Only YOU can shave the galaxy!
I’m in! This is probably my 10th or so Ludum Dare, and I hope to produce my 7th actually-submitted entry. I’ll be entering the jam instead of the compo this time, due to the support of my girlfriend. In past Ludum Dares, I have been plagued with two major problems: I get too distracted, and I choose a gameplay concept that is too experimental or that my tools aren’t really built for, so it ends up taking the whole period of the jam just to code, leaving no time for art, sound, levels, or polish of any kind (sometimes failing to produce a playable build at all, sometimes submitting just the barest skeleton of a game). I’m hoping working with someone else will help with the first problem by keeping me focused.
To combat the latter problem, I tried to think of an idea for a more conventional game that would allow me to more easily use the tools I’m already familiar with- I really did! But I just finished brainstorming with my girlfriend and, well… given our shared sense of humor, I should’ve guessed that the resulting idea would be something really friggin’ weird. We managed to include both themes, too. I hope we can finish it!
Good luck to everyone!
Well, the Nape stuff didn’t work out- turns out HaxeFlixel’s integration with Nape hasn’t been updated with the rest of HaxeFlixel, and trying to fix it only brought on more bugs. Now, it’s time for me to follow through on that promise I made to myself yesterday and drop Nape entirely. I’ve gotta find a workaround that doesn’t use a “real” physics engine for my core mechanic. I have an idea, but I can only hope it’ll work…
Since I got next to nothing accomplished yesterday fiddling with that stuff, I’m entering the Jam. I guess the 48 hours comprised of today and tomorrow will be my “Compo” period.
Man, it’s been years since my last decent entry into Ludum Dare. The past few times I’ve done this, I’ve shot for something overambitious, or something that required a tool I wasn’t very familiar with, and gotten very little of substance done by the deadline- so little that it soured me on playing and rating other people’s games because I didn’t want to draw attention to my own. This weekend, I’m hoping to end that streak, working more efficiently by sticking to what I know. As per the keynote, that’s what I’m doing differently this time: using exactly the same tools as last time. Here’s my tools, literally copy-pasted from my last “I’m in” post:
There are a couple caveats. The core mechanic from my best idea does seem to require the use of Nape, the physics engine I struggled to use for the first time last LD, and have gotten no more familiar with since then. I’ve sworn to myself that if I don’t completely tackle the Nape stuff today, then I’m cutting it and figuring out an easier-to-program mechanic. Also, HaxeFlixel’s HTML5 target is completely broken with regards to text, and I didn’t get the chance to finish writing the code I need to compensate for that before LD started, so that’ll set me back a little time. That said, I really like my idea, and however difficult it might be to program, it’s at least simple enough in design terms for me to feel comfortable attempting it.
Good luck to everyone!
I’m doing my “I’m in” post now because of how I always approach LD: the first night, I brainstorm for 2 hours, pick a best idea, then immediately go to sleep. Now I’m well-rested, well-breakfasted, and ready for 14 glorious hours of game dev before I go to sleep again! I’ll be using:
Interestingly, this theme was the second most divisive theme in the final round (as measured by fewest number of 0 votes) after the snowman. I was one of the ones who voted against this theme (boo technical restrictions), but I think I’ve got an idea that’ll work! I just feel bad for the people who wanted to make a first-person 3D game, an interactive fiction, or one of a few other things that don’t work well with the theme (though I see a few people still determined to make it work). Good luck to everyone, and I can’t wait to play what you all come up with!
I’ve always thought the term “postmortem” to be an odd one. A game doesn’t die when it’s released; it’s more like a birth! So, I’m calling this a “postpartum”. Not that this is necessarily the best time to start using that term- my “finished” game isn’t really a complete product, and I’m not too proud of its current state. But anyway…
Instead of trying to create the most polished game I could in 72 hours, I focused on using the jam as an excuse to force myself to learn something I’d otherwise put off- in this case, developing a mobile game (which I’d never done before). As it’s an uncommon approach to a game jam, this postpartum is as much a referendum on that approach as it is on the game itself.
I knew that I was probably going to turn in a less polished product than I usually do, because this time, I wasn’t focused on making the best game possible so much as one that worked under the constraints I set for myself. As I said previously, I was willing to accept that risk this time around, because my goals were different from what they’ve normally been since I started LD two years ago. However, now that I have taken that risk, and I have put out an unpolished tech demo, I’m not so sure I want to do it again. While my idea worked in principle (using the time pressure of the jam as a tool to learn a skill), I made a mistake in choosing Ludum Dare as the venue to do it.
