The Value of Ludum Dare

Ludum Dare is a 48 hour game development competition that runs every four months. It has been going for over ten years now, with the latest competition attracting 2,346 entries (2,346 games created in a single weekend!).

I have entered it several times, and it is hard work: you can use existing libraries and frameworks, but all other code and assets must be created during the competition. You have just 48 hours to come up with an idea (related to the given theme), design it, develop it, refine it, playtest it, bugfix it, and release it. Based on my experience, most game developers have never even released a single *complete* game.

The prize for giving up a weekend, potential working through the night, then spending several weeks playing and rating other people’s games?

Nothing.

There are no prizes, monetary or otherwise. So why would you subject yourself to this? Why have I subjected myself to it four times now? Why am I hugely excited to subject myself to it again?

For me personally, there are a number of reasons:

I’ve discovered just what I’m capable of
Even during finals at university, or in the 24 hours before my final year project was due, I don’t think I’ve ever worked as hard as I have during Ludum Dare. It’s great to know how much I can achieve in such a short timescale when working at my full capacity

You’re all in it together
The competition isn’t what draws me in so much – it’s more knowing that several thousand other game devs are in it with you, slogging away over their keyboards trying to make something great. Seeing countless eager devs on IRC bashing F5 in the seconds before the theme is posted, constant progress updates flooding onto the website, and watching prototypes grow over the 48 hours are just a handful of the great community aspects of Ludum Dare.

I actually finish something
I’m sure a lot of people can relate to the issue I often have of starting a project, being incredibly motivated initially, then losing motivation as I reach the more boring parts or scope creep kicks in, then finding myself moving onto something else. Ludum Dare forces you to keep the scope in check, to plan carefully, and to show something to the world.

I get to try new things
For my first entry, I figured I wouldn’t get very far anyway, so I decided to double the challenge and use the Flixel library for the first time. I had previously heard good things about this library, but had been putting off trying it out as I was in the middle of several other projects. I did a few warmup tests before the competition, but the first few hours still felt like a bit of a waste as I was constantly looking up how to do the most basic things. However, by the end of the first day I had powered ahead with a refined prototype and, in the process, fell in love with Flixel.
As expected, my game didn’t do too well, but it did force me to experiment with new things that I probably never would have gotten around to otherwise.

Sometimes, I make something pretty good
While my first entry ranked a measly 231st overall, both my last two entries have placed in the top 50 games. Considering the amazing competition, I’m proud of this. More importantly, due to the great press I received on my last game, I’m in the process of remaking it from the ground up along with a great artist to make it look pretty.

Next Ludum Dare: The weekend of August 23rd

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