Ludum Dare 46
Every 6 months (in October and April), I try to participate in a game jam called Ludum Dare. Ludum Dare is an online event where games are made from scratch in a weekend. You can make any type of game you want, as long as it’s all done in 48 hours (There is also a more relaxed version that allows for 72 hours). The short timeline isn’t the only catch, however. The game you make is supposed to be inspired by a theme, which isn’t revealed until the moment the Jam starts.
I was busy the past couple of Ludums, but I was able to scratch out some time in LDJam 46. Yes, that was way back in April 2020, and yes, I am only now getting around to writing this post-mortem on it.
Keep It Alive – 2 hours into the Jam
The theme of LDJam 46 was “Keep It Alive”. I usually end up taking a couple hours to think through the theme, but for this round I just kept coming back to the idea of an EKG monitor.
ludum dare 46 theme is keep it alive. I think I’m gonna do an EKG monitor/flappy bird clone mashup thing. pic.twitter.com/DFQL917deR— Brandon Pomeroy (@AchillePomeroy) April 18, 2020
A couple factors led to this being the idea I went with:
- Simple Graphics: It’s very important in jams where you have very limited time to keep asset creation simple. Even doing simple 2D sprites can be a huge time sink.
- Tight Gameplay Loop: I like games that are easy to get into, addictive, and fast to restart if you fail. A Flappy-bird style clone ticked all those boxes.
- High amount of Polish: In previous game jams, I hadn’t spent a lot of time on things like menus, sound effects, or music… There was just too much else to do! This time, I specifically budgeted time for this.
- Small Scope: All of the above points enable my real goal of the jam – a small scoped project I could feasibly say was 100% done at the end of the weekend. Avoiding feature creep and being strict on time management are two skills game jams make you really appreciate!
I’ve participated in some jams that I pulled all-nighters to work on, and I didn’t really feel like doing that with this one. I ended up being quite relaxed with my “work hours”, and only worked on the jam during a time I would be awake normally.
The Software Stack
The Core Gameplay – 12 hours into the Jam
You control the line of an EKG, avoiding obstacles that spawn at semi-random intervals:
core gameplay basically done.— Brandon Pomeroy (@AchillePomeroy) April 18, 2020
⏺ mechanic to encourage players to maintain “heartbeat” pattern
⏺ polish pic.twitter.com/vfQ62oblVc
There are actually no pre-made graphics in this game. All the graphics are generated on the fly using Unity’s LineRenderer. Even this simple up/down obstacle avoider was pretty fun, so I was quite motivated to spend the rest of the weekend on making it pretty.
Making It Pretty – 32 hours into the Jam
At this point I had added in a proper menu and game states. You can start a game, restart or change options if you fail, and quit. I’m also quite proud of the background animation in the main menu.
Added some polish! Also added in menu systems.— Brandon Pomeroy (@AchillePomeroy) April 19, 2020
Next steps are sounds, music, and some sort of scoring pic.twitter.com/GkraepjVsi
High Scores and Combos! – 48 hours into the Jam
At this point the game was functional and fun, but there wasn’t too much of a challenge to it. To encourage players to keep playing, I implemented a high score system that tracks how many points you get. Points are based on how long you’ve “Kept it alive”, as well as a score multiplier based on movement. If a player moved in a way a traditional EKG does (Up… Down… Up… Down… etc.), they could get up to a x8 combo! This simple change added a ton of strategy to the game, as trying to maintain the combo often caused players to take more dangerous routes through obstacles.
Background music and sound effects were created (hope it sounds good, im tone deaf so i can’t tell!)— Brandon Pomeroy (@AchillePomeroy) April 20, 2020
Also implemented a combo system to encourage players to maintain a “realistic” heartbeat pattern pic.twitter.com/qHJKrTZ7MJ
I also implented different causes of “death” for the EKG. If you hit an obstacle, you get a heart attack. If you just hold a button and try to slide along the top or the bottom, you flatline. If you spam movements too fast, you risk death by Tachycardia!
Multiplatform and Sounds! – Jam’s almost done!
Since this game was inspired quite a bit by Flappy Bird, it seemed logical to bring it to the mobile world. One of the nicest things about working with Unity is that you can target mobile, web, or desktop devices with very little overhead (As long as you plan for it from the beginning!).
I was also able to implement the sound effects and music, though I’m not sure what to think of them. I’m certainly no composer, but hopefully it doesn’t sound too bad!
Now it works on phones!— Brandon Pomeroy (@AchillePomeroy) April 20, 2020
Only 3 hours left to submit 😬😬 pic.twitter.com/DU04ubsVr0
Here is my submission page for the event.. I’m really happy with the final results – Out of 4,959 entries, I came in 516th overall. My best category was “Theme” and I came in 73rd. Top 100 ain’t bad!
You can play the game online by clicking here to go to my itch.io page. There are also downloads available for PC and Android. For best graphics and sound quality, download the 64 bit Windows .zip file and play from there.
This was a fun project to work on, I hope you enjoy it too!
Let me know what you think of this article on twitter @AchillePomeroy or leave a comment below!