My First Ludum Dare

Last week I decided I would participate in Ludum Dare, a 48h worldwide game-making “competition”. It turned out to be a mess. An awesome and stupidly fun mess, but a mess nonetheless.

This time, the theme was You Are the Villain. I struggled to have a decent idea for the first couple of hours, but then I decided to do something different and I went in a completely different direction. By the time I finished writing down my basic design, my idea was something like:

YOU ARE THE VILLAIN‘s cat… Make your way through Evil HQ while picking up treats and attacking unsuspecting heroes who are trying to sneak in and destroy your Master. Reach the Evil Control Room and sit on your Master’s lap, allowing him to deliver his menacing speech!


My main inspiration for this project was probably this image of Donald Pleasence as Ernst Stavro Blofeld:


I decided to use the Unity3D engine, because going with cocos2d meant that I’d only be able to make an iOS game and, therefore, wouldn’t have the ability to post it online. I also really wanted to do a 2D game, so I tried using a few 2D frameworks such as Futile and Orthello2D. I went with a low-res (320×320) and monochromatic game, because I wanted to do something that would mask my complete lack of art skills. x] Although I failed to make an actual game, I learned a great deal from this.

Lesson 1: Trying to learn new tools during Ludum Dare is NOT a good idea. I had trouble getting stuff to run properly because I was still learning how to work with Futile and Orthello2D. I also skipped the warmup weekend (a chance to prepare for the “main event” and also to get to know any new software/framework that you’d like to use), so I was clearly setting myself up for failure.

Lesson 2: Make a step-by-step to-do list and actually follow it. My biggest mistake was trying to juggle too many things at once. I tried to build a prototype while still finishing my basic design and I got stuck on “meaningless” tasks (e.g. getting the game to work with an Xbox 360 controller) before completing the first level. I wasted a lot of time, mainly because I was trying to do everything at once.

Lesson 3: When given the option, ALWAYS go for well-documented software. When deciding what framework to use, I went with the one that seemed similar to cocos2d. It turned out that it lacked basic documentation and most of the stuff I did was on a trial-and-error basis. This led to a LOT of wasted time.

All in all, it turned out to be an awesome experience, though, and one that taught me more about making games than any book I’ve read or class I’ve attended. I was constantly motivated and trying new stuff. I eventually realised that I wouldn’t be able to finish on time, but I kept trying to learn how to make stuff work.

Here is my first playable build: LD25_Cat

I’ll probably keep working on this and I’ll try to complete the game by the end of this month. Now that I have a few days to master the tools, it should be a lot easier. :]


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