The idea is to progress these games polish them and improve them over time.
So don’t just leave your LD game on the shelf go back to it improve it, enhance it and get it out there where people can see, play and enjoy it!
The idea is to progress these games polish them and improve them over time.
So don’t just leave your LD game on the shelf go back to it improve it, enhance it and get it out there where people can see, play and enjoy it!
This was my 2nd Ludum Dare (you can play my LD #20 game here) I was a bit un-prepared this time, since I only found out that I would have the weekend free about 45 minutes before Ludum Dare started. Talk about timing!
Once again I chose to use the Flixel engine. It’s a powerful and simple little engine, and developing in Flash means just about everyone will be capable of playing my game with no trouble. For my IDE, I used Flash Develop running in Windows 7, running in a Parallels VM on my Mac. I don’t recall exactly why, but that’s what I did last time so I stuck with it. Once again, sounds were recorded on my iPhone and edited in Audacity (cfxr doesn’t work on OS X Lion. I might need to fork it and fix that…) Also, I recorded a time-lapse of the whole thing using ScreenNinja, a Mac app I developed for exactly this purpose. One minor hiccup: I didn’t have Photoshop installed on the machine I was using, so I grabbed Pixelmator from the App Store. It’s a nice little photoshop replacement app suitable for most tasks, but unfortunately making pixel sprites isn’t one of those things, and I think that may have cost me some time.
The main frustration I had with my previous Ludum Dare game was that it was very short, so this time I knew I wanted to have some sort of endless map (plus, I think it fits with the theme) – so that’s where I started. Progressive level generation is tricky to get right, and looping though a single map just isn’t the same thing. What I ended up doing was designing a number of levels (at first 3, in the final entry I believe there are 11), each only slightly larger than a single screen, and as you approach the edge of one level, the game randomly picks another level and inserts it on the screen. Because the ‘levels’ are tile maps, and each is loaded from a .png file, I was able to design levels in Pixelmator and easily see how each level would look next to all the others, and make sure the edges lined up right.
Once I got that working I quickly threw together some basic player and enemy logic (it’s fun seeing the henchmen jump off cliffs, lemmings style), then it was just a matter of throwing things together and seeing what was fun. In action movies, the gun is a versatile tool. Along with killing the bad guy, guns can also be used to open doors, disable equipment, activate buttons or traps at a distance, or anything else an escaping hero might need to do. So I thought a game based around a sort of chase sequence might be fun. One of the things I programmed and didn’t end up using was for the wall mounted turrets to fire missiles that would destroy the ground under you. It looked really cool, but unfortunately the player could get stuck in the craters, so I had to take it out (although it’s still in the source code if you’d like to see how I did it)
Bugs. Hopefully there are no major bugs in my game, but there’s always a few weird ones. Occasionally the henchmen just won’t jump off the edge of a cliff, and I can’t figure out why. I’m pretty sure 30 lines of AI code isn’t enough to gain sentience, right? Also, sometimes the door spawner will spawn a henchman 32 pixels lower than it’s suposed to (and he ends up stuck in the ground below) But, since neither of these were game breaking bugs, I said screw it and worked on new features instead.
And finally, I tried to add a little humor and competition to the game in the final few hours with the game over screen. Much like in Super Shotgun Deathrace, the final text is assembled from many different pieces so it’s different each time. After showing a near final prototype to a few friends online as well as the IRC, it was suggested that I should have some stats besides distance displayed at the end of the game. So, I added the damage values and a henchmen killed counter. Took all of about 10 minutes to do, and I think it significantly improves the game, so thanks everyone who suggested that.
With LD21 rapidly approaching, I wanted to do a Post-Post-Mortem of my LD20 entry, since in addition to improving the game to make it ready for wide release, I’ve been working on a sequel for the last 4 months. Links for those who don’t want to read:
Diamond Hollow on Kongregate (380,000+ plays): Diamond Hollow
Diamond Hollow II: Coming soon…
So let’s get to it!
In the beginning (approximate 7pm PST on the opening day of LD20), there were a couple of block games. These block games were well intentioned, but I could tell they weren’t going in the direction I wanted them to, so I quickly tossed them in the trash (the last one actually went into a filing folder somewhere to deal with at a later date).
