Unsolicited Advice from a Ludum Dare Veteran

Posted by
December 12th, 2013 10:31 pm

I’ve done several Ludum Dares in the past, and the one thing that I’d recommend to anyone is to always remember, you’re doing this for fun.

  • If something comes along that sounds more fun, or is more important, go do it.
  • Take breaks. Go on a walk. Get away from the computer. Draw inspiration from the world, or let your subconscious tackle a tough problem while you enjoy yourself.
  • Don’t get stuck. Use a tool like Stutter to force yourself to bounce from art to programming to design to playtesting. (Yes, this is a shameless plug.)
  • Sleep (or, at the very least, powernap). A tired developer is a sub-optimal developer. Four hours of peak development is worth much more than 16 hours of mediocre development.
  • Eat. Food is fuel, and fuel, like sleep, is required to perform at peak.
  • If you want to dominate your Ludum Dare (or appear to), don’t learn your tools while you work. Decide upon your arsenal now, and learn as much as you can about them.
  • Revision control is your best friend. Commit early, commit often. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be committing way more than you think you need to, and this is good. Reverting fifteen minutes worth of bug code is better than spending another fifteen debugging. (Don’t forget to master revision control before the compo!)
  • Submit your shit. Does your game crash? Submit it. Does your game suck? Submit it. Is your game so awful it’s embarrassing? Submit it! Once you’ve submitted it, realize you’ve completed a Ludum Dare, how awesome that is, how many people wish they were you, how attractive you are, and how much better you’ll do next time!
  • Have fun. Have I mentioned that you’re doing this for kicks? If you’re stressed, worried, bored, upset, or tired, you’re doing a bad games make job. Have fun, goddamnit.

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10 Responses to “Unsolicited Advice from a Ludum Dare Veteran”

  1. deathray says:

    Great advice. …except people should not be submitting games that crash or don’t work.

  2. +1 for “don’t submit shit”.

    Wasting a player’s time is the only sin you can commit as a game developer.

    • Codexus says:

      I think we also have to be tolerant. There are many people who are just trying LD for the first time, some are very young and/or have just started learning how to make games. If they tried hard and made “something” they deserve to submit it and be proud of that.

    • sorceress says:

      As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

      Quality is not only subjective between persons, but it is relative as well, to whatever it is being compared against.

      eg, The game you make this weekend might seem amazing in the eyes of your present day self. And might simultaneously be a “pointless waste of player’s time” in the eyes of your 20 year future self.

  3. Jerre says:

    a tip for your site (stutterapp): make sure it is easy to find an explanation somewhere, couldn’t find the purpous of the app very easy

  4. GreaseMonkey says:

    git init
    git add shit
    git commit

    Don’t even need to push.

  5. laaph says:

    I support all his advice! In particular I support “Submit that shit!” Even if you got stuck, even if you forgot to use source control, even if you forgot to eat! And write up a post mortem! If it mostly works, submit that shit! If it’s kinda broken, submit it! If you played GTA5 instead and all you have to submit is a photo of your cat… well don’t submit that.

    Another bit of advice (and this is leading to yet another) I like to offer is to either work with others or join a local meetup. In those moments where things aren’t working right and before you know it you’ve spent four hours trying to figure out why your models are importing with broken animation and the wrong colors, it’s really helpful when the guy next to you says “just make the game so that’s how he is – he got the fuckedupitis back in the war, and he’s never been normal since”. If you can’t find people to work with, hang out on IRC and post screenshots regularly. And don’t get stuck on an issue – if you can’t make it work, work around it. Redesign your game if need be.

  6. DesignerNap says:

    This is great advice! not just for game jam’s but for any kind of game/software development.

  7. SonnyBone says:

    Great advice!

    I would also suggest enforcing HARSH, HARSH, HARSH cutoff times for new assets. You want a good chunk of time in the final day for testing, balancing, etc. Also, placeholder art is your friend. You want a 32×32 sprite for that thing? Slap a 32×32 box in there and make sure it works before you make sure it’s pretty.

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