As the title says, I am on the fence as to whether or not I want to do any more Ludum Dare competitions.
My biggest discouragement has been with the scoring system. Although the overall score on my team’s LD37 entry wasn’t terrible, I’ve noticed a few things that made me really discouraged from trying any of these in the future:
- You get judged relative to what you attempted to do, not absolutely based on what you’ve accomplished.
This one is the worst. If I sit down and spend the effort of writing a game with an interesting plot, I’ll be judged on how interesting players found the plot. If I write a game with physics, people will compare it to Half Life 2’s physics. As an example, we spent hours modeling, rigging, skinning, and animating our goblin enemy, testing out the AI, making sure the appropriate sounds played, that the hitboxes were accurate. We had ‘take damage’, ‘surprised’, and ‘death’ animations and made sure everything generally worked. The enemy had two different types of attacks and different cooldowns that added variation to whether or not they chose to lunge or slash.
We had to balance the placement of enemies to make sure the player never got overwhelmed and added battle regions so that players were occasionally forced to kill all enemies in order to proceed. We figured all of these things would improve the game experience, but it actually got us more criticism. People complained that the goblins didn’t give enough feedback when they were hit. People complained that the combat made the game frustrating in general. Meanwhile people who made ‘Move the green square while avoiding the patrolling blue squares’ got top marks for their ingenuity. It seems like the way things are scored incentivizes people to make the simplest game possible. And at that point what’s even the point? I don’t want to make pong every time. I want to challenge myself. But I’m forced to either challenge myself or try for a good score, since the two trend towards opposite extremes in terms of complexity.
- People cheat, and those people ended up getting better scores.
I’ve seen several people who used free Unity Asset Store content and didn’t opt out of Graphics, or they reused sounds and music from other places and didn’t opt out of Audio. Not only that, but nobody in the comments even challenges it. Instead I see comments like “your game looks amazing!” or “your game has the best music”. Most of these entries even admit to using free artwork in the description, and people still rate their game based on the free artwork. This wouldn’t bother me so much, except that those entries ended up with better scores in graphics or audio than other people who actually worked hard on their art assets.
- The categories are not independent of each other
I’ve seen games with terrible graphics score better than games with good graphics simply because the gameplay was better. I’ve seen games get rated highly for humor and theme just because they’re fun. This tends to go against the idea that “at least you can win an individual category”. Check out all of the top entries. In fact, check out the one that’s called ‘Empty’. Looks like an interesting game, but should it honestly be in the 95th percentile of graphics at position #110? The game uses solid pastel colors and very basic 3D models. The overall concept may be great and the game might be extremely fun, but come on, it deserves to beat 2000 other games in graphics simply by employing a solid-color flat-shading technique? I feel like one day a text-based game is going to win second place in graphics…