Ludum Dare 32 coming up!

WebWarriorWebWarrior Key Master, Head Chef, Member, PRO Posts: 62

Hey guys, Ludum Dare 32 is coming up soon (April 17th)!

If you’ve never heard of Ludum Dare before, it’s a game jam that takes place a few times a year. On the day LD starts, the theme will be revealed, leaving entrants 72 hours to create a game based on that theme! Or, in the more advanced “compo,” entrants have only 48 hours, must work solo, and must make the game from scratch.

If you’re crazy like me, that might actually sound fun to you. And GameSalad is a great tool for the job because of its speed and ease in publishing to the web!

Here are some tips and tricks I learned from competing in the Ludum Dare myself:

Judging

Let’s start at the end - a very good place to start. It’s important to know how these games will be judged before you get too far into the design.

Ludum Dare games are judged by other entrants. These judges will find your game via the Coolness system, in which your game will appear closer to the top of the list if you’ve rated a lot of other entrants’ games. The obvious takeaway is that you should be playing and rating lots of games!

On the flipside, though, that means that all the other entrants are incentivized to play as many games as possible! So they will be looking for a short, simple experience that lets them give their vote and quickly move on to the next game.

  • Don’t count on friends, family, or the GameSalad community giving your game all the votes it needs, because they won’t be able to vote, unless they’ve also submitted a game for LD.
  • Aim for about 5-10 minutes of total gameplay (including restarts due to failure!).
  • If your game has a steep learning curve, or has lots of padding to make the game artificially longer than it should be, it probably won’t leave a good impression with your audience.
  • One mistake I see often (and have made myself) is that entrants try to make their game last longer by making it very difficult to complete! That’s doubly bad: not only are these games wasting the judges’ time, they’re making the experience more frustrating and less enjoyable.
  • As a rule, if your game can be completed, it should be pretty easy to do so quickly. You’ll very rarely see someone complain that a game like this is too easy, as long as there is interesting gameplay during the whole experience. To put it another way: the solution to “too easy” is often to add more variety rather than more difficulty.
  • If your game is more of an endurance test to see how long you last, do the opposite: make it more difficult so they quickly get to a game-over screen after they see all the mechanics and content the game has to offer. But, make sure you don’t make it difficult to see all the content in the first place!
  • The game needs to be easy to access. Typically, entrants prefer to avoid downloading a game. An installer is even worse! Fortunately, GameSalad lets you export your games to the Arcade, which doesn’t even require players to download a browser plugin (as long as their browser is fairly up-to-date). Plan on exporting to the Arcade.
  • Make sure to test with HTML5 Preview and on the Arcade early and often to avoid getting bitten by differences between the native and HTML5 engines.
  • You’ll have an option to embed your game directly in your entry page. You should do this! I’ll update this post with instructions as soon as I figure out the best way to do this, probably once the Dare starts and the entry page is accessible.

Theme Voting

In the weeks leading to the Ludum Dare, the community will vote on its theme. Your game must be based on this theme in some way!

  • The winning theme will only be officially revealed the moment the Dare starts, but there will be qualifying polls before then. Watch the theme suggestions that seem to be doing well; one might win the final vote!
  • Start thinking of games for the themes that look like they might win. If you guess right, you'll be able to start working right away! If you guess wrong, you might be able to adapt one of your ideas. Even if that doesn't work, your mind will already be primed to brainstorm game ideas to fit a theme.
  • Themes are very loosely interpreted! If you can think of a clever and unintuitive use of the theme, or even a groan-worthy pun, many judges will love it. For example, the last LD had the theme “Entire Game on One Screen,” and I distinctly remember an entry where you play as a deer riding a TV.

