Ludum Dare is the best

Posted: September 1, 2014

Last weekend I took part in a fairly well known 48 hour game jam called Ludum Dare. I love rapid game development and being challenged by themes and restrictions but have never really had the opportunity to take part until now. It was very fun.

One of my motivations for entering was to try and make something a bit different from my previous games. I was hoping that because LD games have to conform to a ‘theme’ at each event, this forced restriction would make me come up with something totally new and as different from Another Perspective as possible. You might imagine then that the voted theme for Ludum Dare 30 ended up being a little disappointing for me specifically. Having just released a game on Steam about changing characters and perspectives and solving puzzles using multiple connected worlds; I was now faced with quickly coming up with and building a game that must fit the theme of: Connected Worlds.

There’s a lot I could say about the development process for the game I made, what went well, what didn’t, what decisions I made and why, but that’s another story for another time. While the experience of making and finishing a game in 48 hours (while livestreaming the whole thing) was fantastic in its own right, there’s something else about taking part in LD that ensured I will be taking part in as many of these events as I can until the end of time. The community.

Making a game in 48 hours is incredibly hard. A lot of people don’t finish. Almost nobody finishes everything they wanted to build and it can take upwards of 10 hours for some just to settle on a game idea and get going. This is stressful. But for me, all of that stress would always subside just by hanging around the IRC channel. Seeing everyone going through all of the same emotional madness (and also having all the same crazy fun) that I was. Everyone there is a developer taking part. The chat was always filled with an incredible amount of support, camaraderie, advice and common emotional ground to be had. Not only that, but people in the community frequently offer up code libraries, plugins, middleware and amazing tools (such as the totally awesome sfxr) to help other developers taking part.

After the competition ends, games are rated and judged and people can play games and leave comments. Importantly, the games can only be rated by other developers that submitted a game. The result of such a simple rule is something beautiful. I have never in my life seen a more positive, and supportive response to such a large and massively varied collection of amateur creative works. The amount of positive comments, really thoughtful and detailed constructive feedback, and appreciation shown for every developer just for having taken part was absolutely staggering. And the reasons why were obvious. Every single person who plays your game, who leaves a comment, and rates your work was also just faced with the challenge of making a video game in 48 hours. They completely understand the restrictions you faced and they know all too well the challenges, pains and mind melting stress of taking part, and of actually finishing a game.

In an ocean of games where the developers often ran out of time to build feature X, or where the graphics are only half done, levels are broken, glitches are everywhere, tutorials are rushed in or sometimes entirely absent, and difficulty and balance tuning are all over the place; I’ve never seen so many people rush to give positive encouragement. To talk about how cool your idea was, how much they like where the game is heading, and give advice on where the developer could take the game next. It was incredible. It was like some kind of comment utopia where mankind had learned completely what was actually important, useful and awesome about discussing creative works. I’m sure there may have been exceptions but I really didn’t see anything negative, or toxic across all the games I played and rated myself. (And I’m not done playing and rating, there’s been so much cool stuff made and playing these things is awesome and inspiring.)

After a week of very depressing news in the world of video games where comments and social media are concerned; I’m so, so happy to have taken part in something so completely awesome with the exact opposite vibe. Filled with people who love to make games. Filled with people who all want to see one another succeed. Filled with people who don’t care who you are, or where you come from, because they’re only interested in what you create. This is what games should be about. And I could not be more proud to have been a part of such a totally bad ass community.