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The Journey East Postmortem: 8 tips to make good games in less than 5 hours

by Jack Galler on 01/07/16 02:29:00 pm   Featured Blogs

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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.


The Ludum Dare always yields a lot of crazy results, and I'm proud to be at the forefront of that this time. After working on a game Friday - Saturday and scrapping it (it was too complex for the remaining day I had), I figured I was dead in the water. Rejecting failure, I decided to give it one last shot. In the end, I made a pretty fun game I was very proud of. Here are some tips to survive doing the Ludum Dare in 5 hours.

  1. Don't panic - With literally five hours to go, I could of spent time wallowing in my own sadness and thinking about how poor time management I had. I didn't. Just work through your regrets, and soon you'll be making something you're proud of.
  2. Caffeine - I drank an entire caffeinated beverage within 2 minutes before I started, and it gave me a huge boost of energy without it. I also played some fast beated music to keep myself moving and working forwards instead of looking back.
  3. Easy Theme Integration - the easiest way to put the theme into your game is to cook it into the engine, that way players will always experience, and you build your game around it. For the theme "2 Button Control," it was especially easy to do.
  4. Simple Engine - I spent about half an hour on the engine for The Journey East. I just picked a gameplay style I was comfortable with, an made a simplified version of it. Because of this, I made a platformer system that could be controlled with 2 buttons.
  5. Rapid design - don't spend a lot of time on planning what you want to make, just work on making and adjusting it. The only design outline I gave myself was 4 types of worlds that I could use - forest, desert, water, and sky. I ended up scrapping water because it didn't work well, which leads me into the next point.
  6. If it's broke, scrap it - Time is of the essence. So, if you're spending more than 10 minutes trying to get something trivial to work, do something different.
  7. Keep playing around - When I first added the snake enemy, I just thought I'd use it a few times. The more I playtested the game, the more fun the snake was as an enemy. So, I gave it two variants - red snake which lunges at you, and blue snake that adjusts its speed constantly.
  8. Evolutionary level design - For level design, I'd place down some stuff in random spots and then build off that. Very rarely would I have a design in mind beforehand,  usually the designs were just refined and then refined further. After I created all the levels, I created details to instersperse - trees, bushes, the sun and moon, and stars.
  9. Efficient Playtesting - I would play through each level twice each, to ensure that I could figure out how difficult each stage actually was. Then I'd tweak the stages accordingly. I set up a keyboard shortcut to automatically take me to the last stage created, which helped a lot.
  10. Time Management - I gave myself good general deadlines - "Finish this world within an hour. Use the last hour for sound and playtesting." I made sure the deadlines were flexible enough that I could work on things a little extra if they needed more help. At the same time, I made sure the deadlines would keep things rigid and planned out, as not to run out of time. 

You can check out the Kickstarter for the game here, there is a demo included on the page (which is my LD entry).

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