very obviously cheat. Making the rules more strict would add to the intensity of the competition and help solidify the status of the winners.

I also have a personal gripe with the rating system. Having competitors rate games is a great way to ball-park the greatest entries; it’s unlikely really good entries will be underneath the top 100. Having said that, the top 100 games should be properly rated and sorted by industry veterans, or at least by competition organizers. Often times entries that, to outside observers, clearly don’t belong on the leader-board make it, and even sometimes make it to #1.   Past winners made a lot of my friends, who realize that I take game competitions very seriously, very sour about Ludum Dare.  The validity of the competition is constantly being questioned when I make mention of my participation.

I remember one Ludum Dare where a celebrity competitor had to opt-out because his entry would be so unfairly rated in his favour. If we really want a competition, we should have a place for such elite celebrity competitors.

Despite the common Laissez-faire attitude most people have towards  ‘the spirit of Ludum Dare’, I feel strongly that tightening the rules and pushing things harder is important not only to making better games, but in creating a better perception from the general public. It pushes us harder, it validates what we do, and it validates the winners. Without that validation the grand prize of notoriety falls upon the apathy of the greater public audience and damages the perceived importance of the competition winners.

To rectify some of these things,  I would like to suggest some extra rules for the competition. Note that I am not speaking of the Jam, which is fine the way it is.

#1 No base code – All code and assets must be written during the competition.

#2 Announce technical and artistic limitation alongside the theme.  See The Rule-O-Matic for the very best example of this

#3 Add ‘replay value’ and remove ‘mood’ from the ratings system.   Just a personal suggestion.

#4 Add a submission server – no updates after the deadline, not even spelling mistakes or presentation fixes. It is what it is. This will require a ‘line-up’ system so the submission server doesn’t get bogged down. Perhaps checksum entries prior to upload so this system cannot be cheated.

#5 Add a file-size limitation to source code and assets of 2mb. This is for the sake of the submission server as well as to add an extra degree of difficulty to serious competitors. Obviously, this doesn’t include engine over-head like included library files needed for execution.  Back in the day, 512kb was enough!  2mb is more than enough for the efficient programmer.

#6 Pre-approved, competition certified libraries only.  This again, is to prevent pre-completed base-code. Libraries must be approved by competition organizers.

#7 Remove names from entries during rating. – Popular entrants get too much notoriety and are unfairly judged in their favour. I know a big tradition is promoting your game after-the-fact, but really we all know that popular entrants get unfairly high ratings based on past performance and celebrity status.

I know I will get flamed for these suggestions, but I feel they are important. Why? Because when I explain the competition rules to my friends who do not code, they immediately poke these very same holes in it. They dismiss the competition and don’t give it the credit it deserves. I would like to see Ludum Dare actually mean something to people outside the competition one day.  I would like to see people gain the greater recognition they deserve.   Having better rules adds to the importance of the competition,  it adds to the tension,  and it pushes us even farther. More importantly, it attracts the worlds truly elite game developers and validates their performance to the general public.    I would like to see the winners go on to become not only credited by industry brethren, but by the populace of potential general public fans, eager to know who really is the best of the best. Until the rules are tightened, I don’t see that happening.

Please discuss, and thank you.

102 Responses to “Ludum Dare: too easy to cheat!”

  1. Kharza says:

    My first (LD21) I didn’t really read the rules properly and thought it had to be all from scratch, so I started with an empty project. I had just as much fun in that one as I did in this one where I used a GIGANTO base code lib. I’m ok either way, but I think the current stuff puts the focus more on design.

    I’m already a good / quick coder, but I rarely get any practice at design / writing / music / art. That’s kind of what I’ve gotten out of the past few compos.

  2. pighead10 says:

    I really dislike a lot of your proposed rules. The file size limitation would stop any new programmers from entering, which is completely besides the point (my game was about 40mb for a few days, mainly due to uncompressed music but it was still more than your proposed 2mb).

    Also, base code is a must for Ludum Dare! It’s about creating cool games in two days, not struggling with annoying boilerplate code instead of working on that game. I wouldn’t be able to enter at all if we had the file size or base code limit (at least, my games would be a lot lower quality).

    I do agree that we need some sort of restriction for updating files afterwards – although there should be some lenience (submitting your game with a huge bug wihch crashes and not being allowed to fix it is no fun).

    • Suese says:

      This is a big problem. Everyone wants to be included in the Competition, even those most of us are not good enough for the competition. If we feel like we want to be included and are just entering to feel good about it, that is what the Jam is for.

  3. pighead10 says:

    Also, I should mention that yes, celebrities get more ratings, but they are not necessarily higher (see notch’s minicraft).

  4. DustyStylus says:

    Completely agreed about ‘mood’ category. Most of the time I have no idea what to put for this (I’d be interested to see, in fact, whether the average for ‘mood’ across LD ratings is the closest to 3.0 compared to the other ratings). I’m not sure what is said about ‘mood’ that isn’t covered by a combination of ‘graphics’ and ‘audio’.

    ‘replay value’ sounds like a good alternative.

  5. ZwodahS says:

    To be honest, I thought about these before and I really feel that it is a problem but wait, I don’t remember LD having prize so there is really no point in cheating.

    I feel that LD is more of a “reason” for you to actually finish a game if you didn’t.
    I just started game development recently and LD kind of make me finish my first game and I am really glad that I participated.

  6. RHY3756547 says:

    “2mb is more than enough for the efficient programmer.”

    Not for a musician or artist.

    • Suese says:

      This is not an artists competition either. It’s a game developer competition. There should be rules that make it difficult for artists and programmers alike. If one is not your strong suite, then well.. you’re no the best. If one isn’t concerned about being competitive they should try the all-inclusive Jam instead of the more serious competition.

