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Ludum Dare 30 — August 22nd-25th 2014 — Theme: ??? (VOTE NOW!)
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    Ludum Dare 29 Theme Slaughter!!

    Posted by (twitter: @mikekasprzak)
    April 10th, 2014 1:16 pm


    With over 3000 themes suggested by the community, how do we make that more manageable? With this!

    It’s like hot-or-not for Ludum Dare themes. Click the graphic above, and keep clicking until you can click no more! Every click helps, and we’ve got a lot more to filter than last time, so click more and click often!

    Next week we kick off Warmup Weekend (April 19th-20th), and begin main Theme Voting. So tune in for that. Things are getting real here. I hope you like the new purple look too (might require a refresh). This is our first major event of 2014, and our 12th year running Ludum Dare. Lets make it a good year!

    Special thanks again to Sorceress for preparing the theme list for me.

    28 Responses to “Ludum Dare 29 Theme Slaughter!!”

    1. Jiggawatt says:

      Okay guys, this time actually spend a while slaughtering those themes, so we don’t have to see obvious joke themes in the actual voting.

      • sorceress says:

        we don’t know how the joke themes get there >__>

        • Jiggawatt says:

          Make sure you folks manually check for those (and themes we’ve already had) before setting up the voting. Every time there’s something like “lol food” in the voting, it gives the impression that the organizers don’t give a shit.

          It’s kind of important for both the image of the event and the actual success of the voting, and it’s not that much work. Yeah, those themes won’t win the voting, but they might’ve pushed out a potential winner.

    2. sorceress says:

      We do actually spend a good bit of time preparing the final 80. Usually PoV, myself and one or two others will get together for a couple of hours to do this.

      We start with the top 200 themes from the slaughter, and try to identify any “conceptual similarities” in the list. eg, ‘Parallel Worlds’ and ‘Multiple Universes’ have quite a lot of overlap, so one of these would likely be culled. More on this below.

      Themes that are distasteful/offensive are removed. Those which we feel offer very little room for interpretation, or are non-themes, or we feel restrict choice of tools, are also removed. The slaughter is quite effective at doing this already, so very few (if any) need to be ejected for these reasons by us.

      Themes that have been used before are sometimes allowed in the list, depending how long ago they were used, and how we feel about the rest of the themes in our list.

      Sometimes a joke theme is added to the final list, for your entertainment.


      The process of comparing each theme against each other to identify conceptually similar themes, is really the most demanding and time consuming part. More so than it probably sounds. Sometimes we’ve had pairs of very similar themes that both manage to sneak through to the final 80.

      As I’ve been helping to prepare the theme list each LD for the past 2 years, I’d been looking for a way to speed this up. It reminded me much of the collision detection problem of comparing each entity against each other, which is O[N^2].

      As a programmer my idea was to invent a “spatial partitioning” of themes, so that all themes could be partitioned into smaller sets, so I can look for similar themes in each set only, and hopefully get it down to an O[NlogN] problem.

      I managed to come up with a system of classifying all themes into one of 20 groups. This is the system I’ve used to help prepare the theme list for the past three LDs:

      – The Heavens (eg, Space, Sky, Moon)
      – Genesis (eg, Creation, Invention, Origins)
      – Time (eg, Time travel, Endlessness, Seasons)
      – Numbers (eg, One life, Second chances, 42)
      – Abstract Relations (eg, Connections, Symbiosis, Opposites)
      – Innate Change (eg, Evolution, Alchemy, Fusion)
      – Dynamics (eg, Growth, Reflection, Revolution)
      – Confinement and Barriers (eg, Escape, Trapped, Stranded)
      – Contamination (eg, Infection, Infestation, Virus)
      – Life and Death (eg, Reincarnation, Immortality, Death is good)
      – Nihilism (eg, Emptiness, Silence, Dystopia)
      – Unreality (eg, Illusion, Deception, Paradox)
      – Psychological (eg, Madness, Anxiety, Dreams)
      – Extended Reality (eg, Surreal, Paranormal)
      – Choice and Fate (eg, Consequences, Chaos, Powerless)
      – Observation and the Unknown (eg, Shadow, Uncertainty, Exploration)
      – Places (eg, Castles, Forgotten places, Underground)
      – Parallelism (eg, Parallel worlds, Fourth dimension, Journeys)
      – Outside the Box (eg, Protect your enemy, You are the companion, You play both sides)
      – Miscellaneous (Stuff that don’t fit into these groups)

      I hope this explains how the theme list selection works behind the scenes :)

      • Jiggawatt says:

        So if there’s going to be a standard set of themes anyway, seems more reasonable to have those repeat every LD, rather than just resetting all suggestions every time. Saves work for you guys if there’s no need for all those suggestions.

