Crump Rush Postmortem – Ludum Dare Lessons

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April 25th, 2015 4:27 pm

I made a game about speed running and using your weapon for mobility. You can play it here!

I’m not a jam veteran but I have a decent number under my belt and there are a few lessons I’ve learned the hard way. These aren’t cold hard facts, just things that have worked for me.  This is for people trying to make a complete game. If you are just looking to explore and experiment then the list doesn’t necessarily apply.

  • Don’t save title screens and menus for last:  This is probably the least exciting part of your game development process which is why it’s so important to get it out of the way. It’s the first impression players get of your game. If you rush at the last minute you’ll be so uninterested that you’ll probably just throw something together. Also menus you can add some extra value to your game.

levelselect

 

With Crump Rush I took advantage of menus to display your best time along side my best time for each level. It’s a small detail but it added replayability and gave your score some meaning.

 

  • Add polish early: A lot of people are going to disagree with me on this one. The common procedure is program your mechanics in with programmer art and then add the polish at the end. There’s a problem with this. A lot of times you’re not really sure how fun a game is until you’ve added those extra touches. Especially the visual and audio feedback for the actions you want to encourage or discourage.  For the people that think the graphics and audio have nothing to do with making a game fun watch this. If you want to know more about game feel I highly recommend this book.

 

  • Treat every part of your game like a lesson. Make sure that someone can play your game and understand it without reading any instructions on your description page. Always be preparing your player for what’s to come.

 

In Crump Rush I only gave players a portion of the controls and instructions at a time. And I made sure they couldn’t get to the next level until they’ve proven they knew how to use them. After I fed them the controls, I gave them a level that you could only complete after understanding how to transfer your momentum from one sphere to another. I removed obstacles to prevent any distraction.  Once I knew they understood, I added levels of complexity and danger.

 

  • Playtest! This is probably one of the most important things that largely gets ignored during jams. I guarantee that people will play your game not as you expected. Have someone play it and resist the urge to say “No you’re supposed to…” Also you probably made your game too hard. If you die more than a few times on a level during your own game, players will find it impossible. Every level of my game was tweaked. Blocks moved slightly. Extra safety nets added. Care was put into prevent players from getting stuck. Of course it’s a Jam so you can only get so many people to playtest. So I added a catch all. It’s a bit of a cheap trick but it works in a pinch.

pressntoskip

 

If the game detected that you were dying too many times it made a level skip option available to you. Nothing ruins the fun of a game more than frustration. Even if your game is about challenge, there are a lot of games to rate. You can’t assume that audiences will put up with frustration to get to the end.

  • Manage your time: This might be obvious but there are a lot of tricks you can do to keep track of whether it’s possible to finish your game on time. Find some task management tool like Trello. And break down everything you need to do into as tiny pieces as possible and throw it on a to-do board. Get it down to details like what functions you need to implement, which individual sprites you need to draw, etc,. Now overestimate the time it will take to complete each of those tasks. No matter what you’re going to run into an obstacle you didn’t expect.  If it’s not possible move on to this next lesson.

 

  • Don’t be afraid to cut features: You’re probably going to realize that you can’t fit all the features that you wanted. Don’t be disappointed! This is a not a bad thing. When you figure out what you need to cut, you begin to realize what is essential to the essence of your game and what’s just fluff. Sometimes you even end up with a better, more elegant game this way.

 

  • Sleep. Don’t stay up all night trying to squeeze every second of time given to you. It’s counter productive. You’re not as smart or creative on no sleep. Also don’t go to sleep after you’ve finished a big task. Go to sleep right before you finish something. Wake up excited, knowing exactly what to do.

 

  • Get a grasp of scale and what you’re capable of. This is one of the most common mistakes I see. Some one gets really excited about a really cool idea for a game. And it is a really cool idea. But it isn’t a 48 hour jam idea. It’s easy to be overly ambitious with your concept. You need to get a firm grasp of what you’re capable of in a certain amount of time. Unfortunately this takes a lot of practice to get a feel for.

 

I’m not claiming to be an expert and these don’t necessarily apply to all games, but I hope you gain at least a tid bit of knowledge from it. And wish you luck for all your future Jams!

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One Response to “Crump Rush Postmortem – Ludum Dare Lessons”

  1. JenniNexus says:

    Good advice – I usually just wait for sleep ’til I’m dead 😀

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