I’m probably not going to be able to take part in Ludum Dare this time around, but I always like voting for the themes anyway. I thought it would be a good exercise to come up with a game idea based on each theme, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. Here’s what I came up with for the first round.
Afterlife: Roguelike where you fight your way down into a dungeon. When you die, you become a ghost and are sent to the bottom floor. You must now use your ghostly powers to sneak back upstairs to find your body and carry on.
Against the Rules: The story of a man working a dead-end job for a faceless megacorporation in a cyberpunk city where routine is law. The game really starts when he disregards protocol and finds himself on the run from the authorities.
Alternative Physics: Platformer where you’re swimming through a coral reef while wearing a life vest. You have to strain against its flotation and propel yourself down under the water.
Ancient Ruins: An endless racing game starring Nevada Clarke, intrepid explorer. Climb out of a collapsing pyramid and collect valuable artifacts before being swallowed up by the desert.
Apocalypse: Play as the earth as you try to divert earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters to areas where they’ll do the least amount of damage so the humans will have enough time to get to safety. Beware of rising panic levels leading to mass suicides and hysteria.
Chaos: Orchestrate the perfect jailbreak and take over a high-security prison with hundreds of your fellow inmates. Could be a good application for a flocking algorithm.
Colony: A city building game set in space after an exodus from Earth due to resource scarcity. Terraforming is a key component.
Dreams: A point-and-click adventure in which you play a young girl who can interact with other peoples’ dreams. The items necessary to progress can be summoned by influencing her sleeping family into dreaming about them.
Electricity: You play a malevolent storm cloud. Use various types of lightning to rain destruction down on a peaceful city; lightning strikes cause chaining through water towers, sheet lightning blinds meteorologists, etc.
Everyone Is Dead: Survival horror where you are the last living person in a plague-stricken city. Your character mutters to himself about watching out for zombies and mutants. Plot twist: There’s nothing in the game that can hurt you.
Flammable: A god game in which you play a fire god. Your only means of communicating with your followers is by setting things on fire. Lead them in the winter and show them where to avoid in the summer.
Going Backwards: A stealth game in which your character can only moonwalk. Timing becomes paramount as you must move between hiding spots without being able to look in the direction you’re moving.
Industrial: A rhythm game where you play a technician in charge of training assembly line machines. As you successfully perform each procedure, you move further down the line onto the next step in the line, each more complicated than the last.
Journey: An adventure game where you play a sword. Throughout your owner’s quest, you must decide whether his cause is just and influence his fighting skill accordingly.
Keeping Control: An action game starring a brain. You have to suppress the right synapses and stimulate others in order to keep your owner, a mental patient on parole, from being recommitted.
Lifecycle: A tron-like in which you try to capture the most plots in a graveyard to raise an undead army.
Lost: Survive on a desert island after being marooned by your mutinous pirate crew. Survive long enough to signal a passing trade ship or settle down for the long-term.
Mutation: An RPG beat-em-up set in a science facility where you gain new powers by imbibing various chemicals and cultures from genetic experiments.
No Weapons Allowed: You play an assassin who specializes in penetrating highly secure government facilities. Your latest mission requires you to enter through the front door with a group of tourists, so bringing in weapons is out of the question. You’ll have to improvise with whatever you can find throughout the compound.
Point of No Return: A metroidvania where every room is sealed after you exit it.
Rediscovery: A point-and-click detective story where the crime scene is slightly different every time you return.
Rise and Fall: A dating sim in which you play the Sun and try to find true love with the Moon.
Seasons: An art game in which you play a tree. You must balance your ability to survive the cycle of the seasons with your desire to cause happiness in people who look at your leaves and pick your fruit.
Surrounded: A simulation game where you manage a resort on a tiny tropical island.
Underworld: A tycoon game where you play a mob boss in his bid to become the kingpin of crime by rubbing out the competition.
Last year I participated in my first game jam with Ludum Dare #23. The result of those 48 hours was Humphrey’s Tiny Adventure, which I’ve written about previously. I was really proud of what I was able to accomplish, but there was a lot that I wanted to do with the project that I didn’t have time for. I didn’t include any sound or music, and I didn’t have anyone test it before release, so I never had the chance to get feedback. I recently decided to give Humphrey a long-overdue makeover for one of my entries in OneGameAMonth.
Over the past three weeks I’ve rewritten every piece of code in the game. Looking back at the original code, I’m literally terrified at the prospect of dealing with it. For the most part the gameplay is nothing complex, so I was able to build on the engine I wrote for Hypothermia. I created a data-driven cutscene scripting system using Slang, which I wrote about here. This was immensely helpful both in terms of writing reusable code and iterating quickly on the way each scene played out.
I’ve also redone almost all of the artwork. The art in the original version of Humphrey was composed entirely of large colored squares. This was mainly due to time constraints; the abstract style allowed me to spend very little time on each asset while still conveying the desired meaning. For the remake I did away with this restriction, and I’m very happy with the results. As usual, I used Inkscape for all the art.
Download the game here! I’d love to hear what you think of it!
(This was originally posted on the Ludum Dare compo blog, for competition #23 “Tiny World”)
I’ve known about Ludum Dare for a few years now, but every time it came around I would end up having too much to do in real life to participate. This time I was finally able to get involved, and it was one of the best things I’ve done in a long time, resulting in Humphrey’s Tiny Adventure, a point-and-click adventure game. Here are a few lessons I learned along the way.
Do as little brainstorming as possible
I knew from the beginning that I wanted to make an adventure game. At 9:00 PM the first day, the theme was revealed and we were able to get started. I spent 15 minutes sketching out some basic ideas and then got right to work. Not everything I wrote down made it into the final game, but it allowed me to get started quickly and add details as I went along, instead of trying to develop a complete design doc or storyline.
Get all your tools and libraries ready to go beforehand
This is a bit of a no-brainer, but I thought it was worth mentioning For this project I used FlashDevelop for my IDE, Inkscape for graphics and Chronolapse for screencasting. Since all three of those are necessary to get started, it wouldn’t do to have some programs downloading after the compo officially started.
Pick an art style that you can produce quickly
I’m mainly a programmer, and while I am capable of creating some reasonably impressive vector art, I certainly can’t pump out high-quality assets fast enough to make it a viable option for a game jam. I decided on an art style that consisted only of colored rectangles, which allowed me to keep my art simple, uncomplicated, and abstract enough that realism wasn’t a concern.
Use release-quality art early on
Chances are if I started out using placeholder art I would just continue using it until I ran out of time. Creating final art assets in the beginning helped me have a feel for how much work it would be to bring the project to completion.
Use version control
If you aren’t using version control already, start now. The first thing I do when I start a new project is create a new local Mercurial repository, and it’s saved me many times in the past. Using version control can save you if you mess up your project too badly, or retrieve old versions of your files if you decide that the first iteration of your player class is the better one.
Record a screencast
Keeping a video running of my work helped to keep me from getting distracted. If I wanted to update my progress on twitter, I had to open up Chronolapse and pause the capture, and even that small amount of required action was enough to keep me from constantly tabbing over to check my email.
Take breaks and get enough sleep
Whenever I came across a tough problem or design decision, I got in the habit of getting up from the computer and making myself a hot cup of tea. As much as it might seem like it’s necessary to spend the entire 48 hours in your computer, the best thing you can do for yourself is to take it easy. If you overwork your brain you won’t be able to think clearly and therefore won’t be as productive as you could be.
I think that’s about it! I had a blast participating, and I’m definitely planning on doing it again. :)