Posts Tagged ‘tips’
I made Equilibrium for LD30, and here’s my post-mortem:
I learned a lot during this compo, and I want this post to be advice, mainly for myself, but also for everyone else interested in how to make a game in 48h if you suck at making games.
This time, I didn’t really care at all about what the theme would be. I used the time before the weekend to set up my tools and plan the development process. This allowed me to get to work in the morning without being sad and upset about the theme voting results. I did quite a bit of brainstorming and didn’t use my computer at all, except for research. I absolutely didn’t want to be inspired by other game developers, but have my own idea. It took some time, but it worked, and I had a fairly simple concept in mind. However, I ended up having to invent some weird context to make it related to the theme.
- Tips: don’t bitch about the theme, brainstorm, have an idea.
I had made a very clear but flexible plan for my time management, so when I woke up on Saturday, I knew exactly what to do. For the most part I sticked to my plan and had a working prototype after the first couple of hours. I used Google Keep as a simple but effective way to organize my tasks without getting distracted.
- Tips: know what to do, use to-do lists.
I took some breaks, and I didn’t spend them in front of the computer. I feel like I could have taken more, because moving around and thinking about other stuff keeps me motivated and comfortable. It’s kind of paradoxical that you get things done faster if you don’t work on it all the time, but it works really well. Also, I tried to use my screen space efficiently. Having two monitors can be dangerous, because it’s so easy getting distracted by livestreams or even the Ludum Dare website. I kept my to-do list and a tab for research on one screen and developed and tested on the other for most of the time. Having a tidy environment is helpful too, especially if you like scribbling and doodling on paper, but my desk was a mess as always.
- Tips: take breaks, use space efficiently.
I can’t draw. I don’t have the knowledge, practice and utensils to make beautiful graphics. I didn’t use a single image file in my game, and still people tell me they like the visuals. Focusing on a consistent style and not wasting my time with drawing and redrawing tons of pictures was a wise decision. The time I spent on figuring out the math for drawing my simple shapes was definitely well spent.
- Tips: do what you can, don’t be afraid of math.
I implemented music and sounds pretty late in the development process, when the game was almost done. This allowed me to make them fit the graphics perfectly. I’m not an expert in music theory, but with my basic knowledge of harmony, I managed to create some non-annoying audio in a reasonable time. I used Sunvox to create both the ambient music and the sound effects, and it all went together quite well.
- Tips: do what you can, make it fit the mood.
In the end, I had a playable (though not ‘finishable’) game. I’ve made some of my friends and family play the result and also got some nice and constructive feedback from other Ludum Darers. Without a doubt, it needs improvement, mainly because the game concept is hard to understand and there is no real goal. I got a lot of positive criticism for audiovisuals. I’m personally very satisfied with my game, and know what to change to make it an enjoyable game.
It’s been almost two years since I made my first game for LD, and I’m amazed by what people have achieved. I’ve made tons of great experiences. I’ve done things I never thought I was able to and I learned lots of lessons, also for life. Ludum Dare and its community has helped me in so many ways. I’m still not a good game designer/developer, but I’m on a path in the right direction.
Thank you for everything!
As usual, nothing is going as expected and I still don’t have a working PC set up… I maybe gonna have to do everything from my loyal Android phone : amazing graphics and sounds incoming (don’t even evoke the painful coding). Anyway, I like the additional challenge.
Besides, I wrote a recommendations article earlier if you want a few tips : http://www.eldaryze.com/blog/ludumDare.html
And if you are french, come talk with us at #ludumdare-fr on irc.afternet.org !
Yeyyyyyyy it’s Ludum Dare!
give us the tips already!
If you live in Europe, then the compo is split over 2 days. This is generally how I split my work between Saturday and Sunday:
- Day 1 – engine, controls, graphics, music.
- Day 2 – gameplay features, level design, sound effects, particles, screen shake and other effects.
I recommend this schedule to others. My reasoning? Day 2 can be stressful – or rather – you will feel the pressure of time. When you’re under pressure you will rush things, and the engine/controls/graphics/music can’t afford to be rushed!
What happens if you rush them, sorceress?
When you rush things, you don’t do them as well or as carefully. They are much more prone to errors. And if you are under pressure, then you won’t really have time to properly test/debug/fix them.
