Category «Game Jam»

Ludum Dare #23 games I really enjoyed

The 48h game jam Ludum Dare celebrates its 10th anniversary! And the party is huge - about 1400 games where made within 48 hours (competition) or three days (jam). I try to give you a start with the games I really enjoyed. They are presented in no specific order and if you think I forgot some of the hidden pearls - tell me in the comments!

Gravity - by Rémi (@8bitChevreuil)
What looks like an typical top-down-shooter is not only presented in  a very atmospheric and beautiful way, but also equipped with physics, which makes it very special. One of my favourites so far. Play Gravity here.

Rambros - by Black Ships Fill the Sky (@Free_Lives) // Jam
Rambo is not alone this time! He got his bros with him. And they are all angry and equipped with the finest weaponry needed in this damn jungle. And broxel destruction! What more to say!? It's fun and playable for one or two players (XBox controllers). Kill them all!

rambros

 Memento XII - by deepnight (@deepnightfr)
Simple and beautifully presented adventure. Riddle your ass off.

Tiny Stomp - by DoktorAce
Just for fun. Stomp here.

Nina Nueve - by Jonathan Whiting (@whitingjp)
Compact little Zeldaesque puzzle game. Sweet graphics, nice sounds. Awwwwwwwwwww.

Purgatorio - by moonkid
For the sake of the kiwis! Wierd little adventure. Haha.

7. Planet 161 - by saint11 (@saint11)
Beautifully crafted little puzzle platformer. Bzzzzzzzzz.

Planet Life - by Sos (@Sosowski)
Typical SOS game. Fast. Smashing. Bloody. AND deeply philosophical! Well.

Bottlecolonies - by tcstyle (@RustyBotGames)
Reverse colour matching. I liked the style. Bottle up.

Inside My Radio - by TurboDindon // Jam
Super polished platformer, where you have to interact when the beat bumps right. Sounds good!

Tinysasters - by Volute (@StormAlligator)
The blocks go up and down so nicely. And it's got some tactical components in it - that get randomly destroyed by natural disasters. Super polished nice style! Build!

Wunderworld post-mortem

 (This post was written for ludumdare.com originally.)

Ludum Dare 23, wow! This time, it was super-awesome, even though I was a little reluctant to even participate. One weekend before, we had made another 48h game ("The Sun Is Deadly" for the IndieBuskers game jam), and I wasn't sure if I would have some energy left to create something equally cool, or at least have fun making another game.

Thankfully, I did!

One of the primary reasons why I not only started cheerfully but also was in a pretty good mood throughout the whole jam was the fact that I made something I really wanted to create. I saw a video of "Delver" some time ago, and although – or because – I don't like how the combat is far-range only, it made me wanting to develop my own Ultima-inspired game. I played "Ultima Underworld I – Stygian Abyss" pretty late, but I bought the second part, "Labyrinth of Worlds", when it came out in Germany (with no understanding of English texts whatsoever), and it is still one of my favourite games.

As I didn't want to just rip off the Delver guy, I mixed my Ludum Dare entry with another passion of mine: game development, what a surprise! I was thinking for some years now about creating an easy-to-use level design tool; it should be very restricted regarding the basic elements, but possible to design some story-heavy games. The idea really started when I searched for a subject for my university diploma project, and I was always fascinated by the thought of it. For Ludum Dare 23, I didn't know if I could do something like this in just two days, but I knew that it could be very minimalistic this way and still cool. Another part of the reason was the theme, "Tiny World", as it made restricted size and small scope a very helpful design target.

So it became "Wunderworld", which is a mix of "Wunder" ("wonder" in German) and "Underworld". I even wanted to name it "Wultima's Wunderworld" at first, but I didn't find a good enough way to implement a protagonist named Wultima.

Perhaps the question arises, is Wunderworld even a game? I don't know! But I have to commemorate a quote from the book "Game Architecture and Design" by Rollings&Morris, which is:"Rule Number One isn't 'Make sure it's a game.' It's 'Make sure it's fun!'" Thus I didn't care much if my entry would fit perfectly into this (or any other) category. And really, Wunderworld is all about goals, and conflicts, and combat, and exploration – it's just that the player has to define these elements him-/herself. In a sense, it's more like a set of random Lego building blocks.

