How Not to Make a Game in 48 Hours

How Not To Make a Game in 48 Hours

This past November I participated in my first Ludum Dare, a game jam event in which teams and individuals create games over a weekend. There’s a theme, which was “the more you have the worse it is”.

My submission,

was a difficult, endless arcade platformer in which you have to help an increasing number of characters (pigs) climb up a tower of platforms.

You can try it out here if you like. Oh, and it looked like this:

A snapshot of a typical play of Npigs

Okay, now, let’s talk about where it all went wrong.

  • The game is too hard to begin with. If you’re not one who has played a lot of platformers, it will seem unfairly difficult to you.
  • For those who manage to acquire lots of pigs, they start to seem much more like a nuisance than a mechanic.
  • The camera is very tightly following the currently selected pig. This makes everything seem too jerky for many players.
  • Once you get very far up the tower, it becomes almost impossible to tell how far each pig is relative to one another.

Alright, it was certainly a flawed game, which you can certainly conclude from the ratings themselves:

Pretty decent considering there were over 3000 games submitted!

This is a little disappointing, sure, but we’re all about positivity and learning from failure here on! Let’s consider what I could’ve done to improve my little game:

  • The start of the game could really use a better tutorial and much easier and forgiving jumps. I wouldn’t change the level of gravity much, or the controls, because I and many others rather liked them.
  • Much fewer pigs, or perhaps make it easier to lose them so most players won’t end up with a major surplus. This would also affect other parts of the game, which would need to be modified (like falling deaths).
  • As for the camera, it could really just be dampened (slowly moves towards the current pig instead of simply snapping to it).
  • A friend of mine suggested that a vertical mini-map would really help the issue of disorientation. Something like the below image, where the middle line is the current position, and the other lines are your pigs relative to your current position.

See, so many darn learning opportunities!

Now. We’ve learned from my mistakes, but what about all the other participants? Surely I’m not the only one who made something flawed. Well, you’re right on the money.

I played a heck of a lot of games this Ludum Dare, and I’ve noticed a few things.

  • Putting your game on helps quite a bit. It widens your audience some, and itch has great Ludum Dare integration to help you get some more votes (which are not actually as important as one might assume).
  • If you really want to “win” at Ludum Dare, you don’t need a lot of votes and attention. All you really need is 20. 20 good votes are infinitely better than 100 average votes. In other words, don’t worry about popularity.
  • Having an existing following or popularity from somewhere besides LD will help get your game some more attention. (Something I definitely did not have)
  • Have a forgiving learning curve! Games that start off too difficult will really turn players off.
  • No game with poor visuals has ever made it big. Period. I’m not saying it has to be stunning, (mine certainly isn’t) just that it can’t look like you don’t give a hoot about the way it looks.
  • Web games do much better than download-only games because quite a few people really can’t be asked to download anything. It’s pretty tough to excuse not learning a framework that supports HTML5 these days, anyways.
  • Visiting what I said a bullet point ago… great visuals or a deep story don’t matter if it’s not addictive and fun. Sounds obvious, but I’ve seen a lot of submissions that don’t follow this guideline.
  • It’s better to have no audio than bad audio. If your game doesn’t need music, don’t throw something awful together and fire it in. Just don’t.
  • Multiplayer games rarely do well, most likely because most people are sitting around playing a ton of games en masse all by themselves.
  • Lastly, if you have time, add an online leaderboard. This just might help motivate players to come back to check on it.

Well, that about does it. Let me know if this helped you at all, either with working on your own submission or just understanding why your submission did poorly. Thanks for reading!


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