My goal was to make something that players would find fun. Being the superficial dev I am, I quickly took to the past winners pages, and found that players like platformers. Great! So I immediately switched focus from block/puzzle game to platformer. I decided to go with a tower climbing theme, and this was born:
It was very generic; it was very simple. Now that I had the basics down in a way that I thought I could turn into something fun, I began drafting out what features I wanted in the game. Among these were:
It was looking good! It was at this point I needed to choose a theme. While it was a tower climbing game, I wanted to do something not tower related. My first thoughts were climbing a castle (but that would have just been a tower so I threw that out), and climbing up through the branches of two large trees on either side of you. However, my powers of art are extremely limited, so while I would have enjoyed a tree climbing theme, it would have looked pretty terrible and have taken too much time. However, dirt was something I knew I could do easily (fill brown, add noise filter, DONE) in photoshop, and the first thing that popped into my mind was a cave. So quickly I hopped to photoshop, and the pictures above immediately grew into:
Awesome! But then I hit the “collect” point. What can you collect in a cave? Rocks? Bats? Diamonds! It wasn’t the most elegant solution, but with the clock ticking, I hopped on it, and it wasn’t long until I had cute little diamonds sitting to collect. At this point I also added my first enemy, the slime:
Things were looking great now! I could jump up a cave, collect diamonds, and avoid cute little slimes that liked to wander back and forth (why? because they are slimes of course). However, in order to hook players I needed upgrades. Many people find upgrades cheap and hate them, but they are like crack in the world of casual flash gaming (and I, like many others, feel drawn to upgrade anything and everything). However, in preparing how I wanted to do upgrades, I started thinking of other aspects of games that hook me. The main one that came to me was Achievements. Achievements usually mean nothing, but they can make a game much more fun by giving you goals, and goals in games are always great. For example, killing goblins for hours can be boring, but when you’re doing it for a quest or achievement, you feel driven to do it, and you feel like it means something. If I’m going to have you climbing an endless cave, I might as well reward you as much as I can.
So I took to photoshop, and in a surprisingly short amount of time (according to my timelapse), I had a protype mostly complete:
This is what pushed me over and kicked my motivation into overdrive. As soon as I had this working I blogged it. There was just something about it that made me want to play the game myself, and it sounded like others liked it too.
I continued to work to polish the game, add a few more enemies (plants that shoot at you), and get the game in a generally fun state. However, sunday morning at about 4am I ran into a hurdle. I had never actually used FLStudio before, and after downloading the demo, I found I probably should have practiced. I started putting random beats together, and would constantly start new projects because every song I tried to make was like terrible terrible noise. I googled some tutorials, but found nothing all that great. After looking around for something to save me, I found some videos showing how to put together simple beats and use instruments. I put together a basic background beat, threw in an obnoxious sounding tune on top of it, and called it good (it still kills my ears when I hear it though). When trying to save it, I realized it would be good if I could save the actual project, so I attempted to buy the full version to save my “creation”. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to like my credit card. I tried again. And again. Strange. The funny thing is, when I attempted to go for breakfast, my card was also declined. It wasn’t until Monday night that I learned that me trying to buy a strange program (FLStudio) on a strange website at a strange hour in the morning (5am) flagged the fraud check on my card, and they disabled it thinking I had it stolen. In the end it is for the best that I no longer have anything more of an mp3 for the “music” I made that morning.
After a nice 8 hours of sleep, adding sound effects went much easier thanks to as3sfxr. I got through that, balanced the game a bit, and ended up with pretty much a final product.
The last thing I needed was a name. I asked a couple of friends what they would call a game about collecting diamonds in a cave, and I got some absolutely terrible suggestions (that I’m happy I didn’t go with, because some were names of other games about caves they had played at one point but forget). Eventually, after using thesaurus.com for a bit, I settled on a simple “Diamond Hollow”. It wasn’t exciting, daring, or clever, but it got the job done.
And with that… It was complete! And before the deadline, even! Overly excited, I submitted it and took a sigh of relief.
The next day I woke up refreshed, pulled up the game and started to play. Immediately I realized my error. The game was not balanced at all. Knockback was frustrating, the game was hard in general, and some of the achievements were way overtuned. Fortunately, while it was too late to change for the contest, there was still a life that Diamond Hollow could take after the competition.
Wasting no time I immediately got to fixing things. The first thing was the music. It had to go. Without the restrictions of having to make it myself, I turned to music licensed under the creative commons, and found something upbeat and catchy. An instant huge improvement. I then started rebalancing things which turned out to be a much bigger feat than expected. Changing achievements to require less skill is easy, but when you make gameplay changes that affect how easy the game is overall, all of a sudden your rebalanced achievements need re-rebalancing. It was a headache, but it got done. I then adding more polish to the game, fixing things like spawning, diamond locations, just to make the game feel less “thrown together”.
My goto place for flash games is Kongregate, so that is where I settled on for a home for Diamond Hollow. I wasn’t expecting much, as this game was made in a very short amount of time (well under 48 hours, even if you count the improvements I made). I was thinking it would get a low to mediocre response, and it was going to be something I would just watch and see how it progressed so that I could learn from it, and use player feedback as a way to improve my game development skills for future projects. But it turned out very different.
