Jason Deacon Team : Web Development Tags : Technology Programming Featured

Alternate Passions - Game Development

Jason Deacon Team : Web Development Tags : Technology Programming Featured

Wiliam has many talented and passionate people working to build top quality sites each and every day. But for many of us websites are not the only things that we are passionate about.

My interest lies in game development and this weekend just past I participated in a global game development competition called Ludum Dare.

The premise is that you have 48 hours to make a game, start to finish, by yourself and using no premade assets (sounds, graphics, music, code, etc). The only caveat to these core rules is that you are able to use public middleware such as Unity3D, Flash. You can use other miscellaneous third-party code libraries so long as they are open and free to use, so if you've built one over time that you like to use, you can make it public and then it's okay to use.

The theme this time around was 'Beneath the surface' and I decided to make a very simple infinite runner game where the player was being 'attacked' by something beneath the surface and had to evade it by jumping or sliding. Total build time was 10 or 12 hours all up.

(Feel free to play it, it's a 6MB download, Windows only)

Here's some of the questions I almost always get asked when people find out that I participate in these kinds of events:

Q: What's the prize?
A: As people familiar with Ludum Dare will know, "The prize is the game". There are no monetary or material rewards. Instead you have the game you won with and the knowledge that your peers voted your game the best of the bunch. That's pretty awesome in itself.

Q: Do you just work 48 hours straight?
A: No. In fact project management is a skill you learn very quickly when doing these kinds of competitions. And a core component of project management is time management. Working 48h straight will degrade the quality and efficiency of your output and you won't meet the deadline. Sleep is critical and the times when I have neglected sleep I have not met the deadline.

Q: What's the theme?
A: The theme is chosen over 5 voting rounds on the week leading up to the actual Ludum Dare. The winning theme is announced as soon as the Ludum Dare officially commences which means you typically spend the first 10-60 minutes brainstorming and working out scope.

Q: How often does Ludum Dare happen?
A: It occurrs roughly every 4 months which means about 3 times per year. Typically April, August and December.

Q: How many people participate?
A: It varies between events, but anywhere from 1500 to 3600 developers participate world wide.

Q: Do you have to build the game using a specific piece of software or specific programming language?
A: Nope, you can build a game for Web, Windows, OSX, iPad, Atari ST, Windows Phone or any other platform, in any software or language you like. One gotcha with this however, is that people have to be able to play your game in order to vote on it. So if you make your game for the Atari ST and submit it, that's all well and good, but the chances that someone else will have an Atari ST (or properly configured emulator) to play it on is almost non-existant, so you won't get many votes, if any.

Q: Why do you do it if you don't get anything from it?
A: I do get something from it. My passion is game development and I find that these short-term game dev comps help refine the most critical skill that anyone can learn.. which is the ability to set a scope and finish what you started. They also act as short distraction from larger game dev projects which I may be working on at the time which can be a good thing.

Q: How many have you done?
A: I've participated in about 6 or 7, but only submitted games for 4. Some devs like to submit games which are non-functional, but I set a (albeit low) standard for what I will and won't submit.