About jimmypaulin (twitter: @jimmypaulin)
Ludum Dare 23
Link to my game - (ratings and feeback very much appreciated!)
@BigDaveIsCheap’s LD23 video roundup featuring Tiny World War (at 3:40)
Timelapse of the creation of Tiny World War
Preparing For War
Having followed LD for yonks it was finally time to bite the bullet and jump in with both feet. I was so excited to spend the weekend entirely devoted to the hobby I love, I couldn’t wait to get started, so preparation was no problem whatsoever. The first thing I did was
Tip #1 – Buy McFunkypants “The Game Jam Survival Guide”
And from this flowed forth much insight and timesaving! So I decided on Flash and Fllixel since I was familiar with the tools and could easily share the game – and I got my toolchain all setup and ready with a HelloWorld app that built and ran. I won’t reiterate all the great tips in McFunkypants’ book, I recommend you buy it! However, as a happily married chappy one of the most important tips I will add here is
Tip #2 – Plan the weekend around your loved ones
I can’t overemphasise how important this was. With my lovely wife on board (and guaranteed a place in the credits ) I not only felt free to indulge gratuitously in my hobby, but I had a superbly supportive playtester, motivator, and carer on hand making sure I ate, drank and slept in appropriate proportions! Going out for dinner on Saturday night not only helped me chill out and come down from the intense day, I woke up after a great night sleep full of ideas for day 2! Speaking of ideas:
Tip #3 – Have some rough game outlines in the back of your mind, pre-jam
Controversial, perhaps, but I found great inspiration from a recent trip visiting World War 1 battlefields near Ypres in Belgium, and I knew I fancied making a WW1 themed game. I felt WW1 was under-represented in games, so I figured I’d have something niche. Fitting this with the Tiny World theme took some creative thinking, but hey that’s the whole point!
Tip #4 – Have a battle plan
Since this was my first LD I really had no idea how much I’d be able to achieve in the time available. I knew I’d have all day Saturday and all day Sunday and that would be it (EU timezone thing). So my plan was to have the game basically “finished”, and then spend all Sunday polishing it. This definitely paid off as I’m happy with the level of polish the game has. I’m not so happy with the very simple gameplay but it’s finished, and without the text boxes, menu screens, music and sounds it would not be a complete game. Of course ideas and features popped up in my mind throughout, but I had to discard loads of these and hopefully just keep the best ones, so
Tip #5 – Make bold decisions and stick with them
There’s no time to restart in a different direction. A highly polished turd still has artistic merit, that’s the risk you take. At least your experience will be a “something” rather than a mashup of nonsense. The same principle applies to tweaking and balancing. There’s no point making tiny adjustments to the game; it’s going to be rough but as long as all the parts are there you have something you can call a game at the end, so concretely:
Tip #6 – If you tweak a variable in-game, double or half it, don’t micro-adjust
This tip, from Jesse Schell’s excellent “The Art of Game Design – A book of lenses” saved me so much time and helped to pin down things like: player move speed, enemy firing rate, map size, the interval between random explosions, the number of enemies… the list is endless, pretty much every tuneable parameter in the game got to where it is by doubling and halving until it felt right. It’s a binary search logarithmic complexity thing (I guess). It relates to a general principle:
Tip #7 – Get into “the zone” and get over “the wall”
That flow state where you are deploying your skills to their fullest and the challenge is worthy of your ability. In a jam you set your own level of challenge, so know yourself and know your limits. Know what you need to keep you flowing (quiet, breaks, food, sunshine, IRC, feedback, whatever). The “Wall” was an interesting one. I genuinely didn’t expect to hit it because I really do love this hobby so much - wrong! After spending an hour on player controls I felt my love for the game waning. Time to stop that path. I pushed on and finished that nasty section, then did something fun and “easy” – generated a ton of sound effects in BFXR! What a juicy tool, that was great. I finished day 1 with a game that looked and sounded more or less the finished product. For keeping motivation high, nothing beats
Tip #8 – Go directly to final art
Programmer art being what it is, front-loading the art creation task seems sensible. The art is hard, the code is easy (relatively). Now I may have to revise this because I think the main problem with my game is that it is too simplistic, and the only thing harder than art is that holy grail:
Tip #9 – But don’t forget the fun
A sad fact is that in a competition with 1400 entries, no-one is going to play anywhere near all of them. You have to stand out and your main channel for this is graphical screenshots. A pretty game *will* get more plays, initially. However as time passes and word of mouth comes to dominate ratings, a fun game will eventually outshine a boring pretty one. A game that is well balanced, full of game-y pleasures and surprises will always win the day, just not initially. However if a game jam is the nursery from which games grow, the real world is where games that stand the test of time will flourish. Tiny World War is fun, but not for as long as I’d have liked. I’d like to know what you think in that regard… Which brings me onto the final point
Tip #10 – Share the joy
It’s perhaps obvious, almost too obvious, but the point of this competition as far as I see it is not to make money or have glory (for most), it is quite simply the opportunity to dive right into an enormous bubbling conversation about the fantastic experience of satisfying the highest of creative urges under extraordinary conditions with hundreds, indeed, thousands of like-minded individuals. It’s a celebration of gaming, creativity, humour and perseverance. If you create your game in a bunker, release it on the quiet, tell no one, post nothing on the blog, ignore irc and don’t bother to play anyone else’s games, wow that is some crazy behaviour. Community and feedback is what this is about. I just wish I’d spent time on IRC as I feel I really missed out there. I’m trying to make up for it now by leaving the most useful ratings I can and keeping the conversation going.
In a nutshell, that was one of the most intense 48 hours periods of my life. It was an emotional rollercoaster, and at the end of it I have a game I’m proud of, despite its problems. There are highs and lows in an escapade like this, but wow, what an unforgettable experience! I can’t wait to do it all again for LD24 ;D
@BigDaveIsCheap has posted a video roundup of 7 Ludum Dare gems! He’s really gone into depth with the reviews and it’s a really nicely made video.
Three of the games are twitter respondents:
Yep I’m biased to Tiny World War
The other four are his top picks:
Watch it here!
By popular demand the poor underequipped soldier in Tiny World War has been given his weapon! DIVE AND KNIFE those pesky Northers! Thanks for the excellent feedback all who’ve reviewed – to quote orgarus “I WANT a weapon, a pointed stick with a nail in the top would be enough.” haha here you go!!
Tiny World War is finished – what a mission that was! A highly intense 20+ hours, but I’m thrilled to have finished a game for my first ever LD. I’ll write a postmortem soon, but in the meantime if anyone is interested here is the quasi-mandatory timelapse http://youtu.be/0xE2kIK8nqo
Well done to all and good luck for the finish jammers!
And, er, my entry is here ;D http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-23/?action=rate&uid=6965
Playable at www.superfluidgames.com – all comments warmly received!
So much to do, so little time, still I’m pretty pleased for 10 hours work….
Just head north and dive to avoid those bullets!
Out for dinner so evening of real life awaits. Can’t wait to play others games when I get in tonight, some of the screens people are posting look superb!
A bare-bones Flixel app skeleton in FlashDevelop I’m planning to use for LD23.
- A menu screen with some welcome text
- A nice grey box of a player to cruise around with the WASD keys
- A couple of particle emitters for the sheer awesomeness of it
Free to a good home
Totally excited and ready to dive headfirst into LD23 having lurked around for far too long without joining in…
Tools will be Flash + Flixel, DAME for map editing, sfxr of course, GIMP for pixels and garageband for muzak. Probably.
I’d love to work in iOS but it just seems like too much hassle to share progress that way. Anyone had any major iOS LD success stories…?