Things went pretty good during my second Ludum Dare game jam. I did have hard time nailing down what I wanted to do for the “You are the Monster” theme, though. Friday night I was brainstorming skeleton armies, serial killers and even a combo of both! It wasn’t until Saturday morning when my wife and I were eating at a pancake house that it hit seemed to hit us both at the same time… Title Loans!
You see, I live in a coastal border town in the United States (between North and South Carolina). The town has been having major ups and downs since the 2008 economic collapse with businesses opening and closing at a fairly rapid pace. North Carolina seems to also have stricter rules in regards to how title loan offices can operate so a lot of them setup shop in my town in South Carolina to attract NC residents to cross the state line. Needless to say, the small town has drawn a lot of title loan offices to set up shop and as you can see I’m not a fan of their business tactics.
The next challenge was “how would the game actually play?” What could I do with the subject of title loans? It didn’t take long to come around to the game Papers, Please as gameplay inspiration. I felt like this was the easiest and smartest way to get my subject across and there aren’t that many games like that out there anyway.
What went right?
I feel like I nailed the graphics, theme and sound. When playing the final version of the game I could see my initial vision come to life more so than any other game I’ve made in the past.
What could be improved?
One obvious thing is the game needs more of a challenge and things to do. A big gameplay aspect I cut was the use of the PC. It was going to be a fully working PC which you could search for things and even do more of your “office work” on it. Those features got cut due to lack of time.
Another improvement is in regards to the story. I felt like I didn’t have enough time to fully nuance the fact that you were “becoming a monster” so I made it a lot more obvious in the end. If I go back to this game in the future I will definitely rewrite much of the dialogue and story flow.
Overall it was yet another fantastic game jam experience. It’s becoming the only time I make games now because the time constraints and forced theme make me buckle down and actually finish something!
The voting has ended for the Ludum Dare 30 (Game Jam) and the results for my game, Notes from a Mad Mage, are in!
Considering the amount of entries there were I’m pleased with the results. I’m especially happy with getting into the top 25 of the “Fun” category because, as I said in my post mortem of the game, my main goal was to make my entry as fun and crazy as I could.
The top 100 results can be found here: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-30/?action=top&cat=Overall(Jam)
The top 25 from each category can be found here: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-30/?more=1
Notes from a Mad Mage is my Ludum Dare 30 entry. It features a fireball throwing mage who is trying to escape a dungeon. Whenever you die a ghost is created that mimics the motions of the last game you played. These ghosts stack over the course of fifteen lives and you need to use them to solve puzzles and generally help you along the way.
This blog post is cross-posted on the official Ludum Dare site here: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/2014/08/29/making-the-mad-mage-becoming-a-better-designer/
I’ve been dabbling in game design off and on for years. I’ve put out multiple Flash games and even released two full iOS games (link). All the while I felt as if I was doing it in isolation without really getting into a good community of game designers to toss ideas back and forth off of. I felt like I was spinning my tires as a game designer and I wasn’t improving my craft at all. I kept hearing about these game jams where you have to make a game in a very short amount of time and I decided to take the plunge. This is my first Ludum Dare.
Finding the Fun
This experience has been a blast in both game design and feedback. The time limit forced me to not overthink every little decision and just go with my gut. The only question I asked myself throughout the entire process of making my entry was “is this fun?” On Sunday morning I had created an elaborate tutorial system to teach people about the ghost mechanic I put in the game. Around noon I asked myself “is this fun?” The answer was no so I scrapped it and made the action start from the second you hit the play button. The downside is players might get confused as I don’t really teach them the game, the upside is they hopefully have fun while they learn about it for themselves. The feedback I’ve been getting from this game has been extremely valuable. From the comments, to the tweets, to watching people playing it over Twitch I can definitely see where I went right and wrong and can use that for future projects.
I also took time in this competition to work on ‘game feel.’ I knew I had only about 10 seconds to grab everyone’s attention as there are 2,000+ entries to be played so I wanted to grab the player instantly. Killing enemies had to feed good. The music had to match the tone and action. Firing your weapon had to feel satisfying (Camera shake goes a long way!). Also the feeling of watching the ghosts mimic your past movements was a lot more effective than I initially thought it would be.
Overall this experience has changed the way I approach game design. I feel like I can come at games from a new perspective and I have a community who will help me along the way calling out both my good and bad design decisions. Thanks to the staff of Ludum Dare for such a great idea and an awesome experience.
Ludum Dare (to give a game) is a game jam where you have to make a game in 48 or 72 hours. I opted for the 72 hour jam since I didn’t think I could pull the game off in 48 hours and I could use outside sources for help (music, sound effects, etc) whereas you cannot for the 48 hour version. The theme you had to stick to for this competition was “Connected Worlds.”
The results of those 72 hours is my newest game Notes from a Mad Mage.
The game draws on the “Connected Worlds” theme through connecting past gameplay with present. Everytime you die a ghost will appear and perform the same actions you did on the previous run. The ghosts stack so you can have up to 14 ghosts at a time (totally depending on how much you die). It gets frantic!
Ludum Dare entry: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-30/?action=preview&uid=27935
For a fun experiment I submitted Boom Boat 2 to several web game portals over the weekend. It’ll be great getting feedback from a new audience and taking valid critiques into account as I’m working on new projects.
[h2]Boom Boat 2 featured on Newgrounds[/h2]
As you can see from the above pic, Boom Boat 2 is featured on the NG front page with classics such as Climb Jon Hamm’s Dick! and Double Hitler. It’s great to be back on that site.