Ludum Dare 34 — December 11th-14th, 2015 — Theme Tied: Two Button Controls, Growing

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by Jace239 - Jam Entry


You play as a lone soul battling a vile force known as Despair. The grief and regrets of the dead power it, and every soul that falls into the darkness will make Despair grow. To win, you must keep white souls from falling into Despair (the darkness at the bottom of the screen) by lifting them with your hopeful glow. Raising a soul up into the light will make Hope grow, bringing you and everyone else closer to a peaceful rest.

You will have to balance keeping white souls from falling while also keeping Despair's spawn at bay. Manifestations of Despair can be repelled with your glow (by holding the right mouse button). You can also try to force out their captive souls by hitting them with a spark of light (left-click). Don't let yourself or other souls be dragged into Despair. There is always Hope!

- Left-click to shoot at enemies and free trapped souls
- Right-click to repel nearby enemies and lift nearby souls
- F to toggle Fullscreen
- M to toggle the music on/off
- Escape to exit the game

I don't consider F, M and Escape to be part of the two button controls restriction of the theme as they are not part of the gameplay.

There seems to be an issue with certain resolutions that prevents the mouse controls from working as intended. It will get dragged off to the sides of the screen. If you experience this, try changing your resolution to one of the following settings: 1280x1024, 1280x960, 1920x1080.

Big thanks to Themadgamer123 for helping me figure this out. If you run the game fine at a different resolution, please let me know.


- See the included changelog.txt for details. This and future versions are post-jam and so (probably?) not valid for voting on. Let me know if you think otherwise.


- Reduced the volume of the music and removed the fading effect as it was causing problems.
- Adjusted the timing of the tendril of despair accordingly.


- Increased the rate at which the tendril of despair generates despair for balance reasons.
- Fixed a bug that was letting the flames of despair get through the light of hope. The tendril can still push through, as intended.
- Fixed the tendril of despair's behavior so it only goes after the player, not other souls. This is important as the key mechanic for controlling the tendril's movement in-game through kiting tactics.


- Took the suggestion of nopogo and renamed the file to not include LD34 so it can be found more easily when downloaded.
- Fixed a minor issue where the music wasn't properly fading in or out, and wasn't stopping when you restarted the game.
- Included a Mute function for the player's convenience. It doesn't affect the gameplay so I hope it's an acceptable change.
- Fixed the sudden and jerky movement of the light when the tendril of despair shows up, and made it show up a bit later for balance reasons. A happy accident of this is it fits the timing of the music!
- Fixed a bug that was causing the tendril of despair to stay off-screen far longer than normal.

Programming, art and design by Luca Fumagalli
The game was developed in GameMaker: Studio
The art was made in Adobe Photoshop CS3 and GameMaker: Studio's built-in editor
The design was done with a pad of paper, a pencil and an eraser

Music by Incompetech (Danse Macabre - No Violin)

This was an incredible experience for me, having been my first Ludum Dare Game Jam. I had a lot of fun and learned a great deal throughout it all.

I got a late start, having been sick for the first day, so I only had 48 hours (less than, really) to make this game. My scope was too large starting out, and I had to scrap most of my original ideas (which you can see if you're curious by checking my older posts). I honestly thought I was done for by the last day.

Despite that though, with a game literally about never giving up, I couldn't stop there. I tried desperately to salvage a fun and playable game out of the single mechanic I'd manage to get working. Repelling the darkness with light. It was just a neat little trick I'd learned as a result of researching other things, but it ended up saving my game.

Near the end I was panicking due to an onslaught of new bugs popping up, balance issues, technical difficulties... I barely made it, and I was pretty sure my game wouldn't do well due to my original high expectations. Yet since it's upload I've seen nothing but encouraging comments. I'm overjoyed, and I fully intend to continue work on this game in the future. Thanks everyone!

Be sure to download the [LD34] version of the game, as that is the one meant to be voted on. I will be continuing to develop and improve the game on, so a [Latest] version of the game will be available on the same page. The [Latest] version will include new features and therefore isn't valid for the Jam, nor do I intend for it to be voted on.

Downloads and Links




Eshford says ...
Dec 15, 2015 @ 3:25am

I really like this smooth controls and art style. Good job.