Engine – Say you rush your engine (that is the game loop and the core physics of your game). If it doesn’t work properly, then you could have a broken game. Nothing else will matter.
Controls – Imagine if the keys/mouse input doesn’t work properly. Imagine if a character can’t make jumps it is supposed to be able to make. Imagine if an inventory or in-game menu won’t open. Your game could be unplayable.
Graphics – Rush your graphics and spoil them and your game will look bad. Graphics create first impressions. Your screenshot is all that will entice players to click your game, and your game could well be judged after a mere 60 seconds of play. First impressions are everything!
Music – Rush your music and your game could sound bad. Painful sounds will put player’s in a bad mood, which could be the difference between “I like your game” and “I don’t like your game”. This will show in the ratings. If they decide to turn down the volume, they won’t hear your sound effects either.
This Ludum Dare I made SnakeFormer, a short puzzle game combining Snake with pseudo-physics platformer mechanics.
If you’d like to, you can play it here.
Like just about every game, some lessons were learnt, and I thought I’d write a small piece about them. It’s 12 hours before the judging ends, and nobody has time to read through a novel, so I’ll keep this short!
Game & Level Design
If a level has the right difficulty for you, it’ll be too hard for everybody else.
I swear I’ll remember this lesson one day, haha. That doesn’t necessarily mean “make it easier”, because in a level-based game, there is another approach:
When in doubt, make more levels.
Easier levels, preferably. I should’ve spent a lot less time on the menu and instead made more transition levels. Which brings me to:
Don’t introduce more than one mechanic per level.
Level 2 introduces: Lava, falling stones AND growing the snake. That’s, uh, a bit too much.
Even if you think the goal is clear, it might be not.
So – better make it clearer. The goal in my game is to exit the screen to the right, like in most platformers. Some people thought that they had to eat the whole level though, which is a more Snake-like goal.
Put instructions in the first level.
Some players don’t read the instructions before starting the game – but once they are confused inside the game, make it as easy as possible to re-read them.
Art, Sound & Music
Glow is freakin’ cool.
Homemade sound effects can be quite entertaining.
Any game needs sound effects, and since I’m no good at making them digitally, I tried to use my mouth for most. Turns out that’s a lot of fun to listen to, and I actually had a few people praise my sound design, especially the eating- and the end-of-level-sounds.
Abundant Music (music generator) + GXSCC (a MIDI chiptunes-like renderer) are the best team.
I’m no musician, so I had to use generated stuff. Those two are PERFECT. It still took very long to find songs that sound well together, but that definitly was time well spent.
Cheery music for hard and punishing gameplay.
Gnhihihihi. So much fun while watching streamers.
Trust in the process and stay open for new ideas.
The concept I started out was a lot more boring, but then I asked myself “Okay, so those stones fall – what if gravity affects the snake too?” – and then SnakeFormer was born. So even if your initial idea isn’t perfect, go for it anyway instead of giving up, it might evolve into something great later on!
If your idea comes late, don’t worry! There’s still time!
I started development 12 hours after the start of the compo – 8 hours sleep, 4 hours pondering. Contrary to all expectations, I’m still alive and the game is playable.
ToDo lists are great to maintain focus.
Always use a ToDo list so you won’t lose track of your next tasks. Workflowy works best for me.
Thanks a lot for reading! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Maybe I made you a bit curious about my game too? If you want to, you can play SnakeFormer here – and I don’t think I have to mention how much I like comments and ratings, do I?
This being my third Ludum Dare I had a decent idea of what I was getting myself into. These game jams are really a great way of practicing on actually making something from start to finish. I think that is what many of us really need to get better at, I know I for one have put tons of time into other bigger projects which never see the light of day, maybe because they are simply too big of projects. Here are some quick tips which I’ve learned from previous mistakes and could be good for newcomers entering into a ludum dare, for starting any new game project I guess.
- Start with making something really simple and make sure the “fun factor” is there early on, the rest is polish!
- Don’t explore some new technology while trying to complete a game.
- Give each aspect (design, planning, code, graphics, audio, testing, etc) enough time each. Don’t spend the first day and a half coding and get the rest done in a few hours.
- Make sure the game is done well before the deadline so you have time for playtesting, bugfixing and polish.