Making Your Game

  • This tip should be fairly obvious, but remember that your game needs to be made in under 72 hours (48 if you decide to do the “Compo”). So, keep it small!
  • Identify which features absolutely must make it into the game, and which ones would be nice if you have time. Don’t give up on the latter, but be prepared to let them go as the deadline gets closer.
  • Don’t be a hero! Sleep normally. Take breaks to eat and relax. It might feel like just wasting time, but you’ll often come back to the project with more ideas and a new perspective. I especially like to get up and take a walk frequently during the jam.

Playtesting

  • The moment your game is playable, get a friend to playtest it!
  • If you can’t physically watch over their shoulder, ask them to share their screen with you. There’s lots of good ways to do this, including Skype, Google Hangouts, appear.in, etc.
  • If possible, find a playtester who you know isn’t going to just tell you it’s good because you made it.
  • Ask them to think out loud, but you must not answer any of their questions, address any of their criticism, or point out the “right” way to play until they’re finished playing. Remember, this is a preview of how your players will react when judging the game, and you won’t be there to answer their questions!

Feedback

Undoubtedly, if you got a good tester, they will suggest some changes.

  • Resist the urge to get defensive. “It’s supposed to be like that” is almost never the right answer. If your tester has pointed out a problem, there most likely is one.
  • On the flipside, don’t feel obligated to implement exactly what your tester suggests. They don’t know your vision for the game. Instead, use their feedback to find the problems, and fix them your own way. (Unless you decide the original suggestion is, in fact, the best way to fix the problem!) Of course, in a Ludum Dare, the answer might just be “I don’t have time to fix that.”

Feedback

Finally, for submission, be prepared to provide all of these things:

  1. A link to play the game -- That is, on the GameSalad Arcade.
  2. Your source code -- That’ll be a zip of your gsproj folder.
  3. A few screenshots -- Make them good! Make sure you have a good variety. Better to have fewer screenshots than a bunch that basically show the same thing.
  4. A description -- Make it good, but don’t rely on players reading it. In other words, don’t put instructions here!

Good luck! I can't wait to see what you'll make.

Comments

  • gamestudentgamestudent Member, PRO Posts: 504

    Awww Yeah!>

    @WebWarrior said:

    • Don’t be a hero! Sleep normally. Take breaks to eat and relax. It might feel like just wasting time, but you’ll often come back to the project with more ideas and a new perspective. I especially like to get up and take a walk frequently during the jam.

    So no ditching school for three days either? ;)

  • HopscotchHopscotch Member, PRO Posts: 2,782
    edited March 2015

    @WebWarrior , thank you for the heads up and especially for writing up the extremely helpful tips and insights.

    Much appreciated! In fact, your pointers on testing and feedback are a great basis for all development.

  • LovejoyLovejoy Member Posts: 2,078

    @gamestudent said:
    So no ditching school for three days either?

    School isn't important, i wouldn't worry about it.

    Fortuna Infortuna Forti Una

  • WebWarriorWebWarrior Key Master, Head Chef, Member, PRO Posts: 62

    The theme voting has begun - sort of!

    http://ludumdare.com/theme/?up=3988

    Right now, it's the Theme Slaughter, which - as far as I can tell - is a basic sanity check to figure out which themes are popular and which are terrible.

    To celebrate, here's some more tips on theme voting that I didn't think of in the first post!

    • Vote for themes that inspire you - that is, the ones that cause a game idea, however vague, to pop into your head almost immediately. (Assuming that idea is something you can build in 72 hours!)
    • Vote for themes that can be interpreted many different ways. It would be a boring Dare if everybody made the same game!
    • Don't be afraid to vote selfishly. Vote for themes that play to your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. For example, if you're a great artist and not a good programmer, vote for themes that encourage simple gameplay and artistic expression.
    • For the love of all that is good, please don't vote for the snowman emoji! :wink:
  • jonmulcahyjonmulcahy Member, Sous Chef, PRO Posts: 10,385

    that's awesome, my daughters birthday party is on the 18th, right in the middle so I don't think i will have time to enter. But we will see

  • safransafran Member Posts: 32

    Will be joining in.

