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10 May 2010

The judging results for Ludum Dare 17 are in!

Conquistador came in at #34 (out of 204 entries), putting it in the top 20% of submissions overall, a result I'm pretty happy with. Given the rough state of the game, and my very literal interpretation of the theme, I really didn't expect to place this well.

Ludum Dare is scored from 1-5 on eight categories: Overall, Innovation, Fun, Theme, Graphics, Audio, Humor, and Community. Every entrant is also a judge, and because of the large number of entries, entrants are assigned only a small subset of games to rate. Since the detailed ratings breakdown for Conquistador is available, let's do a little analysis and see what we can learn. ;)

Overall - #34

Official definition:

Overall - Your overall opinion of the game, in every aspect important to you.

Most people felt the game was a 3 or a 4 overall, which tracks with its final standing. A couple of 2's crept in there, which probably indicates people who don't generally enjoy this type of game.

Innovation - #77

Official definition:

Innovation - The unexpected. Things in a unique combination, or something so different it's notable.

Innovation scored a solid 3, which I read as "average", and it leans toward the lower end of the scale, with 2's outweighing 4's, and no 5's to balance out the 1's. This probably owes to my very literal interpretation of the theme, to the presence of several other contest submissions with similar designs, and the fact that the short-form roguelike is a somewhat-established genre. One commenter noted that the game is reminiscent of Strange Adventures in Infinite Space... not a bad thing, but when other, similar games come readily to mind, it stands to reason that innovation is probably not the game's strong suit.

Fun - #24

Official definition:

Fun - How much you enjoyed playing a game. Did you look up at the clock, and found it was 5 hours later?

It appears that people generally enjoyed the game, with 3's and 4's far outweighing any other score in this category. This is the first 5 we've seen, which would seem to indicate that there is some unrealized potential here. The small number of 1's and 2's likely represent outliers who generally dislike this sort of game.

Getting strong-ish marks on Fun is surprising to me, given that I had to slam the game together so fast I didn't get to spend a lot of time playtesting and critically analyzing the player's experience. It just sort of "fell out" the way it is.

Theme - #9

Official definition:

Theme - How well an entry suits the theme. Do they perhaps do something creative or unexpected with the theme?

This one shocks me. The generally high marks for Theme would seem to suggest that people really liked the idea of exploring the high seas... but what surprises me most is that my interpretation of the "Islands" theme was so literal.

Graphics - #38

Official definition:

Graphics - How good the game looks. Nice artwork, excellent generated or geometric graphics, charming programmer art, etc.

The strong showing of 3's in this category is about what I'd expect. The in-world tiles are pretty shitty, in my opinion, but are somewhat counterbalanced by a reasonably polished-feeling (if simple) frontend and in-game interface. The presence of 4's and 5's is very surprising, though. I suppose the graphics do their job in clearly communicating the game, but there is so much room for improvement there.

Audio - #64

Official definition:

Audio - How good the game sounds. A catchy soundtrack, suitable sound effects, voice overs, etc.

A fair bit of hate for the audio, here, which consists solely of a 30-second classical music loop and no sound effects. These results are unsurprising: I had planned to do an audio pass during the contest, but ran out of time.

Humor - #31

Official definition:

Humor - How amusing a game is. Humorous dialog, funny sounds, or is it so bad it's good?

This one is all over the map, which is very interesting. The response appears to lean positive, though not by much. The game's writing and sense of humor are themselves all over the map, with some aspects being presented in a self-serious way, others in a clinical and informative way, others in a darkly comic way, and still others in a slapstick way. The lack of focus in the writing is one of my main personal complaints with the game as it was submitted, and I think that lack of focus is reflected in the scores here.

Community - #115

Official definition:

Community - Journals, photos, timelapse video. Everything you do above and beyond just making the game.

I'm including this one for the sake of completeness, although I didn't actually do any journals, photos, timelapse video, or any of that. I just made the game and then submitted it at the end. As such, it's unsurprising that most judges opted not to provide a score (that's the large gray bar). It is surprising that some judges opted to cast a 1: that indicates, to me, that there was an expectation of community involvement through the contest, despite the option to vote N/A on the category.

Even more surprising, though, is the small number of 3's, considering I had no real community involvement whatsoever. Maybe those people were watching my Twitter feed? :P


Conquistador performed better than I'd expected overall, and there weren't too many surprises in the results. The writing needs focus, the graphics have room for improvement, and the audio needs to exist (beyond a single 30-second music loop, anyway). People seemed to respond generally positively to the theme and gameplay, and it appears the humor can really work for this game as long as it's accorded sufficient attention.

Getting a score breakdown like this provides invaluable feedback that I can roll into future versions of the game. Incidentally, this sort of feedback isn't too far removed from what you might see from a commercial game focus test... and those normally cost a fair bit of money to put together. Contests like Ludum Dare really are worth the frenzied weekend of binge-coding you'll spend on them. ;)

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