- The most important thing is to complete a game from start to finish, not that it’s the most feature packed perfect game.
So I’ve been playing unhealthy amounts of Spelunky lately and I wanted to make a platformer with a bit of the same vibe, and I’m a huge space fan so I went for that. When the theme got decided I thought I’d make a underground platformer. Since I love the jetpack in spelunky and don’t get it often enough, I thought I’d make a game with a similar feel as the jetpack in Spelunky. I also wanted to make a simple and addicting game with online highscore, so I played around with the idea until I ended up with what the game is now. It could still get a lot better, but I’m quite happy with the end result in just two days work.
Warmup & Making Music
I’m especially happy with having produced music for in the game, and am even quite happy with the end result. Truth is I’ve wanted to learn how to make music for a while now, and started various tutorials but never got very far. The day before Ludum dare I made a warmup game called Space Survivor. It took me about 2 hours to make, and looking at the highscore stats I can say that it’s probably the game I’ve made with best time coded vs time played ratio ever.. which is a bit depressing. Anyway, the cool thing is I also decided I was going to make music for the game. I opened a a music program called SunVox, which is the first music program where I actually like the UI, and decided I’m going to make a song from start to end, it doesn’t matter how crappy it is, but it’s going to be finished. My first song. Instead of trying to learn each aspect of music and mastering it before I even make a song, this technique really taught me how to make music and I put it in the game! And I’m so happy for it! The day after Ludum dare started and I made another track and put it in my Ludum Dare entry, and it turned out quite nice for my second track ever!
For the first time I felt that I was done enough for the deadline. Overall I’m very happy with the end result, here are some points which I’m happy with
- I had a nice balance of time spent coding, making art, making sound, making music, testing, bugfixing and polishing which made all areas good enough!
- I actually made music for my game and learned how to make it in the process!
- I had online highscores – this is something that really makes some games so much more fun!
- The game feels like a complete game and is polished
- I invited two friends over for a little Jam-Lan-Party, this made the whole thing event more fun and I think we made better games because of it!
Although I’m very happy with the end result, there were a few hickups.
- About half way in on day two I began writing ugly code to make things rapidly. This made the final code quite cluddered and just makes it harder to update and improve the game further. I will have to spend a day just to cleanup the code later!
- Lesson: Things don’t have to be perfectly coded, but alteast keep it clean and organized at all times!
- Some MySQL issues have made the online highscores slow/unresponsive sometimes, which results in a lot of statistics/scores have gotten lost. This is really a shame because I wanted to present cool playstats here for you!
- Lesson: Brush up MySQL skills for next time for better highscores/stats!
- I’ve got about 60 ratings to my game and I’ve done 120 on others, so I can’t complain. Still somehow I feel it’s very hard to get people to try my game. I believe this is in large part because I don’t have a web version. I know the feeling when testing games, if you gotta download it, let alone run a seperate redist install, it’s hard to want to try it! I really do think this is a shame, I think games feel better when not played in a browser. And c#/xna is awesome!
- Lesson: Consider using a web-platform next time or accept low play stats. (HTML5, Unity, etc)
- The title. To be honest I suck at titles. It was never really my intention that the game would be named Gravity. I sort of just wrote something while designing the graphics/menu to get the style right. In the end time was running out and I hadn’t thought of a better title and then I forgot. I thought of the George Clooney film and just added a random subtitle since I thought that looked cool too.
- Lesson: Titles can be important, decide on a good one early on and roll with it. It’s hard to think up a good name at the last minute!
Some play stats!
With each play being registered in an online highscore, I can also calculate some play stats from them. Sadly my MySQL skills weren’t good enough in time, so a lot of the stats got lost because of a query taking very long time to load sometimes.. But here are some fun play stats at the time of writing!
Disclamer: Sadly up to approx 50% of plays may be missing, so stats below could probably be doubled, but this is what I’ve got! (Any new stats should be recorded correctly I believe)
- Total number of unique players: 82
- Total number of plays: 6617
- Avarage plays per player: 80
- Total play time all players: 35 hours 1 min 55 seconds
- Avarage time played per player: 25 minutes
- Player with most plays
- Diamonde: 718
- Rebecca: 595
- Tobias-PC: 587
- Maxime: 549
- Anebo: 517
Check out the timelapse of making Gravity! May contain spoilers!