  7. DustyStylus says:

    Also agree with pighead10:

    “Also, base code is a must for Ludum Dare! It’s about creating cool games in two days, not struggling with annoying boilerplate code instead of working on that game.”

    In fact, large sections of Unity and LWJGL could be seen as base code. i.e., Vector/Quaternion math code, there’s really only a few ways to do these things efficiently and time should be spent making a good game imho, rather than attempting to impress on a purely elaborate code level as though it were some 4k demoscene project.

    • Suese says:

      The no base code rule has been an important factor in every past competition I’ve been in. It prevents people from pre-making a game and just changing the assets, as outlined in the article. Just because some people are not quick and talented enough, doesn’t mean we need to include them in the competition portion. We should include those people in the JAM, as that was the reason the Jam was started.

      • Spiridios says:

        Once you say “no base-code” then you must say “this is the only technology you are allowed to use”. Because Unity is base-code. Gamemaker is base-code. PyGame is base-code. XNA is base-code. The C runtime library is base-code. Unless you’re working in straight up machine code, you by definition have code that is already written giving you an “unfair” advantage over someone who uses a technology that doesn’t have that particular base-code. Why is Unity’s professionally written base-code OK to use, but my cobbled together library of vector math routines forbidden? We have to declare our base-code anyhow, if you think what I started with has too much game, bring it up on my entry’s comments.

        You yourself said you came from C++ competitions, and that’s the problem – you’re trying to apply rules from a much more limited competition to a more general competition. If I chose to use Assembly for a C++ compo, I’d be at a disadvantage but I’d also be disqualified because it wasn’t a competition for Assembly code. LD doesn’t care the technology you use, it cares about the results. LD is the 48 hour game making competition, not the 48 hour Unity programming competition, and personally, I’d like to keep it that way.

  8. Dracir says:

    I understand your points but not in this context.

    I always though of ludum dare as a oportunity to force yourseft to make a quick game. That’s it. It’s not a competition, it’s an event where you come to make game. Making the game is the price. Therefore, the rules are not important.

    I could understand the need for a real gaming competition. What about the global game jam? Isn’t there a lot more exemple of strict competition like the ones you would like.

    Why would your “non-coder” friend not like the rules? They are made so he can be here without the need of 10 years of game industry experience.

    • Suese says:

      It is a competition, though. The Jam is the feel-good inclusive portion of the event. The competition should be serious and the general public should be able to take it seriously. A big problem is that we as developers are absorbed by the community and the conventions, it’s hard for us to see the importance of what outsiders might think. If chess championships allowed us to sort of bend the rules, we’d never know who the best chess players on the planet were. So it is with Ludum Dare. It doesn’t really give us a true perspective on ‘the best’, it just gives us a good feeling, and I implore that this is NOT enough.

  9. rxi says:

    > Base code should be strictly FORBIDDEN

    This is laughable, it’s a joke. I happily use base code in my entries, but also chose to write my entries in C. I’m confident even with my base code which provides functionality for blitting pixel buffers, or an implementation of a dynamic array, I still have significantly less pre-made functionality than what flash (which you seem to use in your entries) provides.

    I could understand (though obviously not agree with) someone who had written their game as a NES rom in assembly not wanting people to use base code, but coming from someone who used flash, this is a joke.

    In my opinion the winners always seem justified, it doesn’t feel as if anyone is cheating. This entire post just feels like you’re making up excuses and aren’t willing to accept that perhaps the people who win just made a better game than you.

    • Suese says:

      It’s not a joke at all, I just think some people aren’t good enough and it makes them mad I would suggest that they are not good enough to compete yet, that standards they are having trouble meeting now should be increased to dis-include them.. I made everything except 50% of the TIA chip emulation portion of my entry in 48 hours including a random city generator, That included a sound sequencer, all of the sprite/animation code (which people tend to call ‘boilerplate’), I even added features I did not use. I’ve been conditioned to NOT use base code at all in a C/C++ environment. I think it’s just one of those things that, although it might not ‘ruin’ the competition, it prevents it from reaching its full potential.

      • Sam Driver says:

        I don’t mean to be rude, but you’re wrong. I took a look at your source code and you’re using the Flash API for masses of stuff. Your entry (along with mine, and almost everyone else’s) is extremely far from being “from scratch”.

        The following pre-existing functionality is used in your entry:
        * Decoding PNGs
        * Garbage collected memory management
        * Text rendering
        * Bitmap blitting
        * Image composition with alpha blending – to get your text displayed
        * Image filter system – you specified parameters for the convultion filter, but didn’t create the mechanism by which it operates
        * Cross platform keyboard input handling
        * Cross platform graphical output
        * Cross platform sound output – your TIA emulator decides what sound is played, but the task of getting that to function on virtually any machine is handled by Adobe
        * Your TIA emulator appears to be a port of someone else’s code, which I don’t think would fly in your idea of a strict compo.

        Is it fair that your entry be put up against someone that started with just a C++ compiler and a blank text document? Any one of those features would be a good weekend’s work.

        The more I read your responses to this comment thread, the more I think you’re trolling. Have fun!

  10. Codexus says:

    The compo has some rules which are not always followed. This is unfair to those who do follow the rules but Ludum Dare works on the honor system and most “cheating” is due to ignorance rather than malice. We should make an effort to make sure people understand the rules. I think it would help a lot.

    Since this is a friendly competition held over the internet we can never guarantee that it will be fair and that nobody will bend the rules. You’d need a controlled environment for that: a physical location, wiped clean machines, no internet access, etc. This is one of the reason that we have no prizes and are opposed to the idea of having prizes.

    As for base code it’s there to make it more fair for people who don’t use a sophisticated engine. I rarely use base code and when I do it’s pretty minimalistic even when I do the jam. This is mostly because I’m too lazy to actually prepare and release base code in advance. But if I don’t do it and others do, whose fault is that?