A major purpose of Ludum Dare is to make something you can share with others- both for the joy of being involved in a community, and so others can evaluate your work to help improve your skills. This game is not something I really feel is shareable- not in its current state, anyway (I felt a little dirty submitting it). I’m well aware of the maxim “it’s never too early to playtest”, but I feel there are limits to that idea. This game isn’t just “I didn’t get to include all the features I wanted” unfinished; it’s “I haven’t even completed the core mechanic” unfinished. Because of this, I actively didn’t want to play and rate anyone else’s games– not only because it would draw unwanted attention to my own game (through the Coolness system), but I feel like if this is what people see of my work, than I have no grounds on which to evaluate others’ work (even though I’m a student of game design who’s been doing game jams for years).
Probably not. I underestimated the level of gratification that comes with trying my best to make the most polished game I can, and I didn’t realize that redefining “success” as something irrelevant to the final product (in this case, the learning experience) takes away all the joy of the 3 weeks after LD. That said, am I glad to have done it? Yeah, I can’t really complain about having opened the door to mobile development for myself. My technique worked as intended, not for gaining a complete understanding of mobile development, but as a way to prove to myself that I can do it without agonizing over it forever. I’d just rather do this again in a context that has much less of a focus on other people evaluating my work. Maybe I’ll do it again in a MiniLD- no ratings/rankings, no pressure.
See everyone next LD!
So here’s the deal.
During my brainstorming session for this theme, there was one idea I had that was far and away my favorite. The problem is that it would require me to make a mobile game- and I’ve never made one before. However, I knew Haxe, I knew Flixel, and I had attempted to set up OpenFL before the start of the compo, so I figured I might be able to set up HaxeFlixel and compile for Android. I knew from experience that, if I were experimenting with technology, it would probably take me half the competition just to make it work- and it did. However, I think I’m ready to accept that risk now. I’ve learned a lot of new things just from making this one game, and I have been enjoying myself.
So I successfully compiled- YAY! But the mechanic I needed mobile for hasn’t been working out as planned. I wanted to implement the theme as “you only get one row of pixels to view the gamespace”, so the players would have to see what’s going on by using the phone as a POV display- that is, waving it like this:
But after a lot of research into apps that did this sort of thing and research into the way I was accessing the phone’s accelerometer, I determined that it was impossible to do this with just one row of pixels in a way that the player can tell what’s going on (the above image was accomplished with a long-exposure camera and the Light Writer app, which uses far more screen space than the one pixel-width line I needed to fit the theme).
So I decided to go a different route: instead, you can only view one tile’s worth of gamespace at a time. I still wanted to control the camera movement here with the accelerometer, but after some testing and more research, it looks like I can’t prevent the screen from rotating during gameplay when holding the phone in the orientation that I’d want the game to be played- at least not through OpenFL. They purposefully eliminated that feature because iOS apps that used it were failing App Store submissions because of it (sometime later, I might try to write a library that does it for Android games).
But dammit, I started an Android app, and I’m going to finish an Android app.
So, instead of the accelerometer, I’ve settled upon a different feature that only mobile devices have: multitouch. That one actually seems to work the way I want it to! Now, time to make the actual gameplay. I might take this into the Jam so I have more than 9 hours to do all that stuff; I still like my idea and I want to make a good game out of it!
I’m using a tech I’ve never used before (OpenFL), which I know better than to do after two years of LD.
I’ve got a crazy ambitious idea, which I also know better than to do after two years of LD.
I started 4 hours late due to a concert, which means that, aside from sleep, I’ve had almost two hours to work so far, which have mostly been spent on brainstorming and research to see if my idea was even possible.
It’s going to be an interesting 2 days.
I was busy today, so I haven’t started yet. I purposely didn’t look at the theme until tonight so I wouldn’t be distracted with ideas. Even so, I was pulling for this theme (admittedly an anti-underdog if there ever was one) because I got an awesome idea soon after I saw the theme’s huge winning margin in round 1. I think I’ll enter the Jam this time so I can still get close to the full 48-hour experience.
Looking at the current field, I already see a bunch of cool ideas that I’m excited to play. Plus, I confirmed that my idea’s probably unique! I’m sure that with thousands of entries, my particular usage of the 10 titular seconds has occurred to at least a few other people, but I haven’t seen one such interpretation yet. Also, it seems like my idea’s low-scope enough to pull off in a reasonable timeframe. My biggest risk is AI- that’s something I haven’t attempted to do in LD before.
Good luck to everyone!
It looks like my bolstered confidence from this jam was indeed justified. I have submitted to 4 LDs including this one, but for this LD, I set a new personal best in every single category in which I got a rating (except Coolness). Not all of those new records are by a significant amount, though; the reason I’m so happy is not because of the improvements in my strongest categories, but the improvements in my weakest categories- the quality of my work is more consistent across categories without having lost any of my strengths. I still have to refine my methods a good deal, but the changes in my work habits I resolved to make for this LD paid off. This is my first solid evidence that I’m actually getting better at this.
So, why’d I do how I did in each category, and how do I improve?