Lastly, I would really appreciate if you
Good luck in the final results all!
I’m in again. I just can’t help myself. Ludum Dare is fun. Truthfully I wish it were more frequent. I have no idea what style game I’d like to make this time. Well, not entirely true. I’d like to make a 1981/2 Williams style arcade shooting/blasting game, but have no idea on style or genre. Will see that the theme is.
On creativity…originated from a friend at Remedy (IIRC) made this little chart on the Creative Process. I find it very accurate and particularly suited to Ludum Dare.
Most everyone goes through the above on most any project from Ludum Dare to iOS to Steam to Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty. The trick is to not get discouraged in steps 3 and 4. Fight through it. Don’t second guess everything. Don’t doubt everything. Don’t give up.
Also there’s this fantastic video from Ira Glass:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ResTHKVxf4 (hope it embeds, but it may not). Watch it.
Stay focused and lean and mean on the jam so you increase your chance of success. Don’t reach too far. Don’t scope too large. Better to do to little, and add, then get halfway into Saturday and realize it’s not gonna happen. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING is finishing – something, anything. A complete work. Good luck!
Is that you, each time you remember what the results of the past voting rounds were?
If so, here is a surprise for you: Your attitude is severely limiting your ability to come up with good ideas. It is much easier to have ideas when you are positive, motivated and actually give the theme a shot. If the theme is already hard for you and all you think about is “this is awful, people are stupid for voting on this” you sure aren’t making your life easier.
“But Tobias”, you say, “the theme is too limiting. Everyone will come up with the same game.” Yeah, and you probably said that everyone will do a WarioWare type of game for “10 seconds”. And how many of those did we have again? I played a hundred games and I only remember 2 of those – and a LOT of other really creative, fun and diverse games.
“But the theme is simply AWFUL. Nobody can come up with anything good for this!” Sure, except all the hundreds of people who didn’t chicken out when their favourite theme wasn’t chosen.
So maybe this time, instead of dropping out immediately or thinking half-heartedly about the theme for half an hour to prove to yourself that you can’t come up with anything – try to keep an open mind. Maybe it won’t help, but at least this time you actually tried. And who knows, maybe you’ll come up with your best game idea yet by leaving your comfort zone! Of one thing I am sure though: You’ll become a better game designer in the process.
P.S.: And please, stop making posts complaining that people are stupid for voting in a way you don’t like. You are not a victim, so stop behaving like one.
P.P.S.: Yeah, there are themes I don’t like either. Lots of them. And I am awful at coming up with ideas. But I am trying to improve. How about you?
The amount of games with only WASD keys to move is too damn high ! ^^
I suggest to add this in the competition tips : “Some persons have QWERTY keyboard and others have AZERTY keyboard. So let the player choose his own keys to move or just set W AND Z to move forward, A AND Q to move to the left, S to move back, D to move to the right. Or, use the directional keys.”
I figured I’d do a writeup of my results for Asphyxia . I wish I could put these ratings into a sexy graph, but seeing as it was my first ludum dare that wouldn’t be very interesting
#20 Mood – Nice, the game was obviously aimed at the mood and there was some though competition in this category, with masterpieces like rxi’s game. Some described the story as very sad, others as a punch in the stomach (the ending) and some as intense, it’s nice to have been able to put some mood into it (which is a first for me).
#35 Audio & #118 Graphics - Surprisingly high, the music in the game was the first I ever created, so this result very awesome to see! I’m definetely no artist, so for me this graphics rating is a nice proof that even a programmer can score moderately high without talent if you put effort into it (first time I’m putting anything other than programmer art/primitive shapes in a game).
#131 Overall – I was aiming for top 100, which I didn’t make, but I suppose that goal was a bit too high for a first ludum dare. 131 is still a very nice result regardless!
#415 Fun, #494 Theme, #546 Humor - I think this game was quite the opposite of humor, but still an average score of 2.13? Strange As for fun and theme, it was not very original in the theme category (one life in story) and funwise, it was way too hard.
Alright, so much for the ratings, they’re not what LD is about, it’s more about what you learn.
