This being my third Ludum Dare I had a decent idea of what I was getting myself into. These game jams are really a great way of practicing on actually making something from start to finish. I think that is what many of us really need to get better at, I know I for one have put tons of time into other bigger projects which never see the light of day, maybe because they are simply too big of projects. Here are some quick tips which I’ve learned from previous mistakes and could be good for newcomers entering into a ludum dare, for starting any new game project I guess.
- Start with making something really simple and make sure the “fun factor” is there early on, the rest is polish!
- Don’t explore some new technology while trying to complete a game.
- Give each aspect (design, planning, code, graphics, audio, testing, etc) enough time each. Don’t spend the first day and a half coding and get the rest done in a few hours.
- Make sure the game is done well before the deadline so you have time for playtesting, bugfixing and polish.
- The most important thing is to complete a game from start to finish, not that it’s the most feature packed perfect game.
So I’ve been playing unhealthy amounts of Spelunky lately and I wanted to make a platformer with a bit of the same vibe, and I’m a huge space fan so I went for that. When the theme got decided I thought I’d make a underground platformer. Since I love the jetpack in spelunky and don’t get it often enough, I thought I’d make a game with a similar feel as the jetpack in Spelunky. I also wanted to make a simple and addicting game with online highscore, so I played around with the idea until I ended up with what the game is now. It could still get a lot better, but I’m quite happy with the end result in just two days work.
Warmup & Making Music
I’m especially happy with having produced music for in the game, and am even quite happy with the end result. Truth is I’ve wanted to learn how to make music for a while now, and started various tutorials but never got very far. The day before Ludum dare I made a warmup game called Space Survivor. It took me about 2 hours to make, and looking at the highscore stats I can say that it’s probably the game I’ve made with best time coded vs time played ratio ever.. which is a bit depressing. Anyway, the cool thing is I also decided I was going to make music for the game. I opened a a music program called SunVox, which is the first music program where I actually like the UI, and decided I’m going to make a song from start to end, it doesn’t matter how crappy it is, but it’s going to be finished. My first song. Instead of trying to learn each aspect of music and mastering it before I even make a song, this technique really taught me how to make music and I put it in the game! And I’m so happy for it! The day after Ludum dare started and I made another track and put it in my Ludum Dare entry, and it turned out quite nice for my second track ever!
For the first time I felt that I was done enough for the deadline. Overall I’m very happy with the end result, here are some points which I’m happy with
- I had a nice balance of time spent coding, making art, making sound, making music, testing, bugfixing and polishing which made all areas good enough!
- I actually made music for my game and learned how to make it in the process!
- I had online highscores – this is something that really makes some games so much more fun!
- The game feels like a complete game and is polished
- I invited two friends over for a little Jam-Lan-Party, this made the whole thing event more fun and I think we made better games because of it!
Although I’m very happy with the end result, there were a few hickups.
- About half way in on day two I began writing ugly code to make things rapidly. This made the final code quite cluddered and just makes it harder to update and improve the game further. I will have to spend a day just to cleanup the code later!
- Lesson: Things don’t have to be perfectly coded, but alteast keep it clean and organized at all times!
- Some MySQL issues have made the online highscores slow/unresponsive sometimes, which results in a lot of statistics/scores have gotten lost. This is really a shame because I wanted to present cool playstats here for you!
- Lesson: Brush up MySQL skills for next time for better highscores/stats!
- I’ve got about 60 ratings to my game and I’ve done 120 on others, so I can’t complain. Still somehow I feel it’s very hard to get people to try my game. I believe this is in large part because I don’t have a web version. I know the feeling when testing games, if you gotta download it, let alone run a seperate redist install, it’s hard to want to try it! I really do think this is a shame, I think games feel better when not played in a browser. And c#/xna is awesome!
- Lesson: Consider using a web-platform next time or accept low play stats. (HTML5, Unity, etc)
- The title. To be honest I suck at titles. It was never really my intention that the game would be named Gravity. I sort of just wrote something while designing the graphics/menu to get the style right. In the end time was running out and I hadn’t thought of a better title and then I forgot. I thought of the George Clooney film and just added a random subtitle since I thought that looked cool too.
- Lesson: Titles can be important, decide on a good one early on and roll with it. It’s hard to think up a good name at the last minute!
Some play stats!
With each play being registered in an online highscore, I can also calculate some play stats from them. Sadly my MySQL skills weren’t good enough in time, so a lot of the stats got lost because of a query taking very long time to load sometimes.. But here are some fun play stats at the time of writing!
Disclamer: Sadly up to approx 50% of plays may be missing, so stats below could probably be doubled, but this is what I’ve got! (Any new stats should be recorded correctly I believe)
- Total number of unique players: 82
- Total number of plays: 6617
- Avarage plays per player: 80
- Total play time all players: 35 hours 1 min 55 seconds
- Avarage time played per player: 25 minutes
- Player with most plays
- Diamonde: 718
- Rebecca: 595
- Tobias-PC: 587
- Maxime: 549
- Anebo: 517
Check out the timelapse of making Gravity! May contain spoilers!
Lastly, I would really appreciate if you
Good luck in the final results all!