48h Game Jam
Ludum Dare 28 is this weekend, and I’m in for the challenge!
Ludum dare is a 48h game jam. Within one weekend, you have to produce a complete video game. You then get voted on various aspects like fun/art/mood/sound/theme…. ect. The people doing the jams actually vote, and ludum dare’s system is designed to encourage people to try other games. And it works! I got to play 100 games during the last jam (LD 26). When comes time to do the jam, you will get assigned a theme that your game must be based on.
The jam is online, but this time I will try to make it to one of the real world gatherings, so I can meet face 2 face other people doing the jam.
This blog post will be about how to do a 48h game jam. Basically, you have to produce the game in 48h.
* The Idea
With 48h to spare, where can I find the time to do anything but coding. It turns out thinking about the idea is really important. If you start out with a “bleh” idea, you will have a hard time being motivated to finish the game. This happens every time I create a game. First I get pretty excited, but then things slow down, really really slow down. The suddenly, there’s this ONE idea, this ONE single thing that makes the game amazing in my mind. Then I can’t stop, I just work endlessly to complete the game until the finish line, et voila!
* The Music
If you’re doing the jam, you might get some help from others doing the music. But assuming you’re doing the compo, then you will have to compose the music yourself! Either that or no music, which is sad. I pick music as the second step, because for some reason it’s the second thing I’ve worked on in my previous jam. If you have the music in mind, it helps you define the mood of the game. Sometimes, it helps to have the music done before everything else. For the music, a little melody on Garage band can do the trick. It helps that I have some background in piano. If you’re not proficient in music, you can always do voice over for your game, that works too.
* The ArtFor LD 26, I used shadow art, which turns out to be a lot easier to draw than real art. A lot of games have minimalistic art (squares and circles). I try to stay away from that, because squares and circles always give me the impression of a “Hello, World” application, even if some of them are really not like that. I think it’s worth to spend some time on art and animation. A lot of people are into pixel art, which is doable in 48h. Again, for me pixel art is not too appealing so I do try to make some art that stands out.
* ProgrammingProgramming in 48h is a challenge. You have to realize that you’re racing against the clock. There’s no time to put comments, to make the code pretty, or to use good coding practice. Everything you make will be thrown away after the jam, there will be no reusable code. Also, you need to make sure that the final product is stable. The problem with programming, is that the product goes from phases when it’s solid, and others when it’s completely unstable. Before you reach the end, be ready to put your game in a stable state, then make small iterations at the end. If there are non-critical bugs, forget it. There’s no time to fix every single bugs. One thing you can do is make a stable program early, and spend the end of the jam working on art. Improving art usually doesn’t break a game.
With all that in mind, I hope you do participate in a game jam. It is a interesting experience if you’re a game developer, sometimes it also helps breaking out of “code writer’s block”. Make sure you can get something done, then work on getting something done well.