    Overall you seem to want a very different type of competition than what we have been doing for 10 years (yes we used to have slightly stricter rules but this goes beyond that). It would exclude certain type of games and exclude people whose skills and interests don’t match that requirement.

    As for determining who is the “best”, making games is way too subjective for that to be possible. It would be a particular idea of what is best, and if people try to match that then we’re simply losing creativity and diversity to focus on one particular ideal. I’d rather people keep making the games they want to make than try to go for best score.

  11. ratking says:

    Uhm, this is a game making contest. The end result should be games.

    It is NOT a coding contest. Size restrictions bah, no base code bah.

    The rest is solved by the (working) honesty system.

  12. pansty says:

    No, just no.
    Your suggestions means “no fun allowed”, but LD it’s all about fun.

    • Suese says:

      Competition is fun, especially when you are good at it. If you just want to feel-good, perhaps you should try the Jam instead of the Competition. It is called a ‘competition’ after all.

  13. Gemberkoekje says:

    I’ve checked out 40-ish games, and while I can’t prove that they haven’t been altered after the 48 hours, the only things I found dodgy was some art assets which may be copied or were at least very close to some original source (Pacman comes to mind)

    As a ‘pure’ coder, I’ve been advocating for stricter rules on what to use before. I am, basically, against any form of middleware such as game maker, unity or flash.

    But, let’s assume we eliminate all middleware. 3/4 of all people wouldn’t be able to join, because they can’t do, or aren’t interested in, some hard-core coding language. That’d be a major shame.

    Let’s assume, now, that your ideas are put into action. This disqualifies 99 out of 100 of the LD entries, including mine because I’m using a simple graphics library CinderLib, and I’ve used Box2D for the physics in my current engine.

    Of course, you are quite entitled to your opinion, and you could make your own competition website and servers if you really want to put this through. Hell, I might even make an effort trying.

    I should end with a quote. “To create an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.”

  14. Sam Driver says:

    I’ve never thought of “winning” ludum dare in the sense of scoring higher than other people in ratings. Winning is getting your game done in time, and is very much a personal accomplishment. Only you really know how much pride you should have in your own work, and attempting to capture and measure that through external metrics is always going to fail.

    It seems to me you’re approaching ludum dare as a programmer-centric exercise, when it is much more diverse. One of my favourite entries so far (very, very far from playing them all) was made in Twine, an IF creation tool which involves quite little programming. I think it would be a great loss to ludum dare if the many entries made using tools, let alone pre-existing framework code were lost.

    You’re right that it’s impossible to fairly compare games made from such different starting points. If you’re starting from scratch, making raw OpenGL calls (and certainly not using SDL to handle window management or input) then ending the 48 hours with the ability to walk around a textured level (made in a map editor of your own creation) is a great achievement. But it’s a matter of half an hour’s work in Unity. Which is why – so far as I can tell – no one is terribly concerned by who “wins” at the end of voting.

    There’s a place for “write a game starting with a blank text file and a compiler” competitions, but I don’t think ludum dare is it. The rules are loose because the competition is about getting a game made in whatever form you prefer, not about doing it better than your neighbour. Incidentally I wouldn’t have much interest in entering a start-from-scratch version of ludum dare: I put together my framework so I wouldn’t have to keep rewriting boring memory management stuff; the thought of recreating half of it isn’t appealing.

    • deathray says:

      What if there was just a way to set your game as “no libs”, or “extreme 48” – a subset of the normal 48 compo?. Nothing would change except people who were interested in this could easily filter only those games to test out, and could see ratings for only those games.

      • Suese says:

        We already have a Jam for people that want an easier, more inclusive LD. Wasn’t that the point on starting the jam?

        • Sam Driver says:

          My understanding is the Jam was made primarily so that people could enter work created as part of a small team. It then also became something of an overflow reservoir for people who “bent” rules or who needed some extra time to get their game finished.

  15. deathray says:

    What we really need is a system to anonymously flag entries as rule-breaking, and leave a comment why. I don’t think this should effect ratings, but should be used so that people can be informed of the rules without any bad feelings from it. Maybe if enough people flag an entry as rule-breaking, it just gets moved to the Jam category. That would seem fair.

    Regarding your complaints…
    1 – entries that are hosted elsewhere can still be changed after the fact if people really want to cheat. They would need to be uploaded and hosted by, which I assume would be costly.
    2 – I don’t mind the vague theme because it means that all the games aren’t identical. There’s also the theme rating category, so you can just vote-down any bad implementations of the theme.
    3 – As others have said, file size restrictions would just limit good art and sounds. I don’t think file size is a big concern for people these days.
    4 – This one is a tricky situation. I don’t mind that people use some existing base code, because re-writing boring code seems like a waste, but I don’t like when I see tons of people using code they didn’t announce at the beginning. Maybe just remove the rule that people need to Pre-announce the libraries they will use, and instead absolutely require that they give the libraries when they submit the game. Or, like your idea #6, I think it would be good to have Pre-approved libraries. But who would look through hundreds of libraries?

    I totally agree that Replay is a great rating category!

  16. sorceress says:

    #1 No base code

    Have you really thought this through? Some languages are more powerful than others, in terms of what inbuilt functionality they provide. The purpose of base code (imo) is to balance this difference, to make all languages realistic options.

    #2 Announce technical and artistic limitation alongside the theme.

    Ludum dare is not only for expert coders. It’s meant to be accessible to beginners as well. These restrictions would make the contest much less accessible.

    #3 Add ‘replay value’ and remove ‘mood’ from the ratings system.