Jace239 says ...
Dec 15, 2015 @ 3:45am

@Eshford: Thank you! I'm incredibly happy that the first comment on my game was a positive one. Oh, I remember you. I was looking forward to playing your game. I'll be checking it out in a moment! :D

Andrew Deem says ...
Dec 15, 2015 @ 6:13am

Hey, nice start! I like how the player sprite has a small delay to following your mouse. Makes it feel organic in a way. I like that the art is fuzzy, but think it would be cool if the art got fuzzier or darker the more despair you have and clearer and brighter the more hope you have.

Also, this game references the topic of depression in an interesting way. Never give up hope. Good work!

Weeping Rupee says ...
Dec 15, 2015 @ 6:29am

I like how you translated the two button theme into a light vs dark motif.

Jace239 says ...
Dec 15, 2015 @ 6:37am

@Andrew Deem: Thanks! I'm glad you like the delay, I discovered that organic feel as a happy accident while messing with different control possibilities.

As for things getting fuzzier or darker as despair grew, I really wanted to do that! Sadly, I was running short on time and there were game-breaking issues I had to deal with first. I will definitely add that feature as I continue to work on this game though.

I'm especially pleased you took note of the message behind the game. Thanks again for the comment! :D

Jace239 says ...
Dec 15, 2015 @ 6:38am

@Weeping Rupee: Thanks!

Modoc73 says ...
Dec 15, 2015 @ 7:37am

I liked the fuzzy effect and the movement controls. I found the game play a bit challenging but good, seems to die more than anything. Nice effects and smooth game play. Good job.

Jace239 says ...
Dec 15, 2015 @ 7:42am

@Modoc73: Happy to see the art style and controls are being so well received by everyone. I'm glad it was good despite the challenge. It was difficult hard to balance between keeping it challenging yet entertaining. Thanks for the feedback!

nopogo says ...
Dec 15, 2015 @ 10:00am

I really like the concept of the game and the metaphor behind it. It is a really hard game which surprised me (in a good way)

It helps if you don't name your executable ld34 though, the name of the game would be easier to find in the middle of all other downloaded l34 games.

Jace239 says ...
Dec 15, 2015 @ 5:59pm

@nopogo: Thank you! I'm glad you liked the concept and metaphor, it has a lot of personal value to me. I'm also happy you found the difficulty enjoyable.

As for your suggestion, I've changed it accordingly, as well as made a several tweaks and bug fixes. Thanks!

Dec 15, 2015 @ 9:15pm

Loved the art style.

Jace239 says ...
Dec 15, 2015 @ 9:27pm

@ThreeLivesGames: Thank you!

Neonlare says ...
Dec 16, 2015 @ 8:55am

Very smooth and slick, like the controls and the stylistic choices with the art definitely carry this game further. Simple but really good for LD, thanks for putting this up!

Jace239 says ...
Dec 16, 2015 @ 4:19pm

@Neonlare: You're most welcome! I'm thrilled with your feedback, it's comments like these that make it all worthwhile. Thank you!

Dec 17, 2015 @ 2:07am

Excellent! Very interesting mechanics. I always find it interesting when games make you defend something else rather than yourself being in harm's way. Balancing shooting the enemies with saving the falling dots was tricky. Music was also excellent. Amazing work!

Justin Mullin says ...
Dec 17, 2015 @ 2:36am

Fun, nice theme, and I love the animations of the despair creatures! Gameplay wise I found I could pretty much just hold right button and mash on the left button to fire constantly. I played for a while without this as it felt like an exploit, but then did finally complete the game using that strategy. I'm not sure I successfully rescued any captive souls - perhaps I did and didn't notice, or perhaps I just didn't understand the description of how to do that. Either way, I enjoyed the experience. =)

Jace239 says ...
Dec 17, 2015 @ 7:19am

@SuperPokeunicorn: I find that it's more satisfying to successfully defend others than to just protect yourself or kill everything. I'm glad the balance was tricky, I struggled for a long while to make the game a challenge. Thank you for the wonderful feedback!

Jace239 says ...
Dec 17, 2015 @ 7:20am

@Justin Mullin: I'm pleased to hear you loved the animations! I initially drew them as a single image in photoshop and was just playing around with variations, making a quick and easy animation from it. I discovered by accident that with just 3 frames of animation I could make it look good if I took advantage of the fact it seemed messed up (because you'd expect something so evil to look like that). It took a lot of tweaking to actually make it work, so I'm happy it paid off.

As for the gameplay, I originally intended it to be more complicated but I just ran out of time. Still, shooting constantly can potentially hurt you if you get caught by the waves of freed souls (black souls spit out by the enemy). If you were shooting that much, I'm sure you freed a bunch, rescuing them involves getting the black souls up to the light so they become white souls and add to your Hope score. I'll try to make that more clear in the instructions when I update the game.

