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Will have a go.

Posted by
Thursday, December 8th, 2016 1:16 pm

Busy weekend with lots of other appointments but I’ll try to do at least an 8-hour game or something.

  • Xcode
  • Photoshop
  • GarageBand
  • cfxr
  • The Fresh engine (my own)
  • Emscripten
  • Maybe Gawker, though I’m thinking of not recording the screen this time around.

What Ludum Dare Rating Categories Matter Most?

Posted by
Wednesday, April 13th, 2016 11:23 am

When we reach the end of a Ludum Dare event and evaluate each others’ games, we grade each game with a series of categories: Overall, Fun, Coolness, Graphics, Audio, Theme, Innovation, Humor, and Mood. When the results are announced, the top 100 games in each category are displayed, and of course it is every competitor’s dream to land in at least one of those top-100 lists.

The Overall category holds pride-of-place. Arguably, the winner of the Overall category is the winner of the event. It’s satisfying to do well in the other categories, but until you’re ranked #1 Overall, there is still room for growth in your Ludum Dare performance.

Which brings me to this question: Have you ever wondered which other categories make the biggest difference in how you rank overall? For example, do people who do well Overall also tend to do especially well in Graphics, or Theme, or Innovation? Coolness is a measure of how much you played other peoples’ games; does a great Coolness ranking help you achieve a good Overall ranking? If you want to succeed Overall, does it pay to focus on Fun, or Graphics, or Audio, or Mood?

If you’re anything like me, you’re just itching to know.

And now you can.


For the last several Ludum Dare events I’ve analyzed the relationships between category rankings by looking at the scores of the top 100 Compo entries. In each event I’ve analyzed the correlation between how games did in each of the nine categories. What I’ve found is that there are strong correlations, and they’re not necessarily what you would expect.

Take a look at this.

Correlations per Event

Correlations per Event

What you see here is a chart of how well each category did relative to the Overall category in each of the last eleven LD events. The blue line represents Fun, for example. This shows that more than any other category, Fun correlates strongly with Overall. If you do well in Fun, you tend to do well overall; if you do poorly in Fun, you tend to do poorly overall.


…In Which I Unduly Influence Your Theme Voting

Posted by
Tuesday, April 12th, 2016 1:29 pm

Ever wonder what other people are thinking when they vote on themes? Here’s what I’m thinking for LD-35.

