Game Design Game Development Geek / Technical

LD50: A Very Long Task List, Only 12 Hours Left, and a Short Pep Talk for You #LDJam #LD50

Last night I realized that other than a bunch of disconnected notes and a few disconnected images I made, I didn’t have a rough plan in place, and it made it more difficult to move the project forward.

So I made myself a plan. Normally I use a spreadsheet and track weekly tasks, but I think for a 48-hour compo a simple TODO list in a text file works.

Right away, it felt simultaneously daunting (that was a very big task list, and I know I will discover more work as I go) and manageable (just start from the top and work my way down).

So I set to work, first by creating a city layout. It’s simple at the moment, and the most immediate urgency was putting in the river tiles, the ground tiles, and the super secret anti-meteor research and development center. I can put in other buildings (already drawn) later.

But then I thought it would make for a slightly better screenshot if skyscrapers and other buildings were there, too, and I was pleased that the work to add it was almost nothing.

LD50: Initial city layout

It’s not much now, but I hope to make this a more bustling metropolis soon.

I called it a night around midnight (so technically a morning?), even though I still don’t have game play in, but that’s a bigger lift than I was ready for without sleep.

This morning, I did some light exercise and ate breakfast.

Behold, my peanut butter, cinnamon, raisin, and pickle sandwich.

LD50: the classic PB, raisin, and pickle sandwich

If you know, you know.

I washed it down with some orange juice (hah, classic Me, amirite?), and since there was only so much left in the bottle, I finished it off.

LD50: Small glass of OJ

LD50: There wasn't enough left in the bottle to put back in the fridge

And my mother-in-law left us some cinnamon rolls, which my wife baked just now.

LD50: Cinnamon rolls!

So before I get back to game development, I did want to give you a pep talk if you need one.

Whether this is your first time participating in Ludum Dare, your first time doing game development, or even if you have been doing game development for a long time, you might look around at what everyone is accomplishing around you and think to yourself, “I don’t belong here.”

And I’m here to tell you that you do, in fact, belong here.

My first LD was #11 in 2008, but my first game jam was Game in a Day in 2005. I remember early on in the 24 hours I had to make a game that I kind of froze up.

I remember feeling like I simultaneously could do it but also that I should stop. It was a weird mix of fear and confusion. I didn’t know why I felt like I should stop other than a vague fear that I shouldn’t even bother, that I didn’t know what I was doing, etc.

I pushed through somehow, and even though the game I made was a very, very far cry from what I set out to do (24 hours isn’t a lot, it turns out), and even though it was buggy, and even though other game developers participating were professionals who made amazing things in those same 24 hours while I was merely an aspiring wannabe, I can say that I participated and I did, in fact, make a game that day.

When I participated in LD #11 a few years later, that same weird fear gripped me shortly after starting, but this time I recognized it. In hindsight, maybe it was Imposter Syndrome? But whatever it was, I successfully ignored it. I managed to successfully make a game and rank relatively highly, too!

And maybe it was because Ludum Dare in 2008 had something like tens of entries rather than thousands, and the community was smaller and more intimate, but there was definitely a home base in that IRC channel of supportive people who made you feel like you belong there just as much as they did. Game in a Day was even smaller, and I wish I could remember the name of the person who gave me advice to cut my scope, but that person also made me feel like I was being taken under his wing, that I was encouraged to be part of that community, too.

We have less than 12 hours to finish a game for the compo. Maybe you’re like me and have a large task list in front of you and you worry you might not finish in time. Maybe you don’t even have an idea yet, or you gave up on one project already. Maybe you see some of the amazing things that people are posting and think, “I am nowhere near that level!”

But don’t compare your efforts and struggles to published, polished efforts of a team of veterans. It is easy to imagine that everyone else knows what they are doing, but you’re only seeing the people willing to post their awesome stuff and not seeing the mistakes, dead-ends, and struggles behind the scenes for them and for many others.

Don’t compare your efforts except to your own previous experiences. And if you have no previous experiences, then consider this your baseline to compare yourself to next time.

And if you feel like you failed Ludum Dare because you couldn’t get it all together in time and publish a game, I’m here to say that after LD 11, I failed to put together a playable game in LD 14 and again in LD 32. There were Mini LDs that I “failed” as well. It was disappointing, but I never felt like I didn’t belong and shouldn’t have made the attempt.

Now, part of that might be cishet white privilege talking, but part of it was that by that point I was part of the Ludum Dare community.

So I want you to know that you belong and are welcome here, too.