Ludum Dare #38 Post Mortem – Part One
I did it! I made my first game and participated in my first Ludum Dare all in one weekend.
If you’re not familiar with Ludum Dare, it is a themed game jam where people all over the world create a game from scratch in 48 (or 72) hours. A new jam/compo happens every 4 months, and I have a few friends who take part almost every time. I’ve wanted to try my hand at it since I started learning to program. Thankfully the stars aligned and I was finally able to participate in Ludum Dare #38!
Why am I doing this?
My main goal was simply to complete a game by the deadline. I imagined this would require some planning, so I started preparing for the jam on Friday after work, before the theme would be announced at 9pm. Oh – also I was hoping to:
- Have an awesome fun experience!
- Learn something new
- Gain some estimation skills
- Know when to pivot (or push though) if something isn’t working
- Finally start and finish a project O:
How am I going to actually finish this by Sunday night?
I figured I would set some boundaries and basically remind myself not to let my head get too far in the clouds. It’s great to have fun and creative ideas for a game, but I have never really made a game before so I jotted down a few notes:
- KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid)
- Know your limits
- Use your toolbox (put my programming basics into practice!)
What is going to go wrong at the worst moment?
I was definitely excited, but also feeling nervous, so I thought of some challenges I may come up against:
- Not being able to finish in time by:
- Getting stuck on a bug
- Being too unfamiliar with the software
- Scope too big
Anxiously awaiting the Theme announcement…
Lastly, while I counted down the minutes to 9pm, I channeled my inner project manager to (hopefully) set myself up for success:
- Set up a Trello with some general time-boxing
- Made sure the software I wanted to use was up-to-date
- Watch some basic GameMaker Studio tutorials for beginners!
I made a list of simple types of games that would be easy for a beginner. Some that came to mind were: Pong, Space Invaders, point-and-click, avoid/collect and perhaps a soundboard. Before I knew it, the clock struck 21:00!
Ludum Dare #38 Theme Announced: A Small World
I actually did vote +1 for this theme because I knew I could work with “A Small World” with any of the beginner game tutorials I had researched. However, all of the themes in the last round of voting seemed definitely doable.
With my initial brainstorm time-box being a humble half hour, I started sketching and making notes immediately. To be honest, I love a good creative brainstorm where the only rule is: nothing is off limits. I followed advice from a Ludum Dare alumni: “Write down the first thing that comes to mind – it’s likely the idea everyone else will be doing, so keep thinking!” By 9:20 I had come up with a few ideas that seemed fun!
- A twist on Pong!
The ball is a large planet that shrinks and speeds up every time it bounces off a paddle. 2 paddles, one AI player. The large planet becomes (wait for it…) a literal small world. 😀
The player controls a small planet-turned-spaceship, flying through space to gather needed resources and avoiding black holes. Subconsciously inspired by those episodes of Invader Zim where Mars is a spaceship (Battle of the Planets).
- A matching game!
An extreme close-up on a dog’s fur reveals a small world of fleas. They love their environment and thrive on finding a mate to reproduce. The dog doesn’t seem to mind.
I was feeling really good about the matching game, it seemed fun and hopefully simple enough to complete within the 48 hours. I used the drag-and-drop system in GameMaker: Studio Pro to make a quick “mock up” of how sprites and objects might work together, then went to bed to prepare for an early morning!
Head on over to Part Two, where the real coding begins and I almost give up before I ever really got started!