The Ludum Dare experience

As you can see, I managed to join the Ludum Dare party! Yay! On the week that preceded the event, I was really burned out from my full time job, so I thought I wouldn’t make it, but I decided to go for it. Who really needs to rest anyway?

The theme, ’10 seconds’, motivated me. I wanted it to be chosen from the beginning. However, after it was revealed, no ideas came to mind and it was very difficult to come up with something. This time, the only person I had to chat was my girlfriend, but that turned out to be the best thing, because the game I made was based on the stuff she work with.

Sleep Well¬†wasn’t my first idea. The first one was something about jumping out from a soon-to-crash airplane and landing on the right time, but it didn’t work out well. I started from scratch on saturday afternoon, but the new idea allowed me to reuse the code from the previous game I made, so it was easier to build. I’m glad I changed my mind, because I really liked what I accomplished with the new idea.

The concepts I used in the game are nice, but a bit overwhelming if the player doesn’t already know what apnea is. It’s difficult to explain everything without becoming boring, but at the same time, if I didn’t explain, the game would make no sense.

As usual, here are my highlights:

  • Paraphrasing Tim, after he played my game: tuning controls for games that don’t fit in a specific genre is hard.
  • Regular players just won’t look at your ‘Help’ screen. Accept that when you’re making a game. Throw the instructions on theirs faces, in short and objective sentences.
  • In Ludum Dare, people play more games on the first half of the rating period. I don’t know if this is a trend, but that’s what I noticed while watching the rating/download count of my game.
  • On jams, if you’re not confident about your current idea, don’t be afraid to scrape everything and start something simpler. Finishing a game is much more satisfying than just trying. Yeah, I said it!
  • In general, don’t try to use something “new” in a jam. Again, this is something people always say, but you never actually learns until you do it (wrong, in this case). Just go with a framework/engine that you’re already comfortable with, on a previously tested version. I decided to use an alpha version of cocos2d-x 3.0, for the first time, and I had some problems that could be avoided.

Ludum Dare is an amazing event. The rating system is great, although it becomes harder and harder to get ratings once you already got a good number. But, even if you got a crappy game, the other participants will leave their feedback, and that’s very important. For a lonely dev like me, it’s a great opportunity to detect what can be improved on the game and on what I should pay more attention on my next ones. The version on GameJolt has ¬†some improvements that I wouldn’t implement if it wasn’t for the feedback I received.

This was the first time I joined Ludum Dare, and it won’t be the last!

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