Ludum Dare 20
I am completely disillusioned with Ludum Dare. I first heard of this competition from a friend telling me to try it out saying how amazing it was. He convinced me to go ahead and enter. Then I burn an entire weekend only to find that in 21 days my entry recieves 22 ratings from 288 submitters (7.639%). Of those ratings, many are blatantly done without reviewing the actual submission. Some were obvious downvoters, others gave undeserved 5′s all around the board, while others just gave random scores, or NO score for categories I KNOW I had, showing me they didn’t even bother playing the game or looking at my community page.
Then I see other submissions with over 100 ratings making me assume there is some kind of advertising/word of mouth meta-game in play which is always a disheartening thing to see in any competition. While I do agree the games that won top 20 deserve those 20 slots, the games that fell elsewhere were completely lost into the void, with no quality control on their placement. I don’t know how you can improve a rating system that depends on a biased party to make the votes, but as a first time participator, frankly it’s just a joke.
Essentially I am a pretty upset that for a competition that has been running as long as it has; so many submissions have fallen through the cracks, and that I unwittingly set myself up for disappointment by entering.
TL;DR – The rating system brings no incentive to participate again
Not sure exactly what’s meant to go in the post mortem, but here’s my lengthy shot at it. This was my first attempt at the Ludum Dare competition so I went into it with no knowledge or expectations, but I did completely underestimate just how hard it was going to be to whip up a game and all of its assets within 2 days (A huge mistake considering it usually takes me 2-3 months just to create a engine/framework for my game projects which I never end up finishing anyway).
So I was reading up on what tools people were generally using and FlashPunk/Flixel and Flash Develop were the most mentioned so I thought I’d check them out. I used to make little games in Actionscript 2.0 a couple years ago so I thought Flash wasn’t going to be a problem, then I learned that with Actionscript 3 they made the shift into more Object Oriented waters, which also wasn’t a problem, and when I noticed how close the syntax/principles were to Java I thought that all I had to do was look at the API for both AS3 and Flashpunk and just throw my game together, and this derailed about an hour before the competition when I tried to make a quick SHMUP to see that I could make a game using these tools. Now the reason I didn’t just use Java was because I didn’t have time to make an engine absolutely from scratch and a game on top of it, and I didn’t know any Java Libraries / Engines in the same respect as Flashpunk. I found that even though I was well versed with OOP design principles I had no clue how AS3 operated and where to find this Class and that Class and what do I need to extend to make this work, etc. So I realized there would absolutely no way I could create a game within the time constraint while fighting against the tool that was supposed to help me do it. So I bit the bullet and decided to use Game Maker 8, and only be able to distribute to Windows and Linux users with Wine, and with no hopes of web distribution.
The moment the theme went live I sat down for exactly 10 minutes and wrote up a draft in Notepad detailing the extremely complex(not really) and silly/good natured premise of the game, this was a wasted 10 minutes because I ended up using absolutely nothing other then the title of the game! After the 10 minutes I cracked open Game Maker 8 and decided to not think, and just do. This was my first obstacle because I had to relearn all of the different functions available in Game Maker since I haven’t used it in any respectable amount for years.
After I quickly looked over the well written documentation for GML, I created a room, this would end up being the Main Menu Screen and this is where I implemented the first playable version of the platforming. I decided to first get the platforming engine out of the way before doing anything else, and this was a lot of fun since I never created a platforming engine before, so I created the player object and just started cracking away at it. Essentially I made it work like this: There are blue and red squares placed in the room and are invisible to the player, blue blocks vertical movement, red blocks horizontal movement. Player movement is done using velocity which is incremented when the user supplies input, and is constantly reduced to imitate a simple man’s friction/gravity (Since I don’t really know physics). Jumping creates a sudden jolt in vertical velocity, and the walls/floor set velocity to 0 when impacted. Now the first Issue that I saw was simply checking for collision with the player and an instance of blue/red would make the player stuck in the axis corresponding to the color because it was constantly setting velocity to 0. This made me think a bit and I learned a new principle for future games I make, and that is for good collision I shouldn’t be checking if the object collides with the wall, but rather if it is going to collide with the wall, this breakthrough allowed me to implement smooth movement in both x and y and when I was happy with it I decided to create my first couple of blocks of my tile-set, which ended up being only used in the Main Menu, which is why you will notice the graphics get better from that point on.
Then I realized that I needed a theme song! So I downloaded the program Pxtone because that’s what I read some people were using. Something must have been wrong with the download because all of the message strings in the program looked like they were written in the Wingdings font, but the program itself was simple so I figured out how to make a loop, although exporting took some attempts since I didn’t know what anything said,For the creation I used a basic dubstep beat setup along with a melody I created on my piano and that’s how you get the theme music! I also downloaded SFXR because I wanted sound effects in my game for everything from little things like the player jumping/hitting the floor to contextual information in the minigames.
