Ludum Dare 31 took place this past weekend, April 17th-20th, 2015. The theme was “Entire Game On One Screen.” I participated in the 72 hour game jam and made a game called Worm Wars.

I’ve participated in Ludum Dare before. Click here to see all my posts about Ludum Dare.

 

About the Game

LD31 – Worm Wars is a local multiplayer competitive “snake” game. The objective of the game is to grow your worm as long as you can while trapping others and avoiding getting yourself trapped.

More information about the game itself can be found on the official LD31 – Worm Wars game page.

Ludum Dare 31

Entire Game On One Screen

As with all Ludum Dare game jams, the event began with the announcement of the theme: “Entire Game On One Screen.”

Once the theme was announced, I stepped away from my PC so that I could brainstorm ideas. I thought it would be funny if I could try to incorporate the so-bad-it’s-good-but-really-it’s-bad theme, (snowman), which came somewhat close to being the winning theme.

The ☃ Game Idea

Eventually I decided to make a snowboarding game, featuring a snowman snowboarder. The idea was not to recreate a tricks-oriented snowboarding game, but rather to just have fun with the physics, making it enjoyable to get big air and wipe out. I remembered having played ATV Offroad Fury (2?) for the first time on Playstation 2 and having so much fun going far off course and finding places with big jumps that would almost certainly end in a wipe out. I’d play for hours, ignoring the other AI racers and just wiping out over and over again. I thought I’d try to recreate a similar feeling with this theme.

Right from the beginning I encountered all kinds of problems I had never dealt with before. I decided to take advantage of a free 30-day trial of Unity 4 Pro which removed my license but then couldn’t properly connect to the license server to apply the Pro trial. It wouldn’t give me the option to manually activate (offline) until I disabled my network adapters so my PC had no access to the internet. When I finally got that sorted out, I soon learned that Unity has problems with multiple nested GameObjects with a non-uniform scale, the children inherit the scale strangely which causes them to be “squashed” or skewed in interesting (and wrong) ways.

And after getting it to the point as shown in the video above, I spent a long time trying to get the physics to respond to the keyboard or gamepad in a way that felt good. But I couldn’t figure it out. Sometimes moving the joystick would be very responsive. Other times moving it in the same way would hardly affect the character.

The longer I dealt with it, the more frustrated I became, and the more I disliked the idea of the game I was making. Five hours into the game jam, at about midnight, I scrapped the idea and decided to do something else.

The True Game Idea

I immediately got to work on what would be the final result: Worm Wars. The idea was based off an old Intellivision game called Snafu which I played as a child. It was similar to the classic Snake. But in Worm Wars, up to four worms start in an arena and grow longer with each “step” of gameplay. The objective would be to try to trap the other players in a dead end, causing them to die. Come to think of it, it’s actually a lot like Tron’s light cycle battles.

The Timelapse

I took a screenshot of my primary monitor (2560×1440 resolution) every second while I was working on LD32. Unfortunately, I forgot to start it at the beginning, so about 3 hours of work is missing from the timelapse. I then compiled all of those screenshots into a video timelapse at 60 frames per second. Thus one second of video shows one minute of my work, with just over 27 hours of work shown:

Ludum Dare Ends

There were 2638 games in total submitted for Ludum Dare 31.

Postpartum

(For an explanation of my use of the word “postpartum” see my Ludum Dare 29 Postpartum.)

Though I lost only about 5 hours at the beginning working on an idea that I ultimately scrapped, it was very demoralizing for me. I didn’t really have any noteworthy problems for the rest of the game jam, but somehow all my motivation was gone. I persisted only because I felt compelled to make a game. It was no longer enjoyable. I did it because I didn’t want to fail, not because I enjoyed it. It was draining. It was a chore. It was a joyless, stressful endeavor.

When it was over, I wasn’t happy with what I had made. I didn’t feel accomplished or a sense of pride. I submitted my game and didn’t bother doing anything with the rest of Ludum Dare 31, which normally involves about 3 weeks of playing and rating games before the final results are posted. I didn’t play anybody else’s games. I didn’t look for any feedback that may have been left on mine. I didn’t even write this postpartum.

Yes. You read that correctly. I’m actually writing this entire post on August 1st, 2015, just a few weeks before LD33. But I’m setting the date of the entry back to the Friday after the LD31 deadline.

I would later realize that I had become so demotivated by the experience that I hadn’t really been able to get myself to focus (for long) on any kind of game dev for nearly 3 months. It was a major blow, and as explained in the “A Short Backstory” section of Ludum Dare 32 – A Postpartum, I almost didn’t participate in LD32 as a result.

What went well:

  1. The game actually came together pretty quickly and easily for me. I chose to interpret the theme very strictly, putting absolutely everything on one screen aside from splash screens. I probably spent more time working on the UI and polishing little details than I did on getting the gameplay working.
  2. The UI, though a new experience for me (explained in the next section) was nice to work with and made the game look a lot better than my previous forays into GUIs ever had.
  3. This is my first complete project of a local multiplayer game. That said, I haven’t heard any reports of anyone playing it multiplayer.
  4. I feel the game is fairly polished, with little details that help enhance the experience, such as the arena border colors matching the color of the winning player.

What didn’t go so well:

  1. False start on the snowboarding snowman game.
  2. This was just after Unity’s new UI features were released. I had never used it before. I probably should have played around with it before the game jam so I’d know what I was doing. Ultimately I was able to figure it out and get things working within the time constraints, but I probably spent a lot longer on the UI just learning how to use it than necessary.
  3. The enemy AI is really dumb! All they do is randomly choose a direction to turn when they hit a wall, and have a small chance to randomly change directions when they’re not hitting a wall. They often trap themselves out of their own stupidity.
  4. I didn’t enjoy it. Something about the experience was demoralizing and demotivating, even though things generally went well after the initial false start.

I don’t have many good feelings or thoughts to share about this Ludum Dare. I’m just glad it’s over.

Summary

I had a frustrating start to my Ludum Dare 31 experience, which, while technically minor and didn’t truly interfere with me successfully creating a game within 72 hours, completely and totally destroyed my motivation and ability to focus on game dev for the following ~3 months.

That said, I’m always thankful for the support and encouragement of friends and family who enable me to participate in events like this.