    I also think the judging categories could be improved. I like the way games were rated in the (g)olden days, with four core categories: graphics, sound, gameplay, and lasting appeal. I think your ‘replay value’ category is essentially the same as the lasting appeal category.

    The mood and humor categories attempt to gauge emotional content, and the “feel” of the game, which I believe is a good thing. Although I’m not convinced that mood and humor scores the best way of measuring this emotional content. So I somewhat agree with you there.

    #4 Add a submission server – no updates after the deadline,

    I fear this would do more harm than good. In a perfect world, software would always work straight out of the box, but we all know this is not the case. With no way to update a project, a missing dll could mean that a game could never be played, and a person’s weekend will have been wasted. That would be cruel.

    #5 Add a file-size limitation to source code and assets of 2mb.

    I fear this would make the contest too programmer-centric. You would exclude those who compose music (mp3), or draw high definition artwork. 2mb is not very much these days. 20mb is perhaps a more realistic limit, if a limit is enforced at all.

    #6 Pre-approved, competition certified libraries only.

    It’s a possibility, but to level the playing field I think it would be far more effective to describe in detail what level of functionality (base code/framework functions) people can start with.

    #7 Remove names from entries during rating.

    I’m sure the author of many games could be recognised from their style. Also livestreaming would become impossible. Writing blog posts showing our progress would become impossible. Without those, I fear the whole event would become a miserable thing.

    • Suese says:

      Presentation is one of the most important aspect to a game. If you missed the DLL or something ‘stupid’ like a spelling mistake, I say let the cards fall where they may. It’s the entrants fault for rushing their entry at the end.

  17. Beerman says:

    There’s one big gaping whole in your entire premise though – what exactly is there to gain by “cheating”?
    All I can see your proposed changes doing is creating a MASSIVE amount of work for the organisers* while simultaneously sucking every last ounce of fun out of the whole event.

    Seriously dude, it doesn’t sound like you actually like anything about LD at all. Why not just go start your own super-special hardcore compo? With blackjack! And hookers!

    *A custom server to host and verify all the entries? “Approved” libraries? Who exactly are you expecting to write the software? Pay for the hosting? Actually police all this?

    • Per says:

      forget the blackjack
      … and the compo

      • Suese says:

        I understand that mentality, though I come from a tradition of C++ game programming competitions where things were much more strict, and no base-code was allowed. I just really feel that anyone who isn’t capable of coding everything from scratch in 48 hours (much like myself), should be in the Jam and not the competition.

    • Suese says:

      It would be much easier to ‘police’ the results if there were far fewer of them. I would have no problem playing and rating the 25 or so entries that make it through.

      Really the jam should be open whether you declare an ‘I’m in” or not. Basically I could see the jam being a fail-safe for people who wanted to be in the competition, failed, but still want to finish their game. Kind of like an extra ‘horrah’ for those with the fighting spirit to continue.

  18. lotusgame says:

    if nothing is allowed, no reason for doing this contest.
    i think most people are honest in this ludum dare from what i see.
    all about fun no ? :)

  19. Suese says:

    The inclusive attidue should be left to the Jam, not the Competition. The competition should be a competition, and it should absolutely gain the respect of people who are looking for the best of the best.

    • ratking says:

      I guess the Ludum Dare just isn’t for you? Not wanting to sound arrogant, but perhaps you might want to start your own jam? I’d be happy to join if I can.

      • Suese says:

        I have tried to run a black-box style competition in the past, with a grand-prize of $2,500 to boot. It’s true. My ideal of the absolutely most difficult most strict competition is a hard sell on people. It’s hard to gain a lot of interest when only the top 1% of coders have any chance of competing. I would truly love to find and honour the best of the best.

        • ratking says:

          Yeah, you failed before and yet you want to change LD completely. Let me tell you again, LD just isn’t what you search for, and you should either accept that or move on, really. The happier you will be.

          And this really isn’t about “coders” only. If it were, I would leave instantly.

  20. Suese says:

    Just gotta take a look at the Speedhack.

    It worked great and there was NO possibility of starting early.

    I think lots of people’s reservations about making the rules more strict would also be things that would entice the general public to give the competition more credit.

  21. Suese says:

    Also may I note that I feel awefully attacked and flamed for making suggestions in this so-called ‘inclusive community’. I feel like defying convention is a taboo that hurts the spirit of competition. There is nothing bad or evil or wrong about competition and wanting to make things more competitive.

    • Codexus says:

      Oh, come on! You expressed your ideas, we read them, considered them and replied with our own ideas on the topic. The vast majority of the reactions so far is strongly against them. This isn’t a personal attack, it’s just that the majority doesn’t agree with you.

      You’re free to think your ideas are the best, that doesn’t mean we’re going to change Ludum Dare for you.

  22. Suese says:

    Also, I realize most people are ‘honest’, but the mere fact that cheating is so easy quickly turns off the general public. That’s the main point of the post.

  23. Thotor says:

    There is no point in having any coding rules or restrictions. That’s not what the Ludum Dare is about.
    Cheating gives you nothing.

    While I always make my games from scratch (I like that challenge), you cannot force people to do so. If you take unity, you pretty much have everything ready with the IDE.
    It is up to everyone to decide what they want to do.

    I do agree however that the voting need some restriction like disabling the ability to choose on which game to vote. You should be presented with the game with the least rating and with the option to either pass or rate it.
    This would avoid the celebrities issue (they do no get higher ratings but a lot more vote are done on their which can be unfair to others.)

    • Suese says:

      Actually what you say is partially true. At 8bit mush we used to find that the absolute best entries that had been around the longest got 4 out of 5 star ratings, while new entries were more prone to hit the top spot. It’s definitely a tricky issue I think could only be truly sorted out by having a small panel of final judges. The votes of the generic public are just too sporadic and unbased in logic to make final decisions based on. Great for ball-parking it, not so great for getting it 100% right. Though that’s an anti-democracy discussion all on it’s own..