Next I decided I wanted to inject a tiny little plot, or some purpose into the game, and that’s when I decided it would be cool to have an mysterious Announcer character who is visually represented by a spotlight, this also gave me a tiny little break from making the game assets to create the ray-casting routine for drawing the spotlight. Then I decided the spotlight would basically serve as a guide through the game so that you know how to progress. For the implementation of the theme I had the spotlight give the player a “Sword of Confidence” which basically sets up the mini-games and the idea that the character needs confidence to stop being so alone.
From this point on I decided that I wanted to make the player do basic tasks that build his confidence and ultimately get him a date. I decided on the following gameplay: Platforming to explore the level and find the task, and then have the task be a timed event minigame sequence of having to press the correct arrow before the timer runs out a certain amount of times. The object I created to handle these minigames was dynamic enough to allow me to simply specify how many arrows I want it to display, and then it proceeds to run the minigame with that amount of arrows, and decreases the time the player has to respond which each following arrow. When the minigame is finished it awards the player Confidence Points based on how many arrows he completed and then plays a short ACHIEVEMENT-esque animation to add some flare to the game, and to allow for a few bits of humor.
After I had these basic systems in place I got to work on drawing the tileset for the level in Photoshop 7, creating the tileset and then placing it was the most time consuming aspect of the project! It took me roughly 12 hours just to implement the first level because I kept going back into photoshop because I wanted to add something like a toaster, or a sink faucet, or some towels, etc. I’ve never really done pixel graphics before so it was a lot of fun seeing a whole game made out of pixel art that I created because I don’t consider myself an artist! One thing I can take away from this process for future projects is that I should probably map out my levels before I create them, that way I know what kind of graphics I need and what the design of the level will be, here I just created the levels one section at a time, and it really wasted a lot of time.
After I implemented the levels and the objectives, I decided that it would be good to add the announcer as a colored light at the end of the level that tells the player what objective they should complete next, this way, the player isn’t just running around the level trying to find objectives to complete, and that he knows which one he should focus on next, however if he chooses to, he can complete the objectives in any order and ignore the announcer.
And then comes the twist ending to wrap things up. I wanted to inject some more humor into the game and make the player look at the events that transpired before and after the ending with a new perspective, and to also tie in the name of the game! A strange coincidence that I noticed that goes nicely with this ending is that when the announcer throws the sword at you and it chases you, the only way to indefinitely run away from it makes the sword follow a path the resembles a sideways 8 or infinity =D Unintentional but does help drive the ending home.
Thank you for reading what I hope is a correctly done post mortem, I had an absolute blast making this game and participating in this competition, and the knowledge I picked up implementing the platforming and mini-games will be invaluable to me for future projects!
My god I’ve actually finished it. This was my first Ludum Dare and I honestly never thought I would ever come CLOSE to cranking out a entry, I have very very very FEW finished projects, so to have one that I made within 48 hours is thrilling and will definitely give me a Confidence Boost to future projects. I was intimidated the whole way through and I am just glad I stuck with it. So try it out, let me know what you think, and when the time comes, give it an honest vote! This competition was amazing fun and I can’t wait to see what games are submitted! I find it absolutely hilarious how far I strayed from my original idea, check out my journal to see what I mean by that after giving it a playthrough
I’ve finally finished the first level xD. Been hard at work at creating the tileset using Photoshop, music using pxTone, sounds using SFXR, and the different gameplay mechanics using my head, If I’m going to implement everything that I want, I will be cutting it dangerously close to the submission deadline, and I’ve only had 2 hours of sleep since the beginning!
Here’s a little peak into what the levels will look like:
Stayed up all night putting the platform engine together and now I’m so tired, but I’ve just been writing non-stop about the plot for my game and I don’t know where all of this inspiration is coming from. Now I’m just going to hammer together the levels, work furiously on the graphics, and then sleep straight through my classes on Monday and Tuesday!
I am switching over to using Game Maker from FlashDevelop and Flashpunk. Having to implement the basics of the engine is too time consuming and I just want to focus on the content of the game.
So here’s my game idea,
Title: Forever Alone
You are the piano instructor for a princess in a fantasy setting. You have a secret crush on her but this is absolutely forbidden, one night after your scheduled lesson you are caught looking her directly in the eyes for longer then 2 seconds by the Royal Guard! You are immediately banished to the dungeon to face execution. The next morning it turns out the princess is kidnapped by an evil Necromancer who is looking to make her his undead bride. You are taken from the dungeon by the King’s personal guard and you have just been officially been drafted into the military on a mission to go rescue the princess. But of course the guard will send you in alone first to face the Necromancer, don’t worry though, they will give you the necessary tools to survive!
This will be made with FlashPunk and FlashDevelop, I plan for it to be a silly adventure game with laughs and puzzle gameplay.
Hi this is gonna be my first Ludum Dare competition. I haven’t created many finished products so this competition will hopefully give me the nudge I need.
Language: I will be learning AS3 doing this project, If I hit a roadblock I might default to Java or even Game Maker.
Image: Photoshop 7
Sound: Undecided, probably Fruity Loops