I had the time to participate in the most recent Ludum Dare Competition,
it was great to way to warm up my game-making muscles again!
For those of you who do not know, Ludum Dare is a long-running game jam where game developers of all experience levels from around the globe challenge out their skills and compete to create a game from scratch in just 48 hours. There is also a 72-hour jam for teams or those who wish to use outside assets, which isn't treated as a competition.
Check out their website!
The theme selection was tied, which is somewhat unusual, so LD competitors the option to use one or both themes in their games. Of course, it isn't mandatory to use the theme, but is a big part of the challenge. The options were "2 Button Controls" and "Growing". I chose to work with 2 button controls and to create a simple 2D rail shoot-em-up about being a bear. It's super silly.
I'll give some mild insight into the development process and what it was like to participate in my first solo LD!
Day 1: Early prototypes / Ideas
Instead of putting much time into refining my idea, I basically chose the first theme that came to mind. Bears is what came to mind, and I went from there.
I wanted to do cute pixel art, and I wanted to make a game with a beginning, middle and end. I scrawled out a list of features that I wanted on lined paper, and started trying to break down my time for the weekend as best as possible.
My initial idea of how to work with the 2 button theme was to do a yes / no control scheme. The bear would encounter silly day-to-day events like "eat this salmon?" and the player would select an option, which would move the bear along a path. In every decision, the 'wrong' option would result in the bear dying in a super ridiculous way: explosions, zombies, etc. This proved somewhat over-ambitious.
In the process of trying to write all of the scenarios for the game in a branching chart, I realized this would require a LOT of artwork, which I didn't think I'd be able to produce in 48 hours, so I adapted the game to be simpler and combat-oriented. I messed around with having the bear 'maul' the various enemies, but it felt sort of awkward and slow (although this would be great if I'd had more time and some actual physics), so I ended up just making bear shoot leaves (which makes no sense at all, but sort of appeals to the mood I'm going for). So the final control scheme ended up being: SPACE - Run, M- Gun. This put me about 8 hours into the compo.
From here I had a playable but super janky prototype, and since my gameplay was super simple, I mostly had to focus on graphics and creating 'enemies' that made the game somewhat challenging despite the player's inability to walk backwards. I went to sleep the first day with a working prototype.
Day 2: Graphics and Level Design, sound
The second day I spent nearly all of my time tweaking the level, working on graphics, items and menus. My plan for Bear from the beginning was to have it be a single playable level only. I didn't want to waste any time making the game play scale-able, but instead just to make something fun/silly/quick (mostly because I'm pretty out of practice at game design/ programming and I wasn't sure I'd have time to finish at all). I designed several enemies with different movement patterns to make the game a bit more diverse, and created a large tile set to create three different 'environments' in the level.
Some of the biggest setbacks that I encountered were with my tile sheet: I kept messing it up by like, 1 pixel somewhere in the sheet and having to move everything around to figure out the error. I had originally planned more environments and tiles, but once I got my second fairly large error fixed I was about done with pixel art.
The gigantic blood splatters kind of happened by accident, I was messing around with different obnoxious particle / explosion effects and blood felt like the best decision. By this point I basically had the entire level laid out, and continued to tweak it while adding additional features as it became possible, such as the bear puns, health bar, and score.
I spent QUITE a bit of time just play testing the level to make sure that it was BEARABLE and somewhat fun. Once that was figured out I added in some extra score items, the title screen and ending sequence and tried to polish it as much as possible before the deadline. Music and sound effects are my weak point, honestly, so I threw together some simple bgm and sounds just before the deadline.
I actually ended up working at my job for like 6 hours on the final day, so I took until the last possible moment to compile and submit my game.
The Final Game
The game is pretty simple and not kind of janky, but I'm glad that I was able to participate in the compo, and I've received some very helpful and kind feedback.
It was also awesome playing and rating other competitors' games, I'd highly recommend at least checking out some games in the competition. There are some highly talented artists and developers involved.
Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!
( Please note that BEAR currently only has a Windows Build - download link on LD page)
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