You’re tearing me apart: A 4 year Ludum Dare postmortem

I don’t write these often (in fact, I’ve only ever written one, about three and a half years ago). But, Ludum Dare 37 marks my fourth year without missing a single jam, and it’s been a wild ride.

Lets consider this a mega-postmortem.

Some Background

On December 16th, 2012, I submitted my first ever Ludum Dare game, Sammich-Napper. I was only 15 years old, and this was the first time I had ever made games in the public eye. I’d been messing around with little side projects here and there for about a year or so beforehand, but nothing ever publicly available.

Sammich-Napper, my first ever Ludum Dare submission

It wasn’t pretty, it was a boring platformer, and it was probably buggy. But, I made it.

There are aspects of Sammich-Napper I’m still proud of today, like the glass shattering effect, and the unique main menu level. Plus, it laid the groundwork for my next Ludum Dare submission, Fog, which went on to win the 2013 National STEM Video Game Design Challenge.

After Fog, long-time friend and talented artist, Pamela, and I worked together on many Ludum Dare submissions. We also began working with really talented musicians and game audio people in the community.

Our submissions started placing top 50, top 10, and even top 3 in many categories in the case of OMNI, possibly our most popular submission to date.

OMNI, our very popular submission for LD31.

The past year

In 2015 I graduated from high school, and enrolled in a collegiate game design program. I kept up my Ludum Dare streak while in college, met some awesome people (including my teammate, roommate, and best friend, Aidan), and made some really great projects. But, I started losing the motivation, passion, and pride in my work that I had always felt. I was living my dream career, but I wasn’t terribly happy about it, and I couldn’t figure out why.

In the spring of 2016, I submitted my first failed LD game, Clothes. A lot of things went wrong, and the submission was reviewed worse than nearly any of my other submissions had been before. This was a strong final blow to me, having already really lost my passion.

After wrapping up my first year of university, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I wasn’t passionate about games anymore. That was the beginning of a much longer journey, which led to the start of my first long-term project, Noah and The Quest to Turn on The Light

The Light has taken me to a lot of awesome places, and unlocked a lot of doors, but that’s a discussion for another post (I’ve covered this a bit on my personal blog).

Fresh from the cathartic exercise in design that The Light has been for me, and at the start of my second year in uni, I hit Ludum Dare 36 with full force. Working with my roommate, as well as talented musician, Joshua McLean, we made an awesome four-person party game, Bro-Mag Arena. I couldn’t have been more proud of this project. I had more energy and passion then than ever.

Ludum Dare 37

Ludum Dare 37 marks my fourth year without missing a single jam. Not only that, but it was timed very well with a lot of personal and professional development over the past year. As such, I wanted to really test my skills, and join the compo for the first time in a long time, to see how far I’ve come. As it turns out, I’ve come very far.

You’re tearing me apart is a game inspired by the American classic film, The Room. In the game, you play as the character Johnny, a distraught lover caught in a fit of rage over apparent betrayal from everyone around him. In the film, Johnny tears apart the living room of his apartment in his anger, much like his lover and friends had torn him apart.

What went right?

Everything, really. This is the first time I’d ever done 3D artwork for myself in a jam game, and I was really pleased I was able to flex that new skillset.

I have a habit of scoping my jam projects such that I have *just* enough time to finish everything I’d like to, assuming I work nonstop the entire weekend, sleep 4-6 hours a night, and run into no issues. That trifecta rarely worked out, and I often found myself finishing the jam, but very burnt out, and less pleased with the final result than I should have been. This jam, I really tried to focus on keeping the scope really tight, and leaving room to experiment, polish, and enjoy the jam. Most of Sunday was spent playing around with the scoring system, making a pretty itch.io page, and recording foley/VO (something I’ve always wanted to do, but never had the time for). By the end of the jam, not only was I super happy with the product, but I was happy with the weekend, and ready to face the world (and finals week) on Monday.

What went wrong?

I’m not good at foley (yet!). I’m hoping I can dedicate more time in the future to gaining an intuition about what combination of sounds produces what effect.

Future plans?

I’d like to spend some time polishing up You’re tearing me apart. It’s a really nice little piece, and there’s definitely room for improvement. Perhaps I’ll spend some time working on it during The Room Jam. I’d like to add more stuff to the room, as well as play with the scoring mechanism a bit.

It’d also be neat to have a few more callbacks to the movie in the game, other than just the VO, and the file cabinet drawer full of roses.

Ludum Dare in 2017

The past four years have really been amazing. This year, I gave talks across the country on a game I wouldn’t have started without Ludum Dare, and I’ve made great connections with amazing people through that.

Next month, I start a full time job working as a game designer on a research project at my university, as well as a part time position on a research project with game designer, Global Game Jam co-founder, and professor Ian Schreiber. Without my Ludum Dare projects, I wouldn’t have gotten either of these jobs. Those projects make up the large majority of my portfolio. Plus, being able to say that I can make a game from scratch in less than 48 hours, and still want to do it again in 3 months is a pretty large leg up in interviews.

I’m not stopping anytime soon with Ludum Dare. I’m really curious to see how high this year counter can go!

Happy jamming in 2017.

 


This is a lightly edited copy of a post I wrote on my blog for the Ludum Dare game jam website. You can find the original post here.

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