This was my first Ludum Dare and actually first game ever. I had a blast developing and playing my game, so I thought I’d contribute a small write-up of how things went.
What I used:
- Code: Haxe (language, targeted Flash), HaxeFlixel (library), Flashdevelop (IDE)
- Art: Paint.NET
- Sounds: bfxr
- Music: Autotracker-Bu
What went right:
- Theme/idea — I loved the theme and was inspired to draw from Italian author Italo Calvino’s short story “The Distance of the Moon” (from Cosmicomics) for my game. The premise is that the moon comes extremely close to the surface of the Earth, and all you need to climb onto it is a boat and a ladder. If you aren’t familiar with it, then you may recognize La Luna, a Pixar short that was based on Calvino’s work.
- Central mechanic — I wanted something arcade-y, so skill-based and fast. Something fun. While brainstorming, I remembered an old DOS game called Night Raid (maybe Night Raid 2?), where you shoot bullets from a little bunker to stop parachuting dudes from landing and invading. This fit brilliantly with my initial idea: instead of shooting bullets, you launch dudes (hence the game’s name) from the ladder, who have to jump the gulf of space and use gravity to land on the moon)
- Programming — I’ve been working on a hobby game in HaxeFlixel (nowhere near done), and I know programming already, so this was not too challenging for me. No bugs were found, as far as I can tell.
- Music, sounds — the content generation tools recommended by the Ludum Dare community are amazing! They create assets almost instantaneously, which helped my game feel way more polished. Autotracker-Bu is next to magic, and I actually plan to sit down and peruse its source thoroughly.
- Art — I am not a pixel artist. I decided to embrace my programmer art, and use a simple style (again, reminiscent of Night Raid). I stayed consistent in my style, so I think I pulled it off — the best part is of course the dudes themselves.
- Juice — though I could use more juice, all the extra little things worked well. The pretentiousness of juxtaposing a Calvino quote on a Flash game works well on two levels: it heightens the silliness of “Dude Launch” and serves to set up the setting and theme of the game. Other little things include the particle emitters (explosions), level transitions, and the multiple game modes.
What (almost) went wrong:
- Controls? — I say with a question because the whole point of the game is the wonky QWOP-like controls. If the ladder was rigid and the boat had pixel-perfect movement, what would be the challenge? Still, some people complained about it, though many more “got it” and loved it. Another person requested key-remapping, which I think is also a little much given this is a Flash game (can you remap QWOP keys?) and a game made in 48 hours.
- UI / feedback — no one commented on this, but I feel it was a failure. If I had more time and skills at designing UI, I would’ve presented feedback to the user differently than just have “debug”-type info splashed in the upper screen. I think a bar at the bottom tracking dudes left would’ve been better. Also, dudes could’ve changed color to reflect their velocity, so players could better understand why they died or not.
- Time – simply put, I went up until the last hour working on polishing my game, removing comments from the code, packing it all up, hosting it. Putting things like music (!) in at the last minute was risky but I am so glad I powered through and kept working. Next time I’ll have better pacing.
- Scope — originally, the idea was to have dudes walk around on the moon then attempt a return. After the first couple hours of day 1, I knew there was no way I could get that to work. Thankfully, having dudes explode when they hit the moon or sea was fun enough by itself, so I had a better-scoped game than I realized! The lesson here is: pare your game down to the lowest level of workable gameplay and make it really good.
Overall, I’d say my game was successful. I set out to make a simple, weird, funny game that people found both amusing and fun. Most of “what went wrong” didn’t really go wrong — it almost did. In fact, it came out way more polished and bug free than I would’ve anticipated. But most important of all: the players. The feedback from players has been positive and most have embraced the ridiculousness of the game and controls. It’s really satisfying putting a game out there and seeing others enjoy it.
Thanks to all players and your input!
Thanks for being a really great community. Looking forward to more Ludum Dare compos/jams in the future!
P.S. – my favorite comment on the game: “Very creative and intuitive control scheme. This could be expanded into a full game with a bit more story, obstacles etc. It’s really fun as it is and there’s something strangely beautiful about seeing a host of little naked dudes caught up between the moon and the sea – Calvino would have approved. “