Ludum Dare 26: Final Round!
Here’s the final list of themes, from which a single one will be selected. (This post will be updated over the next two days as I come up with more ideas.)
- The game must be easy to understand. The judges play dozens or hundreds of games. You can’t expect people to spend a lot of time learning complex rules. Also, complex games are harder and slower to make.
- Ideally, the game should also suck you in instantly. Get to the action right away.
- I really want to make a multiplayer game.
- My primary concern is making a game that is FUN. Even if I lose points for innovation, theme, or mood.
- I will consider any score above 50% to be a win, though my real goal is to get in the top 25% in “fun”.
Afterlife: It makes me think that we’ll be playing a lot of generic games that happen to be placed in heaven or hell or something. That being said, there are interesting opportunities to draw from a variety of more interesting literally sources and to mine from a large variety of religions and mythoses. Mythosii? Mythosaurus Rex? Anyway, there’s also the mechanic angle — where the game changes after you die or somehow requires death to progress. Note that this is different from a game that revolves around things killing themselves to accomplish goals (i.e. Baneling swarms or something). I’m still having trouble coming up with a specific (and hopefully multiplayer-friendly game).
After the End of the World: What happens after Mario reaches the castle at the end of Level 1-1? Of course, there’s also the obvious post-apocalyptic connotations. That being said, I think I’d personally lean towards “Humans have left Earth” (Wall-E style? Nuclear War? Dying of the sun?). Turn it into a Homeworld/Battlestar Galactica kind of thing. Players pilot fighters to defend the mothership? Or maybe
Against the Rules: So broad and yet so specific. Maybe it’s just a lack of creativity on my part. I guess what starts to come to mind are all the “do not” signs you see in life. “Wrong Way”. “No Skateboarding”. “No Smoking”. “Employees Only”. A graffiti game? A game about removing tags from mattresses? Actually, the graffiti game might really be fun as a multiplayer game. Everyone is trying to “tag” as much stuff as possible within a time limit. Maybe you can’t “tag” something that’s still wet (forcing people to spread out), but after a certain amount of time you can start to overwrite other people’s tags. Okay, I’m starting to like this now. It could also be about breaking the laws of physics in some ways.
Alternative Physics: The “Dreams” calvin-ball idea certainly fits here! I don’t know what the single-player version would look like though. AI bots are hard enough in CONVENTIONAL physics. Maybe the physics change on their own, and you’re trying to “score” as many points as possible in the amount of available time? There can still be the option of changing things yourself to try to make things easier for you and improve your time — and in multiplayer, it’s a combination of easy for you and hard for the other players. Maybe your in a “cube” room — you start on one side and have to go to the other. There are obstacles in the way that you can shove away. The catch is that the bottom/left/right/top of the room each has its own gravity — and every time you score you get moved to a different floor. So when you change the world, you are potentially screwing other player or just yourself on future rounds. A different, but related idea: “The Enemy Gate is Down”.
Ancient Ruins: Maybe an exploration game. Find artifacts. Could be done a puzzle game — some variant of Sokoban or Soduku. Maybe you’re constructing Stone Henge. Who doesn’t like a good henge? Or maybe even building the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. Kind of a “prequel” to them becoming ruins. An E Truly Hollywood story. Maybe the ruins are of an alien civilization on a distant planet? The players are a team of archeologists…and then they accidentally awake some ancient monsters or a robot self-defense system. You have no real weapons. You have to get back to your ship somehow (or maybe defend the ship while it powers up?)
Beneath the Surface: Could be subterranean, submarine, or subcutaneous. It could also be about hidden thoughts and emotions, but I don’t think that’s the kind of game I want to make. Some kind of mining game? Fish Tank Commander 3d? Are the players part of the human immune system, fighting against viruses?
Colony: A solid contender in recent LD votes, and certainly something that would align itself with what I — and my viewers — enjoy. A co-operative survival game. Maybe in space. Maybe on a deserted island. Maybe in the “new world”. Heck, maybe you’re a colony of fungus. Or Ants. It’s Dwarf Fortress, except YOU are the dwarves. Hard to make in 48 hours? Fuck yes. Epic as hell? Indeed.
Creation and Destruction: The first types of game that come to mind to mind and minecraft/terraria-esque games, where maybe you are smashing rocks or tearing apart old structures to build new ones. Maybe you have two vehicles — one’s a wrecking ball and one’s a crane or something. Single player, you hope back and forth between the two — but in multiplayer you can be paired up with someone (or many someones) and work together to do…something. Are you building skyscrapers out of a husk of an abandoned city, like Wall-e? Maybe it’s a survival type of game, where you are running to escape monsters — they can outrun you, but you have the ability to put up walls that they take a while to break through. A never ending sequences of run, create, and then more running while the destruction happens.
Death is Good: . You could use the ideas discussed in Parallel Worlds, where when you die you play on as a ghost. It could be a game about dogpiling a fortress wall and building a ramp out of bodies. Or maybe you’re playing as “banelings”, exploding on death. You could also play as Death (the Grim Reaper).
Dig Deeper: Unless you really go for a figurative interpretation, you’re going to get a lot of games that are pretty literally about digging. Those sorts of games aren’t necessarily bad — just lacking in variety. Dwarf Fortress, Minecraft, Terraria, and Dig Dug are all sources of possible inspiration.
