Rules and Guide
Ludum Dare is an Online Game Jam event where people from around the world create a game in a weekend. More details here.
As of August 2010 (Ludum Dare 18), Ludum Dare is now a dual event. A competition and jam. Both run concurrently and share the same theme, but each is a little different.
As of August 2011 (Ludum Dare 21), Ludum Dare Jam games are now rated!
As of December 2011 (Ludum Dare 22), we’ve added a new Entry Voting Category: Mood.
Ludum Dare is two similar events taking place over one weekend
The Competition is the familiar “make a game in 48 hours solo competition” that Ludum Dare is known for. Specific details can be found below. After the competition ends, participants are given 3 weeks to play and rate games created by their peers. After those 3 weeks, winners are announced.
The Jam is the new “relaxed” Ludum Dare. It was created to make Ludum Dare even more inclusive. You can work in a team, borrow assets from your other projects, or do things that would normally be against the rules. You also get one extra day, giving you up to 72 hours to submit an entry. This is helpful for those times real life gets in the way, or for games that need just a bit more time to become something great.
Ultimately, our goal with Ludum Dare is to encourage people to sit down and make something. Our hope is that the new structure continues to encourage more and more developers to join us and create a game in a weekend.
Ludum Dare Events
Ludum Dare Events are held every 4 months; Every April, August, and December. Dates are announced 1-2 months before the start time. The best way to stay informed is via the mailing list. Alternatively, you can follow ludumdare on twitter.
Once the date has been announced, members of the community can suggest themes.
The week before the start time, members of the community can vote on their favorite themes. Check back daily for a new list of themes.
The day before the start is the final theme voting round. One of the themes listed will be the theme for the Event.
When the timer expires, the theme will be announced, and the Event begins.
Joining the Event
Participating in Ludum Dare is easy. Create an account here on ludumdare.com and you’re done. With your account, you can make posts to the shared blog, and submit your finished games.
Competition Rules and Eligibility
Ludum Dare Competition rules are stricter than the Jam rules. This is to encourage a fairer playing field for participants. The core rules are:
- You must work alone (solo).
- All game code and content must be created within the 48 hours. **
- Games must be based on the theme.
- All publicly available libraries and middleware are allowed.
- All content creation, and development tools are allowed. (3dsmax, Photoshop, Flash, etc)
- Source code must be included.
The code from a game written in 48 hours isn’t likely to contain anything super top-secret, which is why we ask you to include it. Instructions for using or compiling the code is not required; It’s mainly a formality in case we need to deal with disqualifications. This does not mean open source, just included source. You retain all rights to it. If you do not wish to provide source, consider entering the Jam instead.
Content is your non-code assets like art, sound, maps or music.
Aside from being “more fair”, rule #2 is there for your legal benefit. Services like Google Image Search make it easy to find images and artwork, but many returned images are protected by copyrights. We want you to create something free of copyright restrictions. That way, you are able to bring it as is to Flash game portals, iPhone and other mobiles, downloadable game services, etc. We realize “temporary art” is just temporary, but for the sake of fairness don’t allow it in the competition. If you need something “temporary”, consider using a content generator. For Jam games, you are free to use whatever artwork or content you like (preferably something you have the legal rights to), but you must accept all responsibility for its use.
Though rule #3 says your game must be based on the theme, the interpretation of theme is open. If you find yourself stuck, consider using the theme in a different or unusual way (e.g. as a character). If your interpretation seems difficult to understand, feel free to rationalize your use in a blog post.
Special Competition Exemptions **
- Base code and personal code libraries are allowed, but should be declared and shared with the community prior to beginning your entry. To do this, make a blog post.
- Photos and recordings you make of people or things are acceptable content, just you must acquire them during the competition.
- Fonts, drum loops, drum samples, and sampled instruments are allowed IF you have the legal right to use them.
- Content generators are allowed. In fact, you are encouraged to create them and share them with the community. sfxr, the extremely popular sound effect generator was originally created for Ludum Dare. It has since gone on to be used in many indie and commercial games.
- A logo/intro screen you use on all your works is allowed (e.g. “by Super-Great Productions”).
- Porting (especially to Windows) can happen after the initial 48 hours. The longer you wait though, the less of a chance other participants will have to play your game.
- To reach more participants, web entries are best (Flash, Unity, Flixel, Flashpunk, HTML, etc). They’re quick to start playing, and cross platform.
- After web, Windows is your best bet. We do have a number of Mac and Linux developers, but they’re a minority compared to web and Windows.
- Though there’s no restriction on Single vs. Multiplayer games, but more judges will be able to play a Single player game.
- Windows installers (MSI, EXE) are fine, but a word of warning: Some people don’t like installers! Providing a ZIP version should satisfy them.
- Downloads should be completely self contained. Having to download Python, PyGame, MSVC runtimes, XNA Frameworks, and other addons just to play a game will frustrate some people (hence why Web is so popular now).
The Jam is our new “relaxed rules” Ludum Dare event. It takes place concurrently with the Ludum Dare Competition, but goes a little longer. To contrast the competition, here are the equivalent 5 rules:
- You can work alone or in a team.
- Create a game in 72 hours.
- Games should be based on the theme.
- All libraries, middleware, content creation, and development tools are allowed.
- Source code is not required.
If you’re working in a team, pick one member to submit and represent your game. No matter the number team members, each game is only worth 1 participant. If other team members wish to help out with the judging, ask them to play and rate other entries on your behalf.
All participants that submit a game are allowed to judge. Games are given 1-5 star ratings in each category, or N/A where not applicable. The categories include:
- Innovation – The unexpected. Things in a unique combination, or something so different it’s notable.
- Fun – How much you enjoyed playing a game. Did you look up at the clock, and found it was 5 hours later?
- Theme – How well an entry suits the theme. Do they perhaps do something creative or unexpected with the theme?
- Graphics – How good the game looks, or how effective the visual style is. Nice artwork, excellent generated or geometric graphics, charming programmer art, etc.
- Audio – How good the game sounds, or how effective the sound design is. A catchy soundtrack, suitable sound effects given the look, voice overs, etc.
- Humor – How amusing a game is. Humorous dialog, funny sounds, or is it so bad it’s good?
- Mood – Storytelling, emotion, and the vibe you get while playing.
- Overall – Your overall opinion of the game, in every aspect important to you.
- Community – Journals, photos, timelapse video. Everything you do above and beyond just making the game.
In addition to the above, there is a special category Coolness. All participants are eligible to place on the Coolness chart; The more games you play and rate, the higher your score.
Watch the top of the site for a link where to submit your game. The competition and jam share the same submission form, and you pick which you’d like to enter your game in. You will be uploading screenshots to the website, but you will have to upload and host your binaries elsewhere.
Your game belongs to you. After all, you made it! Ludum Dare, its organizers and affiliates claim no rights or ownership of your game.
The organizers do request the right to use your game for purpose of publicizing the competition. If you do not wish your game to be publicized in this way, we ask that you make an effort to inform the organizers and downloaders of your request (notes in README, title screen, forums, etc). Ludum Dare publicity and PR is mostly handled by Mike Kasprzak (PoV), so be sure he knows.
There are no physical or cash prizes for the competition. Your prize is your product.
Something we hope to do more is encourage participants to take their Ludum Dare games “above and beyond” the Competition and Jam. The staff behind Ludum Dare do this themselves, with games available for iPhone and other mobiles, Steam, and major flash portals like Kongregate.