A game jam at Liip: Ludum Dare 39

Recently we hosted a game jam called Ludum Dare in the Arena of our Zürich office. It’s important to us to be a part of the tech community, and there’s a growing scene of indie game developers in Zürich.

What is a game jam? It’s a challenge to create a video game from scratch in a short amount of time. There are a lot of different ones being run; for Ludum Dare you and your team have 72 hours to make and submit your game. Although that may sound impossible, game jams are popular exactly because they force you to be creative instead of dithering about the details of what you want to make.

Ludum Dare

Ludum Dare has been running for fifteen years now, and this was the 39th edition. Thousands of people across the world participated, all creating games on the same theme—which was not announced until the start of the jam. You can always participate at home, but getting together with other jammers is much more fun. It also lets you meet new people and form new teams. That’s very necessary, because making a game requires so many different skills.

In Zürich, the local game developers’ group Gamespace organises meetups for Ludum Dare, and this was the second time Liip has hosted them. It’s much easier to jam if you have a big space where you’re not disturbing anyone by spreading out electronics and making weird sounds.

The Jam

We started on Saturday morning with croissants and orange juice and discussed the theme: Running out of power. A good jam theme should have lots of different possible interpretations, and our group discussed running out of computing or graphics power, the Spoon Theory, losing political power, losing magical powers, or having to constantly charge your mobile phone in the game. In the end we split into two groups. One decided to make a story game about coping with depression, and the other started on a platformer about a magical creature giving up their powers to become more human.

The groups got down to business and began writing code and using graphics tablets to make the artwork. Both games were programmed using the Unity engine, a popular choice because of its broad feature set and visual editor.

For the game Dryad, which I worked on with David Stark, we wanted to come up with all our sound effects from scratch. This meant repurposing whatever office supplies we could find in unexpected ways! The sound of sticky tape being pulled off the roll became the sound of a magical spell. Riffling a block of post-its, we got the sound of a crossbow firing a bolt. The noise of triumph when you reach the end of a level comes from a table football trophy being struck!

The Results

By the end of Sunday night, our games were mostly complete and only needed the finishing touches to be submitted on Monday. Both of them are available to play online: Dryad and 03:00 AM. We’ll discuss the creation process at a future Gamespace meetup. In the meantime, the games from the Ludum Dare 38 jam (also held at Liip Zürich) are available here:

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