Get Your Game On with Ludum Dare: Interview with Mike Kasprzak (Part 1)

If you are in any way involved with game development, you’ve probably heard of Ludum Dare, a video game development competition that has been around since 2002. Mike Kasprzak, one of the original organizers of this amazing event, graciously took some time out of his very busy schedule to talk to me about Ludum Dare: what it is, how it got started, his role, and what importance this amazing event holds for those interested in game development as a whole.

What is Ludum Dare?

Ludum Dare is one of the largest and longest running Game Jam events in the world. Three times per year (every April, August and December) we challenge participants to create a game in 48 and 72 hours based on a theme they voted on. With many thousands of participants, our last two events each saw over 2000 games created.

Where does the name “Ludum Dare” come from, and what does it mean?

The words are Latin, "to give" and "game"; Pronunciation is open to interpretation. Ludum Dare started as an online forum some 11-12 years ago. In April 2002 we ran a "make a game from scratch in 24 hours" event (often referred to as Ludum Dare Zero). About 20 of us participated and had a really great time. Literally overnight, the forum became somewhat forgotten and the event became the focus.

Here's an overview video of just one of the Ludum Dare events:

What is your role at Ludum Dare?

I schedule, organize, administrate, handle finances, publicize, and generally run the event. It might be easier to say what I don't do. I did not write the voting backend. That was written by Phil Hassey, a good friend and creator of Galcon. Aside from that, if it's something that needs to be done to make sure the website and the event runs, it's usually me.

How long have you been involved?

I've been involved from the very beginning (April 2002). Ludum Dare was not started by me, but by Geoff Howland. When the original event was announced, I showed up and chatted a bunch with Geoff in Ludum Dare's IRC channel. We must have hit it off, as I was quickly promoted to a moderator there. Geoff eventually lost interest in the event, and several other folks took up the reigns and ran the event away from ludumdare.com. The event was too important to us. We couldn't let it die. At some point I became the one consistent driving force behind the event. Together with Phil Hassey we streamlined things, gave it a consistent schedule, and brought Ludum Dare back to ludumdare.com. Funny enough, all it took was some consistency for the popularity to explode.

What got you interested in the first place?

The absurdity of the challenge: Make a game from scratch in 24 hours. We very quickly realized 24 wasn't enough, and all subsequent events were 48 hours in length. Over the years we've even extended that 48 to an optional 72 hours via our "Jam" event. Not to mention the meaning of "from scratch" has evolved, become more relaxed over the years. Some of our community does wish we still did a very "hardcore from scratch" event, but I do think relaxing was for the best.

In the next part of this interview, we’ll hear what a typical Ludum Dare event looks like (hint: there’s no such thing as a “typical” event), how often these events are held, what kind of parts indie developers play in these challenges, and much more. Stay tuned, game development fans!

 


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