#76. Innovation – 3.67 (previous best: 3.64, LD21)
I usually do well here, but I was still surprised at my performance this time, because I deliberately constrained my brainstorming. As I mentioned in my “I’m In” post, I wrote “NO GAME GENRE REFERENCES ALLOWED” in large letters across the top of my brainstorming sheet. However, I also made sure not to accept an idea unless it was low-scope enough to actually pull off well (I was SERIOUSLY tempted to go with a cooler but much higher-scope idea). As a result, I adopted a rather generic arcade-style gameplay structure to maintain that low scope, but the primary gameplay mechanic isn’t quite like any game I know of, since it wasn’t designed with any existing game or genre in mind. While almost certainly something new, it’s still nothing hugely out of the ordinary. If I want to improve, I’ll have to find ideas in that small overlap between “low-scope” and “attention-grabbingly unique”- quite a difficult task.
#94. Theme – 3.83 (previous best: 3.80, LD21)
I’m also a bit surprised about how this was my highest-rated category. I thought it was a pretty standard implementation of the theme… perhaps people liked how I offered a sympathetic portrayal of the “villain”, but that was just in text outside of the game proper. Improving here’s not my highest priority, but as long as I don’t keep my idea too much of stretch from the theme, hopefully it’ll improve hand-in-hand with Innovation.
#174. Fun – 3.25 (previous best: 3.05, LD23)
This is always my highest priority, but also hard to complete satisfactorily within 48 hours. As per my game-design training, the gameplay has a solid “core” (the challenge of picking up humans without dropping them). However, I was aware going in that I would get a few marks down for some gameplay flaws that could easily be fixed given more time (i.e. humans staying out of reach, weird chain-of-humans physics). I intentionally saved these kinds of tweaks for later. In the past, I’ve fixed an emergent flaw as soon as I detected it, but this caused me to neglect other aspects of gameplay, as well as almost all of the graphics and audio, preventing me from working on a more “complete” experience.
#181. Overall – 3.33 (previous best: 3.00, LD23)
I like how this was my biggest non-audiovisual improvement. I think it reflects the fact that this is a more “complete” product than my past entries, as I mentioned previously. This was the first time I feel like I properly scoped for 48 hours. I do still need to improve on “completeness”, though, and I think that’s the primary way I’ll be able to improve my Overall rating. The graphics and audio, while present to the degree they “need” to be, were still noticeably bare-minimum, and the gameplay still needs some more polish (see “Fun”).
#206. Audio – 2.92 (previous best: 2.18, LD23)
My most-improved category for obvious reasons (for the first time, I have music). I suspect this was brought down by a noob mistake I made and didn’t find out about until well into the rating period: after each round, the game started playing a new instance of the background music from the beginning, but kept playing the previous instance of the music at the same time. I’m going to be a bit more rigorous with my audio testing in the future to make sure nothing like this happens again.
#272. Graphics – 3.17 (previous best: 2.69, LD24)
I’m surprised that my programmer-art got me above the 3.00 threshold. I guess I just have to keep making sure that I don’t include any assets well beyond my drawing capabilities- though I was kind of proud of the way I disguised the collision boxes with the design of the mothership. I think, if I am to improve here, I have to go for a consistent, stylized aesthetic (ideally minimalistic), and find the time to do non-essential things like illustrated instructions, non-default UI graphics, background imagery, and “juicy” visual effects.
#1048. Coolness – 22% (current best: 32%, LD23)
As usual, I struggled to find time to rate other participants’ games, between holiday plans (including a trip to New York for New Year’s Eve), commitments with friends (as students at different colleges, winter break is the only chance we really have to catch up with each other), and various obligations. I’m graduating in May- hopefully, come LD27, I’ll have more free time.
Humor – N/A (current best: 3.25, LD21)
I included a little humorous story on the game’s ratings page, but I didn’t really intend the game to be all that humorous… just cute/lighthearted fun.
Mood – N/A (current best: 2.53, LD23)
I know I find mood hard to rate for most games (and usually abstain), and I’m betting most other voters do too. Like I said, I was going for a cute/lighthearted aesthetic, but I’m not sure it’s really stylized enough to constitute a “mood”… I guess the voters agreed. Plus, I think some voters use the Mood category only for melancholy or artsy aesthetics… those are the only ones I find easy to rate myself.
Things have been going surprisingly well!
You can still tell I’m not an artist, but I’ve got the bare-minimum art done (I’d like some clouds, hills, or something else to fill that empty space in the background if there’s time), and the humans behave much more (though still not entirely) according to the laws of physics. I’m satisfied with all the mechanics, so that just leaves sound/music (and writing instructions- I saved that for last in case there’s any last-minute mechanical changes) and I’m home free! I might actually have time to add extra polish! Probably not goats, though, but that’s okay. Maybe for a post-compo version.
