• Charlotte Grant

Ludum Dare #29 - An overview


Another more personal blog post (I guess?). Some of you reading may know about Ludum Dare, a game jam competition that runs 3 times a year. People entering have to make a game in either two days (for the competition, where you have to work alone, all assets have to be produced by you and you need to provide source code) or in three days for the jam (which you can work in teams, use open source assets and don't need to provide source code).

Falmouth Game makers is a small group for people interested in game design that meet bi-weekly, it's recently started up and is held at the 8Bit gaming bar in Falmouth. They decided to hold a group meetup for Ludum Dare, jamming together in the basement of the 8Bit Bar for the 48 hours. I'd not done a game jam before (other than spriting/animating the spiders for a friends game during the game jolt competition, which wasn't much) so I thought It'd be a good experience to try and make a game with such a time limit and to be around other people passionate about making games whilst doing it.

The theme for the competition this year was "Under the Surface". My first idea was to do a game based on mining, so this was something I stuck to, designing a difficult runner, type game, where you had to avoid the walls of a mine shaft, in order to deliver supplies to the miners down there.

I drew out quite a few sketches of what I wanted the game to be like, in the first few hours of getting the theme (this was at 3 in the morning UK time, so I sketched out some ideas and then slept on it, before going down to the real life jam the next morning) and for the most part, I stuck to those plans. Because this was my first game jam, I chose to make the game quite simple, not wanting to be overly ambitious with it, just in case I couldn't get it completed in time. I used the program Game Maker Studio, by Yo Yo games for this, a program I haven't used in several years, but did have experience in from when I was younger and used to make silly games all the time (I actually retrieved 7 or 8 of these from my mums old computer recently, so when deadlines are over, I'll probably put up a blog post on them, for old times sake).

It's a program with a reasonably small learning curve and luckily I remembered the majority of what I'd learned when I was 12, so getting to grips with the software wasn't a huge problem for me. If I jam again, I'll definitely try and be more ambitious. I intend to try and get to grips with the program Unity in the summer, as I think working in 3D engine would be a new experience and something I should probably learn if I want to get into the field of game design.

I arrived at the 8Bit basement around midday, there were several other jammers there, some from already established games companies (such as Anti-matter, the makers of Rising Storm) or people that worked in the industry at studios, which was pretty awesome. I introduced myself and got to work. (This basement was freezing, so we were all in hats and scarves) I started by making a very basic tileset, using graphics gale, which I would change later when I got home. I worked on setting out the basic level during day 1, to make it easier for me the next day.

Probably the biggest obstical I faced was the fact that my laptop is almost 7 years old now, and nowhere near up to the kinds of things my PC is capable of. It was taking around 10 minutes to play tests to load, which is quite an issue when you're in a timed contest. I did what I could with the time there, working on level designs first and getting the basic movement and coding down so I could fine tune everything when I got home. I got a lot done between 8pm (when I left the bar) and by 4am had come up with a simple enough graphical style, replaced all of the placeholder sprites and got the games basic mechanic (the collision of the walls) working.....after a slight battle, with some other code contradicting it and making the supply ship vanish on start. Below is the final graphics style I had decided on (a simple crayon-childish style).

I intended to go for something very easy and achievable for this Ludum Dare, I'll definitely try and be more ambitious with future jams, but as my first one, I wanted something I definitely knew I could get completed. The game itself involves going down a mining tunnel as a ship to give supplies to miners. Flying into the walls will kill you and make you restart the game, and I've been told by most people it's pretty difficult (it gets easier as you get used to it) Here's the entry and some of the received comments on Ludum Dare.

Overall, I really enjoyed LD29, computer issues aside :D It was amazing getting to meet the game developers at anti-matter and there are more Falmouth Game Maker meetings planned from now on, to discuss things, look at the final Ludum dare games and share our own. I had a lot of fun working with the style of the game, in particular and added in a few 'easter eggs' in the form of the miners :) 4/6 of the miners in the game were based off people or characters.

From left to right: Myself with my favourite hoodie on, Dr Mathews who you may recognize from my Monsters Within project I worked on earlier in the year, , My first year roommate Nat and my friend Tom Lyne who's a game maker himself and has made some really inspiring games :) He helped me get back to grips with game maker a year or so ago and is an awesome person to bounce ideas off.

My game came #487 out of #1004 jam entries, which I'm actually really pleased about :) Not bad at all for my first jam ^^

Here's the final scoring for it below.

#373 Theme(Jam) 3.15

#424 Fun(Jam) 2.92

#435 Mood(Jam) 2.96

#451 Humor(Jam) 2.37

#474 Graphics(Jam) 3.12

#486 Audio(Jam) 2.75

#491 Overall(Jam) 3.00

#553 Innovation(Jam) 2.62

#1460 Coolness 46%

I got some really great feedback on it too, like checkpoints at each miner, player healthbar, shift to speed you up, other levels and a few other great tips :) I've been asked a few times whether I intend to keep working on it, as I know a lot of the people I was jamming with at 8bit intend to go back and work more on their game, but for now, I think I'm probably just going to leave it the way it is. It was a super simple game for the competition and I'm just happy I finished it, really ^^ If I was to work on my own game long term, I think I'd have to make it a bit more complex, like a puzzle exploration game or something :) (I'm going to be coming up with a concept for a game, for my Pre-production at some point, called Taking Wing, which I'll blog more about sometime)

But yes! This concludes my adventures in game jamming :D I think the group plans to jam again for the next one, perhaps finding somewhere a little warmer to work (seriously, the basement was freezing!)

It's in the middle of deadlines right now, so I'll be posting up more stuff on my blog for sure ^^