So this time around I decided to take part in “My First Ludum Dare,” during its 20th incarnation.  I’m sure there were more than a few #altdevbloggrs who participated, but for those who don’t know, Ludum Dare(LD) is a competition every four months that gives entrants 48 hrs to make a game. It’s very similar to the Global Game Jam (my whinging related to that here), but even stricter. You have to fly solo, and (almost)all assets must be made (or sampled or photographed) during the 48 hrs. There also isn’t (as far as I know) groups that get together to “dare” as in the GGJ.

For some reason, I entered. It was a bitch, but I completed (barely) a terrible game, and more importantly, learned a whole lot about Unity and development in general. Here is my result, “Party Favours.” Good luck making sense of it!

I decided to take part only days before, no matter that I was working all weekend and moving on the Saturday, I was PUMPED!  On Friday , 10pm EST, the theme was given: “It’s dangerous to go alone, here, take this.” I have to admit, this was a theme I down-voted, for being pretty generic. I want something that forces people, including myself,  to think at least a little laterally. This theme could be used with pretty much any game with items, and many of the results are rather generic. Still, Ludum Dare 20 had begun!

An after-the-fact log of my LD experience:

  • 10pm: Theme announced, there is much rejoicing by other people
  • 11:30pm: Get home from work, mull over various ideas. Quelled any temptation to do zombie anything, and would rather not have guns/magic (because I like to make things difficult for myself/others?) Draw out a few ideas on paper, think of what should be ‘taken’. Play around with having to lead around a whole lot of things/heavy things/more dangerous things. Somehow get to what I stuck with. Hallucinogens.
  • 2pm: Start rough prototyping, set up my basic controller/camera stuff. Settle on the idea of using looking as a mechanic (such a simple act that becomes rather difficult when under the influence)
  • 2:30pm: Sleep. Like an angel.
  • 4pm: Let off work early (I used moving as an excuse), eat, and start working on basic mechanics.
  • 10:30pm: Wake up from Unity trance. Have made floating heads/flying blocks/spawner/shaders, and pretty much all the ‘art’ I’m using. Move
  • 12am (I don’t have much stuff): My momentum has run out and I start getting stuck on problematic code, and spending too much time trying to fix un-fixable features.
  • 5am: Sleep. With work in 5 hrs. Less angelic this time.
  • 11am: Get to work. Late. Find out I’m  not on till 5:30pm. Curse the heavens.
  • 12am: Get back. Frantically start coding, with a deadline of 4:30pm (when I have to leave for work) Features are cut, dreams are dashed, and hearts are broken. At 4:30 I still have an hour or so worth of work before I had something release-able.
  • 10pm: Find out there’s an hour grace period. I’d been working in 30-sec bits while on shift, and had essentially just tacked begin and end states onto the barest of mechanics.
  • 10:15pm: Slap together some music in iPad GarageBand. Sadly, this is the bit I’m most proud of, I can apparently make terrible muzak under intense time pressure.
  • 10:30pm: Try to submit, find out you need to sort out hosting yourself.
  • 10:35pm: Reminded about Dropbox. Thank the heavens.
  • 10:40pm: Transfer my build (web only) to a USB stick and on to the work PC so I can upload.
  • 10:41pm: Find out I need screenshots. Curse the heavens.
  • 10:45pm: Finally submit, bang out a couple of sentences as description. Give it a title.
  • 11pm: Collapse.
Whew! What did I take away from all this? A heap. First: Come prepared. Aside from giving yourself plenty of time for this kind of thing, it would be a good idea to have a couple games just past the idea stage that you could mould once you find out the theme. I idealistically wanted to make a game from a completely fresh idea, but this was a perfectly good chance to explore one of those other ideas that bang around my head, with a theme and competition as incentive.
I also couldn’t have done this without Unity. If I was better at it, Flash would be a great option too. I see people coding their own game engines and marvel. Unity saved me hours of prep time, and I could go straight into prototyping. Under the time constraints, I was banging methods together without a care in the world, but with Unity’s self contained class = component methodology, I was prevented from ruining too much with my terrible code. God protect anyone, including myself, who dares reopen my source.
I learned the importance of cutting features and adapting at a rapid pace. With a tight deadline, and my own commitments creeping up on me, I had to give up on vital features, and try to find other ways around them. Most importantly. I realised how much better a simple game done well is than a complex one done sloppily.
Will I do it again? Without hesitation.
Note: Reposted at my blog,
Since I wrote this, a couple other Ludum Dare posts have come up. Any more altdevbloggers have any Ludum Dare experiences to share? (From previous ones also)