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My First Ludum Dare

Posted by
Friday, December 23rd, 2011 2:21 pm

Hi All, Last weekend was my first time competing in a Ludum Dare Competition. I started off making a game with Blitz3D. The premise of the game revolved around a sole astronaut stuck on Mars who needed to collect pieces of the remains of previous missions. However, that game was too involved and would be accessible to fewer participants: It would only run on Windows.

I figured: Hey, it’s my first time, why not use this pressure to learn something new and challenge myself. I have coded games and other software for fun using the various “Blitz Research” languages. (Plus, 3D, Max)   but I’d yet to try out their newest creation, Monkey. Its basically a programming language that isn’t compiled, but rather translated into other languages that target certain platforms. ( HTML5/Javascript , XNA , iOS, Android )   I read through the documentation and looked at some of the provided example programs. Pretty standard stuff a “game” class that extends a base class containing methods to handle initializing, updating, and rendering. (kinda like an Xbox game using XNA C#)

Like all programmers the first thing I did was a simple hello world test. Except instead of the usual display of hello world i drew a sprite to the canvas. Success! I was off to the races! from that point I began thinking of simple 2D mechanics that I like. I mean, perhaps its just me, but I am more motivated when developing a game i want to play, not just a game i am making.

I started with the idea of a single player side-scrolling shooter. you played a US soldier sent in behind enemy lines just before D-Day. your job was to destroy a large traincar-mounted gun. I created graphics for the main character and the enemies. both had only 2-frames of animation: walking and standing. Although the character was technically alone, I felt I could better capture the theme.

[RE: Your Brains] Unlike many gamers I know, I have yet to tire of zombies, and  zombie themed games. Feeling unsatisfied with the enemy soldiers, and the relevance to the theme, I added molly in the minecart and replaced the soldiers with zombies. Like the main character and the zombies, the minecart is only two frames of animation. I did not want to waste time drawing additional frames. If you look closely when the characters animate the move up and down 1 pixel. This was accomplished by simply changing the Y-position of the sprites before each frame was rendered. Although the HTML canvas is 640 x 480 I created the sprites and backgrounds as if i were rendering to a 160 x 120 screen. After the sprites were drawn, they were up-scaled to fill the 640×480 screen. (4 times their original size) I felt this gave the game a more retro feel.

[Can you hear me now?]: No Sound!!! I ran out of time before i could create sounds i needed for the game. In addition to that, there is no standard sound file that can be used across all browsers. I read the Ludum Dare’s tips and should have taken their suggestion: download and use a simple sound generator.  It’s better than no sound in your game!

If you’ve played the game, you know its way too hard. The controls are also poorly laid out. I spent too much time on the graphics and not enough time on the game play and sound. The game’s zombies multiply so fast as you advance that its becomes impossible to finish. Game play is key. This is my biggest take away. That although its obvious that game-play is critical, you have to make time to polish it.

All in all this was a wonderful experience and I’m hooked. I learned quite a bit about rapid game development and I can’t wait for April. But to prepare I am going to do one game each month in the Ludum Dare 48-hour style.  9pm EST Friday to 9pm EST Sunday. Since LD22 was my first attempt, I plan on working  through each of the previous themes. So, in January I will be tackling the theme for LD1. (assuming there was a theme, haven’t looked yet)  When i am finished, I’ll post my “results” finished or not.

Thanks to all who played my game. Now I’ve got to go play yours.


[EDIT 1/3/2012 ]: Here’s a link to the actual game: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-22/?action=preview&uid=7958

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