What is it?
In a sentance, the Ludum Dare is an event that acts as a focal point for learning how to eschew distraction and unnecessary complication. I encourage you to check it out!
The theme this year was Entire Game on One Screen, and my entry is called Asteroid Miner.
Why did I participate?
I absolutely love this “competition” because it emphasizes the process of creating something over the final product. Certainly, high scores and premium placement post-competition are desireable, but not so desirable that they become an overriding focus for participants.
Above all, it’s an opportunity to mark dedicated time on my calendar for practice of a skill that requires perpetual attention to master: the ability to focus and perform efficiently, simply, and quickly.
What Went Right?
- My wife was absolutely amazing – it is very important to have the support of those you love and respect when every part of you is tired and your mind is practically putty. Every word of encouragment helps renew commitement to the process of seeing the 48-hours through.
- Tooling – I made a concious effort to look back at my previous entries and use only tooling that I felt I did good work with. To that end, I used LÖVE – a framework that you script with Lua. Not my favorite language, but the community is solid, the documentation is good, and the tools are easy to dive into.
- Twitter turned out to be a very motivating tool – #LDJAM was trending so every tweet got quite a bit of attention, this was really the first time I’ve interacted with complete strangers so actively. Normally I just lurk in social environments, but this was definitely a positive experience and it makes me curious how much more useful it could be.
- GifGrabber and ImageOptim are two fantastic tools for generating short little progress “videos” – and the “videos” were a motivation all in themselves. After taking a series of these throughout my game, it let me reflect on my progress much more visually that a static screenshot (or nothing at all) would. This is surprisingly powerful, epsecially when you are working on something that is very dynamic and visual by nature.
- I stayed hydrated and didn’t starve myself – seemingly irrelevant maybe, but this is an important one. Learned that lesson long ago.
- My recent (incomplete) dive into 2d game physics really helped out. Not a particuarly impressive example, but I was quite proud of myself when I finished the code to dynamically create polygonal circles, then deform them in such a manner to make them appear to be odd-shaped asteroids! It was a moment that I would have normally gone hunting for examples online. This time I thought through the entire problem, and already knew how to solve it. Such a small thing, but so very motivating.
What Went Wrong?
- Distraction! I spent about 3 hours watching TV that I could have been making my game better! To be fair, some level of distraction is required to maintain sanity in stressful situations, but 3 hours seems to be more than I needed.
- I didn’t didn’t stop when I was getting tired on the second night… which just put me behind – not only did I make bad decisions, I ended up short changing myself by over-sleeping the next day and not getting as much work done as I could have.
- If economy of time is important, don’t explore unfamiliar tools, and if you do have to, make certain they are the right tool for the job before you invest time into using them. In my case, this was
love.physics. Really cool, but way over-kill, and trying to use it cost me about 4-hours of work.
What Can I Do Better Next Time?
- Don’t use unfamiliar tools
- Sleep on a schedule
- Less distraction
Everytime I participate, it strengthens my ability to just get stuff done and forces me out of the “decision paralysis” mindset. All to often it is easy to get into a state where analysis of a problem turns into decision paralysis. This state is the death of productivity of any kind, and turns into avoidance or pure laziness. Bad habits.
This was my first participation in the Ludum Dare in about a year, and I’m glad I did it. Will I be doing this again? If life permits (and it is a priority of mine to make sure it does), you bet!