  24. 7Soul says:

    Now we’re gonna have some SERIOUS fun

  25. JaJ says:

    I mainly agree with the “this is not a coding competition” sentiment expressed somewhere above. Coding everything from scratch is unnecesary in a game making competition when you can use Unity, Gamemaker, etc.

    Ludum dare to me is mainly setting a challenge for yourself. If you want to code everything from scratch that is entirely possible and people will be impressed if you can pull it off, but I don’t see turning the main competition into a coding competition as an improvement.

    The rules could be made stricter, but personally I trust people who enter to follow them.

  26. pythong says:

    as many before have said – who cares abot ‘winning’? the point here should be that you managed to create a game – and that you get a lot of constructive critisism to it, which is very valuable

    • Suese says:

      I care about winners and losers, and so does the general public, which is one of the main points of the article.

      • adventureloop says:

        In the comments here you keep rabbiting on about the general public. Especially how the competition comes across to them. Who the hell cares what they think. Ludum Dare is for those who take part. That is the only set of people that are considered. Noticed that you can only vote if you submitted a game to the competition or the jam? I feel you need to read the teachings of the usenet oracle.

  27. Atomic says:

    I haven’t read the other comments, just OP.
    I wholeheartedly agree with #1 – IMHO a deadline is a deadline.

    But if any of your other suggestions are implemented I’ll never participate again, period.

    This isn’t a programming compo (there are ratings for graphics and audio, none for programming) and I say this knowing that code is what i do best. Add a technical rating, if anything.

    As far as base code goes – everyone is using some base code: OpenGL, GDI32, the JS interpreter on the browser. It’s really just a question that a line has to be drawn somewhere.

    Could comment on the rest but for now this is fine.

    • Suese says:

      Again, my suggestions would make Ludum Dare more elite. I realize most of you would NOT be able to compete. I think most people who did compete are not good enough for the competition and should be part of the Jam instead. That is why we made the Jam, because LD48 was too hard. With over 1,000 entries it’s time to tighten things up, make it harder, and give those truly elite developers their chance to shine.

      • Atomic says:

        Not able to compete? If that was directed at me please take a look at my entry. It’s 18KB, runs on 8KB of RAM on a 16MHz processor. I submitted it to the jam even though I finished alone under 48h – the point of the jam is being more flexible (there’s nothing “worse” or “easy” about it).

        If you’re that good and competitive I honestly don’t know what you’re doing here. You sohuld be making a lot of cash on Steam or something.

  28. jacobalbano says:

    #1 No base code
    I 100% disagree. I generally start off game jams with Flashpunk and my open-source library for live asset reloading. By the definition given, both of those would be disallowed. That’s nonsense.

    #2 Announce technical and artistic limitation alongside the theme
    I’m not even sure how to approach this one for discussion. What problem does it solve?

    #3 Add ‘replay value’ and remove ‘mood’ from the ratings system
    I actually do agree with this somewhat. I’m never sure what “mood” actually means.

    #4 Add a submission server – no updates after the deadline
    In addition to the hosting costs this would incur, this would also exclude people that host their games on Kongregate, Newgrounds, etc.

    #5 Add a file-size limitation to source code and assets of 2mb
    Come on now. This is just unreasonable. It might be a reasonable size for retro-style games with low-fi graphics and audio, but for anything else it’s absurdly low.

    To be fair, I realize that this rule goes hand-in-hand with the suggestion of the submission server. If there were such a server, a limit of some kind would be necessary.

    #6 Pre-approved, competition certified libraries only
    My thoughts on the base code restriction apply here too.

    #7 Remove names from entries during rating
    I don’t really feel like this is too much of a problem. The last game Notch made for Ludum Dare was Minicraft, and the highest he scored was 49.

    No offense meant to you or your friends, but I feel like basing the rules for a game creation competition on the opinions of people who don’t make games is completely backwards.

    • Suese says:

      I feel absolutely the opposite. What we as game developers feel as we are all absorbed in the conventions of the community is, often times blinded by emotions and feel-good philosophies that get more people included. I feel this inclusive attitude should be relegated to the Jam and not the competition. The competition should be a blood-bath.

  29. Suese says:

    After-all, why do we call it a ‘competition’, if it’s not competitive? Jam vs Competition. Jam is great and inclusive. Competition should be fierce and difficult.

  30. Sos says:

    I really like Speedhack and it’s limitations, but it is dead, so your arguments might be invalid :)

    Ludum Dare has a tradition of imposing self-control. It is up to you to decide if you want to be a shameful cheater or a competetive rival. There have never been any issues with cheating or rule breaking so far.

    From what I see people that vote on most games have far more ratings than popular figures and the coolness system is working properly, you should not worry about that.

    So yeah, your ideas are cool, but let LD be LD and SH be SH and don’t forget TINS.

    Can I have Retrocard? 😉

  31. netmute says:

    I strongly disagree with this post. Ludum Dare is good the way it is. It’s motivating and fun.
    If Ludum Dare is not hardcore enough for you, then maybe this event just isn’t for you?

  32. Suese says:

    After working in many democracy-driven internet communities over the years, I’ve come to a shocking conclusion: Democracy does not work. Even when people are honest about voting, the democratic conclusion is almost always wrong. We could have a poll asking if people think 2+2=5 or 2+2=4, if people answer 5 it doesn’t make 5 the correct answer. Yet often times I find myself appalled by how illogical, emotional, irrational the conventions of these democratic communities are.

    At the end of the day, why do we call it a ‘competition’ if competitive spirit is such a taboo to everyone here? Based on everyone’s emotions, it seems we should call it ‘Ludum Dare 48 hour Jam’, because using the word ‘COMPETITION’ suggests that this event is COMPETITIVE.

