środa, 9 września 2015

Ludum Dare 33

  • What is Ludum Dare?
  • What I love about Ludum Dare?
  • What I hate about Ludum Dare?
  • Ludum Dare's survival guide
  • Ludum Dare 33: how it went
  • My entry in comments
  • Other entries
  • What's next?

What is Ludum Dare?

Ludum Dare is a contest where you are supposed to create game on given theme. There are two version of the contest: Compo and Jam. The contest takes place every 4 months.

Compo lasts 48 hours. During Compo you must do all assets yourself - code, graphics, sounds. You must work alone.

Jam last 72 hours. During Jam it is allowed to use assets provided by third parties. It is allowed to work as team.

Proposed themes must survive the "Slaughter". During "Slaughter" people vote which themes should have a shot at being a theme for current edition. The week before Ludum Dare people vote at the themes that survived "Slaughter". The people favourite becomes the theme.

What I love about Ludum Dare

Ludum Dare is big. Every edition produces 2500+ games. That's a lot! Probably more than you have friends on Facebook.

I always go for Compo contest. These are crazy 48 hours. After the end of it you don't want to turn on PC or any electronic device - you are so fed up with sitting and coding. You are exhausted but at the same time you are happy. Two days before you had nothing and now... you have a game! Ludum Dare proves how much can be done during 48 hours if you are determined enough. The limits you thought you had are not broken, they are smashed to the ground.

On the side I am really curious how people survive jam(72 hours) if I am literally destroyed after compo (48 hours). I guess the pace must be a little slower and using done assets must be helpful as well.

What I hate about Ludum Dare?

  • No honest opinion
  • Graphic over code
  • No reply

No honest opinion

I never do good at LD. It's ok, no hard feelings. Regardless of the results there is something I really dislike about LD. I hate that everybody comments the games the same way: "good game". Nobody will say "your game sucks". If it does suck just say so. No constructive criticism. Just game developers "jerking off" to each others creations. After judging time the notes comes back and it turns out your game is nowhere near being a "good game".

Graphic over code

Other thing that makes me go insane are standards of people judging LudumDare entries. For me the small web based games are about two things: idea and gameplay.

If gameplay is good, if the game gives you fun it doesn't matter that it looks bad. It's ok because you receive that undefined happiness. The happiness that you felt playing tetris or mario for the first time. You don't know why is it fun - it just is.

Most of guys competing in Ludum Dare won't be able to make games for living. They won't be able to spend big money on their games. As a consequence of that they won't be able to hire professional artists or composers to work on their game. Therefore there are bound to lose against serious game developers. So if you can't out-force your competition you need to out-smart it. Introduce a great idea. Implement a mechanic that will make people go "wow". Show that games can be more than endless pile of FPSs, RTSs and RPGs.

The problem for me is that during LudumDare community tends to give too much attention to art. You can have great game but still with weak art you are going nowhere. Make a simple game with reused idea but with above-average graphics and community will shit rainbow. The worst of the worst for me is when creators use pixel art. People will rate it high not because the art itself is good but for the sake of "pixel-art" alone.

The other aspect is how much impact the art and coding have on a game. You mess up a piece of art people probably won't notice. Mess up a piece of code and your game doesn't work. Were it to happen next twenty comments you will be receiving are hateful messages that "your game isn't working". So yes I believe that coding deserve more recognition than art. On the other hand why should I even try to do something bigger and better if I can get better result with smaller risk just by investing in better art?

No reply

Comments under your entry are for me as important as final results. Sometimes somebody gives you a longer review than "good game". Even if you disagree with some of the opinion in the review there's no reply option. It may seem as little or no pain but from developer's point of view it's important to prove to the public why you did things the way you did or why you disagree with someone's opinion.

Ludum Dare's survival guide

  1. Everything during LD is limited by time.

    You must be aware that once you are done you will feel like a lot of things could have been done better. One rule that you should always keep in mind is NO TIME. No time for good graphic, no time for having a well edited music, no time for epic story-telling. No time, no time is pretty much an anthem for LD.

  2. Gameplay first.

    If you have no gameplay, you have no game. Make provisional graphic in form of square, circles and rectangles. Make sure that mechanics work then think about making nice sprites.

  3. Know your tools.

    Ludum Dare is no place for learning your tools. Learning new things is generally hard. It's even harder with a time ticking. Learn your tools before LD otherwise you will be doomed.

  4. Quality in screentime.

    If you have created a pretty sprite try to reuse it as much as you can. On the other hand if something will appear only once on the screen during the whole game you don't need to bother with detailed drawing.

  5. Dreams to dust.

    As you think about making a game you think big. There will be dragons and mages, there will be crafting, spell casting, dialogues. But then the time starts passing by and you have to say farewell to most of your ideas. So if your concept turns out to be too big to be finished in given time be ready to remove some of the planned contents. Doing this may be sad but again NO TIME.

  6. Coding requires thinking.

    Once you get tired you will start doing lots of stupid mistakes that require a lot of time to be fixed. If it were to happen stop coding, do some graphic and return to the coding the next day. This pretty much says: coding first everything else later.

