It’s inevitable. When the theme is announced, more than a handful of people don’t know what to do with it. The theme might be too esoteric or vague. The theme might be too restrictive. It could suggest a particular kind of game, and that’s not the kind of game they want to make. Maybe they just simply don’t like the theme. We’re a diverse community, and so the theme doesn’t work right away with every one of us. This was me when “An Unconventional Weapon” was announced for LD 32. If this is you, this post is here to help you work through the theme so you can get to working on your game. Don’t give up at the start because you don’t like the theme! Remember, Ludum Dare is about making a game. The theme is there to help. This post is meant to be encouraging and helpful. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘theme’
Are you ready for your Professional Shapeshifter interview?
Your dream job is to be a Professional Shapeshifter. You’ve got past the phone interview and have been called into the office for your in-person interview and test.
It’s interview time and it will be a tough one! Play The Professional Shapeshifter to see if you get the job.
This game was made from scratch over the course of 48 hour for the Ludum Dare 35 compo.
Remember my music theme for LD 33? (https://soundcloud.com/muciojad/lets-do-it-together-the-ludum-dare-theme-by-muciojad)
Let’s rock harder this time and bring the LD to the dubstep kingdom! Free download and use, CC license.
LUDUM! DARE! 30! 5! ONLY! ME! THE GAMES! AND I!
See you April 15-18 guys!
David here from inbetweengames. After giving everybody a bit of time to may be check out our game ‘The Mammoth: A Cave Painting‘ and reading the awesome comments on the page, I wanted to talk with you guys a bit about the integration of the theme that we decided for. This is going to be somewhat of a spoilerfest so if you want to check out our game with fresh eyes best do it now before reading this. We’ll be waiting here.
Everybody good? Are you ready for a hippie, arty rant? Cool, let’s go.
At first glance it’s not very obvious who the monster really is in the game. There’s no clear Sesame Street or Horror like monster at all. The Mammoth itself seems like the first obvious answer but that.. well is that a monster really? Does the game fulfill the theme at all? We think it does, it’s just when we were brainstorming we took all of our obvious first ideas and threw them away. All of those were good ideas and there are a few games in the jam that went for them and executed them beautifully. We just decided for the oddest one that hopefully has more than one possible answer about who the monster is. So let’s look at some of the possible answers together.
‘YOU ARE THE MONSTER’
A quick excursion into semantics about how we read the theme to begin with. In our minds the sentence ‘You are the Monster’ can mean a great many things.
It can be ‘you’ as the player. It can be ‘you’ as someone else in the world that you’re saying this to – aloud or in your mind.
It can be ‘you’ as the collective you. Everybody. A group of people. etc. So which one did we go with? Basically all of them. Let’s check them out.
THE MAMMOTH IS THE MONSTER
The obvious choice for the answer of who the monster is. You’re the mammoth – so you’re the monster. Kind of an odd choice for a monster though isn’t it? But we thought the way Mammoths (and most animals actually) are displayed in cave paintings like the famous Chauvet Cave gives them monster like qualities. The animals are drawn immensely large in comparison to humans in the pictures in a way that goes beyond a realistic depiction of scale and probably has much more to do with the perception of meaning and power. So scale here is based more on emotional and magical evaluations rather than the ones our modern minds would focus on.
On the other hand when we looked up the term Monster on Wikipedia (of course we did) we found this little perl of a quote:
‘The word “monster” derives from Latin monstrum, an aberrant occurrence, usually biological, that was taken as a sign that something was wrong within the natural order.‘ Wikipedia
The Mammoth in the game is also meant as a totem like representation of all mammoths, THE Mammoth as a whole, as an idea, a shadow on a cave wall – you might have heard that parable before.
So the story of The Mammoth in the game is not really the story of a single mammoth. It’s a legend on a cave wall telling of The Mammoth as a symbol, meaning all mammoths really and how they went away which obviously is what’s wrong with the natural order. The story is told by the hunters whose many hands also mark the borders of the level. In this case you as a player are telling the story by playing in a theatre like performance. Which leads us to..
