Ludum Dare Postpartum (by Derek)

This is the title screen from our game, Shaped.

It’s been a few days since the Jam ended for our team (Send More People) and I thought I’d throw in a few thoughts on the Ludum Dare Jam experience. These are in no way organized or comprehensive – just a few thoughts that came to mind.

I was surprised how much fun it was

Maybe I shouldn’t have been. I had expected the main fun of Ludum Dare to be hanging out with my partner Eric as we worked on a project. Eric is a rad guy and generally everything is fun around him, but truth be told I was nervous that any game we would make would feel stinted and unfinished, and that this would diminish the pleasure of our developing. Part of the reason for this was our prior experience. Eric and I have been working on a single, very ambitious project for months. Drift is an endeavor with many highs but also a lot of lows, particularly because we keep altering the concept. We are ambitious people and have big goals. So, before this project I wouldn’t have thought that we could finish a title together so quickly. Now I know that we are totally capable of it, and the project was more fun because of it.

Sometimes time crunch can be a good thing.

As I said, we’re ambitious and our projects have a tendency to expand, expand, expand. One benefit of doing a project over a weekend is that we were forced to stay focused and on task. The game we made was largely the game we planned on, and any additions to the project occurred as a natural development of features we were working on. We made decisions and were pretty much forced to stick with them. This was actually liberating, in a sense, since we weren’t constantly rehashing the same topic.

Good lord, I love 2D!

Our other game project is 3D. Shaped is 2d! It’s a simpler design, but we were able to get a much more refined look out of it. Again, simpler is often better. Drift could be interesting but unpolished. Shaped, by comparison, seems smooth even without a whole bunch of refinement. That’s not skill, its just the benefit of the medium and the simplicity of the art style.

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Friends made it work

Eric and I were essentially attached at the hip for 48 hours over the course of Ludum Dare. That might have been a terror if we didn’t get along so well, but the reality is that I was enjoying myself every minute of the experience. Getting along well with your partner(s), having fun, seems to be a really important part of the coding experience. We actually made the game-developing process fun, laughing and joking throughout the day even while we were setting our minds to work on challenging puzzles. It smoothed over the points where we disagreed on where the project should go, and made the successes where we agreed on a concept feel shared. I was very doubtful when Eric suggested a seek-pellet… I thought it would be making the game too easy… but it turns out that it was a central component of the feel of the game. I trusted Eric even when I disagreed with him, and that allowed the game game to be much better.

So! Probably nothing mind bending here. like who you work with and simple is ok seem to be the major lessons I’ve walked away with. It may not be much, but it certainly made the development of Shaped into a satisfying and meaningful experience.

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