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The making of “Life” for Ludum Dare 44

I try to participate in the Ludum Dare game jam whenever I can to brush up my game dev skills. If you don’t know Ludum Dare, it is essentially a competition to make a game from nothing in 48hours alone (the compo) or in 3 days as a team (the jam). Read more about it on the official website: https://ldjam.com/

If you are a gamedev I highly recommend participating as it will teach you a lot about scope and time management. I have made 6 games so far and still don’t get it right.

The following is a little summary about the game making progress.

Preparation

Like I did for the last couple of game jams I prepared a few things upfront, like setting up a new project, repository, making sure I got fonts etc and can compile the Unity build. You don’t want to waste time during the jam with stuff like that!

Day 1

On Saturday morning 9am (I am located in Perth, Australia) the theme was announced. From here on the clock is ticking, 48h until I have to submit some sort of playable game!

The announced theme wasn’t really that great in my opinion, but what you gonna do, right?

Started the brain engine and came up with some sort of game design, not super clever, but I try not to spend to much time on it. Will need those precious hours to draw and code things so I rather settle on an idea quickly.

As life is supposed to be currency the idea was to make a game about travelling down your own life, paying with your lifetime for guns etc and aging along the way. Maybe a slight social criticism in there. From a visual point I always wanted to try a 2D/3D game where the actors are 2D sprites but travel in a 3D world. So I tried that first with two sprites I literally spent 2seconds drawing. Add in some sort of character controller and off we go:

Ok, got something moving

I setup some material in Unity to have a sprite throw shadows and happy days – seemed that I could achieve my vision with that. Bit more coding and fiddling around and I had this, shooting some balls with lights on them:

Shooting lightning balls, yeah!

Ok, shooting stuff is only fun if you can hit things. So I added some enemy scripts with health indicator and made it flip over when killed:

Die, evil sprite, die!

After all this violent sprite shooting I needed a break and therefore added the only thing that made sense: flowers. Now you can balance your feelings by watching the nice flowers around you during your sprite murder spree.

Flowers are important. Always add flowers.

As it was getting late I needed an actual break and spend some time on the couch, watching movies and drawing pixel sprites for the game on my tablet. Drawing is a good way for me during game jam to relax but still being productive. I drew the main character, a bit of environment, a first enemy type (milk teeth attack you first on your way of life) and a house you can buy.

As enemies fall down when you shoot them it seemed logical that when you pick up things they will stand up. Doing that blocks your view during gameplay, so I added some transparency once you picked it up. Getting a house adds a couple of years to your lifetime.

And that was it for the first day, had some gameplay mechanic, some sprites and a goal to achieve for the next day. Happy to bed at 2am in the morning. So technically it was Day 2 already. But who cares.

Day 2

After some coffee and breakfast right back into the game. Drawing some more bits and making sure the character can actually die.

Flip over, you’re dead!

Adding more environment to make it more interesting, having the lakes and trees block your path. Testing more bullets. Mmm, they look too small.

Lets make the bullets bigger and add some variety, also make it possible to actually pick up new weapons. Getting a weapon costs you lifetime (because chances are you kill yourself with it by accident one day, right?)

From that point on, lots of time I had to spend on balancing things like bullet damage, enemy speed and lifetime which was a bit painful to do. I will remember that for next Ludum Dare and make it more data driven (had to modify a bunch of prefabs all the time).

The enemies I added are related to things that happen in your life, like you get milk teeth that hurt when you’re little, then get broken hearts, maybe broken bones and eventually big bosses that are buying your lifetime with money. Wanted to put way more enemy types in actually, like cigarettes, diseases and such, but was eventually running out of time.

With a bit UI modification, adding more weapons and enemies, creating sound and music, at the end of the day I had this:

After a bit of finetuning I finally created and uploaded the WebGL build at around 2am in the morning and went to bed. Had to go to work the next morning so I was glad to be able to catch some sleep.

Deadline for Ludum Dare here in Perth is 9am on Monday so I still had time to submit the game in the train on the way to work. Just filling in the details on the itch.io page as well as the Ludum Dare submission and off we go – submitted “Life” as my game jam entry 44 – with 11 minutes left on the clock…

w00p w00p! Another game under my belt. Happy days. Thanks for reading!