Ludum Dare 33: how it went

My entry:

I wanted to make my entry using Unity. I did few tutorials but I haven't done anything on my own in it. As Ludum Dare is not a place to learn something new I decided to use Stencyl instead. I consider this a bitter disappointment.

What went right:
Definitely time management. I had my game finished and working 5-6 hours before deadline which is great. I think that whole production process was doing really well as well:
  • Day 1 - gameplay mechanics, map graphic, half of character graphics
  • Day 2 - opening and closing menus (potions, upgrade, dress-up), special attack, second half of character graphics, main title screen, music, Newgrounds achievement

I'm quite happy with the result. Looking at other entries I think I'm at top when it comes to the length of code written for the game. It's the first time I have made a turn-based rpg. The fact that during this LD I have done a genre that I had no experience before is really satisfying. At the same time I must say that I had some preparation before Ludum Dare because I had written some basic turn-based rpg in order to solve problem from Stencyl forums. I haven't used any of code from that project but I had still in my mind the idea of how the code for the whole game should be implemented.

What went wrong
I don't think anything went extremely wrong. Most of these are problems along the way, natural for process of creation.
  1. Create list vs empty list

    Stencyl can't empty list that hasn't been created. I have committed this "error" before so finding it wasn't that painful but still it's a waste of precious time. I put "error" in brackets because I feel Stencyl should create a new list on its own as variable is declared instead of forcing a users to do it themselves.

  2. Werewolf's nose

    I'm not an artist but I had really hard time making a good werewolf/dog nose. Despite my squarish graphic.

  3. No combat music

    There was no problem with sfx as I used like always:

    Then I was thinking about doing some music for map screen and combat screen. I open my bookmarks and... I don't find the bookmark I was looking for.

    As it later turned out the site I was looking for was:

    In the end I managed to find another random music generator. It was enough for map theme but no good for combat theme. Even if I had access to the site during LD I doubt if I managed to create combat music as I'm lacking in music terminology. Because of this I wouldn't be able to configure seed numbers to generate music I want. Learning what bridge, harmony and bass are is one of the position on to-be-done-before-LD34 list.

  4. Mirror image

    In my game I had models for arms, heads and bodies of character created for player. I failed to notice that if I wanted to use mirror image for enemies the graphic must have center in the center of image. This forced me to add offset after doing the mirror image => another unnecessary time-waster.

  5. No rotate around point in Stencyl

    I was shocked to find out that such basic function isn't implemented. Since LD doesn't give you time to do things nicely, using math, I made it using "works about right" logic.

  6. Given up idea - Special attack

    As time was passing by I was forced to give up idea of special attacks. I had this concept that player would have a special attack based on the head they are wearing. So if I was wearing a zombie head I would have a chance to poison enemy, vampire - drain life, werewolf - bleeding/critical damage. The problem itself was not only to implement special attacks but what was even worse I would be forced to mark status of nerfed enemies by adding icons. Another lines of code, another graphic and time is ticking.

    Enemies were supposed to use specials as well. AI of enemies was supposed to be wiser. In plans AI analyzed such things as: if I am able to kill player in this attack using .... type of attack and what's the best way to do it (chance check), how to counter player. The idea of simpler but working approach crossed the chances of smart AI.

  7. Gradation of enemy and equipment/body parts

    Probably could have been done better as both enemy and equipment gradation was done more random than rational. With enemies there was at least some idea behind it:
    • 1st enemy - dead in 2-3 attacks, no threat
    • 2nd enemy - dead in 4-5 attacks, kinda stronger but still no threat
    • 3rd enemyh - equal to player from begining of the game
    • 4+ - just stronger, no deeper thoughts

  8. Bug found

    There was one bug found but it was easy to repair.

  9. Stnecyl refused to import music

    No idea why. Stnecyl proved to be a picky b*tch in the worst possible moment.

My entry in comments

Biggest complains:
  1. Bad art - I must say I like my art for this game. Squarish characters were intended and I'm satisfied with their looks. Only exception being Scientist which really could have been done better. Probable some animations would be fine such as character blinkings.

  2. Make different animations for different attacks - I don't know how it could have been done. I wanted my monsters to look like mechanical puppets and I think I achieved that. Should I make a player uppercut the enemy if the player chose "strong attack"?! - the idea sounds extremely stupid.

  3. No combat music - I fully agree with people complaining.

  4. No story ending - this was single complain but I fully agree with it. I had a nice storyboard which introduced a protagonist and villian. I should have done similar one for the game ending.

Other entries

Most popular idea among entries involved being a godzilla-style monster and killing something. Fun if you play 2-3 entries but after 10th one it gets boring.

Some entries wanted to take moral approach but in most cases I don't think they did it good enough.

Most common monsters: undeads(zombies, vampires), infected, dragons, godzillas (big monsters), extraterrestrials, demons, killers

For best entries after 50 go to:

I have played 75 games so at this point I can add these entries to the best-of list:


Lil' Drake

Eat Sheep & Die

What's next?

I will be describing my LudumDare entry because I think it's good starting point for anyone considering doing a turn based combat.

I hope to do a non-jam game as I hadn't done anything of sort in a while. As art has always been a source of complain I decided to start learning blender. Regarding the music I know I will need to catch up with music terminology and play around with music generators but I am not sure when I will exactly do it.