  • WebWarriorWebWarrior Key Master, Head Chef, Member, PRO Posts: 62
    edited April 2015

    Final theme voting starts now!

    http://ludumdare.com/compo/2015/04/15/welcome-to-ludum-dare-32/

    Looks like some great themes this time around. Also, notice the mention of embedding your game at the resolution of 900x600. If you want to embed your game on the page, you should design your game at that resolution or smaller. I'll work on figuring out the steps to embed a GameSalad Arcade game in a Ludum Dare page and post back here.

    Also, if you plan to embed your game, don't start any audio until the user actually starts the game! Your judge might have just opened it in a background tab, not intending to play it yet.

  • A_ConstantinA_Constantin EnglandMember Posts: 79

    @WebWarrior Is embedding necessary or can I just have a link to the game on the Arcade?

  • WebWarriorWebWarrior Key Master, Head Chef, Member, PRO Posts: 62

    @A_Constantin said:
    WebWarrior Is embedding necessary or can I just have a link to the game on the Arcade?

    Embedding is not necessary at all, but it's really cool :smile:

  • WebWarriorWebWarrior Key Master, Head Chef, Member, PRO Posts: 62

    OK, just figured out how to embed. It's actually much simpler than I thought!

    1. When you publish your game to the Arcade, make sure "Allow Game Embed" (under "Visibility" is checked.
    2. In your game's Arcade page, there will be an "Embed" section in the bottom-right of the page.
    3. Choose the resolution - 853 x 600 is probably the best option, as it's closest to the maximum resolution that Ludum Dare allows.
    4. Copy the code in the textbox above the resolution dropdown - it should start with "<iframe src=". Paste it into the game submission form on Ludum Dare's website. I'd tell you exactly where, but I can't see the form until the Dare starts! Hopefully it'll be self-explanatory. I'll update the post regardless when I can give more detail.
  • A_ConstantinA_Constantin EnglandMember Posts: 79

    @WebWarrior Thanks for that, solved both of my questions :)

  • ChunkypixelsChunkypixels Member Posts: 1,113
    edited April 2015

    Signed up and looking forward to trying my hand in the 48hr solo dev comp.

    Just voted on the final theme... Not really got any preference, so really excited to find out at 2am UK time what it ends up being.

    I'm assuming as its pretty much web based, it's going to be best to stick to keyboard and mouse controls, and ignoring the usual touchscreen type of controls and interfaces.

    @WebWarrior the screen resolution you suggested of 853x600 seems a bit strange.. Mostly the 853. Seems like a strange resolution number with it being an uneven one.. Are you sure about it?

    Apart from that looking forward to getting started in 7 hrs... And looking forward to seeing what I can put together from scratch in the 48hrs. Not sure about having to provide the source/project file though for public availability... Not sure I want to see the game I kill myself over for 48hrs end up getting mass published unchanged to the app stores before I get chance to do anything with it myself... but you just know its going to happen, as is the case with most project files or templates that get released into the wild!

    I guess I'm just going to have to keep that in mind... And not get too attached to the game!

    Heading to bed now... Gonna try get some sleep before the Jam starts :)

  • WebWarriorWebWarrior Key Master, Head Chef, Member, PRO Posts: 62

    @Chunkypixels said:
    WebWarrior the screen resolution you suggested of 853x600 seems a bit strange.. Mostly the 853. Seems like a strange resolution number with it being an uneven one.. Are you sure about it?

    You can choose whatever you like from the dropdown. I'm not sure why the provided resolutions are what they are (they're probably meant to preserve a particular aspect ratio). 853 does seem a bit strange, but I doubt it would cause any scaling problems.

    If you're worried about open-sourcing your game, the Ludum Dare Jam (as opposed to the Compo) gives you 72 hours and doesn't require you to share the source. Of course, it allows a lot of other things, too, like pre-made art and working in a team, so you'd be in a whole other league of competition.