        • Tim Bumpus says:

          There’s enough variation within the categories to make them not standard– just look in the “numbers” category. The same themes to choose from over and over again would get boring.

          • sorceress says:

            I settled on these groups because they fit well with the kinds of themes we always seem to have after the slaughter. I’d change the groups if they no longer worked.

            I can believe that some people are tired of seeing the same kinds of themes appearing each LD. But I don’t know what a good solution to that would be. The themes which score highest in the slaughter are taken to be the themes people want, even if they are much the same from one LD to the next.

            If you want to see some new & different themes in the final 80, then vote up the new & different themes in the theme slaughter. Vote down the themes you’re tired of seeing. What else can we do?

      • PoV says:

        Sometimes a joke theme is added to the final list, for your entertainment.

        Lets be honest. The Joke Theme is for *my* entertainment mostly. ;D

      • deathray says:

        This is a great explanation! thank you.

      • yetanother says:

        You should put the “Slaughter” somewhere on github, This will allow us to tests different improvement solutions (like keyboard shortcut or just pre-process themes to prepare them).

    3. ViKing Games says:

      Personally, I’d love to see a joke theme win. They could actually create some very interesting games…

    4. Mase says:

      Bracing myself for yet another “minimal” theme…

      • PoV says:

        Yeah, just “m”, or just a dot (.)


        • Dry Tree says:

          Please, please, cull any ‘little themes’ from the final 80. We’ve recently had “Tiny Worlds”, “Minimalism” (like “Minimalist” a while before), “10 seconds” and “You Only Get One” … any of which are fine in principle but it’s getting boring seeing so many in a row.

          If from all the possible themes the last three had been: “poodles”, “labradors”, then “terriers” I would certainly hope you’d be culling anything canine-related, and I don’t see any reason to treat these ‘little themes’ differently.

          Does anyone have a good suggestion of why this has been happening? I guess ‘little themes’ have been so popular lately because a lot of new participants are worried that they will only be able to make a ‘little game’ and they’re scared that it might look bad when compared to other entries unless everyone else is forced to make a ‘little game’ too. But anyone who’s been around for a while knows it doesn’t work like that and the theme shouldn’t be routinely hampered because of these fears.

          • sorceress says:

            That’s interesting! I hadn’t noticed these four themes had that in common. It’s certainly something we can keep in mind while preparing the final 80. If you (or anyone else) notices any other patterns in recent/past themes, be sure to point them out to us. Thanks :)

            As for an explanation: perhaps these are the most tautological of themes? — A theme is a kind of restriction; and a kind of restriction is literally the theme here. Whether it’s restricted space (tiny worlds), or restricted time (10 seconds), or restricted content/story (minimalism, yogo)

            • Dry Tree says:

              Thanks for the feedback :)

              I certainly agree that themes act as restrictions but I also believe that a theme’s function needn’t be expressed literally in its form… “epochs” or “without borders”, for example, could be perfectly acceptable themes despite the vast scope which they suggest. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of themes you could imagine wouldn’t have their meaning directly related to scope at all – “foliage”, “darkness”, “construction”, “aardvarks”, “laughter”, “exploration” … and so on; any of these could be huge, tiny or anywhere between with regard to space or time or game design & content.

              • deathray says:

                Good point! I think people choose a “restrictive” theme without realizing that the theme itself is the restriction. No need to be doubly restrictive.

                I suppose I’d like to just let democracy take it’s course w/r/t the theme selection, but we can urge people to slaughter any overly restricting themes.

          • Jiggawatt says:

            I can see how the first two of those are similar, but 10 Secs and YOGO are less specific restrictions. They can very well be incorporated in content-wise large games. In the end, a theme is a type of restriction, so I guess people just like having clear restrictions.

            You know, instead of vague bullshit like “Alone”. Never again.

          • Chaoseed says:

            I just slaughtered “Not another ‘little’ theme”.

    5. AutumnGuy says:

      Please don’t let it be Flappy Bird.

      I’m not against the mechanic, I am just… kinda burned out on all things flappy.

    6. ThingoStudios says:

      My first theme was “You’re Not Alone.”

      My second theme was “Turn Around.”

      Should I be worried?

    7. goerp says:

      HAHA! “Ugly” I’ll vote for that!
      Ugly it will be!

    8. InnovumTechnology says:

      Going through the slaughter gave me an incredible idea for a game. Let’s see if I can start something like it.

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