To Ludum Dare or not to Ludum Dare

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Ludum Dare is a competition, held three times a year, in which game developers all over the world aim to make a game fitting a given theme. The challenge is that you only have two days to finish your game and you get to know the theme of the game right before your 48 hours start. Avid game makers and game changers  as we are, many ludocraftees have participated in the competition over the years (with Teemu Väisänen from our art team winning the whole thing a while back with his game Superdimensional. The latest Ludum Dare was held in April with the theme Shapeshift. Heikki Törmälä from our coding team braved the challenge. He shared his process in what it takes to make a game in 48 hours. There are some tips in there for the would-be Ludum Dare contestant and game developer in general.

Heikki’s personality is calm and he is not a man of many words. However, one should not mistake his tranquility for lack of passion but rather as a depiction of the great talent that lies within him. Heikki provided a more in-depth presentation of his game, Hole shift, in one of LudoCraft’s internal DemoThursdays. The game is a clever combination of Brain Wall and Tetris. The combining feature being that all look easy but are not. (You can go and check the game out now, and then continue to read. Go on, it’s ok.)

Startgamepic

Hole Shift start screen

Heikki dared to ludum by taking these five steps:

1.) Get a grasp of the idea. As said, this time the theme was Shapeshift. The theme is voted by people planning to enter the competition, and the winning theme is announced at the beginning of the 48 hours. Heikki took about an hour to meditate on the theme, since the main point is to get to make the game asap.

2.) Graphics first. At least this time around because, according to Heikki, the code for the game was quite simple. When asked if Heikki has anything to do with arts, he says ’no’. I’m inclined to disagree. You can make up your minds by checking out this casually drawn item.

3.) Code your butt off! Or as Heikki more elegantly put it: build a basic frame for the game. For this he used C# in Unity and Visual Studio. At this stage Heikki focused mostly on the shape shifts of the block and how it goes through the approaching walls. Phases 1-3 took Heikki about 8 hours.

4.) Effects affect the overall look and feel of the game. You could stop after step 3 because you have a game that works. However, if you have time left in your clock why not take it a step further. In Heikki’s case this meant adding movement to menu texts, ensuring that the controls have a pleasant touch to them and double-checking that the difficulty level is as it should be. Lastly but by no means leastly, Heikki also added a way to keep score. So basically counting how many holes you manage to get through.

5.) Sound of music and other types of sound effects are important in setting the mood. Heikki used sfxr to create sound effects and Bosca Ceoil for the music in his game. Heikki also made a decision that shows how much of an agile developer he is by identifying that the soundtrack he made is not quite in spirit of the game and made it work by using the best parts of it. In this case the best parts were the drums. There is a mantra that can be drawn from this, like ”When in doubt, leave it out”. For most ludocraftians, the music is one of the best features of the game and many have been spotted bobbing their head while playing it. Phases 4-5 took Heikki another 8 hours to complete.

So out of the 48 hours at his disposal, Heikki ended up using about 16, rounding up to a healthy 8+8+8 regime. (You know, 8h work + 8h spare time + 8h sleep.) Ludum Dare is one of the best celebrations of independent game culture and we’re eagerly waiting for the next Ludum Dare held August 26th – 29th.

We dare you!

Heikki Törmälä is a super coder who loves cats and is excellent in bringing back candy from his travels. Because Heikki is busy with his coding work, he spilled the beans to our sales & marketing Anne who transformed them into text. If you feel like reading more about our views on games, you can follow us on Twitter @ludocraftgames.