Ludum Dare 32
April 17th, 2015 @ 6:00 PM PDT/9:00 PM EDT (01:00 UTC)

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Archive for the ‘LD – Misc’ Category

How to make sure a game idea is good?

Posted by (twitter: @strong99)
Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 7:20 am

You finally came up with the game of your dreams. You wrote everything down, used all available studies and it sounds too good to be true on paper. But how do you make sure it ends up being fun to play? You could build the game and throw in endless testing afterwards until your test subjects think it’s fun. But is that really the way to go? I think not. There are better ways to do quality checks. So what easier and quicker ways are there?

Periodic player involvement

Don’t shy away from asking potential players to try and review your game concept. Besides the obvious part where they give feedback on what they like or dislike, they are also the first to try the game itself when it’s finished. If you gain their interest the chances are they will be the first group to spread the word. Not to mention they feel a part of the game since they were involved. It’s a good way for a small indie developer to get some attention. But let’s get back to the obvious part. If you think developing your game takes around 5 months. Make sure to involve your future players at least once a month. It gives you time to act on their fears and comments. Later on this will lower the time taken during testing.

Prototype, prototype and implement

I learned that creating your game at once with all features feels good, but it gave a headache to test it with my audience. Instead, I tend to build smart prototypes in the GameCreator with the most important game features. When I’m making a platform game with a special boss I take the bosses mechanics and put it in a small level which I can easily fine-tune. It’s quicker and easier to get done for your next session with players. Nothing beats seeing your involved audience smile for five minutes rather than get stuck on issues you didn’t want them to comment on.

 

Analytics

To further know if your game will be a success, write down which statistics to record and how you expect them to analyse. Letting players test your game is one. But how do you record the necessary information you need to know the players act as you wish? Is watching enough? Do you need to record the screen and eye moments? Before I get to play-tests I write a simple table with bullet points I need to know in Excel. It often contains: time needed to finish a level/section, amount of retries, keys being pressed, the player’s emotion and their average compared with all others.

Use structured tables to keep your data at hand

This is just a small set of techniques I use and have seen in other companies. They give you the edge and act as a forward warning system when users freak out about your concept. Large game development companies even have their own departments with data analytics who analyse every pixel of a game during game-play.

How do you make sure your users enjoy? Did you ever use play tests? Or are you planning to? I would love to know!

View all blogs from the series “What makes a good game?”

Where’d the Time Go?

Posted by (twitter: @timbeaudet)
Monday, March 16th, 2015 2:19 pm

precise_shot_title

Ludum Dare 31 was an awesome event for me, the Precise Shot compo entry came out great!  Not only did the game come out great, by running the RescueTime application, I was able to breakdown how much time went into development.  The reports clearly show what went well and what could be done better for Ludum Dare 32 and beyond.

  • Sleeping was the single most time consuming activity: 15 hours 29 minutes.
  • Most comfortable with programming, and it shows taking more than 50% development time.
    • Future events I should aim to spread this time on content creation, arts and sounds.
  • Six hours of development efforts on the second day didn’t make it into the final game.
  • 76 minutes spent on twitter, composing 41 tweets.
  • The final hour was spent on the art, sounds and counting effects for the results screen.

Check out the results in more detail below: (click the image to make it larger)

precise_shot_time_graphic

I do work at RescueTime but I know there will be people interested in the data above, and maybe some will be interested in using RescueTime to learn about their own productivity and habits.  You can sign up for an account at: https://www.rescuetime.com/ or ask any questions you may have about it.

More post-mortem details about Precise Shot can be found here.

Target audiences and user motivation

Posted by (twitter: @strong99)
Sunday, March 15th, 2015 7:27 am

Creating an artistic game is one part. Making a game popular for an audience is another. My company creates games for businesses, a different kind of audience than Ludum Dare participants. How to make sure that a game will fit them? The key is to know your target audience to the bone, to make sure they keep playing and recommend it to friends. Our goal is to make lots of people play and enjoy our games. So, what does motivate a human to enjoy my games?