As soon as I posted it, it got an “okay” rating, but I began getting tons of feedback. While I had intended to use the feedback for future improvement in general, it all felt like improvements that the game should have had in the first place. I began compiling the feedback, coming up with concrete things to change to address the issues, and got to work. Every couple days I would work on implementing the latest round of feedback, release a new version, and announce the changes. It turns out that players like it when a developer listens and implements their feedback, and the effect was incredible. My “meh” rating went up by quite a bit until it was a “pretty good” rating. My plays started growing quickly, I got featured on the front page, and soon enough I obtained badges for my game. At the time of writing, the game has over 380,000 plays on kongregate. This was really exciting!
Then the feedback changed into bigger things. People wanted to explore. People wanted bosses. People wanted an “ending”. At this point I had to start rethinking my actions. There were a lot of things I would have liked to put into Diamond Hollow if I had the time during the competition, and there were a lot of features that players think would improve the game a ton. However, these would require major rewrites of all the code, at which point I might as well just start over from scratch. And that is where Diamond Hollow II was born.
Like with Diamond Hollow, I began by drafting out the features I wanted. Given I had no time constraint, I was able to include a lot of things, but I also had to limit myself. Did I want to get myself into an overbudgeted project that I would never finish? That was something I wanted to avoid at all costs. Among the list of features, I had the following:
With these goals down, I got to work. Rewriting the engine from scratch, I was able to greatly optimize it, allowing me to implement all the features I wanted, without it being slower than the original. However, I hit some major snags along the way in the form of content. Creating levels was taking quite a long time and it was starting to make me rethink having a story mode with hand crafted levels. Perhaps I could randomly generate the levels? Would players know the difference? In the end I stuck with it, and eventually managed to carve out the shell of a story mode. Then I began to fill it with enemies (new and old), and tons of improvements including new graphics, powerups, more upgrades, story text, and bosses.
Well, after about 2 months of bug fixing, content adding, level designing (God I hate level designing), doing exams (urgh), and waiting (so much waiting), I got my game for Ludum Dare 20, “Alone”, sponsored by MoFunZone 😀
You can play it here: http://www.mofunzone.com/online_games/alone.shtml
It was my first (full) Ludum Dare, and I have to say, I loved every second of it, and the game I eventually finished with. It was an awesome thing to do, and as you can see, actually got me motivated to work on and finally sell a game.
The game is going viral on the 10th of July, so keep your eyes peeled for this appearing on Newgrounds and Kongregate and the like soon 😀
Lets get some upvotes on reddit for the LD 20 results…
I was going to post the usual frustrated-about-voting-results post. But I let it sit there for a while and realized it was useless. I just wanted to say thanks for the great LD as usual, and thanks to everyone who commented on my game! And a really big thanks for those of you who gave me a rating for community even though the game didn’t even work for you. The comments are always my favorite part of post-compo fun and I’m thankful for those that I got.
I tried to put all the over-thinking of it and strategics away this round; I Named the game what I wanted to, not something that would show up on top just for the sake of it showing up on top. I didn’t like the theme; I threw it in the gutter and made a game I actually enjoyed. Hell, I wasted an hour making “box art”. I just had fun and I hope y’all did too. I’ll see you at the Mini-LD!
Wow, my entry Change of Heart was #1 in audio and #7 in innovation. I would have never expected it.
Thanks guys. I’ve never had a game win an award before.
I should probably stop now and retire but I think I’m going to try to utilize some of these audio skills in a more action oriented interactive type of game. So let the fun continue with the mini this weekend!
Hey, and just to get the party going here, here is a little song I performed the other night (House style dance genre):
So the scores are in and LD20 has come to a close! Though I didn’t get any awards, I’m happy that I scored some points for innovation. Now that voting is over, I’ve decided to share the post-compo version of the game. I’ve fixed most of the gameplay issues that plagued my entry and likely led to its reduced score. Here is an overview of what I’ve added:
It’s been fun working on this project, and I’ve learned a great deal in terms of game design and programming. Check out the game’s website for future updates and downloadable versions of the game. I’d like to hear your feedback!
Another LD over, not sure how I feel about my scores this time – on the one hand, the scores are a mess, on the other, my game was a mess so I wasn’t going to take them too seriously anyway.
There has, however, been another epidemic of unjustified all 1/all 5 votes, and as the number of entrants grows this is sure to keep happening more and more. On the bright side, while I was a bit busy/lazy this time round, there’s 5 people who managed to rate all/nearly all the games (someone even managed 101%! ), and 21 who rated at least 25% of them. It’s possible that those figures include the people responsible for giving nonsense ratings, but even discounting them there’s a good enough base there that I think it might be a good idea to set up some kind of volunteer judging panel who could be trusted to rate and comment on a certain percentage of games (with each game distributed evenly amongst the panel) and give the ratings a bit more meaning. I feel a panel like that should be somewhat selective, but also in some ways more open – for example, someone could be allowed on through past LD experience (entering and rating), but even non-entrants with reviewing experience could join too – basically the LD organiser’s choice, or perhaps open to a community vote. Seeing as a number of indie game sites/blogs cover LD entries already I’d like to think a few would be happy to help out with that, and external help with rating would also reduce the pressure on those entrants who feel obliged to rate but would rather focus on developing their LD entry further while it’s still fresh.
