Rules and Guide (Re-written for maximum clarity)

Posted by
April 25th, 2014 1:20 pm

EDIT: Please see the official Rules:

People are constantly asking the same questions over and over, so I took it upon myself to try to write up a clearer version of the rules.

Ludum Dare is an Online Game Jam event where people from around the world create a game in a weekend.

It is actually two competitions that happen side-by side. At 9:00 pm Eastern Time (which is either UTC -4 or UTC -5 depending on daylight saving time), a theme will be announced.  At which point, the 48 Hour Compo and the 72 Hour Jam will both start.

48 Hour Compo Rules

  1. You must work alone (solo).
  2. All images, models, textures, music, and sound must be created during the 48 hours. You cannot use any pre-existing art of any kind, whether you created it or found it online.
  3. Games must be based on the theme in some way.
  4. All publicly available libraries and middleware are allowed.
    1. Yes, that means you can use plugins from the Unity Asset store like Playmaker. (But not art!)
    2. Yes, you can use code from public wikis and tutorials.
    3. Yes, You can use your own code libraries and project templates as long as you make them available online for other people before the competition. Make a blog post declaring your code base.
  5. All other code must be programmed within the 48-hour window.  This code must be included with your submission.
    1. No, you don’t need to include code from middleware (often you do not have the right to do this).
    2. This does not make your program free/open-source if you don’t want to. You retain all rights to everything.
  6. All content creation, and development tools are allowed. (3dsmax, Photoshop, Flash, etc)
  7. You can port your game to different platforms after the 48 hour window.
  8. You can make small bug-fixes after the 48 hour window.

72 Hour Jam Rules

  1. The rules are the same as the 48 hour compo except:
    1. You can work with other people as a team.
    2. You do not have to provide a copy of your source code.
    3. You are free to use whatever artwork or content you like (preferably something you have the legal rights to), but you must accept all responsibility for its use.
      1. Yes, you can use art made ahead of time.
      2. Yes you can use public domain, creative-commons, or otherwise licensed artwork.
    4. Games should be based on the theme. (As opposed to must be.)
  2. Only ONE team member submits the game.



What is the prize for winning?

There is no prize. This competition is purely for the love of programming.

Can I use language _____?

Yes, any programming language is allowed (C/Java/JavaScript/Lua/etc…) Some people have even made “games” using static HTML and others have even made printable PDFs for board/card game entries.  You can make iPhone games and Web games and text-based games. Whatever you want!

Can I use a content-generator for sound/music/textures?

Yes! sfxr is a great way to generate sound effects, there are many midi-music generators (like, and there are several tools to procedurally generate textures (like Substance Designer).

What about fonts, drum loops, sampled instruments?

That’s fine, as long as you have the right to use them.

Can I brand my game with my logo, even though it was made outside the competition?

Yes! Logos and intro screens are allowed.

Will Ludum Dare own my game after I make it?

No! You still retain all rights and ownership.  Obviously if you are submitting your game to be judged, you are going to be implicitly allowing people to download and play it, but otherwise it’s all yours.

So I could sell my Ludum Dare game after the competition?

Sure — many people have gone on to polish up their game and then sell it!

If I submit my source code (for the Compo), won’t that make it open source?

No! You retain all rights to your software and can license it (or not) any way you would like.  No one is allowed to copy your code without your permission.

If I submit my source code (for the Compo), won’t people be able to steal it?

I suppose.  But you made this game in 48 hours. How good is your code going to be?  Anyone who sees your game would be able to duplicate it if they really wanted to.

If you don’t want to do this, consider joining the Jam instead (which doesn’t require you to share your code).

Can I start my entry before 9:00pm Eastern Time?

No! Besides, you won’t even know what the theme is!  However, if you want to setup a project “template” that launches an empty window, sets up your 2d/3d context, and includes some generic functionality, that’s allowed if you share this code publicly and declare in a post on the blog.  That way other people could start on the same level as you.

How can I share my code if I used [some kind of game-creation software tool]?

The safe answer is always:  Zip up the whole project folder and put it online.  Ideally, anyone else with the same software should be able to download your file and open it.  If you don’t want to do this, consider joining the Jam instead (which doesn’t require you to share your code).

125 Responses to “Rules and Guide (Re-written for maximum clarity)”

  1. Codexus says:

    I made it a sticky so that people don’t miss it. Thank you for helping clarifying the rules! 😀

  2. 7Soul says:

    Wait I always thought you could use open game art and audio

  3. GreatBigJerk says:

    What about tools like Magix music maker that has pre-recorded instrument loops that you can mix into music tracks.