Here are some tips for next jams that I have learned along the way in this jam, I tried to add those that I don’t read in every other tip list (eat and sleep):
- Your game is probably too hard. As the maker of a game, you are much more skilled in your game as you know exactly how it works and have played it a whole lot. Have your game playtested, even in a jam, and scale the difficulty down.
- Add story skip functionality. Add skip functionality to intro’s and parts of the story (if your game has one). In my game the intro was not skippable, which was a big, big mistake.
- Add level skip functionality (in my game I had a button show up after X failed attempts). This allows players that are struggling or simply don’t have the time to try many times to see the story/ending of your game regardless. This is not that hard to add and in my eyes is a must in story-driven games.
- Add sound. Any sound is always better than no sound, if you are not an audio pro, consider recording things around you with your crappy microphone or generating sounds with bfxr. If you do it really well, it can make for a great experience all by itself, see Atmospherium‘s game.
- Do one thing well. I often end up over-scoping in jams, it’s not so much that I didn’t put in every feature I wanted, it’s that the game does not do one thing very well, but does a lot of things. I think this problem is especially present in the programming-end of the game developer spectrum.
- Don’t finish with programmer art. Making art is not impossible for programmers, do plan to span some time on at least reasonable art.
- Build for Linux too. I’m not a Linux user myself, but many of jammers (especially the veterans (who vote on a lot of games and give great criticism)) are. There is no Unity Web Player for Linux, so build for Linux!
- Put instructions in the game, when the player needs it (first) . In my opinion this is so much better than putting a list on your submission page or at the very start of the game. Here are some examples of how it can be done.
- Watch a stream of someone playing your game (or an IRL person). This is basically how I learned most of this, post-jam there a bunch of people streaming games, it’s a great opportunity to see someone struggle with things that you thought were intuitive/easy.
Hope this helps some of us ;).
I’ve done several Ludum Dares in the past, and the one thing that I’d recommend to anyone is to always remember, you’re doing this for fun.
- If something comes along that sounds more fun, or is more important, go do it.
- Take breaks. Go on a walk. Get away from the computer. Draw inspiration from the world, or let your subconscious tackle a tough problem while you enjoy yourself.
- Don’t get stuck. Use a tool like Stutter to force yourself to bounce from art to programming to design to playtesting. (Yes, this is a shameless plug.)
- Sleep (or, at the very least, powernap). A tired developer is a sub-optimal developer. Four hours of peak development is worth much more than 16 hours of mediocre development.
- Eat. Food is fuel, and fuel, like sleep, is required to perform at peak.
- If you want to dominate your Ludum Dare (or appear to), don’t learn your tools while you work. Decide upon your arsenal now, and learn as much as you can about them.
- Revision control is your best friend. Commit early, commit often. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be committing way more than you think you need to, and this is good. Reverting fifteen minutes worth of bug code is better than spending another fifteen debugging. (Don’t forget to master revision control before the compo!)
- Submit your shit. Does your game crash? Submit it. Does your game suck? Submit it. Is your game so awful it’s embarrassing? Submit it! Once you’ve submitted it, realize you’ve completed a Ludum Dare, how awesome that is, how many people wish they were you, how attractive you are, and how much better you’ll do next time!
- Have fun. Have I mentioned that you’re doing this for kicks? If you’re stressed, worried, bored, upset, or tired, you’re doing a bad games make job. Have fun, goddamnit.
Several days after the end of the jam, it’s time to write a short (now that I finished to write it, it’s not short) post-mortem. People who tried my game seems rather satisfied and they have enjoyed the game. I’m globally pleased with the result of my work too even if all isn’t happened perfectly. You can try my game if you want understand what I’m talking about : The Curse of Chronos.
What’s went wrong
Gameplay : I decided to spend my first two hours Saturday morning to find an idea and create a short game design document. My first idea was to create a game where you play a terrorist who trigger bombs and have ten seconds to back off before the bomb goes off. Another idea I had was a hero who has the power to see the future ten seconds in advance and can use it to change it. These ideas were ok but I wasn’t completely satisfied and I had still one hour of thinking.
I finally decided to create a rogue-like where the player has only ten seconds at the beginnning of the game. Each action like walking, talking to an npc or fighting costs time and there’s also objects which can increase hero’s amount of time.
