Ludum Dare 32 coming up!
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:
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.
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.
- 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!
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.”
Finally, for submission, be prepared to provide all of these things:
- A link to play the game -- That is, on the GameSalad Arcade.
- Your source code -- That’ll be a zip of your gsproj folder.
- 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.
- 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.