I'm still shaking, after submitting my competition entry with just 4 minutes left on the clock! Ludum Dare is one of the most famous game development contests. Contestants spend a weekend creating new games from scratch around a topic that is announced when the contest begins. This round was the 46th Ludum Dare, and thanks to this weekend's efforts, the world has almost 5,000 new games to play! Head over to my Ludum Dare page to try it out now, or keep reading to learn how it all happened.
This was my very first Ludum Dare. I've thought about participating many times, and I almost missed this time too. Matt from our team mentioned on Saturday that theme this time is "Keep it alive". I immediately thought of a game that would be a perfect fit for the theme! I sat on it for a few hours, and then decided to give it a go!
When I started the work, 24 hours had already passed since the contest started. There was only 24 hours left on the classic Compo and 48 hours in the more relaxed Jam mode. Jam allows using licensed art and music, so with the extra time and more relaxed rules, the choice was easy.
Since at Utopos Games we've been working on a game called Raivo, where the player doesn't actually control the characters but instead trains them to be better at autonomous play, I have a lot of related ideas. For this contest I decided to make a game where your character is minding her own business, and your job is to keep her safe. Keep her alive, in fact. You can't control the character, but you can control almost everything else in the world. You can even grab a house and move it to another place, if need be!
I wanted to focus on building the actual game, so I opted to license some pieces of art from the Unity Asset Store. I'm glad I did as it really helped me set the right tone for the game without spending too much time on it. Finally, I licensed a song from Pond5. I knew exactly what I was looking for and I spent maybe a total of 10 minutes listening through the different options when I found the perfect match.
If you've ever wanted to participate in a game jam - do it! This was a lot of fun. 48 hours doesn't sound like a lot of time, but you can do a lot in that time. I spent about half of the time hanging with my kids and wife, so I maybe spent about 20 effective hours on it. I could have definitely used another day or so for polishing, but the beauty of these limited-time contests is that once it's over, it's over.
You could always use another day to polish, but if it's not available you have to make do without. I'm usually quite wary of releasing anything that is not polished, but now I have an excuse - it was made in 48 hours so it just cannot be very polished!
The biggest regret is that I had a major bug in the second day, which I only figured out two hours before the deadline. There was no way to do workaround to it, so I had to disable some of the cool stuff I had built. I might revisit the game and do a "finished" version just so I can include everything I was planning to include.
I wrote some pretty cool systems for world generation and realtime path finding and if I was to give a rating to myself, I would give high marks for innovation in design. This idea really works, even if the implementation is not quite there yet. Next time I participate in a game jam, I need to make sure to save an extra hour or do for basic menus. Now I left it to the end, which meant that I didn't get to do it. There's no restart, there's not even a button to quit the game.