Whenever you create a game you’ll have an idea about the people you expect to play your game. We’ve discussed how to make a game fit to everyone in the previous blogs in the series. But how to define your audience? Let’s take a look at the game I previously made for Ludum Dare 29 called “Troubling times“ . The theme in this competition was “Below the Surface”.  Since it’s made for a Ludum Dare competition, our first and main audience are the Ludum Dare participants. The game is intended as a physiological and survival story driven. The player gets stuck in a submarine base and finds itself locked while the base slowly but steadily breaks down. There is a bit of exploring (finding out why) and a goal (escaping).

Beneath the Surfaace

If I reflect on why players would play it I ask myself “What does motivate them to continue and play?”. To do this I often use four intrinsic motivations. Intrinsic means a part of, the default nature or the self-desire, from within the player. For example: you’ll end up being a game developer, because you enjoy learning about games. It isn’t: you’ll end up being a game developer, because you adore money. That’s an extrinsic motivation. With an extrinsic motivation you’ll do it for the reward (money), not the process (learning).

Player motivations

These motivations are well defined in the RAMP framework, namely: Relatedness, Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. The exploring element relates to a bit of autonomy while our goal of escaping fits the purpose motivation. I miss two types: players who are motivated by relatedness and mastery will bite the dust. What does this mean for our target audience?

It means that the target audience for this game wasn’t the entire Ludum Dare user base. It was a niece audience who longs for purpose or a bit autonomy. I never researched our Ludum Dare user base, but probably less than a half would qualify as the real target audience of users who fancies such games.

Expanding our audience

How would I change this game to fit a broader target audience? I missed the motivations: relatedness and mastery. Let’s start of relatedness, this motivation is about being connected and creation relations with others. I can do two things, make you feel really connected to the other character ingame or by sharing your current game status to others for hints or even discussing solutions. To include the mastery motivation the game needs to have learning curve. The current puzzles are too short and simple to really motivate or challenge you to learn how to solve. A set of more complicated puzzles, a bit harder after the previous, would increase the mastery motivation.

So next time when we start a little game for Ludum Dare, we keep the target audience in mind and what motivates us to play your game. I know I will. To get my games better fitted with the Ludum Dare participants I’ll design an easy to use matrix.

What techniques do you use to check your target audience? Or do you rather create artistic games for the fun of creating?

Welcome GitHub Game Off Participants!

Posted by (twitter: @ludumdare)
Friday, March 13th, 2015 9:18 am

GameOffWelcome developers finding us through GitHub’s latest contest.

We’re in the process of improving and building us a brand new website to make finding, submitting and sharing games much better. Unfortunately, everything about the current website is dated and clumsy. We’ve been running Game Jams for 13 years now, and we’ve got a lot of stuff (but you need to know how to find it).

Here are links to games with source found on GitHub from our past 4 events:

Ludum Dare 31 – Entire Game on One Screen
Ludum Dare 30 – Connected Worlds
Ludum Dare 29 – Beneath the Surface
Ludum Dare 28 – You only get one

A complete list of events can be found here: http://ludumdare.com/compo/ludumdare/. Click any of the “All” or “Compo” links (if there is no “All”), punch in github.com in the search box to find games from that event on GitHub.

Be sure to give credit to the original authors!

Hey! What if I don’t want my games to be part of this contest?

Simply visit your game page, Edit, and remove the link to your GitHub repository. All we’re doing to find them is a simple search (for github.com). As long as there is no mention of github on your game page, you wont show up in the search results. NOTE: Site caching may keep it around for a few minutes after editing.

Re-branding Ludum Dare. Lets talk Logo and Mascot

Posted by (twitter: @mikekasprzak)
Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 3:58 pm

Alright! It’s time we got this ball rolling.

As many of you know, my goal this year is to finally refresh, redo and build us a brand new Ludum Dare website. It’s a big deal. We’ve been going strong for 13 years now, but we’ve grown *A LOT* the past few. I’m in constant awe that many thousands of you tolerate the sub-par duct-tape and cardboard website we have today. I never expected LD to get this big, and to become so important to so many people. I feel I have a responsibility to take this little hobby of mine very seriously.

So part of bringing Ludum Dare up to date is cleaning up the branding. Last year I took the first step, switching our hashtag from #LD48 to #LDJAM. We are big on social media. It’s how I keep in touch with many of you. But we’re constantly bringing in new people, and in just 5 years we’ll finally reach our 48th main event. If we weren’t already 13 years old, that might seem far away. It’s one less question I need to answer.