  4. Artylo says:

    I’ve been always wondering, are visual based engines only usable in the jam and not the compo. i.e Construct 2 has very little to do with actual coding and is mostly based on preset events, so is the source (project) file acceptable?

  5. udo says:

    I’m calling shenanigans on (subjectively) 80% of declared code “libraries” and “frameworks”, especially if they’re undocumented and thrown in just hours before the compo. There is no realistic chance anyone will use them besides their author.

    • Tim Bumpus says:

      So? Doesn’t matter as long as they find it useful. The idea is to spend less time setting things up and more time on the actual game making. If their code makes that easier, so be it.

      • udo says:

        I guess you’re right, it doesn’t matter in the end. But why then have the rule about making everything yourself in 48 hours to begin with? And why bother declaring something for other people to use if they can’t actually use it? I mean it’s just an empty gesture at this point when a lot of people seem to start with their own code base anyway, maybe the rules should just officially allow that.

        Whatever, I don’t really have skin in this particular issue, I just thought it’s gotten pretty strange with all these “base code” declarations.

        • Tetriste says:

          For learning purposes

        • Tim Bumpus says:

          It’s never been as much about letting other people use it as far as I’m concerned. It’s more about letting people know what you’re starting with, so the final entry can be judged fairly.

          • udo says:

            At the risk of aggravating you, that’s not how the rules explain it. Besides, nobody’s going to remember that declaration blog post when they’re rating a game – for that you’ll have to include the declaration again in the description text of the actual game submission form.

        • For me the 48 hours are more about having fun together making games as a community in a certain time frame. With massive frameworks like Unity around, personal libraries are a bit of a non issue anyway.

          Personally I like to see how people made things. Plus I imagine an ocean of personal libraries might always bud a framework that makes this rule worth it. 😉

          • udo says:

            I absolutely agree. It’s not so much that I think pre-made games are a problem, I was just bewildered at the amount of people doing it and this rules post seemed like a good place to bring it up, since this was specifically addressed in it.

            However, it’s obviously one of these “in the real world nobody cares” rules and I’d like to make it clear that I’m not actually upset about how it’s handled in practice. I mean, whatever enables people to get the most fun out of the event is absolutely fine.

    • HeroesGrave says:

      If that’s the case, I call shenanigans on anyone using Unity, GameMaker, and the like. And for that matter, anyone making a game in machine code or assembly could say the same of us normal programmers.

      I think if some people are able to use fully-equipped GUI-based tools to make a game, we should be able to get a head start by using our own personal libraries.

      That said, some people go too far.

  6. Tim Bumpus says:

    Thanks for doing this. Suggestions:

    -“You can make small bug-fixes after the 48 hour window” might need more clarification for some people.

    -Statements like “for the love of programming” and “any programming language is allowed” might make people think they can’t use Game Maker or Stencyl or Construct 2. Your wording should probably be more inclusive.

  7. ENDESGA says:

    I never knew you weren’t allowed to use pre-drawn sprites xD Not that I did, but it’s still interesting!

  8. TheColorMan says:

    I had used music and sound assets from the internet before in one of my games I made for this. Oops, I broke the rules X_X won’t happen again!

  9. DannyG59 says:

    You say this but I know of 2 games last time that used Music they created months before when I struggled the last 2 hours for music and finally went without. Then you just told them it was fine … :/ kinda lame, but I do it for myself

  10. Cosmologicon says:

    Something I’ve been wondering, I know I can use photos and audio or video recordings of objects, but what about other people? Can I have my friends voice characters in my game if I tell them what to say?

    • Chaoseed says:

      I think the spirit of the rules is meant to cover two things: 1) The content is created during the competition in order to create a level playing field, and 2) The content is created by you to ensure that you have the legal rights to use it.

      So…some other source could ‘produce’ the sound, as long as you are the one who *records it, edits it and puts it into the game*.

      (And of course, for the Jam this isn’t really an issue because the rules are less stringent.)

      That’s how I see it?

  11. Rialgar says:

    Ok, a bit of a detail question:

    What about detailed “primitives” in tools, like included Textures, the Teapot in 3DSmax or Suzanne(The Head) in Blender, are they considered pre-existing art?

  12. dylanwolf says:

    This is sort of a technicality, but what about bitmap fonts? For example, if I create a PNG and a FNT file, does that fall under the “font” allowance or the “no textures, images, etc.” rule?

  13. burgerdare says:

    I actually have a question that isn’t covered here. What’s the policy on mentally preparing games for each of the possible themes before the competition begins (no coding or anything, just semi detailed ideas)?
    Obviously this sort of thing can’t be enforced as strictly against the rules, but is it kind of frowned upon?