I'm so glad you enjoyed the experience. Thank you for the awesome comment! :D

rjhelms says ...
Dec 17, 2015 @ 8:24am

Nice take on the theme. This is a really challenging game, but the gameplay feels really good.

Jace239 says ...
Dec 17, 2015 @ 10:34am

@rjhelms: Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the gameplay along with the challenge!

Bumblepie says ...
Dec 17, 2015 @ 10:55am

I enjoyed the simple nature of the game, you did a good job of setting the scope, coming up with a core mechanic and focusing on that. I also liked the visual presentation, it had a really charming quality to it. The gameplay was a nice boss fight kind of thing, it was challenging but fair. I think it could be improved a bit if you couldn't shoot while repelling, as otherwise there isn't really a choice, it is always better to be repelling than not to. As well as that, I think there could be a bit more clarity as to what things do. It was a bit unclear what I was supposed to be shooting, if it was doing anything and whether saving the black balls was damaging me or the enemy. I think some audiovisual feedback could go a long way to improve the playability of the game. Overall, a nice entry, well done!

Jace239 says ...
Dec 17, 2015 @ 4:30pm

@Bumlepie: I'm happy you enjoyed it, though I honestly don't think I handled the scope well, haha XD. I had too large of a scope starting out and had to salvage things mid-way through. I did focus heavily on the core mechanic after that though.

Boss fight was definitely what I was going for, so I'm pleased you drew the connection. As for the shooting mechanic... yes I know. I originally did have it so you couldn't shoot while repelling, but there were... issues with making that work. I couldn't fix them in time so I just had to do without it, but I'll definitely try again as I continue developing Hope.

I see that clarity is a recurring issue. I think I get it now, I've been correcting the entry's information but not the game's instructions. I'll need to work on that soon. As for audiovisual feedback, I'll definitely put that in as I continue development.

Thank you for the detailed and constructive feedback, I really appreciate it!

Jace239 says ...
Dec 17, 2015 @ 4:31pm

@Bumblepie: Ah! Typo! I'm sorry I messed up your name! ^^;

Zeriver says ...
Dec 17, 2015 @ 11:55pm

Nice, simplistic game. It's challanging but also very rewarding, you really must find a balance between saving souls and repelling depression.

Jace239 says ...
Dec 18, 2015 @ 1:53am

@Zeriver: Thanks! Yes, the balance is important :)

dark_hunter says ...
Dec 19, 2015 @ 7:10am

Cool game! The controls are a bit different from the usual super-responsive ones, but it works very well.The art is simple, but combined with the music helps to set up the tone. The concept is also unique to me and well realized.

Chubb1337 says ...
Dec 19, 2015 @ 10:29am

It made me feel very negative and unfair, so 4/5 for mood. However it did cost some points on the fun rating because of that. Nice concept, very nice music, but could use some balancing, it feels like a losing battle from the start, nothing to keep you motivated.

Jace239 says ...
Dec 19, 2015 @ 3:14pm

@dark_hunter: I'm glad the controls work well and that the music fits. Thank you for the nice comment!

Jace239 says ...
Dec 19, 2015 @ 3:27pm

@Chubb1337: Hm, I'm sorry to hear that it made you feel unmotivated. The losing battle feeling was intended as you are supposed to be the source of Hope for everyone else. I think in this case it's just a matter of different taste. Nonetheless, thank you for rating and commenting. I'm glad the mood was good at least. Thanks for streaming and rating my game.

Dege says ...
Dec 21, 2015 @ 3:32pm

Really good entry. I liked it. :)

NoWandStudios says ...
Dec 21, 2015 @ 4:05pm

I really like the atmosphere. Nice work with the mood.

kmakai says ...
Dec 21, 2015 @ 4:06pm

This was a cool entry, I like the way the theme is extended into balancing two "tasks". Good job with the choice of art style and music, it succeeds at being minimal and sort of impressionistic at the same time. Overall I had a great time with this!

Jwatt says ...
Dec 21, 2015 @ 5:42pm

Woah, the mouse pull is crazy. Makes this pretty intense, like you actually gotta put your body into survival. Especially when the bottom part is pretty much instadeath. I kept thinking this could be nudged slightly towards a more ambient, artsy kind of game.

Perhaps surprisingly, I haven't seen other games interpret the two-button theme as a "light vs. dark" motif. So it's got that personality going for it.