The fun part for me was the expandability of the concept. All it needs to function are only three things really: walls, fights, and a test mode. The walls were the easiest thing to do, although I had my own little problems with Unity's MeshCombine script. The test mode (became the "Play Mode" later) with a fully functional player character controller did cost me some hours, but it was worth the time (especially because the game was playable then, and never stopped being playable and fun afterwards). Last but not least came the fighting – after modelling some enemies, which make use of nearly the same character controller, adding some really basic AI was a nice finger exercise.

When I was done implementing these three things, the game was basically finished and I could just refine and add stuff, like a goal, horizontal windows, health potions or gates which open after the death of all enemies. Right after the compo, I added stairs and lava, which was a matter of minutes, not hours.

Another reason why I was so relaxed during the compo was that I didn't have to do levels. The levels were the cause of minor burnouts during my other Ludum Dare entries in 3D ("Tri" and "Soliloquy"), which were puzzle platformers and thus relied heavily on level design, which I had to do in a 3D modeling program. But this time the players would have to create the levels for themselves, and it would also be very easy and even fun to design them.

(By the way, if Wunderworld would have required me to make a level, I'd have done it right from the beginning this time around, instead of afterwards, hours before the deadline. This is a lesson I learned from the other Ludum Dares.)

The editor of Wunderworld is very basic. In order to keep me sane I resigned doing submenus and subscreens; instead, I've gone the KISS way. I initially planned to let the player adjust the enemies' damage, the potions' health values and so on, but it would be too much for the two days. And without too much options, everything fits nicely on one screen, too. All it consists now is a list of items the player can choose from, and a text area for the file name, and it's still enough to create some nice levels. Of course, there always will be people who will miss several things regarding settings and comfort, but they will have to live with that or just download Unity/UDK/whatever, hehe.

Another benefit of the "Tiny World" theme was my lack of urge to optimize the code. Sure, with a standard level of the size 10x10x10, you have 1000 blocks. But thanks to the MeshCombine script from Unity – I use it on every slice of blocks – the amount of draw calls is pretty low. Altogether the "think small" direction of the theme helped me to be content with a small, working base game, and diversify it from there – instead of trying to make a rich, broad game which would have needed much more work. So, remember to extend and refine certain gameplay elements, and not the whole gameplay in itself – it would be a bottomless pit.

On the other hand, Wunderworld is predestined to offer a very wide range of gameplay elements. It could be expanded in 1000 ways! Without much effort, one could make an FPS, an RPG, an Adventure or even a puzzle with it (or even a combination of those), if I would have the time/motivation to add the right block types. Of course, this would need more work overall, as for example an RPG isn't much without the ability to add NPCs with texts, or stats. But the general foundation is given for something like this, and I think that's exciting.

So, what went wrong, what did I really learn?

I already mentioned the character controller, which I created very quickly at the beginning and was working somehow; yet I was deeply dissatisfied with the way the jumping behaved. It then needed some hours of redoing the whole thing, but in the end it worked more than okay and now I'm comparatively sure how to do nice and predictable character movement for 48h game.

There was also a certain lack of time before the deadline, when I had more than enough stuff on my "would be nice to have" list, and preset levels was one of them. It should have been much higher on this list, because even though I really had a test level, I lost it in the process of deploying. And even if it would have survived, I had no way to fit it into the webplayer version, so it would have been for the standalone only (which only few Ludum Darers download nowadays, according to my experience).

My biggest weak point regarding the compo is music. I managed to make some decent sounds via bfxr, but I still don't know how to create non-generic music via a sophisticated tool. And although I used inudge.net for my older Ludum Dare entries, I want a more fulfillling experience in this regard nowadays. Thus I got FL Studio now and look forward to learn a bit about it, but I don't know when I will have the time. Meh.

There were several other problems, which are more technical tidbits but nonetheless interesting details. For example, while the navigating through the level slices via Q and E is pretty straightforward, people complained about the lack of overview – they have to remember how the slice above the current slice looks, which isn't very userfriendly. I still don't know how to circumvent this problem in an elegant way. Also, the possibility to resize the level would be nice, or the support for an improved AI with far-range combat.

Until recently I also had no idea how to allow sharing levels via the webplayer version, thanks to the security problems. The standalone has a separate folder with simple text files which contain the level data, so you can trade them with others. But the webplayer saves its data in the PlayerPrefs (being the registry under Windows), which means that sharing levels is much more work there. Thanks to the idea of a friend I added level sharing by copy&paste in the post compo version – just press "Export", get a string and post it. Or press "Import" and paste the string from someone else.

