I’ve finally gotten round to actually writing about this, despite it taking place way back in December! For those who aren’t that familiar with Ludum Dare, the basic concept is that people from across the world spend 48 hours making a game to a theme that gets voted on by participants beforehand, and people taking part must make all assets and write all code during the 48 hours. There’s also a more lax Jam version, in which participants get an additional 24 hours, can work in teams and can use assets from anywhere. Because I’m an idiot, I chose the competition, not the jam. The theme was ‘Entire Game On One Screen‘, and since I was a little stuck for things to do with this theme (well, technical limitation, not theme), I ripped myself off. A lot. Some of the basics of the art and concept was taken from one of my up-until-now-unseen 2-week challenge games – this game to be precise:
This is why I don’t write stories for two-week challenges.
Wow, you’re not dead. What have you been doing since your last post, 58 days ago?
Thanks for asking! Now, cast your mind back to the end of November. Yeah, that’s how useless I’ve been with this blog. The final 2-week challenge for the Warwick Game Design Society was ‘Micro’, which I actually won! That’s possibly because everyone had a lot of work due towards the end of term, but I’m still really glad I came first. The game I made was rather short, and involved a byte called Sam moving around through a (very abstract) computer, collecting powerups that shrink and grow him, and flip gravity. You can take a look at it here. I’ve only included a Windows build for now, but if you’d like me to build it for Mac or Linux, I’d be more than happy to.
Why the heck is this relevant?
Because the theme is so terrible, I was really stuck for ideas. I just needed to put something on the screen to play with, and my Sam sprite made this easy – I could re-draw it in about 10 seconds. Then I started screwing about with gravity, using my gravity pickups from Sam’s Micro World. Then I got portals working on the edges of the screen. Then I added coins, screen shake, sounds and many other cool little things, and it came together in the end – I got my very first Ludum Dare game put together within the time limit, in a surprisingly polished state. Give it a go in its competition state!
The most helpful thing about having a large platform to deliver this game to is that I got tons of feedback. There were a lot of positives; mainly, people loved the slow-motion level transitions, and the general gravity-bending mechanics. A few people also liked the tension when the timer was nearly zero just as they were at the end of the level. However, pretty much every comment on the game’s page said one thing that I overlooked for the entire competition: “it’d be nice to not restart the game from the beginning when I die“. I’m actually an idiot. If anything, it’s shown me how much I overlook in my own games – since I was playtesting each level individually, I didn’t realise that it was a problem. I didn’t do badly by any means though – I came 266th overall out of about 1300-or-so entries, even on my first try, so I’m very pleased with how I did.
Ahhh, why didn’t I make the player respawn at the start of levels!
It was still a thoroughly enjoyable experience, so much so that I’ll hopefully be doing the next one in April. I managed to get portals working in 2D – something I really wish I could do in 3D, but I have no idea how – and on top of that, the portals redirect gravity according to the direction they’re facing. You can also flip gravity at any point, which leads to pretty awesome, weird platforming. A lot of people liked smashing into walls, as it had a satisfying screen shake and sound effect, plus it gives you points, actively encouraging you to smash into everything at high velocity. I did a bit of work on it after the competition, and got a bit of a leaderboard working, plus a very important feature: you restart each level when you die, rather than the entire game. The first level will probably (definitely) be formatted badly, since it was a quick job with the Unity UI stuff, but give it a go if you’d like.
A bit sooner in the future, later this month, I’ll hopefully be doing Global Game Jam too. I’m super-psyched for it, hopefully it’ll be a bit more relaxed than LD31 due to it being a jam rather than a competition. I’ll be trying to not neglect this blog like I did at the end of last year (I’m a terrible person, I know), so expect to see a bit more activity over the next 11 and a half months. Oh, and happy late 2015 everyone!