THE PLAYER IS THE MONSTER
‘Very cathartic to smash up the hunters’ village at the end…though I lost my last baby mammoth in the process. Point made, I suppose?‘ Ryusui
Now since this is a game you as the player are the one driving most actions in the game. So when we heard that the theme was ‘You are the Monster’ we kind of went ‘Oh well we have done this before, let’s just do it again.’ Which was based both on the fact that we did a game called Spec Ops: The Line before in our day jobs at YAGER but also had never done a game jam before. So it seemed like a safe option.
So within the game our goal was to turn you as the player into the monster. We give you something that you care about hopefully and then we construct circumstances that in all likelyhood will take it away from you with a clear culprit to project your negative feelings upon. You will either care and seek revenge, in which case you’re a monster, or you won’t care at all, in which case.. well you get where I’m going with this.
THE HUNTERS ARE THE MONSTER
‘I’m truly upset that the horrible hunters did what they did ‘ TailyILoveYou
‘The only problem is that I (as the mammoth) am not a monster… the monsters are the bad humans who killed my kids!‘ Galvesmash
Now that we have the more obvious answers out of the way it gets a little more interesting. The Hunters in the game are really the ones killing all the Mammoths right?
So they’re kind of the monsters. Which is a comforting thought because we get to shove the blame on these external evil beings that we have no connection to – if it would’nt be for the fact that..
WE ARE ALL THE MONSTER
We are the hunters. We as humans have eradicated more species than anything that came before us including whatever killed the motherflipping Dinosaurs.
It’s quiet possible that we will add ourselves to this list eventually. We are the monsters.
NOBODY IS A MONSTER
‘Really loved the sad story for this although I don’t see how the mammoth was a monster in this case.‘ RougeRogue
Now this can mean that we either missed the theme completely or something a bit more meaningful.
For that second option I’ll just leave this one to some of the commenters on our page who laid it down perfectly in my opinion:
‘Hard to say if you’re the monster or the hunters. I guess, in the end no-one really is, they’re all just trying to survive‘ dickpoelen
‘Oh my god that was so depressing! I don’t think I was the monster here though, I only cared for my progeny. But weren’t the Hunters protecting their children too when they were hunting instead of watching their beloved die from hunger?
Is there really anyone to blame, is there any monster or is the world itself the merciless beast? The story of the Mammoth and the Hunters repeated several times in the past and will happen again, perpetuating the neverending suffering… but I can’t help to wonder, and I cling to that though as it is my last glitter of hope, is there a way to spare one mammoth child and make the herd anew?‘ Hvedrung
Thanks for reading this wall of text and please let us know what YOU think by commenting here or on the game page!
We’ll write a more traditional post-mortem sometime soon but this just kind of started to write itself after thinking about your comments.
Well, I know exactly what I’m doing over the next few days. And tonight will be spent entirely spriting the main character, npcs, and environments. Shouldn’t be too crazy. You can see the four environments (wow, so many) below.
The unconventional weapons are: a baseball bat, a bear trap, a fishing rod, and a locket. All of them have souls trapped inside that aid you in battle. You could also give them to the man downstairs, if you like. But I don’t recommend it. It will be a golden sun/zelda/top down isometric rpg. There is no leveling or anything, you just fight the bosses with what souls you have. Yeah…here’s hoping ‘ v’ + .
If I have extra time, I’ll put in some nice lighting.
[ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: Ludum Dare on my birthday]
My tools will be HaxeFlixel, GIMP, LMMS, Tiled.
I’ll challenge myself to make better graphics.
And change genre to something different (my 30 and 31 entries were platformers).
Maybe invent a new genre. That would be cool.
P.S: Oh, yeah, almost forgot: I hope next theme will be better.
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.
I finished my game just before submission hour . Well it’s not a real game, but more like a little fun for all the guys who don’t like the theme. Or maybe the real story of all the strange themes? Who knows 😉
Alright, here are the reasons:
- The theme is terrible. For the people of the future, LD#31’s theme is “Entire Game on one Screen”. This is terrible because it does not spark creative and interesting game ideas. It sparks 2000 games that are all very similar, just like the other bad themes of the past. A few other bad themes are:
- “Minimalism”, because LD is minimalistic by design. How did it happen TWICE?