I can’t even remember when I made the current Ludum Dare logo, but it’s been a very long time. What a shame it would be to have a brand new Ludum Dare, with the same old logo. Like getting a haircut before something new, it’s just something you do.

But rather than starting with a debate on typography and color, I want us to explore something that’s been in the back of my mind: A Ludum Dare Mascot.

We sort of have a logo. At some point, it was clear that many early LD’ers were Commodore 64 fans (myself included). The Commodore 64 never really had a standard joystick, but you could plug in *A LOT* of different things (including Atari 2600 joysticks or Sega Master System gamepads). Somewhere along the line, a bunch of us just mutually agreed that the Suncom TAC-2 was the iconic joystick we were going to use to represent Ludum Dare. It also kinda helps that nobody really knows who Suncom is anymore, and if they’re still around, they certainly don’t care about the TAC-2.

The Suncom TAC-2 (Totally Accurate Controller MK2)

The Suncom TAC-2 (Totally Accurate Controller MK2)

Funny thing, it’s actually a really terrible joystick for play (solder and balls instead of microswitches). But man, it captures that 80’s iconic retro gaming vibe just right. It was all about the style.

So hello, it’s 2015 now.

It’s probably 30 years since the TAC-2 was manufactured. I’m not saying we get rid of the TAC-2, but we should consider our options. Gaming has changed, and is always changing. You might even say we had an effect on that change (something small, but hey). Really, the only constant in gaming is change.

So if it’s fair game to change the Logo, what could we do?

Of course, there’s the mascot route.

Taccy the Tacky TAC-2... this is why I need your help

Taccy the Tacky TAC-2… this is why I need your help

.. Well, Taccy is probably not a good choice, but we need to start somewhere.

I want to think there is an ideal little character we can create to both represent and share with the community. Maybe there’s multiple mascots. Maybe there’s a root character that gets reinterpreted. Maybe there’s the general mascot, and maybe there’s a Ludu-tan/Dah-ray-chan or other personification.

I'll admit. I love what GitHub does with their branding

I’ll admit. I love what GitHub does with their branding

Ludum Dare means a lot of things to a lot of people. You all constantly blow me away with your creativity, so I feel this is something I need to defer to all of you to help find.

Help us design a Mascot and/or Logo for Ludum Dare!

This isn’t a contest per se. I’d rather think of this as a conversation. If someone has an idea, and if you have suggestions or alternative takes on the idea, I want to see the back and forth. I want us to work together on this.

Post your thoughts, sketches, and ideas in the comments. I will follow along as best I can.

EDIT: Oh! Image posting doesn’t work in WordPress. I’ve been manually editing posts and embedding the images. Leave me a link to an image file, and I’ll do that for you.

Thank you GitHub for the amazing party. Photos!

Posted by (twitter: @mikekasprzak)
Monday, March 9th, 2015 4:58 pm

First a huge shout-out to everyone that joined us at our Ludum Dare GDC gathering party in San Francisco last week. It was an amazing time. We’re hoping to do it again next year, and will try to get even more you there.

TIP: Sign up for the Mailing List!

I owe a huge thank you to GitHub for generously hosting us, and Lee Reilly for planning, organizing, and throwing us a really amazing party. It was the best!

Here’s a few photos to remember the night.

EDIT: More Photos (Higher Quality. My camera phone is terrible)

Enter Here

Enter Here

People thought they were early

People thought they were early

Octocat

Octocat

Octocat skeleton

Octocat skeleton

Octocat Thinker

Octocat Thinker

Gaming themed Bar menu

Gaming themed Bar menu

Side Scrolling Platformer

Side-Scrolling Platformer

Real Time Strategy

Real Time Strategy

Third Person Shooter

Third Person Shooter

The Chow

The Chow

Pool with Sos

Pool with Sos

Footy

Footy

Developers

Developers

Developers

Developers

Developers

Developers

Developers

Developers

Demoing

Demoing

Developers

Developers

Just Cheese and Vegan left

Just Cheese and Vegan left

@foolmoron sleeps

@foolmoron sleeps

We got those!

We got those!