I don’t want to jinx anything, but I think this has been my best LD performance yet. This is already leagues better polish-wise than I managed with my LD 24 entry (which I took an extra 24 hours to do), I’m going to have art, sound, and MUSIC (a first for me), and I didn’t overscope! I’m very happy with how this has been coming out.
To the finish line!
I’m always so jealous of the people who know how to art.
Everyone else’s games look so much prettier than mine right now, but then again, that’s because I’ve spent my entire time so far working on mechanics- some of you all might have done art first or interspersed it with mechanics. I try to reassure myself that I’ve therefore spent more time on gameplay than most other people (and thus my game probably plays better), but is that true? My logs say I’ve done 5 hours, 17 minutes of actual work. While that’s a little over half as long as I predicted I’d take to get to this point, the time doesn’t add up. Almost 28 hours of LD have elapsed so far- subtract 4 for planning, 9 for sleeping, 2 for meals and the like- that’s still about 7 hours, 43 minutes that have vanished into the mystery zone.
Where did all that time go? I know I get distracted a lot, but I’ve been fairly focused so far- I’d attribute no more than, say, 2 hours to distractions. Am I really underestimating by that much?
No matter. Time to get back to work. I’ve stopped a few mechanics early because, while I’d have a hell of a time trying to narratively justify the physics at this point, it’s already fun/challenging. I figure polish first, make sense later. I’m going to do a bit of menus, then go straight to the art, then sound and music. After I’ve done all that, I’ll come back and add in whatever I originally planned that I still have time for (like the people you abduct not being able to pass through the ground once they’re attached to your ship).
Oh, and I think I figured out how to work goats in if I have time.
Hey everyone! I’m back for my 6th attempted (and hopefully 4th completed) Ludum Dare! Although I’ve completed a few games in the past, I still really have to work on my polish and work ethic- I haven’t been too good at either of those things in past LDs, and it shows. After the disaster that was last time, I am now committed to learning from my mistakes and Doing Things Completely Differently. Here’s how I’m changing up my process from last time:
Well, I’ve spent long enough writing this (that’s another thing I need to learn not to be so perfectionistic about)- time to get to work!
Screenshot (no, really):
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Bluh. I submitted my game to the Jam, but I’m not sure I can say I “finished” it. It’s a very rudimentary packaging of what I was able to program within the time limit, but it’s not really a coherent “game” without a lot of explanation. Also, I accomplished absolutely none of the goals I outlined in my “I’m in!” post; as usual, I simply didn’t have time. This is my third completed and fifth attempted LD; I should be doing better than this by now!
So, what went wrong? I picked a terrible idea. I don’t think it’s a terrible idea for a game when actually executed to spec, but it IS a terrible idea for a Ludum Dare entry. The kicker is that the primary mistakes I made, I already knew were mistakes. I knew working with a language that was not my primary programming language would slow me down; I knew making a platforming engine from scratch would decimate my scope. The problem was that making an ASCII platformer was critical to my idea at the start – I wanted to impress people by having the link you click on transform into the game, using the Ludum Dare page itself as a play surface and playing off that fact as part of the story. That required me to jump through all these hoops that slowed me down, and I had rejected all my other ideas because they were either unoriginal or had a very low chance of being fun.
Thankfully, even though I was well aware of many of my mistakes, I did learn some new things from it that’ll help me be more confident and, hopefully, get much more accomplished the next time around:
I guess I’ll end this very long-winded post by saying that, while this Ludum Dare was less pleasant to me than usual because of all my failures, I’m still glad to have done it because of how much it has galvanized me to do the next one so radically differently that I might actually accomplish some polish that time.
Congratulations to the Evolution theme, which has FINALLY been chosen! It’s a bit tricky to find a non-obvious idea for this one, but at least it’s not too similar to previous LDs! I’ve got a few ideas brewin’, but naturally, I’m afraid a bunch of other people will have thought of the same things. I suppose with thousands of games out there, it’s hard to have something COMPLETELY unique- execution is important, too! However, I am trying to shy away from what I bet is the most obvious idea: a game where the player character or enemies get upgrades or change form (à la Altered Beast) over time.
Also, remember last Ludum Dare, when I was one of several people who did a postmortem survey and promised to release statistics with the results? Well, unfortunately, due to some stuff that happened to everyone in the class I was doing the survey for, I didn’t get to do a real analysis of the results. When this compo’s over, I’ll take a crack at the analysis and post what I come up with!
I guess I should have goals, too, so here are some goals I’m coming up with off the top of my head:
Good luck to everyone, and remember to have fun!
If so, you may be interested in taking my survey!
I am an MIT undergrad interested in studying game jams for a course on video game research. I’m studying Ludum Dare to see the relationship between how people go about making their games during the Compo or Jam to how well they did (and how well they believe they did). The survey’s not long at all; you should be able to complete it in less than 10 minutes. Any and all responses will be greatly appreciated!