Shapeshift Just doesn’t appeal to me. Feels art-heavy rather than behaviorally interesting, but I could be wrong.
The light hurts you Personally doesn’t appeal. I’ve done a lot with light in the last few years and am kind of bored with it.
Mutation Evolution by another name. Been there done that.
Evolution Been there done that (LD-24)
Indirect Control Been there done that (LD-0)
Exploration Been there done that (LD-16)
You are the Dungeon Interesting. Perhaps too restrictive: we’re liable to see a bunch of Dungeon Keeper clones.
Fortress Interesting. Could spawn interesting builders, or tower defense, or dungeon crawls. Maybe a little loose.
Create Life Not terrible. Artificial life, or Growth (LD-34) might be similar. Might be evolution, which: been there done that. Not a favorite.
Power in Numbers Intriguing. A few possibilities here. A little abstract maybe.
Playing Both Sides Snore. It feels like any game worthy of this description would be either really complicated (like a political simulator in which sneaky double-agenting has the desired effect) or really dumb (like a pong game where you control both paddles). Not a favorite.
Killing isn’t needed Non-violence. Fine. Pretty broad though.
Death is Progress Argh. Why is this so concept popular? It feels like the theme for a religious treatise more than for a game. No.
Non Violent Weapon Again with the non-violence. I’m sick of weapon themes: I found LD32’s “unconventional weapon” unhelpful, and I think this will have a similar effect.
You don’t control the Hero Indirect control. Been there done that (LD-0).
Upgrade Too vague.
Artificial Life Again with the artificial life. Fine.
You are your own bullet Surely too restrictive. How many ways are there to do this? Please not this theme.
You only have 3 minutes Seems reasonable. LD31’s “Ten seconds” is bolder and more interesting, but this could be okay.
No Text Mixed feelings here. Quite a few games have no text anyway, but I like the emphasis on making the game truly self-explanatory. This remains quite broad though. I don’t dread this theme, but I’d prefer one that’s more constraining and focusing.
Adaptation Evolution by another name. Been there done that.
Build your way out Could be interesting. Seems a reasonable balance between restrictive and broad. I’d like to try a building game and “out” gives it some direction. Not my favorite, but reasonable.
Upgradable Upgrade/upgradeable. Snore.
Limited View What game doesn’t have a limited view? Still, there’s some range here for creativity. Not my favorite, but not terrible.
Microworld Intriguing. There are several ways of interpreting this, which I like. I like the suggestion that we’re simulating a world perhaps RPG or SimCity-style. I like it.
Corruption This one keeps coming up each LD. It’s not bad. It’s broad enough to encompass disease or politics or morality or chemistry. “Spreading effects” are always interesting in games. Not my absolute favorite, but holds promise.
Anything can Explode Ha! Could be awesome. I love chain reactions in games: good ol’ Doom’s exploding barrels a great case in point. That said, we’re likely to get a lot of pretty similar games here. And the emphasis on violence from the get-go is very limiting: where’s the range for sensitive, or moody, or evocative, or story-based games?
Cells Very interesting, though perhaps a bit broad. Could be biological, or prison cells, or technical grid cells. I like this.
Teleport Not terrible, but no thanks. Kind of the worst of both worlds: too broad to guide us much, yet restricts us to a sci-fi setting. Not a fan.
Single Resource Doesn’t appeal to me. It implies an economy of some kind, as in an RTS, yet limits that economy from the get-go.
Two Colors Yes! I like the heavy visual restriction of making a monochrome game. Those who balk at that restriction can still emphasize two colors as being significant to gameplay. I like it.
Artificial Intelligence What game doesn’t have artificial intelligence? Yet an LD full of games emphasizing artificial intelligence could be awesome. I like it.
Upgrades Again. And I didn’t like it the first two times either.
One Item, Choose Nah. “One Item” on its own could be okay, since it’s pretty restrictive, but the “Choose” broadens this out so that I don’t even know what to picture. No thanks.
One Massive Enemy Could be intriguing, but is likely to be technically difficult. We’re also likely to see a lot of similar games with this.
Trading Hm, yes! Very interesting: almost any game can use trading as an organizing factor, so there’s plenty of range for diversity among the games, yet the core factor of trading motivates some interesting gameplay mechanics. I’m game for this!
Medieval Sci-fi Argh. Not a fan of “story genre” themes. Guide my gameplay design, not my artwork. Please no.
Transportation Interesting! Could be fun: city simulators, train simulators, Does Not Commute, Eurotruck Simulator—lots of interesting options here.
World within a World Also interesting. Lots of options here, but it’s structurally suggestive enough to drive real design decisions.
You are not supposed to do that! No no no. Funny I’m sure, but what do you do with this? I prefer structural themes that guide the actual gameplay.
Companion Another evergreen theme. It’s sort of interesting, I don’t hate it, but not my cup of tea.
Everything is Connected I find this one difficult to picture.
Nowhere is Safe Congratulations, you’ve described every action game ever. No thanks.
Be the Environment Or the dungeon? But if I have to pick a poison, I’d choose the specificity of “You are the Dungeon.”
Non-violent game mechanics Again. But I prefer this to Non-Violent Weapon, which is more clever but also more self-contradictory.
3 Rules I could probably live with this, but it doesn’t feel fun to me. Board games have rules. Schools have rules. Video games just do and let the player just do. But this wouldn’t be terrible.
The Environment is your Enemy …in every game ever. Thanks.
Parallel Worlds See “Connected Worlds,” LD-30. Been there done that.
The game is aware of the player This is almost interesting. If you mean that the game is aware of the player character, then that describes every game ever. If you mean the game is aware of the human player, like through the camera and microphone, then this is intriguing—but creepy.
The Moon I don’t know why I like this but I do. I suppose it feels like it has the right balance of specific and broad.
Death is Key to Victory Again this odd, almost religious assertion crops up repeatedly. Please no.
Consequences …as in every game ever.
Only 3 Colours Now we’re talking! Beautifully restrictive. And here there’s even less wiggle room than in “Two Colors” for using lots of colors and merely emphasizing some: you really need to use just three colors in the whole game. I would love this one. Bring it on!
No instructions What, you mean like as in “No Text”? Only that one is more restrictive and therefore more better.
No Text Allowed What, as in “No Text”? Thanks for playing.
Ecosystem What, as in Evolution or Artificial Life? Okay, I get it: it’s not quite the same thing. Fine. Could live with this.
Safety in Numbers What, as in Power in Numbers? Only Power in Numbers is bolder and therefore better.
Unconventional Movement What, as in Unconventional Weapon (LD-32)? I think movement is hard enough to get right without making it unconventional. I could live with this but don’t prefer it.
You are the Final Boss What, as in You are the Monster (LD-33) or You are the Villain (LD-25)? Not a fan.
Space Exploration Yeah, I could live with this.
Everything Falls Apart Or does it Explode? Dadgum, people, are you all drinking the same Kool-aid? Still, this isn’t a bad theme. It’s okay.
Limited resources Or a Single Resource? Except that “Single Resource” is at least interestingly restrictive, whereas “limited resources” describes every game ever.
Adapt to Survive What, as in Evolution or Adaptation? And in what game do you not adapt to survive?
You are Hunted Ah-ha, now we have a good one. There’s range here and yet specificity. Plus being hunted is fun (well, not in real life). Yes!
Planets Yep, seems good. Physics simulator, space simulator, exploration… there’s game here.
Time and Space Sure, why not? Time mechanics are always fun. Space is never a bad context for a game.
Your weapon is your Enemy I don’t know, I guess I just don’t like “weapon” themes.
It’s not a bug, it’s a Feature Ha! Clever and funny, and there’s some range for cool game mechanics here. Let’s do it!
Experimentation Yeah, this seems cool. There’s range here, and a game in which the player must experiment is an interesting sub-category unto itself.
Nature vs. Technology Kinda like Medieval Sci-Fi, this is more the setting for a comic book series than a theme for a game.
Self-Destruction Woah. Kinda dark. Nothing comes to mind in terms of gameplay. Doesn’t seem terrible, though.
Orbiting What, as in Planets? Personally, my LD34 game was about orbiting, so I’d rather not do this one. More generally, it does seem pretty restrictive.
Keep Moving Please no. I’ve played too many endless runners for one lifetime. Please don’t add more.
Four Classic Elements (Fire, Water, Earth, Air) I want to like this but, I don’t know, I just don’t. Feels like a lot to deal with: four of anything in a 48 hour game feels like a lot. Give me two or three of something, no more.
Infected Kinda like Corruption but more specific. I quite like this: there’s range for variety but also some specificity.
Choose your Poison Brings nothing to my mind. No thanks.
Don’t be a hero Brings nothing to my mind. No thanks.
Negative Space Phew, sounds hard, very abstract, though I want to like it. No thanks though.
Shapeshifting What, kind of like the first theme on this list, “Shapeshift”? No thanks.
Only 1 Shot Could be interesting. Not terrible. Pleasantly restrictive. Could make for some frustrating gameplay though. Not terrible, but not my favorite.