I worked on this idea and Sunday evening, the engine was over. The hero could walk, pick-up objects, kill monsters. At this time, I noticed the gameplay of my game was rather poor. The only thing the player could do was moving as fights where automatically resolved. At the end of day 2, my rogue-like was became a simple exploration game without I notice it.
The game is not bad but I’m a bit disappointed because I’m sure I could do more interesting things with this concept. And I don’t know why but I find definitely that the gameplay of my game is poor.
Time management : I was really well at the end of day 2 concerning the deadline. I had still a lot of things to do on day 3 but I had the time to do it. And one day later, I published my entry 3 minutes before the deadline after 3 hours full of stress and tension.
I was really pleased at the end of day 2. I had a good game with good graphics and music. I think I was a bit less focus during the third day. I spend one or two hours to do other things than working on my game, thinking that the biggest part of the job was done.
At midnight (3 hours before the deadline), I begin to be a bit worry because I had still a lot of work to do. I was forced to work fast and therefore not really well. I give up to create a second music track and I hadn’t the time to balanced really well the difficulty. That’s also the moment where I begin to detect some bugs I haven’t noticed before, still increasing the amount of work to do.
I had been forced to work hard until 3am after a really long day. It was not really good especially because I could avoid it if I had keep focus during the day 3.
What’s went right.
Keep healthy habits and sleep well : In France, the Ludum Dare begin at 3am Saturday morning. For my first Ludum Dare in April, I decided it was a good idea to go out Friday evening and go back home at 7am completely drunk. I began my game only at 5pm.
I manage to avoid it this time and I take a good sleep Friday evening to be ready and fully well-rested Saturday morning at 9am.
I also take 8 hours of sleep each night. I take the time to take a shower and prepare some good dishes for my meals. It seems obvious but it’s really easy to stay focus during seven or eight hours in a row and burn out before the end. It’s truer for the jam which goes on for three days. To my mind, these moments like take a shower and eat good meals are really important to take a break and keep your body and your mind healthy.
It took more time than drink sodas, coffee and redbull during 72 hours, but I think it’s better at the end. Furthermore, it’s often after this sort of break that your succeed to fix this damn bug which annoy you since one hour.
Audio : I use two hours to produce the only track of the game. It last just one minute. I thought it’s a bit short. I was afraid that players find a bit repetitive to listen the same music during all the game, that’s why I would like to add another track. After all, it’s enough long to avoid this problem and nobody seems complain about it.
There are several sounds in the game to accentuate some actions done by the hero like pick-up an object or kill a monster. They are ok and rather effective, I think.
Graphics : I’m really pleased of my tiles and sprites and players who tried my game seems too.
Dialogs in English : Dialogs are really important in a game like this. I write the dialogs during the third day, so very fastly. It’s a bit difficult to write all these dialogs in a language which is not yours because you’re not always sure to use the correct word at the correct place. You also cannot always faithfully transpose what you would like to say. So I tried to keep the dialogs simple and used stereotypes and humor. Old men who are only obsessed by fishing, guards who are all cowards.
I’m satisfied about the result even if I could do better if I haven’t wasting time during day 3 as I said above.
Theme : I was pretty disappointed when I know what’s the theme was. I thought that the only sort of game you can do it with it was : you have ten seconds to do that, you have ten seconds to finised this level, you have ten seconds to…, and so on.
I tried 60 games until now and some of them follows this scheme. My two first game ideas was like this too (see above) but I manage to find something different and I think it’s the challenge when you have a theme : to see the theme in an original way. Among all the games I played, my favourites was those which were able to use the theme in an original way and don’t stop at the common solution which everybody will find.
Scenario and quests : I find the scenario really early when I was still thinking about game mecanics during the first two hours. Chronos, the god of the time put a curse on the hero and left him only ten seconds to live. The goal of the hero is to lift this curse. It’s quite simple but it’s enough to make a good main quest. The challenge was to use cunningly the dialogs and the settings to guide the player without he noticed it too much. The common mistake in this sort of game in open-world is to completely direct the player and he has absolutely no freedom.
