So this will be a post mortem of Ludum Dare #39 and my entry Drain.
For those that are unaware, the Ludum Dare (pronounced loodum dah-ray) Compo is a game competition where a single person has 2 days to create a game completely from scratch. There are actually two competitions, but the other one is for teams and is called the Jam. You have to create all art, music, sounds, etc. in 2 days along with the code for gameplay etc. You are allowed to start with base code which is a little bit vague but since this is based on the honor system, it’s up to your own best judgement.
At the start of the competition, 6:00 PM PST on a Friday, a theme is revealed and your game *should* be inspired by the theme.
This has been the year of game jams for me. I have participated in a handful and have done pretty well so far, but all of them have been at least a week long, most a couple weeks long, nevertheless I felt prepared and have a pretty good game dev methodology which works for me being a one man band.
So anyways… all day Friday I am on the edge of my seat to find out what the theme will be. It could be really good, or really bad, or somewhere in the middle.
At 6:00… the theme is revealed and it is Running out of Power.
I had already decided that I would be spending all of Friday evening doing nothing but planning out the game and scheduling the next two days, so my lovely wife and I had a nice dinner and then I sat down with my trusty notebook and started planning.
So there you can see some of my initial ideas for the game. Drain is the story of a man that is in a coma, that can take energy from lights and such and transfer that to other lights, doors, etc. to reach the end of the game. While doing the game, you power some audio logs (cliche but pressed for time) which are of your son talking. You learn that they are about to pull the plug on you because you are brain dead and your son won’t give up and keeps talking to you.
So Friday, I planned out the game and scheduled my time.
As you can see from above, I took this picture after I had already completed some of the tasks, but you get the idea.
I went to bed at a reasonable time on Friday, probably around 9:00PM and woke up bright and early Saturday morning at 6:00 AM.
I made some coffee and got right to work on Saturday. I already knew the tools I would be using
- Unity 2017.1
- Visual Studio
- Garage Band (iPad)
But the one thing I hadn’t yet figured out is what text to speech generator I would use. I spent about 30 mins researching and discovered Amazon Polly and was completely blown away. I actually got shivers when I heard it pronounce the one audio log I had written. Here you can hear an example:
So having discovered that, I went right into core gameplay design and had the basics working in about 2 hours. I quickly knocked the items off my list and by around 1:30PM I had everything done that I had scheduled for Saturday except for the music. I left the computer and took my iPad to the couch and composed music for another hour and then was done for the day at 2:30!
Here is one of the songs I came up with during that 1 hour period.
This isn’t Beethoven or anything, but nevertheless I was pretty happy with the musical composition on the game. So that wraps up Saturday, I spent the rest of the day enjoying life and not thinking too much about the game.
I woke up early again on Sunday and got right to work on my tasks for the day. I had reserved Sunday for finishing up the level/puzzle design and doing all the little stuff that you never think about (e.g. screen shots, videos, publishing, etc.)
I got the level done by around noon and was happy with the game. I used Fraps to generate some screen shots and videos and created a quick gameplay preview.
I then published it to ldjam.com and called it a day.
Overall, the comments on the game have been very complimentary with the major complaint being that the game is too dark (lighting level wise). That was always my original goal, having you transfer light from one to another to make your way through the game, but I completely agree with the reviews and after I went back and played the game, I discovered that I had trouble as well. There has been almost universal praise for the audio and music design for the game which is what I also consider the strong points.
I had never done a Ludum Dare before, but I created a schedule, stuck to the schedule, and finished the game with plenty of time to spare. I am happy with my entry and of course have 100s of things that I would change if I could, but I can’t so I can only use those as learning experiences for the next jam.
You can play Drain on itch.io right in your browser
Update: I added a version which has more ambient light so it’s easier to play