  • ChunkypixelsChunkypixels Member Posts: 1,113
    edited April 2015

    So the Jam kicked off just over half an hour ago....!

    Was a little disappointed with the final theme... An Unconventional Weapon. I thought some of the other potential themes were a bit more creative and weapons as a general theme in video games is getting a bit boring... so was kind of hoping for a different theme.

    But here goes... time to bounce ideas about for a bit and see if I can come up with something I can run with :)

    Good luck to all the other GS Darers taking part... :)!!

  • A_ConstantinA_Constantin EnglandMember Posts: 79

    LD32 has been great so far for me! I have got the basic gameplay up and running, but need to work on or find sprites I can legally use. I've also got music, and strangely enough, it is the Russian National Anthem. And before you ask, no, there is no attribution law on it ;)

  • WebWarriorWebWarrior Key Master, Head Chef, Member, PRO Posts: 62

    OK, here's how you actually embed your game in your submission; it's not quite as simple as I was hoping:

    1. Go to your game on the Arcade. Note your game's ID in the URL: http://arcade.gamesalad.com/games/[YOUR GAME ID]
    2. In the Embed section, look at the drop down and find the largest resolution available that is smaller than 900 x 600. It may be different for every game! Note that resolutions are listed as "[WIDTH] x [HEIGHT]"
    3. When you submit your game to Ludum Dare, find the section titled "Embed URL".
    4. For URL, paste in this: http://e.gsrca.de/[YOUR GAME ID]?s=[WIDTH]&mode=embed, making sure to add your game ID and width from the previous steps
    5. Set the Width and Height fields according to the resolution from step 2
    6. Don't check "Enable Fullscreen Button". The GameSalad player has its own.

    Good luck, everyone! I can't wait to see what kinds of unconventional weapons you'll come up with!

  • HopscotchHopscotch Member, PRO Posts: 2,782
    edited April 2015

    Thanks @WebWarrior, was just about to post the same thing.

    What resolution did you choose for your project in GS? I found that I needed to hack the "Display Size" attributes to 853/600 (since they are not editable in GS) for best results.

    Strange that the "Device - Screen Size" always changes itself to 953/700 for some reason.

    Not quite happy with the result though.

  • HopscotchHopscotch Member, PRO Posts: 2,782

    Settled on the following for best in-frame and fullscreen results:

    Scene dimensions: 1700 by 1120 (For crisper images in fullscreen mode)

    Embedded dimensions: 853 by 583

  • HopscotchHopscotch Member, PRO Posts: 2,782

    Thanks for all the helpful tips @WebWarrior !

    Web submission worked great.

    Good luck to all who participated!

  • ChunkypixelsChunkypixels Member Posts: 1,113

    I got quite close to getting my game to a playable state in the 48hrs compo, but wasn't truly happy with it, so went to plan B of going for the 72hr Jam instead. However, Yesterday turned out to be a beautiful day in my part of the UK, and so I ended up spending most of the day out in the sun rather than indoors with the computers....

    Needless to say, I ended up not submitting my entry at all. I do have yet another almost finished game to add to my collection though, and enjoyed the challenge. I do plan to finish my game titled "Last Night Everyone Around Me Died :(" and publish it as an iOS game, so will probably put up a version on the arcade too.

    Maybe I'll manage to get it right, next Ludum Dare... :)

    Well done to everyone who took part though, especially those who managed to get something finished..!

  • HopscotchHopscotch Member, PRO Posts: 2,782

    All in all it is still a great experience @Chunkypixels. Next time! :)

    My time was also more a smattering of a few hours here and there. Still needs a lot of tweeking.

    http://arcade.gamesalad.com/games/130019

    @WebWarrior , the game name does not seem to update in the arcade after you have changed it in the publishing portal.

  • safransafran Member Posts: 32

    My entry to ludum dare 32
    @Hopscotch any link to your entry? I want to review it ;)

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