Top picks from the Ludum Dare game programming competition

If you don't know what the Ludum Dare game development competition is, you should definitely go check it out. It is free and anyone can join. You get 48 hours to create a game and then post it on their site. People can create accounts on the site and then vote for their favorite games.

I made a list of some of my favorites after paging through the submissions for a couple hours. (there are 891 entries currently)

Alone in the Gloom - hulahulahest

It is the dawn of the 20th century. A Cambridge scholar and explorer has led a team to the depths of the South American jungle to investigate a newly discovered temple complex claimed to predate the Olmec by several centuries, showing evidence of stonework thought beyond the capabilities of preclassical Mesoamerican masonry. As they begin to explore the strange temple, our professor accidentally falls into a pit and is separated from the group. All alone, he must find his way back to the surface, and maybe score some fascinating pieces of research data while he is at it...
This is a fun little game with some decent graphics.  You play as a gentleman with a monocle who is investigating a temple. There are keys and small puzzles that you have to solve your way through in order to get out. The graphics were very "SNES Zelda" - esque and were fairly pleasing. Overall it was a decent game with good gameplay. It actually has a story which is more than a lot of the submissions in this competition can say.

WEIRDLY ALONE. - xilefian
You work for Nicholas Snowwe, the most famous art collector in the country. He has purchased an old museum that has had no visitors for over ten years. Inside is a fresco by the painter Harld Forche. Find it for me.
This retro looking game looks like it came straight off one of the original gameboys. As you make your way through the museum, you run into different obstacles that require different items to get past them (logs can be burned with your lighter.) One tip: press z to sprint in the direction you are facing, otherwise it will take you ages to move anywhere.

A Gravekeeper - downsider
 ...a Gravekeeper who enters a crypt one night after hearing stories about a treasure inside
Although it doesn't have any sound, A Gravekeeper was a fun game to play through. It is a short platformer with good graphics and fairly solid game play. Basically you are dropped into a crypt and as you continue through you eventually find a gem and the cave starts collapsing. You eventually find you're way to the end of the cave and you win. Short and sweet. It doesn't offer much in terms of gameplay as the level is quite short, but it looks amazing and could really be expanded well.

Dungeons of Solitude - Knighty
Your only friend has wandered into the Dungeons of Solitude and has not returned. Can you survive the dangers of this place alone to find your friend?
This game was very well done. It is very reminiscent of a NES or SNES dungeon crawler. As you make your way through the dungeon, you find items (sword, throwing knives etc.)  that will be used to make it through to the next level. The sounds was a nice addition to the game, although there is no music the sound effects were well done.  The enemies who look like balls of goop were a nice addition. And generally just move towards you after they are aggroed. It was an enjoyable game to play that gets quite difficult as you progress through the levels.

Shaped - sendmorepeople

 A game from a two-man team about being alone, looking for others, and being shaped along the way.
This game is easily one of my favorites. The kind of like one of those match the shape games for kids except on steroids. In Shaped you start as the shape in the picture, your goal is to find the shape that matches you. You aren't left to searching though, as you can press E to send out a sort of tracer that will find your friend. Once you find your friend you simply bump into him and are tasked with finding the next one. Carefully make your way to the next shape without bumping into the others!

An all around great game that is simple and easy to play. The music in the background is superb and the gameplay is unique and relaxing.

Minicraft - Notch
 The goal of the game is to kill the only other sentient being in the world, making sure you'll be alone forever.
Although Notch created a great game, it would have been nice to see something branching away from Minecraft.Overall Minicraft is a fun little adventure with much the same feel as Minecraft. You can cut down trees to get wood and craft things at your crafting table. It is enjoyable to play and very similar to minecraft. Watch out for the zombies!

The real plus to minicraft is the code that Notch wrote. The source code is freely available on the Ludum Dare website.
The code for Minicraft is very well done. You can tell that Notch is a brilliant programmer. I had the opportunity to watch his live feed on twitch.tv during the competition. As a Java programmer, it was amazing to see the amount of skill and focus he was able to conjure up during the event. Notch's code is a great example of Java game code. If you are a Java programmer looking to get into game development but don't know where to start. I would suggest using Notch's code as a starting point.


  1. Hi Swanny,

    I'm the lead artist from the team that worked on Shaped. Thanks for your coverage!


    1. Hi Derek,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my post. I enjoyed playing Shaped, you guys created a great game. It was very unique and a lot of fun to play. Keep up the good work!