    • ratking says:

      What? It’s not a wrong-false-answer like “2 + 2”. It’s just how LD is, and trying to change it completely just to bathe in some elitism will always be opposed, in any community.

      And it’s a COMPETITION because people can vote on different categories and the voting system works, as proven by previous events.

    • bach says:

      I think the only thing the emotional responses show is that people care – and disagree. And that’s quite ok.

  33. bach says:

    I think it’d completely destroy the spirit of Ludum Dare. The goal of LD has never been to make some elite group “shine”. It’s about fun, and making games for everyone that is up to the challenge.

    • Suese says:

      I agree with you 100%. Ludum Dare became what it is today through an inclusive community-driven attitude, but I think times have changed and that was reflected in the invention of the Jam. The Jam continues to let that spirit of inclusion and fostering to continue.

      I insist we aught to separate the Jam from the Competition as far as possible.

      The philosophy of the COMPETITION is to COMPETE,

      The philosophy of the JAM is to JAM.

      Perhaps a

      $25 entry fee for the COMPETITION
      $0 entry fee for the JAM

      would sort out all of the “Who’s going pay for it” issues.
      It’s popular enough that we’d still see 100 or more people pay into it.

      Perhaps the best, compensating solution was ‘LD Extreme’, but I still think that’s why the Jam was invented.

      • bach says:

        If you agree, than why should we change the core of Ludum Dare? In my opinion that would be counter productive. It’s like suddenly selling beer under the Coke name. People expect LD to be a certain way, let’s keep it that way.

  34. Suese says:

    If we had entry fees we would have to make some exceptions for a few people, of coarse. I suppose they would have to prove their talent by having a decent portfolio, first. The youngsters without credit cards would just have to plead a case for a free ticket or join the Jam.

  35. netmute says:

    Admit it, you’re home with your buddies, getting drunk and trolling the shit out of everyone right now 😉

    • Suese says:

      It really is not a troll, I think it’s a sticky subject for the fact that it’s an irrationally taboo. I want a serious discussion, so I’ve thrown out a lot of rebuttles. All of them carving out my ideal solution a little more. In conclusion what I feel is wrong is the Jam and Competition are not being treated separately enough, but nobody wants to discuss the issue due to a sort of social taboo on calling stuff out.

      • pighead10 says:

        No, it’s that you are taking the competition as too serious a competition. In 3 LDs I have not heard of anyone premaking a game and changing the assets. It’s a game making competition, not a coding competition. Heck, make a board game if you want 😀

      • sorceress says:

        Is it a taboo? or is it that we don’t start threads like this because we are mostly happy with the format of ludum dare as it is?

  36. LTyrosine says:

    Given the argument of “no base code” in strict sense, there’s no clear point of where “base” code ends and “pure” code starts. There is a lot of programmers now days saying that they are using their “own 3D engines” but the fact is that they are using a bunch of OpenGL/Direct3D calls, something that would be called “child play” by a 90s demoscene coder. Even if you draw pixels in screen yourself, you are just making use of a frame buffer tamed by a graphic driver on underlying OS…

    Now, good games are made of… anything at all. LD is a live proof of this as there are many trash entries using top 3D engines and amazing, fun entries using nothing but fixed pixelated sprites. Its all about learning and having fun.

    • Suese says:

      Very true.

      Might not be able to say the same for top top guys like Johan Pietz, Benjamin or Deep Knight.

      Really we all strive to be like these guys. If someone with a similar skill level came along and just hyper-prepared, they could.

      You have to follow my logic-train back to the beginning to understand why that is bad even when everyone is honest, but let me re-cap…

      If it’s super-easy to cheat, regardless of if people do it or not, it damages the notoriety. If we want there to be anything great about winning, it should be notoriety. Without there being a real ‘champion’ there is nothing to attract the next generation of truly great competitors to push themselves to the next level.

    • Suese says:

      sorry got cut off, correction…

      *… came along hyper-prepared, they could blow it out of the water.

  37. Phack says:

    Sounds like an interesting competition, but that’s not Ludum Dare. It would be cool if you put together your own game jam/compo with those rules.

  38. Bloodyaugust says:

    Check out the discussion on twitter between kasprzak, hassey, et al. I would stop putting so much time into this if I was you. They have a very clear idea of what they want this to be.

  39. PoV says:

    Hey wow, one of these threads. It’s been a while. 😀

    So we’ve been running Ludum Dare for quite a long time now, 11 years come April. And we did a long time ago have very technical requirements. Full source, and even for a while, you needed to actually memorize what a base program looks like write it from memory ( int main( int argc, char* argv[] ) { allegro_init(); set_gfx_mode( GFX_AUTODETECT, 640, 480, 0, 0 ); while( !key[KEY_ESC] ) { Step(); vsync(); Draw(); } allegro_exit(); return 0; } ). That said, it was kinda stupid, even though we certainly thought we were cool doing it. 😉

    The thing is, this is not realistic. It’s artificially creating an additional challenge, on top of the fact that we’re already challenging you to design and create a game entirely in 48 hours. In the real world, you would not have a such a silly requirement (memorization). However, in the real world you still do have stupid deadline (as all of us that have worked in the game industry know quite well).

    So at least for me, I’ve wanted Ludum Dare to evolve in such a way that it was somewhat true to reality. It’s not a programming competition, but a game making competition. Because at the end of the day, the best game delivered the best way is the one that wins. That’s why web games are so popular, and middleware.

    As a native coder myself, the one take-away I want to share with other native coders is that while yes, you can spend the time making a 3D game, but anyone using Unity has a significant advantage over you, especially on a deadline. If you’re doing nothing different than what Unity offers, than you may as well have made the game in Unity. The players do not care how a game was made, they care about the games, and whether they are fun or not.

