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PRETEND IT MATTERS: LUDUM DARE 30
by nicholas ralabate on 08/26/14 01:51:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

in the spirit of the voluntary chaos-induction that is ludum dare, i'm going to reflect on my project LUDOPHAGIC TIMEWAVE SOUND HYPERWHISTLE in a semi-fragmentary manner.

 

so, up until now i had three personal rules for these things: don't use any text (besides the title), write everything from scratch, and don't stop looking for ideas until you see a borges short story referenced in a nonfictional wikipedia page.  i still like the first one, but those second two have to go.  there are only so many borges stories, so i at least need to expand that criteria to other agentinians and i fucking hate writing movement/collision code.

one neat thing is to print out a screenshot and then put tracing paper on top of it.  it reminds me of a sound trick i never tried, where you listen to the music recording you are working on through a closed door.  as soon as i started tracing my first screenshot, i realized rulekeeper had enough contrast to jump through but i couldn't make out any of the humans.

i've been reading a lot about visual storytelling lately, and it's all head nods and "yes, yes" and "but of course" until the whopper at the end -- it's all about the story.  is it?  i mean, i guess it is because hitchcock/steranko/noble/eisner have made work i can't even begin to approach yet… but do i throw out their advice because i don't want to think of games as stories?  is what they say really what they mean, or is it another way of saying something else?  can i reconcile this by modifying my own personal art history/future structure?  situations…  i've described games to myself that way, situations instead of stories.  or story-generators, that's a trendy way to think around games.  or maybe even 

speaking of steranko, i tried to use "method music" for this game except i couldn't figure out what a completely unbiased judge would listen to.  in fact, they would listen to silence.  i chose tokimonsta's "go with it" at the end, but i know that was cheating.

when i was still with secret library, we spent a few weeks sketching out a first person walker or whatever you want to call it.  i couldn't get past the fact that my world which was so BIG -- like a bunch of meters -- felt absolutely puny.  the problem was that there was no obstacles or obstructions.  i started reading skyrim maps and it looked like a bougie suburban city plan, all cul-de-sacs and dead-ends and obstacles.  blocking your view made the world bigger.  without things in the way, how do you turn the corner and see something new?  towards the end of the jam i started wondering about my own plane, the big honking rectangle field in the middle of the screen.  it felt the same way, i see this all at once i am not impressed.  i turned down the saturation on everything which almost helped, but i should have hidden it more.  i used to know a guy that designed lines at disney world, i wonder what he thinks about nooks and bends. 

also secret library, when we were coming up with ideas matt marchini would sometimes suggest we play them in our head for a while first.  i never really got good at that.  the second night of the jam i tried to play what i had in my head while i fell asleep.  all the colors were off and the proportions were a bit fish-eyed…  but it sort of worked.  after that, i tried to jump into first person mode, to BE the judge watching the match.  that also worked but was a bit eerie.  being surrounded by glitchy soccer players the size of refrigerators, solid colored and faceless, was a bit horrifying.  it was like dancer in the dark, but nutcracker choreography instead of abstractly oriented industrial machines.

sleep: two nightmares both about toliets.  one toilet made of dover art books, stacked three feet high.  the next night, a toilet made of water.  i wish instead of free unity pro licenses we got neofreudian dream interpreter skype coupons.

reading: the first night, no borges but read cortazar for the first time.  if i get nothing else of this one, i get that.  i must be a horder, i always want little cultural anchors for the things i make.  somebody was telling me about a book horder episode where they wrote where the bought/acquired/received each book they had; i thought it was really romantic.

reading: like some drunken kabbalist i was searching shakespeare and the bible, thesauri and thoreau for little theme words.  i thought i saw something in an outkast lyric.  i thought i saw something in an article about organ transplant recipients who started to experience the memories of the organ donor.  i tried to force (for the second time) and idea about open individualism.

reading: like an asshole, i read alan moore talk about how kirby looked for the good ones and didn't just re-spin and re-use… and what do i do?  decide to read kirby.  that's me.  it's a good quote though:

"Whenever you get creators talking about some inherent fall or failure in the medium or in any particular genre, they are mainly talking about their own flaws and failings in their own creativity. You can't blame the medium: "I guess there weren't that many super-hero ideas. I guess that we've used them all up." It reminds me of the ancient Greeks when they were coming up with all these myths in the first place. The world of ideas is inexhaustible and infinite. You just have to find them, which an awful lot of people are not prepared to do. They'd rather let someone like Jack Kirby do all the hard work and mining and the back-breaking; mining an industry for thirty or forty years and then the nuggets that he happens to throw to the surface always find them and they put a new spin on them. They don't want to do the hard work themselves. This is not a blanket condemnation of the whole industry. I think it's fair to say there are a number of people in the industry who are much happier sort of working with stuff that's already been placed, rather than to try and build up their creative muscles and do some of that work themselves. But that's just my own particular feeling I'm sure."

reading: down in the sparse graph of thoreau grepping i realize that the middle of "economy" and the end of "conclusion" sound like the exact same idea (i am very tired at this point).  it makes me wonder about him, and melville too.  i love everything about moby dick except the whale story.  why couldn't they just publish books of aphorisms?  nietzche did just a few years later, was it a cultural thing.  do i just want aphorisms because i'm getting lazy?  i'm pretty sure taleb just wrote a book of aphorisms about being an asshole to lazy people.

