Why Ludum Dare is Awesome and Why You Should Join It

I’ve started programming back when I was 10 years old, messing with Visual Basic and Delphi, and immediately my coding efforts turned to game development. At that time, indie games weren’t as popular as nowadays, and finding a place was difficult, specially with my 1o-year-old sociability and terrible English speaking skills. I eventually found Game Maker and the GMC forums, and for a long time that was my main point of interaction with other game dev hobbyists. And well, if you know GMC, you probably understand that it’s not the best place to hone your game developing skills.

Fast-forward to 2009. I’ve started many game projects over those years and I had yet to release anything finished yet. And as I started working on IBM, time for coding became a rarity and I started getting distanced from game development. On the second half of 2009 I entered university, and I started making games again (where I made Batalha Otaku with other students). Then in 2010 Minecraft exploded and got insanely famous. I, too, got hooked and amazed with Minecraft and Notch’s success. More importantly, I got really motivated to make indie games. And then, by chance, I found about Ludum Dare on his old personal page.

I got interested, but was reluctant at first. Making games in 48 hours? Dude, I’ve been trying to make games for years without success. I started to chat with people on #ludumdare IRC channel, trying to understand the whole idea of making games in such short time. The people on the IRC were very helpful and receptive, and I decided I’d join. Doesn’t matter if I’d have a finished game at the end or not, I just wanted to try and see if I could do it. The experience by itself would be rewarding, I was sure of it.

Then, Ludum Dare 19 began. I was working that day (well, night actually), and on the office I couldn’t think of any game idea, but regardless I managed to find some spare time to follow how people were doing on IRC and on the Ludum Dare blog. That day I made my first contact with game developers that made games that I actually played. People that knew how to make games. And for the first time, I felt like I wasn’t just a guy making games alone in his house. I was there with literally hundreds of other developers, thinking, testing, giving advices, learning. In the morning, 8AM, I left the office inspired. I got home and rushed to the computer.

No words can describe the experience I had that weekend. It was awesome. I learned a lot with others, seeing how they created their games as the deadline creeps closer, and sharing knowledge with them. It’s amazing – and even a bit silly – to think that after 10 years trying to make games, I didn’t realize how many people are out there making games, and how much I could learn with them. After so many time trying to make things, managing to get stuff done in just 48 hours was a… refreshing experience, to say the least. It got me motivated again.

Ludum Dare helped me get into the right track. Before I entered it I had no vision of how the indie game scene actually is. I had no contact with the game developers that were right there, making the games I was playing, and that were people just like me, with a passion for developing games. The people at #ludumdare are always sharing experiences, talking about game development and helping each other, and by participating of all that I am learning much more than before. Also, I am now much more confident that I can too make games. If you’re serious about making games, join Ludum Dare – at least once. It’s worth it.

That weekend, on Ludum Dare 19, I made Fate of Mankind (see the timelapse of the development). It was the first game I finished after a long while. To my surprise, it did well – 6th place overall, and it even got mentioned on Bytejacker and Indiegames.com! That was pretty damn awesome. But still, the experience was certainly the greatest reward.

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