Before I begin, I just want to say that I LOVE Ludum Dare! I have done 10 LDs, but this time I will not be participating due to several projects I have under my belt. (Twitter: @ccolongames)
This will be my 7th time sharing these tips, but each LD I revise them and add a couple of new things to the list. These tips are just from my experience, so feel free to disagree.
On the day of the event, (in no particular order) get lots of sleep and take a shower. I recommend showering right before the time hits because personally I don’t like wasting my time showering during a game jam. I know it sounds kind of funny, but you want as much time as possible to work on your game. Also, sleep is really important too because you’re not going to get a lot of sleep during the weekend. Personally, I like sleeping 4-5 hours on both dev days, giving me a total of 8-10 hours of sleep during the weekend.
Sleeping and Eating
Buy some snacks, like right now! Buy super unhealthy snacks, and drink some soda to stay up (also who doesn’t like soda?) Although if you can prepare healthy meals before the event, you should probably do so. I wouldn’t go cooking a full-blown meal during the jam if I were you. And you can last with a little bit of food over the weekend. Stay up as long as possible. If you have difficulty staying up, have others around to talk to, drink caffeinated beverages, and don’t get too comfortable where you’re sitting because you don’t want to fall asleep.
Making Your Game
If you don’t finish making a game, DON’T WORRY because you’re not alone!
GAMEPLAY is important! Yes, pretty Graphics are nice, good Music is even nicer, but you need Gameplay. Make a Game in 48/72 Hours. Graphics, Music, and other things definitely improve your game, but you only have 48-72 hours to create something. Shoot for the gameplay. The first thing you should do with your game is to create the core mechanics. Make all the Graphics rectangles, and forget about the Sound for now. You don’t even need to turn in your entry with fancy menus. Sure, on the last day you can change the graphics, but earlier on just focus on the Gameplay.
Now this is just my opinion, you can do whatever you want. And if you’re going to make a narrative game or a game that’s just about the visuals, then just ignore what I just said about the Gameplay being the key.
THEME is important. THEME is not important. It all depends on who you are. If you can think of an idea for a game revolving around the theme in a few hours, awesome, but if you can’t, I would just start making a game that I have been wanting to make and then incorporate the theme later; or maybe I just wouldn’t incorporate the theme at all. After the Compo/Jam is over, you receive ratings on multiple categories, and there is only one Theme Category so if you didn’t care about the theme, no big deal. (If you don’t incorporate the theme into your game, I recommend opting out of the Theme Category.)
Once again, do whatever you want; this is just my recommendation. Some people like to take their time to come up with an idea for a game, and that’s okay, I just recommend getting that out of the way fast.
If you haven’t completely finished your game (which is probably the case), try to finish/polish it even though your entry is already in. When you’re done with that, add the link to the Post Compo/Jam version of your game next to the 48/72 hr version so that people can play both of them. It’ll make you proud and make you feel better about yourself. And if you really like how your game is looking, continue development and try putting it on Steam Greenlight, because why not?!
RATE GAMES! Rate as many games as you possibly can, and give everyone a comment! The more games you rate, the more times your game shows up on the front page. Comments help as well because some people will look at their comments and click on your name to see your game (also it’s just a really nice thing to do). If you can rate more than about 250 games (which is pretty difficult to do), your game may show up on the Most Coolness page which would be awesome because lots of people visit that page. If you don’t rate any games then just about no one will see your game, so…
What I do
I usually work on the core mechanics for the game first, and then make some music for it so it plays better. I personally think the graphics should go last.
That is just about all I have to say. And once again, these are just my recommendations, so feel free to do whatever you want!