The Future of Ludum Dare (Part 1) – Permission

Posted by (twitter: @mikekasprzak)
September 15th, 2014 7:57 pm

Well, when you’re as big as Ludum Dare, eventually you have to act like it. Lets chat.

I hope what I’m saying in the video makes sense. We’re NEVER going to charge for Ludum Dare, but we have real manpower costs: mine. I’ve been here, running the show for 6 years now, supporting it for all 12, and I still want to do it!

As it grows, it gets more and more demanding. Honestly, I can’t ignore it anymore (I’ve tried). Everyone on IRC knows how I never visit anymore. I’ve had to balance my time doing my work and running Ludum Dare. I love doing it, but we’re at this point now. We either do something bad, or we do something awesome. I prefer awesome.

Again, all I’m asking today is for permission. Permission to evolve it in to something that lets me get paid, which keeps me away from contract work, which lets me do things to improve Ludum Dare in the time I couldn’t before. How we make money is a discussion for another day. Crowdfunding, Kickstarters, Patreons, Sponsors, heck even the wild idea of making it a proper charitable organization. We’ll look into opening this worm can, but not today.

Today is about admitting we have a problem. And that it’s probably time to take the next step.

Share your thoughts in the comments. Feel free to tweet or e-mail me too.

* * *

Also! Share your thoughts on Ludum Dare, the website, the community in THE MEGA THREAD. All your thoughts, criticisms, and especially the things you love. It’s been an incredible resource for me. Everything, the good, the bad, is so encouraging. Thanks again!


151 Responses to “The Future of Ludum Dare (Part 1) – Permission”

  1. vinull says:

    Permission granted!

    Let’s move now to part 2 and figure out the how…

  2. t4u says:

    As long as making money doesn’t change the rules of LD go for it! 30 jams of builiding up reputation should pay back to the creator. However if you are thinking about entrance fee that would put me out of the participation in the future.

  3. Yeah! I’d love to see a crowd-fund campaign personally. But I definitely think it’s cool that you’re being transparent about it, and I’d love to see you be able to focus on it without feeling like you’re stretched thin.

  4. micahcowan says:

    I haven’t seen you mention ads at all, maybe because you’d really prefer to avoid them if at all possible, or because you’re afraid to mention them. I’d like to explicitly state that, at least for my part, I’d be 100% okay with using ads as a means to offsetting costs/generating revenue, PROVIDED that they weren’t intrusive pop-ups, or epilepsy-inducing flashers (i.e., use advertisers that have some integrity).

    This would still be true in combination with something like kickstarter as well.

    You might also consider easing your costs somewhat by open-sourcing the ludum dare website, to make it easier for others to contribute to/improve the experience, so that the onus isn’t entirely on you or a small team, to get massive amounts of work done.

  5. Sogomn says:

    You: Put advertisements on the site
    We: Disable AdBlock

  6. davidwparker says:

    As everyone else said, #noEntranceFee #adsOkay #donationsAreGood #notSureWhatElse

  7. The community here is great, and I think keeping that going should be a priority, but I think it’s perfectly reasonable to make a living out of Ludum Dare if you’re supporting it full time. I’d be happy to contribute towards keeping it running. It’s the only thing that seems to motivate me to find the time for making games, and I’d be excited to see how the site develops.

    Personally I’d prefer it to be funded via something one-off or infrequent, like say a Kickstarter for 2 years running costs (to be repeated every 2 years maybe). I think a Kickstarter would be well supported and any goals met pretty quickly. That would have the advantage of funding you to run LD and make it awesome, but without people’s experience being invaded by regular payments, adverts or fees. Although I suppose that could cause issues if you were suddenly in possession of a huge amount of cash – that’s where running it as a not-for-profit outfit may come in.

  8. I see a lot of support for this, and although this may make seem like the enemy, I don’t support it; at least not from what I have seen in my time here.

    First off, it seems as though you are sitting on a large pile of donations from contributors but it isn’t being utilized, which is bad business if you ask me. Granted, you need capital, but by hoarding this capital and now saying that you want to be paid, it seems to me as though there was malicious intent in stockpiling donations. Why has this money not been invested in LD? Why is this website still archaic and incredibly frustrating for users? How can you justify working a full-time job to operate a game jam that occurs once every three months?

    I’m just speaking honestly here, and with over a decades experience as a successful web designer/admin. If I had seen improvement on the site in my time here whatsoever, I would be more easily persuaded. And I am not saying that you do not work hard, but from my perspective it would seem as though you do not work efficiently. I, as a web app designer, fail to see how calculating results of well under 10,000 entries could possibly 1) take such a long time, and 2) be so difficult.