That said, even if a few spoil it for the rest, I like that the current system gives everyone involved a voice and it might just not be LD without that.
I like to learn how to make an open world game, I have some great ideas I would like to know how sould the programming look like or are any recommendation on books out there, pleasea tell me whats needed.
I am completely disillusioned with Ludum Dare. I first heard of this competition from a friend telling me to try it out saying how amazing it was. He convinced me to go ahead and enter. Then I burn an entire weekend only to find that in 21 days my entry recieves 22 ratings from 288 submitters (7.639%). Of those ratings, many are blatantly done without reviewing the actual submission. Some were obvious downvoters, others gave undeserved 5’s all around the board, while others just gave random scores, or NO score for categories I KNOW I had, showing me they didn’t even bother playing the game or looking at my community page.
Then I see other submissions with over 100 ratings making me assume there is some kind of advertising/word of mouth meta-game in play which is always a disheartening thing to see in any competition. While I do agree the games that won top 20 deserve those 20 slots, the games that fell elsewhere were completely lost into the void, with no quality control on their placement. I don’t know how you can improve a rating system that depends on a biased party to make the votes, but as a first time participator, frankly it’s just a joke.
Essentially I am a pretty upset that for a competition that has been running as long as it has; so many submissions have fallen through the cracks, and that I unwittingly set myself up for disappointment by entering.
TL;DR – The rating system brings no incentive to participate again
So I look at my game when the results come back, and see results I was expecting. This game was a test, so I am not suprised that it got mostly 2 and 3 overalls. But what’s this? columns of 1’s? My game surely wasn’t that horrible! Even if they didn’t like the humor or the graphics etc, I know I did some community work. What were they expecting, an essay?
Well after mild frustration but a little bit of self pity, I went on and looked at other games I found to be quite polished. What? More columns of ones? Are these people crazy?
I guess these people don’t have enough time to play or something, even then they shouldn’t be voting but instead leaving it all alone.
It’s been a long 3 weeks for some, but Ludum Dare 20 has finally ended.
Here are your results:
You can check out the top 20 competition games here (including ties):
Winners are decided by the Overall category. To see the complete list, hit the “Show All Entries” link at the bottom.
Here at Ludum Dare, being the best game isn’t the only way to win. Games are rated in 7 additional categories, with a special “Coolness” category highlighting people that went above and beyond to be sure you got a vote.
*NOTE*: You can click on the titles of the categories for Top 20 style lists per category.
The Jam is huge – simple as that. With 64 games this time, the Jam is now larger than some of the earlier Ludum Dare events. I regret that we still don’t do more for the jammers, but don’t fret, we are thinking of you. We’d like to encourage everyone to check out the Jam games, and leave a comment. Here are four to get you started:
Again, this is just a taste of some of the great games to be found in the Jam.
See them all here:
Seriously, go check them out!
Editor of IndieGames.com Michael Rose has recently released his new book “250 Indie Games You Must Play”. I know we’re a pretty significant source of great freebies and not-so-freebies (see the featured games in the sidebar), so I fired off a question last night: Did any Ludum Dare games make the book?
Mike had this to say:
Yep, quite a number [of times] actually
We here at Ludum Dare love talking about ourselves, and though we may not have coffee tables to prominently show a book on, coffee is a significant source of caffeine, so I’m sold.
Visit your favorite Amazon and pick it up.
As the organizers, Phil and I tend to amuse ourselves each event with little statistics to gauge the growth of the community. One I’ve been keeping a close eye on for LD20 is our twitter follower count. Early this morning, the @ludumdare twitter account finally broke 2000 followers! Wow!
We use the twitter account as a way to share little updates. Reminders, press coverage, and the occasional amusing quip we catch in the Twitterverse or on IRC. If you’re in to that sort of thing, and do the twitter thang, follow us!
Also if you haven’t already, sign up for the mailing list. Even if you do hound twitter reading each and every post, we make an effort to get the most important news to you via e-mail too.
I agree, August is quite a ways away. How about this weekend then? Yes, tune in Friday for a brand new MiniLD event hosted by drZool. He’s been teasing with D’s all month… I wonder what he’s up to?
If you have any suggestions for us (website, observations, etc), we continue to collect them in the comments here:
Thanks everyone for coming out and making Ludum Dare 20 such a big success! We’ll see you again in August!
– Mike Kasprzak (PoV)