On the art side one could argue that 8x8 pixel textures aren't really perfect for a block of 2x2 meters, but somehow it emphasized the "Tiny World" theme once again, I think. What I really would want here is the support for custom textures, which needs some thinking about the internal workings of Wunderworld. Another friend (Björn Grunewald) already tried to create 16x16 versions of some of the textures.

And what's the conclusion?

Until now, this was the most satisfying and fun Ludum Dare for me. I wasn't overly stressed, and never had the feeling of not doing enough or doing too much. Even shortly after the IndieBuskers jam my motivation was really high, and that means that there can't be too much game jams in general!

Also, there were no really negative reactions so far, with the complaint of lacking preset levels here and there. Of course, there was the uninformed Kongregate commenter who wrote "guys forget this play minecraft this is a copy of minecraft so play minecraft its way better" (actual hilarious quote), but he apologized later, so it doesn't count anymore, hehe. And, yeah, my game isn't anything like Minecraft, you can't mine and you can't craft – instead, you can build and play, so perhaps should I call it Buildplay. The main difference probably is the possibility to be not only a level designer, but also a game designer in Wunderworld.

As mentioned before, in the new post-compo version you can now import and export levels easily – so it would be awesome if you, dear reader, would make a level and post it in the comments! Lockstep80 and others on Kongregate already made some really great levels, and the creativity in them honestly surprised me.

It must be just a tiny fraction of what Notch feels when he sees all those videos of people showing what they build inside Minecraft, and even this tiny little fraction is so awesome, and exactly the reason why creating Wunderworld was totally worth it.

Oh, and here is a video, showing the gameplay:

Ludum Dare #23: Wunderworld, by Friedrich

Be aware that YouTube videos try to set cookies and contact Third Party servers!

Yout may also want visit the entry page of Wunderworld on Ludum Dare and the project page, with levels created by fans!

Indie Buskers Post Mortem

Indie Buskers - Yet another game jam?

Indie Buskers

Introduction

Rock, Paper, Shotgun titled “2012 will be the year of the gamejam” and it absolutely is! Ludum Dare has more entries than ever before, the Global Game Jam is in the Guiness Book of Records for being the biggest jam ever and Anna Anthropy argues in her book “Rise of the Video game Zinesters” about everybody can make art or communicate issues with games. And at this point we drop in: five game devs who regularly prove their passion at Ludum Dare happenings are doing their own jam.

But why another gamejam right between the tenth anniversary of Ludum Dare and the Molyjam? Why do we want your moneys for things nearly every game dev does? And who the hell are we?

The Buskers are all one of those notorious indies. Full of crazy ideas, but with empty pockets. All of us sold at least one game until now. Most of them came into existence through participation in game jams. We are all more or less known and successful and we all love to produce games to beat the band.
So Ludum Dare is were everything started. The three game devs Pekuja, Sos and Ratking whined about their thin purses. No money. No games. Poor things. So they planned to do it the old way: Taking out their instruments to the streets and play songs to cheer up their audience and get some pennies back in order to fill their fridge.
But wait. They live in Finland, Poland and Germany. They don't know how to use guitars - all they are able to do is making games! So why not a game jam!? In open (web) space, with one or two more friends (soon they invited Tametick from Austria and Sophie Houlden from England) and a bit more interaction than just “Please put some money in the hat”.

The beginning

Since things were settled from this very moment (March 13th) everything happened very fast. We discussed everything via chat and mail, whereby most decisions happened immediately coupled with an overflow of motivation. If there wouldn't be this annoying marketing, the necessity to do an announcement to reach the audience and certain organisational issues, we would have started right off that moment. The date was chosen a bit further from that very present up to March 31st - April 1st, which some days later was selected also for another jam that will go down in history as the MolyJam. Since Peter Molyneux AND Peter Molydeux are an great inspiration for many game devs and both have a bigger audience than us together, we changed the date.
Which is absolutely lucky, because as you will see there was organisation needed to be done for all of us.

first message

In the beginning there was the website (www.indiebuskers.net, programmed by Sos) and the website was with Twitter (March 26th). We asked hyper-influencial nice people to do us a favour and tweet about the Buskers. The wonderful Chris Priestman helped us with an article on Indie Games Magazine about the mysterious Buskers that others picked up very fast. At this time the website was grey, nothing on it but counters and question marks. It was a little bit crazy, but through this we really got people interested in this thing very fast. We were purely asking for game ideas at this time. No more or less! And then the first 400 followers popped up. Some felt twitted, some were suspicious, but most of them just were attracted by the chance to give away their game ideas!

