Last weekend I participated in my second Ludum Dare ever. Completely different from last time, I knew what engine to use and what to expect. Does that mean everything went smoothly? No, not really. Am I unhappy? No, not really.
Engine choice: as opposed to last time, I actually decided on my engine beforehand. After seeing what some people could do with Unity, I decided to put myself over the fact that Unity uses the worst naming conventions ever (well… not really, but you get my point if you are a frequent C# programmer and know the Unity conventions) and give it a try. I only had time to do a simple tutorial and play a little bit around myself before the compo to refresh my Unity experience, so I knew in advance I would spend a lot of time figuring out trivial things. In the end, it did not turn out as bad as I expected. I got to know Unity a lot better, have learned to appreciate how it works and will most likely use it again next time.
Concept: I came up with several concepts that would cover most themes in advance. ‘Connected worlds’ was not one of them. This meant the first step was to come up with one. To prevent a situation like last time where it took a long time before coming up with a concept, I made a decision fairly simple. The concept I chose was fairly ambitious, but I deemed it possible. However, in my hurry to get started, I did not work out the concept far enough. I came across a lot of not-yet-made decisions during the implementation. I lost some time in that, which I could have prevented by thinking through the concept better. Deciding how the game should feel and where it should go to should preferably be done before the first line of code is written.
A good thing about the concept is that it is very scalable. It needs some critical mass to be playable and fun, but it is fairly open-ended and the critical mass is relatively easy to reach. As opposed to my previous Ludum Dare, this game’s fun-factor does not rely solely on level design, which means a lot less time has to be spent on generating content for the game.
Graphics: the graphics of the game suck. However, this time I knew in advance they would. I need a lot more practice to be able to make acceptable programmer art, and thus to justify spending time on making the game pretty. That is why this time I decided in advance to not spend a lot on time of graphics. Last time I spent a few hours on making sucky graphics, this time I spent a few minutes on making sucky graphics. Sounds like a fair deal to me.
Audio: while the music isn’t great, audible-music.com is a great way of getting rid of the silence and using some default drum loops in Garageband I can very easily flesh the music out a bit. I might consider practicing a bit with Garageband to make very simple tunes, as I think Garageband is a very understandable program and allows for not-so-bad-music to be made in a short timespan.
Overall: there are probably a lot of things I forgot to talk about, but I am sure the weekend as a whole counts as a very good experience. Considering it is only my second Ludum Dare, and my first time using Unity for real, I am not too unhappy about the result. I have definitely shown myself capable of applying my experience of the previous Ludum Dare to improve myself. From what I can tell, I have not made the same mistakes again. My goal is to participate in every Ludum Dare from now on — circumstances allowing. I am definitely looking forward improving my skills even more, and hopefully one day I will be able to participate competitively.
I just love to see what other people create as well. I feel very encouraged by all the people making a game in the same timespan, and the short period makes it an ideal distraction from the daily #gamedev obligations. Only by looking at livestreams and reading the updates I can enjoy myself and learn a lot of things, but participating adds another layer on top of that. Thanks guys, for being awesome.
If you are interested in my entry, you can check it out over here. Any feedback is of course much appreciated. If you wish to follow my other projects, you can follow me on Twitter as well.