In for Ludum 35

Posted by
Saturday, April 9th, 2016 6:59 pm

In for my 4th (5th?—can’t remember) Ludum Dare with the usual tools.

  • Engine: Fresh
  • Language: C++
  • IDE: Xcode
  • Platform: Emscripten (Web)
  • Music: GarageBand
  • SFX: cfxr
  • Graphics: Photoshop

I’m pleasantly surprised by the round 1 themes. Please pick a good one, people.

Orbital: The Timelapse

Posted by
Monday, December 14th, 2015 12:59 pm

This timelapse of my LD34 entry, Orbital, is annotated to show what I worked on and when. Although my weekend was shortened by Life Happening™, the project mostly went smoothly. I’m still brewing on a Post Mortem, but this timelapse shows the facts.

Yes, in.

Posted by
Friday, December 11th, 2015 8:43 pm

In for my fourth LD with the usual tools and engines:

  • Fresh
  • Photoshop
  • GarageBand
  • cfxr
  • Gawker
  • Emscripten
  • Xcode
  • Sublime Text
  • GifGrabber

Shorter Judging Period, Please?

Posted by
Monday, August 31st, 2015 8:38 am

Call me impatient, but don’t you agree the Ludum Dare judging period is too long?

It’s too late to change the period for LD33, but I humbly request that for future Ludum Dares, the organizers shrink the judging period from 3 weeks to a single week. The week would start at the end of the Jam, so generally speaking we’d have from that Monday to the following Monday to play games and register our votes.

Why so short?

  1. We wouldn’t have to wait as long to receive our results. And I’m impatient.
  2. A shorter period would maintain momentum and focus. After three long weeks I find that the energy, the enthusiasm, the mood of the Ludum Dare event is long gone. I’m out of the moment; I’ve moved on. Completing the judging within a week would allow us to rate games and receive our ratings while still “in the moment.” By the time the results come in, I can barely remember what happened three weeks ago. It’s harder to learn lessons, harder to care about the results. As it is, many of us write “post mortems” that aren’t even “post”—they’re written long before the end, when we don’t yet know what the result of our work is. A shorter judging period focuses the Ludum Dare event into a coherent moment.
  3. Most of the voting is finished in the first week anyway. I mean, I don’t have general statistics for all games, but my own games seem to receive 99% of their votes within the first three or four days. How much difference does another 2.5 weeks really make?

Ludum Dare has been around for a long time and I’m sure there were good reasons for giving it a three week judging period, but I don’t see what they are. Do those reasons still hold? Wouldn’t a week be even better?