Except at the beginning, where the player is a bit directed for the tutorial, I think I succeed because the player can do absolutely what he want, in the order he want but he is not release in the world without any indications. He can even go directly to «final boss» even if he will have difficulty to defeat him. Side quests are optionals but help a lot to do the main quest.
I’m really happy of what I did and players who played my game seems enjoyed it. I will know continue to try games of the Ludum Dare. I’m doing my best to try games of all the people who left a comment about mine.
The theme is Minimalism, yeah? And I think I’m not totally irresponsible for this.
Two weeks ago I finally decided to enter the next LD, I thought about how I could make a game from scratch which would be awesome despite my programmer art.
So I decided I submit “Minimalism” as a theme idea, because then I would have an excuse for my bad art. And having all those time constraints of a weekend and stuff I thought it would be easier to finish the game. Thought and done.
Well, bad idea. I only later found out, that Minimalist already has been the theme of LD11, which made me dislike this theme. But I thought, well then nobody will up-vote it anyway…
Well, I was wrong, faster than I could see it got into the final round, well sh…
Then I also talked with some of my friends about the LD, and they didn’t mind joining me in my quest of making a game. So I decided to join the jam instead of the compo and we could make an awesome game together. And now I have people who can make art and sound and stuff, and what is the theme?! MINIMALISM! I could have ripped my ass out when I saw it (if that’s even a thing).
But (as others already said) don’t try to think of it as something that constrains you, as I did first. Simply see it as another challenge to the LD.
So now I’m sitting here trying to come up with an idea for minimalism that allows us to create a great game. The thing is: what you usually want with games is richness in graphics, sounds, effects and gameplay, but applying the theme to one of this things leads to exactly the opposite, it seems at first. But you could say that it also leads to pureness and more focused content (as long as you don’t cut on the essentials). When particles are important for your game, then simply include them. Don’t just draw rectangles, maybe try out circles instead. Ok, maybe not like that, but you get the idea.
So maybe we will do something that has just a story, revolving around minimalism, but not on too minimalistic graphics, gameplay and stuff.
And I’m really sorry, if the theme really scrapped your LD. It scrapped mine too.
(And don’t forget to include a potato)
Since I know myself enough, I also know that I will start panicking about three to four hours in and willing to throw everything in the bin and go play some Deus Ex. So, I though that a list of some anti panic suggestions maybe will help me (and hopefully inspire others) to get my game done before the 48h limit.
- Start with a small idea, something I’m pretty confident I can do in two days, then halve that. This way I’ll get a tiny idea: my objective is doing something even tinier. As everything in life, starting is easy, but ending is EVERYTHING. A simple finished game is always better of a half finished prototype of an amazing idea. Why? Because the first one is a game, the second one is not. The first one can be sold and distributed, the second one can’t. And the fastest and easiest way to finish a project is: start small.
- Focus on what you can do best and do it. Get the rest done as quickly as possible. There are a lot of categories your game will be competing into: it is best to focus on those you will do well in instead of trying the best game overall (unless of course you are a ninja that can make a masterpiece in a weekend, you know who you are!).
For me, this translates as focus on MOOD. As i wrote in my first post, I’ll be using Ren’py for making a point and click game. My engine and genre choice won’t allow much innovation on the mechanics so the selling point of my game will be what I can focus the most on: music, graphics and writing. Setting the right mood is both what I can expect to do right and what I’m willing to do well, so it’s a good compromise.
- Details are EVIL. While this is my first attempt at making a game, I’ve worked on enough other projects to know that perfectionism is my number 1 reason of giving up. In the specific, focusing on non-fundamental details too soon is the worst disease to ever plague a project. As said in point 1, finishing is everything: this means that the fundamental stuff should be THE priority over any other tiny detail. No one will care if the tiles of the floor look like crap if they can’t even finish the first level because of a game breaking bug. Get your priorities in the right order first! Make a list of the game you will need, and cross out everything you know won’t be fundamental to the game. This is the list of stuff you’ll need to implement in the next two days. Now sit down and get your work done!
Ok, hopefully these reminders will prevent myself from bonking my head on the wall in regret too much. Rev up those fingers cause the time is near!
EDIT: thanks to Osgeld for pointing out some confusion about this post.
