So a week or two ago you suggested a whole bunch of themes for the coming Ludum Dare but when the compo week comes around and voting begins you’ll notice none of them made it past the theme slaughter.
This is why I slaughtered them.
Your theme was too restrictive. It only had one or a few possible interpretations. When rating, do you really want to play version upon version of the same game? I’d rather not.
(Actual) Examples: ‘activisions interstate 76 meets hotline miami’, ‘game on one screen and upside down and only 2 colors and player character must be a dog’, ‘animal farm meets dungeon keeper’, ‘Phoenix Wright meets Rumpole of the Bailey or Perry Mason’, ‘Retro RTS based upon American political party politics’.
Your theme was too unrestrictive. Why go through the whole process of finding a theme if it can be interpreted as just about anything and doesn’t provide a whole lot of inspiration?
Examples: ‘Texture’, ‘shapes’, ‘black’, ‘movement’, ‘Blonde’.
Your theme presumed a certain genre, or you even suggested a genre itself. A good theme for me is one that could inspire a point-and-click adventure game just as well as it could a turn based strategy game or a 3D hack n’ slash. Choosing a genre as theme would also alienate those participants who don’t enjoy it.
Examples: ‘2D platformer’, ‘farming simulator’, ‘RTS’, ‘FPS’, ‘simulate your city’, ‘MOBA’, ‘Rougelike’, ‘alternative physics’, ‘tell a story’, ‘emotional’.
Your theme wasn’t a theme at all but a brief technical limitation. What is the idea behind this? Let’s all make whatever game we’d like as long as they all look or play the same? And how would you rate these games by theme? By how pretty the games four colors are or how warmly you feel for the button that is used for controls?
Examples: ‘8 color palette’, ‘4 colors’, ’32-bit’, ‘Only one button’, ‘Mouse control only’.
Your theme was to similiar to a recent theme or to another game/movie/tv-series/book etc. Surely a fresh theme and original ideas are preferable?
Examples: ‘get beneath the surface’, ‘different worlds’, ‘parallell worlds’, ‘time please gentlemen’, ‘twenty thousand leagues under the sea’, ‘under water’, ‘the dude abides’, ‘discworld’, ‘James Bond’, ‘falling skies’, ‘Welcome to Night Vale (podcast)’, ‘Doctor Who’, ‘one shot’.
Your theme was a gag. It might even have been funny. But will it still be after playing and rating 100 games based on it? If your theme’s not only a joke but also a reference to a popular game like Portal you just gave me cancer. Thanks.
Examples: ‘anal fissures’, ‘too many tacos’, ‘Liam Neesons Voice’, ‘Potato’, ‘The cake is a lie!’, ‘cheese-variants’, ‘maximum yak-attack’, ‘flatulence’, ‘gaben’, ‘nice meme’, ‘We need more bacon’ .
Your theme was any variation of ye olde Ludum turnaround. These are atempts at turning old video game maxims on their heads and might make interesting themes in some cases. In most cases they don’t and also make up a pet peeve of mine.
Examples: ‘death is useful’, ‘Death is good’, ‘last place is first’, ‘dying is the beginning’, ‘You are the enemy’, ‘winning feels bad’, ‘In order to lose you have to win’, ‘you have to die to win’, ‘act by not acting’, ‘First to lose wins!’, ‘Fail in order to succeed’.
Your theme was misspelled. It was a single to a few words long. Spell checking shouldn’t have been too much of a hassle. Especially if you expected a couple of thousands of LD participants to use your theme as inspiration for their games for two to three days.
Examples: ‘Apocalipse’, ‘Preperation’, ‘Black and Withe’, ‘Devide’.
Obviously the very purpose of the slaughter is to weed out the worst themes and separate the cream from the crop. Also the themes that make it to voting is generally better than most that are suggested. But with 5000 suggested themes I fear that the good themes get a harder time making it through the noise. I also think that the prevalence of bad themes motivate a discussion on what makes a theme better or worse.
Then what makes a theme good in my opinion?
The theme suggests interesting settings OR both possible story elements and game mechanics.
The theme has several possible interpretations.
The theme allows differing genres and game mechanics.
The above are my opinions. I’d love to hear your thoughts and why you do or don’t agree with me.
I also would like to note that I actually didn’t slaughter all of the themes above but voted most of them as ‘Bad’, and that this post was written partially as a celebration of the old Ludum Dare tradition of whining about the themes you don’t like.