    Now it’s also true our judging pool is all developers. It’s your peers that also participated in the event, so they know exactly what you went through (since they did too). That unfortunately is where Ludum Dare becomes “not truthful” to reality. At the same time, feedback from other developers is very helpful, because it’s varied and some of it comes from experience. In the real world though, if a game is not interesting and not easy to start, a gamer has already closed the game window. So while it’s not required by the event, I certainly do encourage folks to upload their games to Kongregate and Newgrounds, because it gives you a harsher 2nd opinion. Real gamers are busy, don’t have time for things they don’t care about, and are sometimes cruel. You often fall off your bike a few times before you learn to ride it.

    What’s truly incredible to me about Ludum Dare is that we teach SO MUCH in just one weekend. With just a couple LD’s, you’re a superstar programmer ready to be culled by whatever local game studio is hiring. As a college drop out, I’m admittedly not the biggest fan of educational institutions. For me, the most significant education experience I ever had was being hired, and thrown in to the fire of a game project (as the lead). I pulled through, and we shipped a game. Almost nothing I learned at school prepared me for the reality of this. After that, I had no reason to go back to school. I was already leading a team, everybody more educated than me, but I had more experience from my time as a hobby game dev. Ludum Dare is the closest thing I’ve found that captures the amazing educational power of “the fire”.

    I want to share that with as many people as I can.

    • Codexus says:

      Haha, I remember cramming for the LD just before it started to make sure I remembered all the steps to initialize OpenGL back when we were not allowed to look at existing code for the duration of the compo. That was silly! 😀

      I agree with everything you said!

    • Bloodyaugust says:

      I agree fully with everything said here. I still haven’t had the chance to attend higher education (19 1/2), but I make a respectable living programming. I owe A LOT of my experience in all areas of the profession to Ludum Dare, and the way it put me in “the fire”. Kudos to you. :)

  40. YopSolo says:

    I go LD because it’s a good way for me to test new stuff like tech/libs etc. and of course to have fun :)
    Actual rules are light and cool.

  41. FrederickK says:

    For me, Ludum Dare is all about make games, how you do it, as long they are legal and were made within the deadline, are almost irrelevant.
    I don’t want see how well you program and I don’t want see how you did that super awesome character if the game itself is bad.

    But, there is one thing that is kinda relevant that I would like to bring up, about the sound.
    I had seen many competitors with uncredit sounds and having no problem at all. Up until this LD I have been using free music and sfx for my games, but it was always something controversial even being very clear that the sounds were free, that I didn’t made them and even saying who made it, so I didn’t at this LD.
    I have been studying music, but still I very far of doing something at least decent. It is not the same thing as art and programming. You can do a simple art and a simple game with almost no knowledge, but sound? A bad sound can kill most of the games and the lack of it makes a very bad impression.
    I know about sfx generators and auto-tune, but they are specific, and maybe not fit at all with the mood of the game.
    Please, I’m not saying that something is wrong or right, I’m saying that this is worth to debate, “it is acceptable to use free sounds?”, this is what I want to know.

  42. oldtopman says:

    Well, you make a lot of interesting points, and many others above me have made some *excellent* points against them, so I shall try to make some different ones. Of course, first and foremost, Ludum Dare is hyper-casual. There are no prizes; and nothing to be gained by cheating. We have had cheaters before, and while they drew a lot of ire, they didn’t do anything. But talking about your proposed rules:

    #1) We already have this rule, and I wouldn’t mind a little clarification. However, where you draw the line is difficult to say. You can’t say “No game engines”, but a villain-themed skeeball game is a very small game if you already have a 3D engine with physics.

    #2) This has to do with the nature of Ludum Dare. As I’ve stated above, it’s hyper-casual. It’s not “Your game must feature a mustachioed person who does bad things”, it was “The theme is “You are the Villain”” I’ve given high overall ratings to games that feature almost no villains (though low in the Theme Category), just because it’s all about making a game.

    #3) Yeah, some of these are a bit vague, though I use this one; defining mood as “How involved did I get.”

    #4) I like this idea, but again, there’s nothing to be gained by cheating. In addition, it’ll be pretty obvious from the comments. On top of all that, we just *downgraded* to a $200/mo plan on the site. We’d need money to do anything outrageous like checksum everything or host the files.

    #5) Putting aside the “this is just ridiculous” argument, I’ll point this out to you. If this truly is about making the *best* game possible, then what would you do if joined up and released a villain-themed style game? This limits the quality, and assets, and everything else. Of course, if this is so you can host the entries, you’re still being absurd. 2MB*750 people (compo) + 10*750 people (jam, bending size rules) is still 9GB. Of course, you’ll probably drive a bunch of people away with these rules, so it’s possible that you could host.

    #6) I don’t see what the problem is declaring your libraries so that anybody can use them. That’s how it stands anyway. If you wanted to do this, you’d have to go over the libraries for the 4500 entrants this year before they could even enter.

    #7) This is a lie. Seriously. They may get *more* votes, but they certainly don’t get unfairly judged in their favor. Have you considered that they may be popular because they have coding skills?

    In conclusion, your main points are that the competition is too easy, and that it’s too easy to cheat.

    Ludum Dare is not about the competition, it’s about submitting a game, making something cool in a short period of time. Making something before it gets caught up in development hell, like so many of our other projects. The themes have always been fairly simple, easy to interpret, and you can smash any kind of game into it. I played a FPS game, I played a sidescroller, I played a top-down adventure game, I wrote a comedy game that’s essentially a choose your own adventure. Why would a person who specializes in scripted 3D adventure games participate in a compo that requires a 2D sidescroller written in assembly?

