LD34 Theme Retrospective

Posted by
January 4th, 2016 5:39 am

This is my 7th Ludum Dare, and I know it’s basically tradition for all of us to complain about themes once they are chosen. However, out of the previous 6 times I’ve participated, I don’t remember the theme seriously HARMING games. Even the entire game on one screen theme probably produced some neat games. Maybe they were small in scope or a little annoying because of the one screen, but normal controls could be used etc.

However, out of 30-something games I played and rated this time (and that’s low by my normal standards), plus my own game, I feel some games were actively HARMED by the two-button theme. I know it’s theoretically optional, but many developers including myself apparently decided that we wanted to use it — or that perhaps we would be judged harshly for ignoring it and using the other theme.

Whatever the reason, many people including me ended up using two controls, and in some cases made neat, clever games THAT WERE REALLY ANNOYING TO PLAY. I thought maybe Morse code would be a clever idea, but the timing was too difficult for the vast majority of players. Even if the two-button mechanic was creative (maybe one does one thing, and one does the other thing, and both does a third thing), it might range from glitchy to frustrating to nearly ruining the player experience.

I may be a minority on this, and I’m sure some games WERE good even with two buttons. But next time you’re voting on a theme, I respectfully ask this: Please consider voting for a theme that relates to content rather than mechanical restriction. I really feel that the player experience will be better because of it.

5 Responses to “LD34 Theme Retrospective”

  1. MSiddeek says:

    I guess people have very different thought processes then, because I tend to like restrictions XD

  2. randomhuman says:

    I think the phenomenon you’re describing is mostly due to people trying to force two-button controls into games that should have just been about growing. People who stuck to the two-button controls theme made some great games, likewise people who made growing games with appropriate control schemes. I think in the future there should be a theme tie-break mechanism, because it’s clear that a lot of people are concerned that picking one or the other theme is a handicap (and they might be right, I dunno).

  3. simoroshka says:

    I think, the point was to try and find a way to incorporate the theme into gameplay. It is not the theme problem that people just slam the restriction onto something that didn’t need it.
    I had two buttons inside the game, for example.

  4. beetracks says:

    I disagree GAFBlizzard. As randomhuman pointed out, and I agree, the problem is not with the mechanics, it’s about people trying to put the mechanics into a game that needs other mechanics. I think Ludum Dare limitations are exactly for that: pushing the creativity through some limit. Although this is my first LD, I participated in other game jams, and I think that the limiting factor is important. If you have a two-button theme, you need to pick things that will work with two buttons. It’s actually a good way find out new ways of doing a game. I rated about 100 games and many of them were awesome. Maybe lack some graphics or audio, but gameplay-wise they were creative. (I played simoroshka game and it was a very creative way to use the two button theme). So, I disagree that limiting mechanics will affect the game negatively, unless you want to do a game that won’t work with these mechanics. For me, it was a great experience and I learned a lot. Of course, this is only my opinion.

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