reading: i decide to name my game after a phrase in walden.  it doesn't make any sense, it actually makes anti-sense (visually).  i keep it for a while, then use a phrase from academic game theory (in retrospect, a spectacular combo of boring and pretentious) then discover the word GLOTTOPHAGY and fall in love.  what would it be like for a game to die like a lost language?  luckily, we know the answer to that question.  spoken languages are stronger than nintendo emulators, stronger than hardcore gaming 101.

coding: oh jesus, i forgot everything.  i don't really make bugs per se, but so slow.  more to the point, afraid.  i dance around doing it, read articles about doing it, see if anybody else has done it, worry about doing it.  once i do it, it's like three lines.  in a game jam, you have to pretend everything hard is easy because there is no time.  i need to internalize that mindset.  it's opposite in "big/real" games, you have to pretend everything easy is hard because shit takes forever when there is no external deadline.

coding: it feels like the openframeworks documentation is 90% EDIT THIS PAGE overhead and 10% actually what i want to know.  LÖVE had wonderful documentation, always there for you in a pinch.  i can't go back though, i'm too enamored with one-liner ffts and simplex noise (they are both probably in LÖVE now).

music: for what feels like the eighteenth time in a row (probably accurate) i use canned samples without even making an effort to alter the pitch or volume of the played back canned samples.  i found a really nice recipe for a fm synth whistle here:

http://stimresp.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/tempest-recipes-apito-whistle/

but i just whipped it up in nano studio's eden synth and played it back CANNED.  how much cooler if i was synthing on the fly…  a whistle should be playful.  it's a whistle, for god's sake!  mechanics-wise, i considered asking the player to blow short-medium to signify halftime and then short-medium-long to signify game over.  as it turns out, i didn't come anywhere close to refining my whistle play so it sort of didn't matter.

rules: i wrote down a little schedule for the last four hours:

5:00 gameover/rules
6:00 vfx/title
7:00 audio
8:00 package/write
9:00 DONE

so i guess i only spent one of the seventy-two hours encoding my rules.  i ended up with only three:

1. signify goal with whistle
2. signify out-of-bounds with whistle
3. don't blow your whistle if there wasn't a goal or out-of-bounds

LET THE KIDS PLAY, you know what i mean?  i actually don't really, but i came across that quote reading an article about the nba scandal where tim donaghy claimed the 2002 playoffs were rigged.  LET THE KIDS PLAY is about as semantically vacant as IT IS WHAT IT IS.

rules: boy i wish i had figured two other rules:

4. you only see a N-RADIUS amount of the field, centered around your eye
5. don't touch the ball

i feel like those would have added some much-need move incentive.  i considered having the crowd throw bananas if you stood still, but that didn't make very much sense.  as it is, wasd to move is actually irrelevant.  the reason i didn't add N-RADIUS is that i couldn't figure out how to make a little circular cutout around the player.  i could have sworn LÖVE could do that with a scissor/stencil but i didn't have enough time to figure it out in open frameworks.

finishing: fuck, it doesn't work! 8:30 and it doesn't work! i had exactly one person interested by a screenshot (thanks seiji) but it doesn't run on his system.  i frantically read about the GLFW/SDL underpinnings of open frameworks, tried a few different resolutions and eventually gave up.  after seventy-two hours i just wanted to eat something that wasn't coffee or cigarettes and take a walk.

body: seventy-two hour jams seem a lot less healthy than forty-eight hour jams.  go figure!  i didn't not sleep or anything, just attention-wise.  the first night was pretty nice, spent with compatriot carlos quinones, but that was just rabbit holing into wikipedia.  the actual draw/code/music part was spent hunched over a laptop.  i did build a stand-up desk at my new apartment, but it balances precariously on cinderblocks and the last thing i needed during ludum dare was a face full of broken monitor.

human touch: for some reason, i fixated on having the player walk the ball back to the midfield after a goal, and then blow the whistle to begin play.  i liked the idea of the ref/judge/impartial-nobody being center stage for a few seconds in-between.

drawing: markers, whoa.  i've been getting too into felt-tip pens lately, but these markers the amount you can cover in a second is unreal.  they are like the flood fill of analog art.  i used a scanner for the first time on the second day.  i contemplated using that as my background straight-up, but was put off by the thought of matching everything to it.  have you ever made a mix tape that goes from a snes track to something with acoustic guitar and vocals?  it's impossible, right?  i worried it would be like that.

drawing: i keep thinking about using reference when i draw/model… it's something i've never really done.  but then i went to school for programming and it was all RTFM and what is drawing from reference but RTFM.  i didn't really have a reference though, so when i came to the part of my four-hour schedule where i had to pick colors a basically panicked and used the digital color meter to match my scanned-in index card color sketch.

sleep: i decline to draw sharp lessons from this, no what-went-right or what-went-wrong.  each new approach has a little of both.  i do know that ludum dare after four months hiatus is a little much.  i also know my color chords and collision code are rougher than volcanic rock, going to hit that hard this week.


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