    With that having been said, cheating is inconsequential. People can tell that you cheated, and are going to rate accordingly. Why would you cheat if there’s nothing to win? This competition is about *you*, and *your* game, and *your* skills. It’s not about the other people, it’s not about who’s the best. That’s just icing on the cake.

    Many people have argued to make Ludum Dare something more, something with more competition. It’s not that. Don’t make it, or try to make it, something it isn’t. Should you, or people like you succeed, many of the people here will leave; they’re not here for rules, red tape, and restrictions.

  43. HeroesGrave says:

    The reason you knew you would get flamed is because you know that you’re wrong.
    Non-coders hve no idea what programmers are like.
    Most of us are respectable and usually honest especially when it comes to programming. Because if we weren’t, it would mean we had no passion for the art, and therefore wouldn’t do it.
    Then say you get a jerk who does cheat. Well, if they’re stupid enough to cheat, they’re likely not to bother rating any other games, therefore not getting enough ratings for a final rank.
    The 2mb limit is ridiculous. If a Java programmer wants to use OpenGL, they have to use lwjgl (or jogl) which takes up over 2mb by itself.
    All the tools used for Ludum Dare ARE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC! Which means you can use spmeone else’s basecode if you wish.
    I do have one problem with the basecode, and that is that some people have practically made their whole game. But who cares, it’s about HAVING FUN.

    Finally, there is no prize. If you want to cheat, you don’t get anything for it, and most likely people will know you cheated.

    The rules should stay as they are. Roght now, they are (almost) perfect.

  44. Vic says:

    I do understand the need for such a competition. I think LD will shrink considerably though if we would apply these rules. Personally I see no fun in it and would stop entering.

    I want to code a new game each time I enter LD. That weekend when I can finally make time to work on a game I want to enjoy myself. I don’t want to recode the same boring crap (importers, sprite renderers, whatever) every time I enter LD. I am wondering how many people enter LD for the competition, I don’t. I want others to do good, I don’t need to do better than others. I just want to see everyone make cool games and enjoy themselves.

    We would also see far less interesting entries in LD and a completely different crowd. Now we also see designers or artist entering who come up with very good game designs even though they are not the best coders in the world. A good coder does not make a good game designer. And I think currently LD rewards good game design, something I find much more interesting, than omg, look how fast his sprites load and it all fits in 4kb!

    • Spiridios says:

      What we need is a “hardcore” mode or some challenge badges. Like we had “+1 goats” this time, those who want the extra challenge can display “< 4k!", "Wrote all code during compo, including my own video drivers!" or whatever particular constraint you think is an additional challenge that a group of people could try to meet. There's no reason we can't have sub-competitions during the regular compo and if enough people like the elements of the sub competition it could be included in the regular compo rules.

  45. fr_automatik says:

    Ludum Dare is not a jam about making good code, It ‘s a jam about making a (good) game.

    The goal is to learn how to start, do, polish, and finish a project. A great game/program with shitty hacks and copypasta will be more successful and useful than an prototype of a game written in assembly.
    If you don’t like it, then maybe you should search for another jam (Not trying to be insulting).

    >#3 Add ‘replay value’ and remove ‘mood’ from the ratings system.
    Mhh, replay value is, IMO, included in “fun” : If a game is really fun, you’ll come back playing it.
    Also, why should we remove “mood” ? A game with mood is always better, right ?

  46. 10WonXero10 says:

    I think they run a competition in North Korea with rules similar to your proposal. Incidentally, Kim Jong-Un wins every time, he’s pretty good they say.
    Seriously though, games are supposed to be fun on some level, enforcing draconian rules would turn it into a coding circle-jerk with boring ‘programmer art’ games. I’m primarily an engine coder, I don’t do much of the ‘fun’ stuff, so I enjoy compo’s like this that are focused on results over process.
    Lighten up man.

  47. SonnyBone says:

    Ludum Dare has been growing and a large majority of us love it and have no major issues with how it’s handled. It’s about the experience. It’s about the games. Anyone that loses sight of that and focuses too much on the “competition” is already a “loser”.

  48. Zed says:

    If there were some kind of prize of monetary worth, I’d agree with you, because situations like that should absolutely be regulated to make sure the best entry wins. However, there isn’t.

    To me, even though I always enter the competition, it’s not really a competition against other people. I’m not trying to be a ‘better’ game developer than someone else. It’s a competition against limitations, like 48 hours, a theme, and having to start from scratch. It’s a test more of myself than against anyone else.

    I think your ideas are great for a different gamejam competition, that maybe you ought to set up, if there’s enough people who agree with you. Hell, I’d probably have a go myself, but I doubt I’d do as well or enjoy myself half as much as I do when entering Ludum Dare.

    However, I think Ludum Dare is fine as it is. I think the fact that so many people can enter a ‘competition’, triumph over the few rules we DO have and then hold up a game and say “I DID THAT!” is pretty much exactly what I like about it. Your rules would severely hamper that, and I’d hate to see LD go down that route.

    I like that you’re thinking though and, like I said, you should definitely look into making a different gamejam that’s more structured, like you’d want it to be. Just not this one.

    • Zed says:

      Oh! And while I’m at it, I’m insulted that you think ‘middleware’ like GameMaker should be disallowed. I use Multimedia Fusion 2 and I am every bit the game designer and developer as anyone else is, and this kind of elitism is counter-productive, shameful and pointless.

  49. Puzzlem00n says:

    I know this post is old by now, but I just want to say that I don’t like how you say that the Jam is for people who can’t handle the Compo, and that there are many people who don’t deserve the Compo, and who aren’t ready for it. Let me just say that that is absurd. The Jam should be taken just as seriously, and it pretty much is by everyone but you, apparently.

    There’s a place for the rigorous competition you crave, but it doesn’t exist here, and if it did, well… We’d be losing something special.

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