Wide

Wide

Bar

Bar

Until next time...

Until next time…

Which aspects are important in a game?

Posted by (twitter: @strong99)
Saturday, March 7th, 2015 9:00 am

Although there are millions of games these days, only a few really succeed and even less are worth to play. How is this possible? A game consists of a set of rules, right? But a bunch of rules don’t make it fun to play. Actually, far from in my opinion. Throwing in some random rules doesn’t make a game good. So, which aspects are important related to the rules and make it worth the play? What gives rules the edge to play a game again and again?

There are lots different theories about that. But let’s start analyzing it a bit on our own first.
Take FarmVille, already a much debate game reflecting micro economics and social play. While you’re forced to do social play and use the micro economics, most people keep returning as long as they can. Why do they get back? If you ask players what makes the game fun, you’ll receive several answers. I took the three most heard reasons to analyze:

  • It’s my farm
  • I keep finding new stuff
  • Crops harvesting before they wither

My farm in FarmVille

It’s my farm ‘cause I build it

What makes them think it’s their farm? Well, they have put time in it, they decorated the farm themselves by earning or buying options. It gives the player the idea it’s his own farm. He actually did create the farm based on the game’s rules. It’s like drawing a painting or building a house. You put effort in it to create it. It’s a strong drive for players to return. We can define this as “creativity” and “ownership”. Depending on the theories I know there are around 4 to 16 “drivers”.

The need of collecting

Will you keep finding new stuff? Yes, because there isn’t much stronger than the human’s curiosity. If it grabs hold of your attention. You want to know all of it. So that’s a very strong game driver. The drivers I normally define are: calling, creativity, curiosity, possession, social pressure, impatience, scarcity and accomplishments. If a game contains all of these, the theory is, it will be playable by most if not all people.

The need to avoid loss

In FarmVille you need to tend your crops like a baby? A very strong drive in this game to get back is to prevent your farm from dying. The last thing you want is to hinder the progress of building your farm by letting crops wither. This forces you to get back regularly. Yet, they don’t go as far as destroying the entire farm. The behavior is known as avoidance and creates a pressure driver.

I can analyze a game much further than this to find if the game is good. But luckily I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are already a lot of gamification and analyzing guidelines and frameworks you can grab. In the past I used the following frameworks: Octalysis, Marczeweski, GAME, RAMP and much more. They contain questions, constraints and rules. I often find these incomplete and I normally use a set of frameworks to get all drivers and aspects correctly.

Although a game implementing all these drivers has more change of succeeding, focusing on less drivers could also end up being a very popular game. But even in a first person shooter where the focus lies with the story and thrill for action it often also contains ownership and creativity. Weapons, different paths to solve the level and even scores are related to a driver. But they aren’t always very clear or even the focus of the game.

Although these frameworks can predict your game’s popularity and acceptance, I see them more as guidelines. I find it easier to set up a fun game and balance my game before development starts. It allows me to shift my attention to actually creating the game rather than endlessly include game testers and that makes it easier to compare it with your target audience’s profile.

This is my second of a series of blogs on “What makes a good game”.

You probably unconsciously use a lot of these aspects already. can you find them? How do you define your game’s aspects during Ludum Dare?

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.

What exactly is a game?

Posted by (twitter: @strong99)
Saturday, February 28th, 2015 7:00 am

We all know games, everyone plays games, but do we really know what defines a game? Before we can create a good game we need some sort of definition of it. So what is it? Sure, everything with rules can be defined as a sort of game. But let’s define it a bit better than that. So let’s try!

What would be the most simplistic game you can think of? The first game that comes to my mind is the child’s game “Tagging”. It has two very basic rules: One player is “it” and if you’re being tagged by “it”, you become it. Remembering my years on the primary school’s playground the game had different additional rules all the time. An often used additional rule was “You can’t tag the old “it” back”. Although these were set by us, additional constants where there too. For example the teachers didn’t allow you to leave the playground or trip others. Not a rule set by us, the players, but by our superiors.