We need ideas!

At this time we rotational took over the Twitter channel (@IndieBuskers), which really became a day job! Just retweeting, filtering and answering ... and keep in mind that twitter is limiting the tweets per day! When I was trying to make some things clearer they just told me that I reached this limit (250 tweets a day). You can make the final apologizing tweet to your audience by deleting old messages, by the way.
And although we would have needed a proper public relation strategy or just a way to communicate our idea, we decided against straight forward polished marketing blabla. Chaos was more fun and fit to the bunch of us.

With Twitter and our quest for ideas a little discussion arose, about how much worth and important ideas are. As jam veterans we have plenty of ideas, but we asked people to give us their ideas nonetheless; to get challenged by them and involve the audience. And this was enormous fun! The best thing right in the beginning of the jam! Although nobody knew who we are and what purpose their ideas will serve, they tweeted and posted so many awesome things, all of us totally freaked out.
Because we were not communicating too much about the issue of copyrights, of course people also wrote that we can't have their ideas or if we use them we should give them money, etc. We tried to explain that we don't steal ideas, but with our tweets three hundred other ones came and go. But luckily many people picked up the discussion and most seem to recognize that ideas are important to inspire and get started BUT they also need to be made and mostly just force a setting or beginning of the game's real gameplay. Most ideas didn't even have any description of details like gameplay, how to play it, winning/losing situations or even the type of perspective.
Although this is not completely the truth. There were a bunch of people who loved to see their favourite games to be made. Some just wished for the good old games remade they love, while others came up with three-page concepts of how exactly the game could look or work like! Most of the ideas were too much for 48 hours, which was not exactly clear to everybody due to our lack of description, but well, this was our problem throughout the jam.
Very much favoured, by the way, were games like “Minecraft but with X”, kittens and monkeys or “games like Y but deeper”, “like Z but with RPG elements” and tons of platformers and games where you start in a prison.

indie buskers ideas

And although stealing ideas was an issue, we were never accused of stealing the Payed-jam idea from ... let's say Mojam. We felt a little bad about this. They started the bundle and they were the first to do a jam with fellow indies to earn money - for charity! The only difference was, that we were less organised and the money went straight to our purse. Not to children in hospitals!
I think this was just possible by our audience. Most of them are indie devs as ourselves and understood that we needed the money, but were no greedy suckers dare to become rich with stolen ideas.

indie buskers logo

Counters here, Revealing there

From the first tweet on our jam was planned for two weeks later. We didn't have anything to entertain the audience with meanwhile, so we decided to put counters on the website and reveal one Busker after the other within days. Plural! We never expected such a run for the website, for ideas, for us and the Buskers thing! Some folks really got annoyed by our revealing. The website was full of question marks, that were replaced with counters, that were replaced with description not everybody fully understood.
Thus we needed to finally tell them who we are and what we want. We rethought fast and unmasked one Busker after the other within an hour. We used a little revealing quiz were people could guess who is the next one by Youtube clips. Interesting that some thought one of the guys is Notch or Terry Cavanagh.
After revealing us there was the next counter of course, followed up by our intentions and an approximate date.
Since then all of our jokers were already played and even bigger magazines like indiegames.com, PC Gamer or RockPaperShotgun had articles about us, we feared to lose attention. Although the flow was less overwhelming, many people stayed active and kept posting. Even the Angry Game Nerd did...something.