    • PoV says:

      I think you’ll get a slow clap from me if you go through the trouble of making 20 games just in case the theme goes a certain way.

      Given that we don’t have prizes, and competition itself is incredibly fierce, I kind-of wonder what the point would be.

      Also I don’t know about you, but as a programmer, I’m incredibly lazy. ;D

      • Arakade says:

        I read @burgerdare’s question as “mentally preparing game *designs* for each of the possible themes”.

        My answer would be: how many vote without reading the theme list? Gamedevs can’t help but generate ideas when given any input — let alone when under starters orders!

        Heck, I know some who decide what they’re going to make ages in advance of the theme candidates appearing! They wait for the choice then bend their design to fit! Made me wonder how common that is.

  14. Slin says:

    I will use a custom game engine, which is currently in closed alpha and we plan to sell it in the future, so I will not provide it or its source and I may have to do bug fixes and feature changes and additions during the compo.
    In some way it will be available to the public later this year, so I am wondering if I will break the rules with this as they clearly state: “You can use your own code libraries and project templates as long as you make them available online for other people before the competition.”
    I did make a blogpost though…

  15. robodylan says:

    Can you enter the jam and compo.

  16. toxic_panda34 says:

    does anyone happen to know if we are allowed to use game maker 8 pro ?

  17. waylon531 says:

    If I enter the compo and don’t finish my game in 48 hours, can I enter it in the jam instead?

  18. igwb says:

    I still don’t quite get it… Can we use downloadable fonts for the compo?
    For example from some free fonts site?

    • TobiasW says:

      Assuming that the licenses from your “free fonts site” give you the legal rights to use that font in your game: Yes, you can.

      To paraphrase the rules already mentioned above: “You can use any fonts in the Ludum Dare Competition, as long as you have the legal rights to use them.”

  19. Nice work writing this up again and compressing it!

  20. Cireon says:

    Hey everyone, just a quick question about this. What exactly falls under “as long as you make them available online for other people before the competition.”. I only just decided that I would like to use a library that is made by a friend of mine. While he hasn’t released the library as library per se, it is included in several of our projects. Does that count as being available online before the competition, or should I have shared it before the competition?

  21. Biggerplay says:

    Does your own branding logo need to be created within the 48 hrs as well?

  22. Azlen says:

    Just a question here…

    You are allowed to generate/make your own music for the compo using sounds that you have not made? for example if I go to a website, generate music, and put it in my game, it is allowed?

    If that IS allowed then would I be allowed to generate the music IN my game? It would require loading in sound files that I have not created but it will sound just like the music I can make but it will be different everytime…

    Sorry if I worded this badly, I can clarify if need be. English is only my first language.

  23. vladimirdlc says:

    Great! This was necessary.

  24. Threef says:

    This is my 6’th Ludum Dare and I still not sure about timer. Do I need to submit game before times ends? In Poland it’s middle of night and after not sleeping 48h I’m afraid to fall asleep and miss submitting. How does it work?

    • frnknstn says:

      You need to submit before the time runs out. You probably should submit an hour or two before, because the website often goes down around that time.

      Also, it is a bad idea to work for 48 hours straight. Get at least 8 hours of sleep. T+0h is 03:00 AM where I am, so I normally get up at 08:00 AM (T+5h) on Saturday, sleep from 1AM to 9AM on Sunday (T+29h), then work until 3AM on Monday.

  25. Lap12 says:

    Hello, I’m interested in trying to participate to this Ludum Dare but these comments confused me a bit.
    I would like to create a game which is partially based upon a song ; so I would like to put this song as the soundtrack of my game, but I do not own it, I just bought it. Can I use it anyway for the LD Jam ? I would credit it, of course, and won’t make any profit with my game.

    • quill18 says:

      That is both illegal AND against the rules.

      • arrogant.gamer says:

        “You are free to use whatever artwork or content you like (preferably something you have the legal rights to), but you must accept all responsibility for its use.”

        For the JAM this kind of use would not be against the rules, as they are written. In particular note that,

        “Yes you can use public domain, creative-commons, or otherwise licensed artwork.”

        Be proud to remix culture! Just make sure you are polite and respectful to the original artist, that you acknowledge them, and that make sure to let them know you are using their work in your work (I’m sure they will be thrilled!).

  26. GagaPete says:

    Just one thing I’d like to bring up. What about adding new controls (gamepads, touch) after deadline to a HTML5 game? Technically it is adding a feature but it feels more like porting to the same game to other input methods and so devices.

  27. csanyk says:

    What is the prize? The experience of participating and getting to play everyone’s games! The whole world wins whenever there’s a Ludum Dare!