    Last but not least, I can absolutely attest to the fact that once you make this leap, LD will never be the same. I urge you, and the community, to take this under consideration before jumping on the band wagon. Your priority will no longer be doing this because you love it, but will be instead taking the work of a lot of game developers and doing whatever you can to make ends meet (otherwise the site will not survive) while not offering any reward to us for our hard work. I doubt that the time you invest in this site is anywhere near the total amount of time that we as devs put in, and yet none of us will see a dime.

    To put it bluntly, I do not participate in this so that you can get paid. I was under the impression that this was a hobby of yours, and while I understand that I do not know exactly what you do behind the scenes, I have way too much experience in this avenue for you to ever convince me that this is the only option. I will not be busting my hump for 48 hours and releasing my source code to the community so that you no longer need to manage your time or find contract work.

    I say all of this with a completely open mind and will not take offense to anyone who disagrees. We’re all entitled to our opinions, but for me, nothing about what you are saying adds up, at least as far as business is concerned. I’m not saying you don’t deserve to get paid, but full time? For 4 game jams a year?

    • I also urge you to consider your choice of webhosts. At $2900 a year ($250 a month) you are not getting your moneys worth. The numbers don’t add up. I could easily cut that cost in half, and that is with almost no effort. Finding a hosting solution that can up your allotted bandwidth during the four months that it is needed would cut your costs substantially, and I could list off a dozen web hosts that would do this for you off the top of my head. What are you paying for every month? There is no hosting our games files, so you do not need a massive amount of hard disk space, other than for storing screens. Almost everyone links videos via YouTube, which means you don’t host the videos either, which saves a substantial amount of hard drive space.

      I could keep going, but I’m starting to feel like an ass. But it seems to me nobody else is making these points. Have you divided up your server to resell sections to other customers to make money, and if so, who makes that money? Because if our donations are paying for you to resell the server, that’s absolutely terrible.

      Again, make this make sense to me, and you’ll have my full support.

    • My point: If the system is calculating results at the end, and it is taking 2 hours, then why is it waiting until the end to calculate them? The 2 hour grace period should be for double-checking the results to ensure that they are correct (meaning the calculations that are made as ratings come in vs. the calculations that are figured at the end).

      But my complaint is not that I need to wait the 2 hours, it’s the reason behind why I’m waiting. If this system is this slow and inefficient, then how is that supposed to convince me that you should be doing this work full time?

      If he had posted a video laying out his plans to do anything with stockpiled capital, then I would have more information to go on. But what I do have is that I am using an archaic site that has a lot of unused capital that is running inefficiently and somehow that is supposed to translate to “is it okay if I get paid full time for this?”

      Not simply “can I get paid something/anything?” Not “where do you think this money should be invested if not in my salary?” Just “can I get paid?”…

      • My apologies, I wasn’t suggesting that we were not in agreement, merely stating my point in a different way in case we were not. I have a VERY hard time with understanding if someone is being sarcastic or not and could honestly not tell if you were. I’ve learned from experience that the easiest way to handle said situation is to restate what I’ve said, anything else and discussions can turn sour very quickly, especially over the internet where tone is not easily conveyed.

        Back to the point at hand, I am absolutely in agreement with you. I feel as though we have all had this very important topic dumped on us without much information. I would have honestly been less offended if he had simply said “I need some compensation for my time, it’s getting to be too much”. That says to me that there is no doubt that you feel you have earned it while opening the discussion to the much more important topic of “how much?”.

        • The “you” in that last sentence refers to whoever would be paid, not you personally.

        • Even if the competition is completely automated and no work would be necessary during the competition. The site is still a mess. There are countless things that can be improved to make the competition more enjoyable for everyone, especially newcomers. I remember being (and still am) utterly confused over how the blog system works. Doing this is quite a big undertaking and would need someone working full time instead of trying to band-aid the site every time something needs to be changed.

          eatsleepindie, I share your concern though for involving money in LD but I think it can be done in a good way. There are a lot of communities that raise money for the developers of a project. To mention a game related one, look at Dwarf Fortress which has always seemed to have a healthy community from my perspective.

          Mike, I think it sounds like a good idea. The site is badly in need of an overhaul and I agree with you that someone should work on it full time. Whatever you can do to make the coming LDs better and a more enjoyable experience, you should do it. You are probably the person with the best position to do so and to be honest I don’t see anyone else stepping up to do the work.

          • I don’t see how a messy site translates to a full-time job. If the site needs to be redone, then use the capital that exists to do so. Why are you asking me if you can use the money that was given with the intention of improving and supporting the site? I could argue whether it’s a full-time job to begin with, but one that will require you to work full-time indefinitely? I don’t buy it. Something’s missing from this equation.