One week before everything happened (April 4th) every dev chose five ideas out of nearly 1,500 postings. We really read all of them! And it was not easy, since few of them were ideas we would have come up with by ourselves (I just speak for team Rat King here).
Again we had to do the big revealing thing to let people vote, which of the 25 ideas they liked enough to see them to be done. In the end about 800 people voted for their favourites.
The idea with the most votes was the vampire idea followed by the office roguelike (about 300 votes). Interesting that Tametick's picked idea had the fewest votes (216), but the resulting game was the most as fun rated game (as far as I noticed, we didn't have chosen/voted “winner” game of our jam).
I'm also very happy that we got all the owners of the chose ideas were named on the website. This really brought things together. (Only one of them was angry about not having implemented the idea himself in hindsight.)

mockup complete

And then the jam finally happened

All of us were extremely excited. I couldn't think of anything but the jam. We designed a new overwhelming website (overwhelmed by icons, but I think again it fitted us more than a stylish fancy web design).
Since the week before start we also had an IRC channel (#indiebuskers on QuakeNet) we opened for all the interested people. The run was cool, we had to answer so many questions and could catch up some of the missing issues. There should also be livestreaming, WIP screenshots, pre-versions in a bundle and of course the hat money counter. Everyone of us did (or let do) sketches / mockups of the five chosen game concepts, so people could imagine where the journey should go.
Since the website was up, folks started to donate for us. There were no bundles yet - nevertheless we broke the $1,000 right before the jam begun. The Buskers' Twitter account was nearly neglected from this point, but we all met in chat, tweeted via our own channels and you even could watch all the Busker streams at once on one page (you can still re-watch them).
From this point everything was about progress: we tried to raise our progress bars displayed on the site, implement as much us possible and do new screenshots from time to time.

game jam complete

Vampire: The Shadow Project Masquerade aka THE SUN IS DEADLY

To go a bit more in detail about our project, the theme we absolutely hoped for did it:
"It might be cool to have a game where you control objects to block sunlight to create a path of darkness - so that a vampire can get to their intended victim." (by @EgoAnt)

How much we love Thief! It's one of the games that deeply influenced us in setting, gamedesign and storytelling. We never dared to do a full-length stealth game, but this jam was the chance to do it! Plus there was this new element of building your own dynamic shadows with crates and other objects! Yeah!
Our planning for this game was a bit quirky. We were very self-confident, because we are two experienced designers, especially in game jams.
So why not do three characters - a guard, female and male citizens (with exchangeable heads)? Plus a whole awesome city built from a construction set with exchangeable windows, doors and levels. Of course a game like this needs sounds, to give a proper feedback. And music. And feedback, particle effects, etc.

How super-optimistic and stupid we were! In the end we got a game where you had to find the one and only holy virgin to trick her to the cemetery with a jewel case. You need to walk in the shadows, because it is bright daytime and, you know, "The Sun Is Deadly". On your way there are more victims to satisfy your hunger with. But they will also alarm the guards who protect the city of women (due to the fact that I hadn't have enough time to prepare the male character with the exchangeable heads).
When the imaginary clock was ringing (i.e. the jam ended), the game was super-hard, had no sounds, the tutorial was full of punishment instead of one reward after the other.
The shadow thing - we did a Plan B if it won't work at all - performed very well from the beginning. The tricky thing about Thief though weren't the shadows (who could have guessed!?), but the enemies in combination with physics.

BUT! We did it! This jam was an emotional roller coaster. Although this is the first jam rule we tell everyone, we planned too much for the game. The idea was extremely complicated from the beginning. Sometimes I wished for the pigeon RPG idea, where you just fly and shit around!
Sometimes I wonder if fast and fun games only are appropriate for game jams. But we are always very ambitious, so don't bend yourself too much, a jam should be particularly fun for you! This was something we needed to tell ourselves sometimes, because “The Sun Is Deadly” was so damn hard. And fun if you just accept certain rules! Game jams, tricky but hilarious fun things!

sun is deadly

Conclusion

We did the first livestream while working under time pressure. And also the fact that there are people watching us struggling for their enjoyment or to learn something was very amusing and motivating (and a little bit frightening). The possibility to get instant feedback is priceless, too.
We are very thankful for all the people around that were so interested in the Indie Buskers! Until today we raised about $4500, which is especially amazing to the fact that many people gave more than just $1. The highest donation is by Michael Todd with $250 bucks. The average donation was about $10, although now decreasing to $8, because the buskers effect is just amazing while they do a live performance. Nonetheless, I think we also gained many fans (notably other game developers), that just wanted to support fellow indies. Thanks, you wonderful people! The Rat King and the other Buskers had an awesome time – our gratitude to you!

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Until the end of the month (April 2012) you can still support the Buskers and get the games! Just visit indiebuskers.net !!!