  28. Monoquartz says:

    Thx man

  29. What do I do if I’ve run into a game that uses pilfered graphics/music/code/etc? Is there a place to report that?

  30. Im so excited, my first ludum dare :D. I even read this all!

  31. HawkSandwich says:

    Quill, can I use the standard assets in Unity? I am not talking about grass textures or whatever, but specifically the First Person Controller. Is this against the rules?

    • TobiasW says:

      You clearly can use the First Person Controller, because “4. All publicly available libraries and middleware are allowed” – and the standard assets are publicly available, aren’t they?

  32. dannyhodge says:

    Its so weird seeing Quill here, seeing as his tutorials are what got me here in the first place. Looking forward to my first LD :)

  33. Tosic says:

    Am I allowed to make 2 games and put both of them in one .zip file (and my title would be for example “game1 and game2”), I mean I saw a guy made 50 mini games and put them in one .zip file but I am not sure?

  34. FrederickK says:

    This is so beautiful, THANK YOU SO MUCH!
    Especially this>”All publicly available libraries and middleware are allowed.
    Yes, that means you can use plugins from the Unity Asset store like Playmaker. (But not art!)
    Yes, you can use code from public wikis and tutorials.
    Yes, You can use your own code libraries and project templates as long as you make them available online for other people before the competition. Make a blog post declaring your code base.”

    I still think that free music should be allowed, but hey, I’m already glad with this explanation.

  35. Bergara says:

    This was very useful, thank you! This is my first time participating in the Ludum Dare, and it cleared up a lot of questions I had.

  36. gltovar says:

    Do I need to make a blog post if I’m not using my own libraries?

  37. porglezomp says:

    I’m going to be traveling for the last 8-10 hours of the compo, there’s a possibility that I’ll be able to upload the game at the airport when I land, but it really depends. My question is, is it acceptable to upload an update that you made during the deadline, after the deadline?

    The only reference I see that fits this is the “All other code must be programmed within the 48-hour window,” which seems to indicate that as long as it’s produced during the compo I could upload it later. I know that there’s the restriction that submissions will end, but if I upload a version beforehand and then polish on the airplane, can I upload my polished version late as long as I finished it before the deadline?

    • TobiasW says:

      This is a friendly competition, so I’d say that it’s fine rulewise – just explain why you uploaded it that late.

      That being said, I’m not sure if it is possible to create the entry at that point (and still select “compo”), so you might want to create the entry beforehand.

      Also, if all goes wrong that can go wrong, you can still participate in the jam.

  38. DvanderAart says:

    Sooo all freely available libraries are allowed but art is not..
    Then where does this place photoshop brushes that are freely available on the usual sites one gets PS brushes, but not part of the default PS?

  39. RaycoSantana says:

    Hey I always wondered, how about MoCap data? is that considered art and not allowed?

    • porglezomp says:

      I personally don’t think so, but there were some people discussing it in the free assets post, maybe you should go see what they think in there.

  40. Tosic says:

    It says I have to work alone for the compo, but if I have got somebody to give suggestions but not to work on the game itself, can I still enter the compo?

  41. Gravity Games says:

    I must say, thanks for posting that music generator.It saves me the time it’d take to “randomly generate” it myself (I usually just hum randomly and record it, throwing any catchy bits that go well together into a song). Definitely gives me more faith in procedural generation (all the other music generators I’ve heard are horrible…)

  42. fisholith says:

    Two questions: (I’m super new here, sorry)

    1. Do you host your game on a domain belonging to LD, or on a site of your choice (e.g. GameJolt) and then submit a link to LD?

    2. I tried to post my starting setup to the LD board, but it now says “pending” (next to my post in my account area), and the post doesn’t show up on the main board. Did I do something wrong?

  43. Warboys says:

    Exactly how big are the bugs we’re allowed to fix? My GameMaker has decided it cannot convert audio… so my game is completely silent and I don’t have time to fix it (I’ve been asking around everywhere).

    If I create all the audio and demonstrate that it’s been created during the time… is that acceptable?

  44. Geckoo1337 says:

    Source code must be shared!!! How many time we repeat this rule?

  45. Tosic says:

    Um, I used standard assets for the compo, is it against the rules (if it is, I am gonna fix it immediately)?

  46. waynaul says:

    I have a question regarding SoundFonts. SoundFonts are like character fonts except they render notes for midi files (i.e. a piano SoundFont will make a midi piano instrument sound more like a piano). I’m looking into using SoundFonts in the next LD to enhance the midi music that is procedurally generated by Do SoundFonts fall into the same rules as character fonts, where I may prepare them before hand if I have a license/rights to use them?

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