The summary of the game? There’s conflict, no-one wants to be “it”. It would be boring if someone wanted to be “it” because of the lack of conflict. The rules define boundaries in the game. The outcome of the game was clear too, the child being “it” at the moment of the school bell lost the game. Katie Salen, a veteran game developer, her description of a game comes to my mind:

“A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that result in a quantifiable outcome” (Katie Salen, Game Design Fundamentals, page 80)

If I apply this logic to one of my previous Ludum Dare games, for example, “You only get one” we could describe it like this:

Conflict: the player wants to get home without being eaten while the dragon keeps advancing.

Rules: the player is constraint in a 2D world, there’s gravity, the game is lost when touching the dragon, his fire or falling out of the screen.

Outcome: the player wins when he enters his house (time constraint).

Ludum Dare 28 - The dragon's journey

That is quite clear, but how does this apply to popular games like Minecraft? Is it a real game? Let’s try:

Conflict: the player needs to stay alive (retain its hearts)

Rules: the player loses hearts when hungry, the player receives damage from mobs, the game is lost when its hearts are depleted, the player can eat food, can create weapons and armor etc.

Outcome: is there any? What about defeating the ender dragon?

Is the ender dragon really a quantifiable outcome? After defeating the dragon the conflict itself remains, nothing is resolved. The main conflict centers around staying alive, not on the dragon roaming a different realm. Thus, I wouldn’t describe it as an outcome or a game, but more of a sandbox or toy. Though open world games like Oblivion feature some kind of the same freedom as Minecraft, in the end you resolve the main conflict, defeat the bad guy and establishes peace. That’s a clear quantifiable outcome with rules and conflicts.

This is my first of a series of blogs on “What makes a good game”.

What’s your take on the definition? Does it fit mine?

I’m in, LD32

Posted by (twitter: @strong99)
Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 2:07 pm

I know, it’s a bit early. But I’m already preparing for the upcoming Ludum Dare competition. Like previous years I’ll be competing in the April Ludum Dare. This will be my ninth time in the 4 years I compete.

To get myself prepared I’ll be doing a series of research on “What makes a game good?”. From experience I know there’s a list of do’s and don’ts. I’ll be keeping a blog on this here on the Ludum Dare website and my own blog. Up to the event I’ll be posting eight blogs, followed by reviews on how my blogs fit with games made by you. Feel free to request or comment. And if you’re in for a review on your entry about “What made your game good?” Leave a message!

Previous blog

Current blog

For the upcoming series and Ludum Dare I prepared my normal toolset including:

And lastly

  • Tape, lots of paper and a pen

Ludum Dare GDC Gathering, Hosted by GitHub

Posted by (twitter: @mikekasprzak)
Friday, February 20th, 2015 11:37 am

Hey PoV, it’s Feb 1st. What’s going on?

Posted by (twitter: @mikekasprzak)
Sunday, February 1st, 2015 12:54 am

Hey folks!

It has been a month since I’ve said anything, and I owe you guys an update.

Me, I’m still finishing up my Steam port of Smiles HD. Like we always do, I under-estimated the amount of work necessary to finish the port. This was a C++ game I wrote back in 2008, over 6 years ago. I haven’t seriously touched the code for about 3 years, and the bit-rot is real.

Since then, SDL2 was released, and pretty much all fixed-function GPUs have gone extinct. I’ve been using shaders and SDL2 so long now, I don’t want to go back. This meant making the game work with my current code-base, and unfortunately finishing parts of the code-base as it hasn’t shipped a game yet.

SmilesST06

SmilesST07

The game is working again, but it still needs a lot of TLC. That and I’m going to have to rework/redo the high scores and achievements to be Steam friendly. I’m hoping this only take 2 more weeks… but yeah. This game, the Patreon, and the donations are my only income right now, so it kind-of has to be done ASAP. :)

I had planned to start on the new Ludum Dare website on Monday February 2nd, but I’m just not ready yet.

On March 1st I’ll be travelling and spending the week in San Francisco for the Game Developers Conference. When I get back, we start the countdown to Ludum Dare 32.

It’s also tax time soon, so I’m going to lose a few days to that.

Long story short, development on the new site is going to be spotty these next couple months. I should find some time before Ludum Dare 32 in April, and hopefully even before GDC. But for sure, the new site will not be ready for April. The goal is still August’s Ludum Dare, but we’ll see once I get in the thick of it (this year for sure).

Thanks for your patience.

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