Ludum Dare 45 – Fan The Flames

Fan The Flames –

This past weekend I participated in the Ludum Dare 45 (LD). Its a biannual game jam where you’re tasked with creating a full featured game within 48 hours as a solo developer (compo), or 72 hours as a team (jam). The theme is announced at 6 PM EST on Friday.

The rules are simple, if you do the 48 hour compo, as a solo developer you need to create everything (art, programming, sound). The 72 hour jam allows multiple team members, and allots an extra 24 hours of development time.

Prior to the jam a voting process occurs where popular suggestions are floated to the top and a final theme is chosen. During this time I try to brainstorm at least one game idea for each of the possible themes on the final round. While this theme wasn’t my favorite, I had an idea and figured we’d run with it.

The idea centered around a campfire in a winter theme. The player needed to craft tools, harvest materials and keep the fire going while the environment fought back and tried to extinguish it. Thus Fan The Flames was born.

I started at 6PM on Friday and I knew I wanted procedural generation, but I had to keep the process simple, I opted for a small side scrolling level, with minimal platforming abilities. I had to keep the art style simple as well, I’m not an artist and my pixel art skills are below average at best.

  • Simple Art
  • Crafting System
  • Weather System
  • Day Night system
  • Tools
  • Inventory

These are the core features and as I kept planning sacrifices had to be made. I felt like the scope for a 48 hour was ambitious. I opted for no inventory system and would only allow the player to carry one item.

While I did complete the game and I felt accomplished, I learned a lot. First and foremost, I needed to focus more time on player controls and a tutorial. Players opening the game had no idea what to do, unless reading the Ludum Dare page. This broke immersion, the initial build had too many controls. Pickup and drop were separate keys, feed the fire was a separate key, it became really cumbersome to play and too many options were present. Allowing the player to only carry one item was a design choice, it was very cumbersome as the snowfall will continue to impede movement. I gave the player no tools to start and they should be able to at least use their hands at a reduced rate to accomplish something. A crafting recipe indicator was required, players had no idea how to craft items and I ended up releasing the crafting list after publishing.

It was a good experience overall, I learned more about game design than programming or technical work and I think some very valuable lessons were gleaned. I look forward to the next Ludum Dare in April 2020.

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