          • To further my point, I would absolutely have been comfortable if he had said “I want to use $X of dollars to try a full-time trial run”. That literally takes into account a plethora of circumstances that the current proposal completely lacks, and it’s a single sentence.

          • It took me a few minutes to get things moved from my local dev server to my live server, but I can assure you that Mike is not the only one “stepping up to do the work”. I have seen several blog posts about people who have volunteered their time with ideas with the website, myself included:


            This is a jquery representation of a lot of time taking into account a lot of comments from members here. After doing my best to arrange what seemed to be the consensus, I started work on this as soon as the LD results were in. I’m just getting started, but it’s 100% data-driven and 99% mobile friendly.

    • PS. Where is the algorithm to take into account that if 70% of users do not vote on my game in the category “humor” then maybe that category should be weighted differently? Is there an algorithm that takes into account new users who could very easily be confused by the rating system their first time around? How are those ratings by members who may not know to not rate this depressing game in the “humor” category being weighed in comparison to those of a veteran?

      Again, these are all the quirks that were quirks to me, that made LD what it is. But if someone is going to make this their job and pay themselves, then my expectations increase exponentially. The same way they would if someone let me play their free indie game vs. if someone charges me $9.99 to play their game.

    • klianc09 says:

      Yes I had similar concerns, after thinking over it for a second time.

      1. If it’s only a tri-anual event, and some few weeks per year where the most work will be needed. How will this equate to a full-time job? If you just want to re-design the site and get it up to date, it would rather seem like a one time thing. You could ask us of course, if we are okay if you spend the LD budget on a webdesigner.
      2. It appears that the site is receiving enough donations and has a budget big enough, to sustain us LD for at least another 3 years. But I could be wrong since I don’t know the big picture.
      3. I’m not against you, PoV, but I’m against making uninformed decisions. It just feels like a lot of information is still missing to really make a decisions.

      I just want the best for LudumDare, and don’t want it to suffer from too fast decisions, so I hope we will have this settled after some back and forth. The videos isn’t labeled ‘part 1’ for no reason 😉

  9. Mekuri says:

    Having someone work fulltime on Ludum Dare will most likely improve the quality. I’m all for people making money off what they like to do- As long as it doesn’t change Ludum Dare in a negative direction I’m all game.

    I can see loads of posibilities in this, possibly even sponsors for the various dares- Who knows? :-)

    I for one would approve such a change :-) Go for it!

  10. DragonMaster21 says:

    Yes that would be great, go for it!

  11. Gabriel says:

    Hey Mike! You have my FULL SUPPORT.

    It’s fair. In fact, I like knowing that I have a solid way to contribute other than making games and spreading the word about the event.

    Also as you stated, not only the community has grown, but the world has evolved, and expectations are higher. This is already the coolest game jam around – not only it’s awesome but also it has LITERALLY transformed lives for the better – so it’s only fair that the site and the organization as a whole be massively overhauled to match that status.

    Finally, I want to contribute with that. Not only with money, but also with time and expertise.


  12. Zim the Fox says:

    I would be more than willing to pay an entry fee of a few dollars. I don’t think more than five should be necessary. You would be getting a few thousands of dollars per LD which is probably enough to run the competition for a while (but not enough to consider living costs). An entry fee would also help weed out unfinished entries and such (coughcough). Asking for an entry fee, however small, is sure to alienate many people for many reasons, but I don’t think it would hurt the community much. Alternatively, you could make the entry fee optinal, or have “donation drives” to pay for the entry fees of those who have no money.

    I would be okay with advertisements. One CRAZY idea is to ask some streamers to donate ad-revenue. I don’t know if that is even possible to work out. If you were to work on LD as your full-time job, you could make streams about the revenue and place ads there. Another thing that could be done is to seek out sponsors. I am sure many game and software development and distribution companies would love to have access to thousands of people belonging to such a niche demographic.

    Cheers! Thank you for making LD such a wonderful experience!

  13. davidcmcdonald says:

    If it makes any part of ludum dare better, Its a great idea. Definitely!
    If the process of submitting a game and searching/voting/the whole website were more streamlined, those impressive numbers would keep going up.

  14. sP0CkEr2 says:

    Permission Granted!

    Also, I heard that this guy named @notch has a couple bucks!!

  15. MrPhil says:

    You have my wholehearted blessing! I can’t wait to see what you do!

  16. kikito says:

    You have my permission.

  17. frnknstn says:

    My initial reaction was this:

    You have a community of talented developers, programmers and artists, some of who are as dedicated to the idea of Ludum Dare as you are. Why not ask for help rather than money? If you asked, you would get dozens of people who will offer their time and skill to the project.