Jace239 says ...
Dec 21, 2015 @ 7:30pm

@NoWandStudios: Thanks!

@kmakai: Thank you! I'm happy you appreciated my take on the theme and had a great time with my game!

@Jwatt: I'm so glad you find the mouse pull intense. Yes! The feeling of needing to put your whole body into survival is exactly what I was going for! Someone gets it! Thank you!

Jwatt says ...
Dec 22, 2015 @ 6:42am

Jace239: yeah, that breaking the fourth wall aspect is a very "gamey" way to deliver a message about struggling against the bad stuff in life. So it's neat to see you using the medium to your advantage.

Xanjos says ...
Dec 26, 2015 @ 7:50pm

Pretty nice and relaxing entry plus I like the concept a lot. My only gripe is that it seems a bit too easy if you can repel and shoot at the same time so it might be a bit more balanced if only one of these skills can be actively used at a time (i.e. you can't repel when you're holding the shoot button and vice versa).

alliel_a says ...
Dec 26, 2015 @ 9:10pm

nice game

Dejvo says ...
Dec 27, 2015 @ 7:57am

intresting game to say the least, but a bit unfair and my hand went numb after playing it. but well executed

Jace239 says ...
Dec 27, 2015 @ 12:34pm

@Jwatt: Thanks again!

@Xanjos: I've actually fixed this in the latest version of the game so you can only do one or the other. As soon as is back online I will upload the new version. Thanks for the feedback! :)

@alliel_a: Thanks!

@Devjo: Haha, I'm sorry your hand went numb! I'll work on tweaking the balance more in the future and possibly including different difficulties. Thanks for playing!

Wir says ...
Dec 27, 2015 @ 6:23pm

Realla nice game !

Kind of funny controlls. I died at the first attempt cuz I got with my mouse into the black mass :D.
It also got really fast when I was on the brink of winning.

Bevore I got the 100 points for white, the black side had -7 points (Don´t know if you wanted it like that but if not maybe you should look into that ^^).

I loved the black dragons (lets call it that :D) especially when I was on the brink of loosing.

Greetings Team Wir
ps.: We would love if you could play our game, I´d say its better to see someone actually play then reading only their comments (comments are pretty nice too, though).

Jace239 says ...
Dec 27, 2015 @ 6:50pm

@Wir: Thanks for the awesome feedback! :D

I'll look into the -7 points thing, that shouldn't happen. I'm not sure what would cause that. Glad you like the "black dragons", haha. I call them tendrils or tentacles, but dragons works.

As for playing your game, I will definitely do that. Everyone that comments on my game gets added to my to-do list and takes priority. I look forward to playing it :)

Joror says ...
Dec 27, 2015 @ 10:03pm

Simple but effective visualization, and innovative balancing act! Felt the cursor sprite was a bit too slow to really keep up with catching all souls.
And that touching the blackness with you own 'soul' meant a loss felt a bit too harsh. (it was challenging enough ;))
Some diversity in your own power over time would also be cool. (for example a 'bounce all souls' effect when returning a dark soul?)

Jace239 says ...
Dec 28, 2015 @ 3:49am

@Joror: Thank you! Hm, I might make a slider or something to adjust the responsiveness of the cursor sprite. As for the harshness, I suppose I can understand that. The game still doesn't function how I'd like it to, but it'll take a total a big overhaul of the core mechanics to change that. Finally, regarding diversifying powers, I was originally going to do that but ran out of time. Something else to save for the remake I suppose!

qkerguelen says ...
Dec 29, 2015 @ 10:04am

This is really good! Nice graphics and quite challenging wich is good! Well done!

Jace239 says ...
Dec 29, 2015 @ 12:19pm

@qkerguelen: Thank you!

Guard13007 says ...
Jan 3, 2016 @ 7:55am

Very nice! ..except, I am confused, because I thought I was doing very well, keeping up the white, bringing a few up from the black, and stopping beasts from raising, but Despair won. :/

Jace239 says ...
Jan 6, 2016 @ 3:03am

@Guard13007: Thank you! I'm sorry you were confused by that. When the tendril of despair shows up, it ramps up the Despair, bringing you dangerously close to the edge. It's meant to be a climactic boss-appearance moment, but I may have overdone it. When I remake the game I will make sure to balance the difficulty better.

Jan 16, 2016 @ 3:41pm

Neat game! I included it in my Ludum Dare 34 compilation video series, if you’d like to check it out :)

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