After seeing a post asking for tips on participating in Ludumdare as a team I was inspired to write this. I’ve successfully participated in three global game jams with in person teams, the Boston Festival of Indie Games, and Ludumdare(with St0ven), so I have a bit of experience with jamming as part of a team. There are plenty of other posts that cover the basics of participating in a game jam on your own and many of those suggestions still apply. Here are a few examples:
I’ve tried to keep my tips specific to a team environment, so without further ado, here they are.
If possible, form your team ahead of time
This way you know who’s doing what and what style they’re most comfortable with and what they are capable of. There’s nothing worse than trying to find another artist or programmer at the last minute and finding out that the tools they are familiar with or the style they use is completely incompatible with the game you are making. This also helps prevent the problem of too many chefs in the kitchen. If you form your team ahead of time and realize that you have four programmers and no artist then you still have time to split into two or more teams.
Minimize overlapping responsibilities
If you have multiple programmers you should try and break things up so that you aren’t working on the same code. You want to spend your time creating, not merging and bugfixing. If you do want to have multiple programmers working on the main gameplay components then have someone define interfaces early on. This way it’s really easy to drop in new code or change existing behaviour. For artists this may mean having one person do all character art and another do environments or UI.
Reduce bottlenecks and get rid of interruptions
Ideally create a way for artists to add content to the game without having to go through a programmer. Create placeholder assets(empty sounds, blank sprites) that can be easily swapped out without programmer intervention. This allows you to focus on making the game work while they can focus on content and aesthetics. Spend a little more time on making it easy to load in lots of content(It will pay off in a team environment). This also saves you or somebody else from interruptions where someone is asking what they can work on or to add their new content to the game. Make sure that each person has multiple things that they can focus on so that if they can’t progress on one they can switch over to the other. There are always going to be scheduling issues, you may have artists working on stuff while your programmer is asleep or vice versa and you don’t want that to slow down progress. Finally, if you need an uninterrupted block of time to work on something then be clear about it. Make sure that any questions or requests are written down for later or sent via email. I go so far as to sign off of IM/IRC and not check my email if I’m cranking away on something.
Someone should be calling the shots
This doesn’t mean that you need to be a ruthless dictator or that other people can’t make creative contributions but at the end of the day somebody should have an idea in mind for what the final game is going to look like and they should help guide people in that direction. Whoever takes on this role should be capable of understanding what is feasible. As a programmer I find that I am not great at estimating artist workloads and I have to assume that the reverse is true too. Also keep in mind that it’s a 48-72 hour game jam, it’s not the time or place to demand perfection. I always try and encourage people to do their best work and I find that I’m constantly surpirsed and inspired by what they create. If you find yourself in this role make sure you get estimates from the people who are actually doing the work and always be conservative with your estimates. If somebody else is organizing the game then don’t be afraid to say no to them, in the end everyone will be happier with a finished game than an unfinished game that was a really cool idea.
Use source control. If everyone is at the same physical location or on some sort of instant messenger then drop box or a network folder can work, but it’s not ideal. You want to spend your time working on your game not mucking around with version control so stick to what you know and keep it simple. Make sure that it’s something that you are familiar with. If you don’t know how to use git or svn then now is not the time to learn it, you’ll just end up frustrated when you try and do anything more complicated than simple commits. If you don’t know a source control system I would recommend using drop box with a backup folder in it for old revisions. If your artists don’t know your source control system but your programmers do then consider using some sort of hybrid where your code is in source control but your art assets are uploaded to dropbox. Recent builds should always be available to everyone on the team. Source control is what allows you to add potentially game breaking tweaks at the last minute without fear or to spend an hour refactoring things to add a new gameplay feature that may or may not work.
Pick an idea early and run with it
This isn’t nessecarily team related but it’s exacerbated in a team environment. It’s easy to waste time trying to come up with the perfect idea. Pick something early on and keep the scope small.
Plan for people to drop out or have other commitments
Focus on the most important parts of your game first so that when somebody can’t continue to participate you can still salvage a game out of what you’ve got. Animation and polish and menus are nice to have but leave it all for the final day. Unexpected things will come up, in fact I don’t think there’s been a single jam that I’ve participated in where everyone has been available for the entire time. If something comes up and you have to take a break or drop out then you should let everyone else on your team know that you can’t participate and if you’ll be back later.
Have fun making games,