    … except the more I thought about it, the more I started to realise the error in that line of thinking. People are unreliable, especially when it comes to their spare time. People commit to things with the best intentions, but then fail to follow through. Has someone run the numbers the ratio of “I’m in!” posts to completed submissions?

    All the standard open source or community project caveats would apply. LD’s site needs a major rework, a collection of minor drive-by patches from contributors wouldn’t help. Even in the best case, where you luck upon two dozen dedicated and skilled contributors to help run Ludum Dare, you would still have to spend a ton of time working as community manager or project leader.

    The question you are asking the community is this, then: “Do you want LD to improve, or stagnate?”

    People who don’t run projects like this only see the fixed or quantifiable costs: hosting the server, paying for the bandwidth. They don’t realise there is a man inside that mechanical Turk, pulling the levers so that we can play a game of chess.

    You are an integral part of the system called Ludum Dare. My vote is to pay you for your efforts.

  18. bob_fish says:

    You have permission. You’ve done a great job running LD and deserve to be paid for it!

  19. Kate Kligman says:

    Yes, though I’d like the method to be something routinely sustainable for you, for example using Patreon.

  20. voxel says:

    I for one welcome this new era of sponsored themes and cannot wait for LD31’s theme of “Mountain Dew and Doritos product placement”.

    At first I was dubious of submitting games and surrendering the IP rights to Micro-EA-Zynga-Facebook-Soft, but looking at the decor in the background of this video, it is clear to me that you need every cent you can get.

    Truly though, I say go for it. Some people will grumble and a few might even leave, but if you do a decent job I only see good things happening for LD and the community.

  21. Fsmv says:

    Do it! Ludum Dare is worth paying you for. I would say avoid ads though, I’d love to support you on something like Patreon and I’d hope that you could get enough people to do it to cover costs.

    Actually as long as you pick the right ads I don’t see a problem. Have Unity, Unreal, Microsoft (XNA?) etc. advertise. If the ads are relevant and not scummy I think it could work on the site and not make it look bad. Reddit for instance has great ads all the time and its one of the few sites I don’t ad block.

  22. Aske says:

    After I’ve read some of the comments, I cannot take a side in this case. I would like a suggestion of how the money is going to be spent. I know it’s hard to do so, but can’t say if i can support this, at this point.

    PS. If this is going to be a thing, PLEASE do not outsource the work. I think it will ruin the community..

    Oh yeah, have a really nice day :) :)

  23. jovoc says:

    You have my blessing. You’ve certainly earned it. You don’t even need it, I’ve wondered for ages why you didn’t do more of that sort of thing.

    One suggestion: maybe create a non-profit or foundation or some kind of entity like that to keep things from getting too messy.

  24. Osgeld says:

    Fine by me, but only if you (or someone official) answer the following question

    Is there a place where one could volunteer to help out

  25. misson20000 says:

    Go right ahead!

  26. tmpxyz says:

    I respect and will respect what decisions you make.

    Just want to warn that the reputation is hard to make but damaged easily. There’re bad rumors for IGF around, it would be sad if it happens on LudumDare someday.

  27. Joror says:

    You’ve been doing a great job keeping this going! :)

    My 2+ cents:

    – Get a mission statement! Something short and simple.
    – Be an organization – of which you would be the main guy/employee #1. This opens doors to employ/pay others in the future. See Wikipedia/Wikimedia.
    – Keep open budgets per year – not a pencil/tack specific one, just in broad categories. (see Wikimedia again)
    – Volunteers are great, but pay for the basic things that are always needed, to keep this thing independent (hosting / essential personnel (you atm) / legal support / key software development)
    – Don’t try to get set up a payment/donor system yourself – it is just too much stuff and not this site’s main business. The cut they take is worth the ease of use for both the donors and LD, especially in the beginning when setting this all up.
    – Patreon is a good system for a steady monthly money flow – a Kickstarter can get you bulk money for big projects, use either, but a donation-a-month system might work better in the long run. (can’t keep Kickstarterin’ every year!)
    – Merch is a great way to get attention, give people something to show off & earn some extra cash for the organisation. There are tons of artists that might want to donate their art for the cause. A design contest, vote by donors & let the top-10 win? (Merch-Mini-LD, letting artists vote for art? :D)
    – There will always be people who think they know better. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. This don’t have to be perfect on the first go. Follow your instincts, they work! :)

  28. deathray says:

    I think this is perfectly timed. Notch now has 1.7 BILLION dollars. Maybe he can form a not-for-profit organization with ~ 3M in funding (0.18% of his new wealth), and ask for donations as well. That should keep Ludum Dare afloat for a long time.

    As for you making money, I don’t mind it — as long as it’s done transparently and doesn’t screw up what we have here. I do think that things need to improve in order for Ludum Dare to stay competitive and relevant. Good luck!

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