Every Death Is Meaningful: . You could use the ideas discussed in Parallel Worlds, where when you die you play on as a ghost. It could be a game about dogpiling a fortress wall and building a ramp out of bodies. Or maybe you’re playing as “banelings”, exploding on death. You could also play as Death (the Grim Reaper)
Exploration: Roguelike / action-RPG? I mean, if I wasn’t trying to do a multiplayer game, I’d just try to design some interesting looking area and hide a bunch of stuff all over. I suppose that the “eXplore” phase of a 4x space strategy game might be something interesting to play with. And of course, we could probably do a pretty decent space sim based on this theme.
Islands: Has strong literal and figurative parallels to Parallel Worlds. These could be actual islands, or they could be little asteroids or pocket dimensions in space. It could be about traveling from island to island.
Minimalism: Carries the risk that people will make boring games and try to pass them off as “minimalist”. On the other hand, this can really push people to do interesting and creative stuff. The other problem is that super minimalist art actually needs a really good sense of colour and movement to pull-off…which is not something I have faith in my ability to pull off. That being said…. I REALLY liked the level design and look of my FPS Tutorial level. Simple, flat textures, but with carefully placed lighting. Portal is technically a good example of a minimalist game, at least while you are still being tested: Tight, focused gameplay with an uncluttered visual style. Maybe this could work. Not sure what the “game” itself would be though…which is rather key.
No Enemies: The thing to remember is that this is a theme, not a rule. Just making a game that happens to be the sort of thing where there is no conflict (like SimCity), is not a particularly strong use of the theme IMHO. Additionally, the game could actually HAVE enemies — as long as there was an odd subversion in there somehow. Maybe you have the ability to mind control people, therefore making them not be your enemy. That sort of thing. And then there’s the idea of still having some kind of conflict, but not against personified enemies. Like man vs the environment (castaways, lost in space, etc…) It could be a kind of “social” game of deception, where all the characters are supposed to be working together (and not be enemies), but people are secretly competing and trying to get an advantage over one another. We could call it “Frenemies“. You could play as vicious, gossiping high school girls out to ruin each other’s social lives via Facebook. :) It could be a game about a huge interstellar war fought over huge distances — and when an invasion fleet finally reaches the enemy homeworld…they discover that they’re already dead, having accidentally killed themselves by mistakenly detonating a super-weapon.
No Weapons Allowed: Is, in many ways, what I consider to be a classic Ludum Dare style theme. I think that’s because it reminds of some of the older LD themes, such as “Enemies as Weapons”. Now, it’s important to remember that this is not a rule of the competition. You could have a game in which you have TONS of weapons, but you’re trying to go into an area protected by metal detectors and x-ray machines. Although, as I type that, all the scenarios I’m imagining are kind of “terrosisty”…so best avoid that. There’s also the idea that you aren’t allowed to use conventional weapons, but what about fists, or nerf bats, or paint guns, or maybe you’re fighting “grumpikins” by throwing “flowers” at theme. You could make a classic Quake-style FPS game…but all in bright cheery pastel colours. I like this theme because it should force creativity. To me it’s not about making a game that just doesn’t have weapons — it’s about explicitly subverting genres that classically rely on weapons to function. What is a “weapon”? Paint guns feel too weapon-y, but what about snowballs? Of course, this could be a game about rebuilding after a war so devastating that everyone is trying to come together to build a big peace monument. It could also be a game where you don’t have weapons and are mostly stealthing/running/parkouring away from people who do.
Parallel Worlds: Has many literal and figurative interpretations. It could be a game where you constantly have to switch “modes” to be able to complete it — and in a multiplayer setting people could co-operate by splitting up between the parallel worlds. It could be about a bunch of castaways, each stuck on their own island…not far from each other, but separated by shark-infested waters. Maybe you can throw stuff to each other to build a signal fire. We could take a more symbolic bend — imagine a game where everyone plays in a single vertical column, representing a single human life. You start at the bottom as a baby in a randomly assigned country/income/culture/class and try to make it through life. Everyone progresses forward at the same speed, but not everyone has the same opportunities — but you have the option of helping each-other out. It’s kind of a Prisoner’s Dilemma game theory experiment. We could also do a space sim, where the players share a starbase at a wormhole nexus, and they can pass through the wormholes to switch to parallel dimensions to look for resources. It could also be a riff on the life/death thing — it starts off as a typical FPS/whatever, but when you die you switch to a “ghost” form where you interact with the world in a completely different way until you respawn.
Side Effects: We could recycle the “Alternative Physics”/ “Calvin “Ball” idea, where obstacles removed or physics modified in one round get in your way on subsequent rounds. I feel like there’s more room for interesting and original ideas here, but I haven’t figured it out.
You Are Your Enemy: Okay, first thing that comes to mind here is a game that switches back and forth between two modes. For example, a tower defense game where you first place towers, the you have to spawn enemies in such a way as to overwhelm the towers, then you have to play as the towers in a way to defeat the wave that you just won with, and so on… I’m not saying this idea is a winner (and it’s way too complicated) — it’s just the sort of thing that comes to mind. We could go meta and make it a parable about people who pre-order games.