Vinny and Starforge helped me make a Ludum Dare entry about space and my own insecurities

I made my very first entry for Ludum Dare last weekend! For those who don't know, Ludum Dare is a 72 hour game jam with a 48 hour competition component. All the games need to be made based on a theme that is voted on in the time leading up to the jam weekend. The theme for Ludum Dare 26 was 'minimalism'.

Out of all the the themes that could have been chosen minimalism was the one I was least hoping would win. I would have even preferred potato. You see, coming up with the core idea of a game is the hardest art for me and minimalism does not really work as a core idea for me. Especially since any game I would have made in the 48 hours would have seemed very minimal.

Since all I'm really familiar with is Adventure Game Studio, I decided that I should try and strip the adventure game down to its base elements. I managed to break it down to item use, dialog, and a clear goal but had no idea what game I would put those ideas in. Then I saw Twitter.

Something about that pure goal written in all caps spoke to me. With a pace tower as my starting point I began to outline my entry. It would tell the story of Blue, a block that wanted to go to space but lacked the status to take the space elevator. So Blue decided instead to just build a tower to space, all the while accompanied by Red.

I eventually had a simple one-button tower building/climbing simulator but it needed context so moved on to the dialog. That's when things got a little weird. I have been making at least one game a month for the past few months or so but they've always been more about exploring mechanics than having a story. Even my Pulse Pounding Heart Stopping jam entry (the same jam Jurassic Heart was made for) was more about playing around the genre than being a personal entry. And the PPHS jam was a very personal jam.

But this one was different for some reason. Half way through writing up my dialog I began to look it over and started to wonder what was going on. Was I still writing about block being apprehensive about their friend building a space tower or was this about me? Is this whole tower a metaphor for my own creative endeavors? Do the two cubes reflect my inner turmoil?Probably, I don't know. I just like to make games.

Even if I'm not that great it at yet.

The page for my entry: I Want To See Space

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I make board games because making video games takes FOREVER

I've been working on making an adventure game for some time now. Since I'm trying to do something a little nontraditional I need to ensure the idea makes sense to somebody besides me before I start work on the proper game and that actually takes some playtesting. So in the meantime, I'm making a card game.

How does this game work?

What I'm attempting to do is take the choose-your-own-adventure book format and adapt it into a multiplayer game. Instead of one person choosing their story as they read a book, a group of people work their way through a story using a deck of cards. This is made into more of a game by the addition of a goal set at the beginning of the story so that players will actually have something to compete for and make the game more active.

The mechanics themselves are fairly straightforward. One person would (although not completely necessarily) act as the storyteller while the other players were the adventurers. Each turn the players would make one of the choices on their card (or shared card), then the storyteller would read the result and hand them their new card. This process simply repeats until either everyone has lost or somebody has won. You know, how games typically work.

What is it about?

In making the game I decided that instead of making one story, I would make four and tie them all together with a common setting. In this case, a mysterious mansion. This format seemed the best since it helped to solve the problem of deck size being too large and the re-playability being too low. This way even if people didn't find much replay value in the game, or repeatedly played through it immediately, they would at least get four different stories out of it.

The stories themselves would revolve around ghost hunting, a murder mystery, an inheritance, and teen pranks. Even though they would all share a common setting, I chose scenarios that would allow me to write varying scenarios with different tones. I would say more but they aren't fully written and plus, the whole point of these things is the story and don't just want to give that away.

So you're just putting a choose-your-own-adventure book on a deck of cards?

That's originally the thought I had to do going into this. As it turned out there were considerably more time paradoxes involved in this project than I initially anticipated. A typical CYOA can have pages full of contradictory choices because those decisions only matter once. Once you have multiple players you need to start considering how every choice impacts every other choice. You can't have one person smash down a door and another person find it locked later. I mean, you could, but then you would need to start juggling all these “if/else” statements while sorting through a thousand cards and nobody wants to do that.

Unfortunately, I didn't realize I was actually writing the game this way until I had written a great deal of cards. I then had to go back and see which were ones were invalid because they wouldn't make any sense given past actions. It turned out this was most of them. So after writing and rewriting, I developed two important rules. The player must always move forward and two players cannot interact with the same object. There are situations where breaking these rules may not break the game, but just to keep everything as neat and logical as possible I try to obey them. Now that I've mostly finished my third scenario (after two botched scenarios that are now little more than outlines) I think I am finally beginning to hit my stride.

I will try to write up my progress at least once a week as a way to self-impose a deadline and because I like making games I want to tell people about them.

Also, even though I used the choose-your-own-adventure multiple times, that is actually a trademarked term and what I am technically making is a “multi-path” or “choosable path” story.

OK, so maybe I do make video games

Since I'm making my game in Adventure Game Studio I figured I should probably participate in their monthly game contest. The first I made was for their July "Fairy Tale" contest. I chose to adapt the Ant and the Grasshopper since it seemed the most practical as a game. I missed the deadline but making these is more about learning AGS than the contests themselves.

The download link is here if you want to try the game.