My experiences with Construct 2 in Ludum Dare
As I write this, the 30th Ludum Dare competition and jam has just reached its conclusion. If you aren’t familiar with Ludum Dare, individuals and teams work over either a 48 or 72 hour period to make a game from scratch using the tools of their choice. All of the games must have a link to a chosen theme. All game assets including graphics and sounds must be created from scratch within this period, but many game prototypes that are made during this event go on to be made as full games. Thousands of games have been made, and everyone who makes a game becomes eligible to vote on the other games in the competition and jam in the weeks after the event. The judging period is now over, and winners have been picked for individual categories as well as an overall winner. But as any good competitor will tell you, its not necessarily the winning that is important, its the taking part, and lots of aspiring developers (20% of all entries according to a survey taken the participants) were having a go at their first Ludum Dare last month. I was one of these first timers, and I produced my game using Construct 2, a HTML 5 engine.
I’ve been creating games and writing tutorials on Construct 2 for some time but this was my first real challenge with it, not having much time over the weekend of the event I decided to enter the 72 hour jam instead of the 48 hour competition, and create my game over 9 hours, spread across the three days. That’s not a lot of time to do everything from scratch, but a little pre-planning goes a long way, and shortly before the start time of the event, I had a plan of action for my three bursts of game creation, basically that I was going to make a short minigame in each and link them together to make a full game.
Once I got underway, Construct 2 made the short time I had far less of an issue, in regards going from ideas to prototype to creation. My sprites, while not particularly detailed, were easy to make and add into the engine and the engine behaviours made it very easy for me to make the rules of each minigame work. Testing, too, is a very simple matter, as you can run your game at the click of a button, and finding what causes bugs is made a lot easier thanks to the debug mode that gives a way to display all variables and values used in your game, as well as the event system which means you aren’t combing through lines of text only to find a possible syntax error. I was even able to make my somewhat lacklustre graphics a little nicer looking by making use of the particle effects Construct 2 offers.
The next issue I had was how to merge the individual minigames into the main game. This was made relatively simple by using Construct 2’s layouts systems. Using this, I could simply put up a main layout for the player to start in, put each minigame on its own separate layout, and once each was completed, move back to the original layout to show the players progress. A player failing a minigame is easily taken care of by simply getting the layout to restart. Layouts can share similar rules and events if you require them to but can also have their own completely different rulesets, so its easy to cherry pick what behaviours you need interacting with what sprites. Finally, you can preview each layout individually or as a whole, further improving testing.
The final thing that can often turn into an issue is distribution. There are many methods you can use to have people play your Ludum Dare creation. Helpfully, Construct 2 has a variety of export options including to various mobile and gaming platforms, however, the best way to export for Ludum Dare is by exporting in HTML 5 and uploading the files to a host, including free ones like dropbox, which means your game can be played from a link in most browsers from anywhere on the internet, with no external download or executable required. This generally gets your game to the widest audience as possible with the minimum of fuss.
In conclusion, after using Construct 2 for Ludum Dare I believe it may be the best game creation tool out there for short jams like this. Its flexible, easy to use, and it outputs in HTML 5 which means it can be used on a variety of platforms and operating systems, as well as on most mobile devices if you so choose. Perhaps best of all though, it cuts through a lot of the time consuming parts of game creation and allows you to build a prototype in minutes, that you can expand upon and edit easily and efficiently.
You can play my 9-hour game here : Connected Worlds – SeriouslyCrunchy – Ludum Dare Jam Entry
You can download Construct 2 for free here : Scirra’s Construct 2