Please give Hop some Hope

Posted by
Monday, August 24th, 2015 8:34 am

Would you please try Hop’s Hope, my 48-hour compo entry for LD33? I think you’ll probably like it, maybe. Except… no, maybe you won’t like it so much. Yeah, now that I think about it you’ll probably dislike it in some ways, ways that ultimately will make you hate it and want to destroy the memory of it, or better yet its creator. In fact it will almost certainly make you contemplate whether it would be possible to send a robot back in time to destroy ALL games so that this one abomination might never have been committed.

Still, it’s worth a try, you know?


Hop's Hope - Gameplay



A couple of Ludum Dare’s ago, a non-verbal theme—a snowman—was allowed into the system. It was a bad theme, but attracted “memic” attention, and the resulting vote was split. The result was virtually two Ludum Dares, with many people following the real theme and others clinging to the snowman.

Today we find that “Pluto’s Heart” has been supplemented with an image at the bottom of the page. The organizers of the voting seem to have been amused or attracted enough by the concept of “Pluto’s Heart”—or perhaps they thought its meaning or merits wouldn’t be fully appreciated—such that they decided to call out this one item and amplify it with an image.

Don’t do that.

If you’re going to use a democratic voting process, use a democratic voting process. Don’t manipulate the themes. Don’t supplement certain themes. Don’t promote certain themes. Don’t draw attention to them.

Let the vote work. Present a set of user-nominated themes in a neutral and indifferent way. Let the voters judge the themes on their own merits. In future years, when the results of past Ludum Dares are tabulated, the image of Pluto’s Heart will not be available. The words will have to stand on their own. Let them stand on their own now.

By highlighting or supplementing certain themes, you also run the Snowman Risk: the risk of dividing voters into those who respond to images and those who are focused on the themes themselves. A divided Ludum Dare is a damaged Ludum Dare. Why jeopardize the quality and reputation of the contest—which is really growing into a grand and respected tradition—with cute pictures thrown in “for fun”?

Organizers, don’t jack with the vote.

I Must Break You

Posted by
Saturday, August 15th, 2015 10:14 pm

My fourth Ludum Dare. The last was a dud though—I started out full of drive but life intruded and by Saturday I had been pulled away by pressing issues in “the real world”. Hopefully the real world will mind its own business this time.

I will use:

  • Xcode for Xcoding
  • Sublime Text for all the stuff Xcode can’t do but should’ve a long time ago
  • Photoshop for arting
  • GarageBand for musicking
  • Cfxr for sounding
  • My own engine, “Fresh”, for engining
  • C++ for talking to the computer with
  • Emscripten for webbing

P.S., I am the villain in this whole Ludum Dare 33 thing but I don’t know it because I’ve just been programmed to do this.

The Outfit

Posted by
Friday, April 17th, 2015 4:39 pm


Third time is a charm and whatnot

Posted by
Friday, April 17th, 2015 3:40 pm

I’m in for my third Ludum Dare with my hand-made engine Fresh, art by Photoshop, sound by cfxr and Garage Band. Goal: land in the top 100.

Cannot Wait for 32

Posted by
Friday, March 6th, 2015 7:16 am

I’m getting charged up about Ludum Dare 32. Kids can’t wait for Christmas. I can’t wait for Ludum Dare. And this time, apart from being the 14th anniversary or something, it’s the first power of 2 Ludum Dare since halfway back from the beginning!

But please, no symbols for themes this time. It confused matters and split the field. Text only please.

The Rise and Fall of the Lone Game Developer

Posted by
Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 11:54 am

Today I wrote a sort of lament for the passing of the era in which small games made good money. From the article:

In the early 80s, all it took to make a game was a computer, some graph paper, and a lot of determination.

Games were created by brilliant individuals.

Early Richard Garriott

Their designs were often groundbreaking and sometimes deeply artistic.

Their choices defined much of what we see in games today.

Some of these auteur game developers even made a decent living….

I think you might enjoy it.

Oh and you should rate my LD31 compo entry, Claustrophobia, too.

Elsewhere in gaming…

Posted by
Thursday, December 11th, 2014 10:35 am

As a matter of curiosity, one of my non-LD games, Doug dug. (iOS, Android), has had a huge upswing in popularity in the last day or so. It’s pretty exciting to have 35,000 people download your game in 24 hours.

But I’d love it if you could rate my Ludum Dare 31 entry, Claustrophobia.

Doug dug.

No More Snowman

Posted by
Monday, December 8th, 2014 2:39 pm

All right I am officially no longer rating games with the snowman theme. It really seems like you must have started work before the real theme announcement on Friday, and I won’t touch that stuff.

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