Ludum Dare is a game development competition that has been around since 2002. Mike Kasprzak, one of the original organizers of this amazing worldwide event, graciously took some time out of his very busy schedule to talk to me about Ludum Dare. In part one of this series, we learned what exactly Ludum Dare is, where the name comes from, and Mike’s role in this incredible ongoing game development event. In part 2 of this interview, we’re going to learn what a Ludum Dare event looks like, how often they’re held, and the different challenges that have arisen out of the larger events.
What does a “regular accelerated game development Event” look like?
It's one intense weekend!
One way to get a feel for how things are is to check out some of the time-lapse videos recorded during the event. YouTube is full of them. 48 and 72 hours condensed in to ~5 minutes. For example:
Creating Prelude of the Chambered
How often are Ludum Dare events held? Are there different types of challenges?
We run main events 3 times per year, every April, August and December.
We also run a special event in October called the October Challenge. This one is a little different, something I started 4 years ago to encourage people to try making money from their game development efforts (earn just $1). As a full time independent game developer myself, something I've learned is that there are just so many lessons to learn in trying to make money from games. So the October Challenge is my way of encouraging more people to try it, to take those first steps towards making money from games.
Finally, in all the off months, members of the community run smaller events called Mini LD's (Mini Ludum Dare). They are free to decide what the theme of the events are (where typically Ludum Dare themes are voted on). They are also encouraged to try things that wouldn't work during our main events.
So yeah, as far as schedules go ours is quite full.
Is this strictly for indie developers, and can you work as a team?
It's open to anyone. I know of many AAA developers that have left their jobs to pursue Indie games as a result of events like ours (myself included). Just as I know of many students and hobbyist developers that have landed jobs as a result of games created for Ludum Dare. I've done hiring at game studio many many years ago. Back then events like Ludum Dare weren't as popular yet, and most people applying for jobs didn't have games in their portfolio. Nowadays Game Jams are so popular there's one running practically every weekend somewhere. There's really no excuse for someone passionate about making games to not have anything to show anymore.
As for teams, the core Ludum Dare event called the "Compo" is a solo 48 hour event. That said, we introduced a new simultaneous event a few years ago called the "Jam". The Jam is our 72 hour event where teams are allowed. It's also designed in such a way that if you started out in the Compo but needed more time, it makes sense to just switch over to the Jam instead. The Compo is still our most popular event, but we're seeing more and more impressive team games coming out of the Jam every time.
How polished are these games created in just one weekend?
It varies, and that's part of what makes it really great. There's not much time to seriously refine and polish a game, so time is instead spent on the core game itself instead of unimportant details. For a developer this can be a very liberating process. It is way too easy to get caught up in the details
That said, we do see some extremely impressive games with just enough polish. Participants get to play and rate games create by others, which helps us find these gems. We've tried to find the right balance of categories to highlight a wide variety of polish aspects, from graphics and audio, to mood and humor.
Have you seen developers continue to work on games created in these events and make them available to the public?
Absolutely. This is highly encouraged. We've even seen people have significant financial success doing exactly this. The event has no prizes, but we like to say "Your prize is your product". For some people this "prize" can be really life changing.
In the next part of our interview with Mike, we’ll learn more about the most current Ludum Dare event, what Mike’s personal preference is as far as themes, the judging process, and oh yeah – the prizes! Stay tuned!