This was my first Ludum Dare and even though I didn’t finish my game I really enjoyed the experience. I intend to participate in future jams.
Here’s how things went for me….
What Went Right
Tools Were Ready
With the exception of one thing I’l discuss below, I had my Mac completely set up for the competition. All tools were installed/updated and ready to go so there was nothing to slow me down in that regard.
I had also discussed the event with my girlfriend in advance, so she made her own plans for the weekend as well.
I made a decent effort to get involved with the community: I was logged into IRC for a good portion of the weekend, I was tweeting on Twitter, I made a few posts on the LD site. I’m also currently running a survey for the tools people used during the competition and am sharing the results of that with the community.
I need to make a strong effort reviewing games but unfortunately real life has gotten in the way the last week or so.
Even though I didn’t have a finished game I forced myself to submit what I had done. I don’t know if that ends up being a waste of time for most people looking at my “game” but I did receive a number of encouraging comments from other LDers to finish up what I had done since it looked promising. That was certainly a nice thing to read and makes me want to participate again.
What Went Wrong
Collision Detection Woes
I decided to use Ruby for my game. This is because I’ve been doing a lot of Ruby at work and wanted to use the opportunity to expose myself to more. I used the Chingu gem, which I like a lot, but I hadn’t sufficiently practiced/learned enough of it before the competition. My main faltering point was with collision detection. Not knowing the correct/best way to check various kinds of collisions made behavior like falling, climbing and jumping buggy to implement.
The built-in editor that Chingu provides made it easy to put together a level and I definitely learned a lot about Chingu during the competition.
No Solid Idea
At the start of the competition I drew out a few vague ideas of what I wanted to do. Originally I was going to make a game using 8×8 sprites since that would make for a “tiny world”. I actually got frustrated with playing something that small and bumped it up to 16×16. I was going in the direction of some sort of Lode Runner type clone (but with Donuts!) but it never really came together.
Since I didn’t have a solid idea, I didn’t really have a finished game. There’s no score. No real goal. No death handling. There’s potential there and I should consider trying to finish it up, as people have suggested.
But nobody wants to play an unfinished game, so it limits my feedback for improvement.
No Windows Package
The one piece I didn’t get around to setting up before the weekend was packaging Ruby apps on Windows. I used the Releasy gem (which was quite easy to use), but due to dependency issues on Windows, I couldn’t get it to work there. You can see me struggling with it towards the end of my time lapse for a bit.
For Next Time
As much as I love Ruby, it’s probably not the best choice for creating a cross-platform game, especially if I want something people can play in a browser. I’ve played with Unity 3D before so I’m going to go back to and try to improve my skills there.
Practice, Practice, Practice
I need to spend more time practicing implementing various game mechanics, rules, features, etc. I’ve got a list of games to try cloning in an increasingly difficult order. Hopefully this practice will expand my game programming skills.
Hopefully the two above steps will put me in line to be able to come up with and implement a better game idea next time. A game jam is a bad time to try and figure out something completely new to you. I should probably be focusing on creating something with 80% of the functionality being something I’ve already done.