- “10 Seconds”, because it has a very strong obvious meaning. There were way too many games with essentially the same game mechanic
- “You Only Get One” was bad because it is a restrictive theme. Restrictive themes make you feel like you have to force the game into fitting the theme.
All the good themes this LD were ranked lowest. Let’s take a look at some of them:
- “Deja Vu” would be a good theme because there’s a lot of things you can do with it. Yes, there are better themes, but this one’s a good one. You could have “Deja Vu” be something a character says and it would be normal. You could have the player experience deja vu somehow, or have the character experience it.
- “Chaos,” because the possibilities of chaotic games are endless
- “Playing Both Sides” would be an incredible theme. You could have all kinds of plot elements, gameplay mechanics, and user interface with this sort of theme.
- I don’t want to play any of my ideas. None of them seem very fun and worth making a game for to me. My ideas as of writing this are:
- At the start of the game, there’s a cutscene. Guy 1 is sitting in a chair in front of a computer, Guy 2 is behind him. Dialog goes as follows:
- Guy 1: “I got this new game, want to check it out?”
- Guy 2: “Sure”
- Guy 1: “Kay, lemme load it up”
Then, the game zooms in on his screen and you play in there, with maybe the occasional thing happening in the “real” game world
- Some kind of metroidvania where every level is the size of the screen. No scrolling.
- At the end of the game, there’s a huge boss called “Game” that takes up almost the entire screen
- At the start of the game, there’s a cutscene. Guy 1 is sitting in a chair in front of a computer, Guy 2 is behind him. Dialog goes as follows:
- I don’t want to make any of my ideas, either.
I beleive that the root of all these is that people chose a bad theme. It does not inspire creativity. It does not fill your head with lots of brilliant ideas, and it feels too much like a restriction! It’s be great if the theme voting had a -5 button so we don’t get stupid themes like this.
If anyone wants to steal any of my themes, go ahead, but leave a comment. I might decide to participate after all tomorrow and might need one of these ideas.
This theme is definitely very weak because it’s far too open for interpretation. “One Screen” is an incredibly vague idea.
The most unique idea that’s occurring to me and the one I keep thinking about is an Odyssey simulator. Give the player an interface that looks like an old-timey TV and give them the various screen shades – football, tennis, etc. – and let them play all sorts of different kinds of games using that ‘one screen’ with all the screen shades. I think that might be cute??
Here are some ideas I am playing around with. I have no clue where to go with this, but maybe these thoughts can help someone else out.
1. Most obvious is parallel dimensions or space travel between planets
2. In a modern sense, it is talking about something like the internet connecting the world
3. In business it also refers to people and organizations being connected – via something like the internet
4. I’m also thinking about connecting so called “different worlds” together, for example genders or nations
5. Something abstract like connecting the world of books with the world of acrobatics (just an example)
For those who know me an care, I’m in! 😀 I am busy and tired as hell this month, but that is not enough reason to break my streak of 8 LDs in a row.
Looking at the final theme list, the feeling that I have is that for the last 3-4LDs the finalists have been same old same old… So I am kinda already building my game in my head. I had a neat idea a few weeks ago which I will try to boot off this weekend.
Good luck everyone!
Ludum Dare needs more charts. That’s why I made some.
Theme Voting Statistics
Ludum Dare 29April 2014
- The list in the results post seems to be a little bit buggy. 5 themes are listed twice, sometimes with incorrect total score.
- “Death is Useful/Good” has been in the Top 5 of the final round for 4 Ludum Dares.
- “You Are Your Own Enemy” received the most +1’s (2491). “Contrast” received the most 0’s (1283). “Glitch” received the most -1’s (2717).
- This Ludum Dare has been the most successful one with 2497 games in total, followed by LD26 (“Minimalism”) with 2346 games and LD27 (“10 Seconds”) with 2213 games.
- The competitions in April seem to be generally more popular.
- The relative amount of Jam entries has been increasing. More than 40% of all LD29 games are Jam entries.
- If you google “Beneath the Surface”, the first link related to Ludum Dare is on the first page.
Click below to see more!