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27 Aug 2012

I’ve just completed my submission for Ludum Dare 24: "Evolution". I give you...


Protean is an evolutionary shooter developed for Ludum Dare 24: "Evolution". Battle endless waves of enemies which mate and evolve, mixing and mutating their abilities over time!

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Download for Windows (9.8 MB)

Download for Mac (10.5 MB)

Protean is currently awaiting judging in Ludum Dare 24. View its entry page

One part of Ludum Dare that I've traditionally been bad at is the community interaction/dev journal stuff. I had a go at that this time around, posting several updates throughout the contest:

Aside from a hilarious last-minute Unity reinstall emergency, this Ludum Dare went very smoothly. I got plenty of sleep, ate well, and didn't crunch too badly: Friday night was just a little bit of ideation (no actual production), and I did about 10 hours each Saturday and Sunday. That's quite a bit less time than my past Ludum Dares, and yet Protean turned out a hell of a lot more polished than either Conquistador or Fail-Deadly. I think I'm more proud of producing a halfway-decent game within reasonable hours, than I am of the game itself!

Despite the relative smoothness of the production, this Ludum Dare was kind of a weird run for me, emotionally-speaking. On the one hand, it's been two years since my last LD (when I submitted Fail-Deadly, and subsequently took first place). Stuff just kept coming up -- almost invariably related to finishing Starhawk -- and making me unable to participate. So the release of finally getting to have a good game jam is definitely a positive! And of course, creating something is sort of euphoric pretty much no matter what it is that you made; simply giving form to something, making it be, is a fundamentally human experience unlike any other.

But this time around I had a very different relationship to my game. In my previous runs I got invested in the theme and excited by my concept, digging and exploring the possibility space, trying to invent the most interesting game design I could. I had fun doing that! And this time, the theme was Ludum Dare's elusive unicorn: "Evolution", much-desired yet for years never voted up, until now. So I was really excited about that; I've got a sense of participating in a piece of Ludum Dare history with this one.

And yet...

I just don't feel as satisfied with Protean as I probably should. In fact, I sorta feel the opposite. I feel like I've hit a game design plateau -- not just with this game specifically, but personally and in general -- and I'm just kinda going through all the same motions now. I miss the energy of learning all the new shit I had to figure out in order to build those past games.

In a way, Protean came together just a little too easily.

It occurred to me yesterday that game jams like Ludum Dare may not be very good venues for experimental game design. I think that runs contrary to popular belief, but the more I worked through why Protean wasn't getting me excited, the more I kept coming back to the idea that the game jam is a production exercise, not a game design one. And after nearly a decade as a professional working game designer, and almost twice that making indie games and mods, I've reached a point where the production part of it has become rather rote. I want to dig deep into experimental game design, and for that you need more time and a more focused, curated peer group. You need a depth jam, and that's a whole different beast.

But anyway... finishing a game in two days is still an accomplishment, and I'm gonna go have a celebratory beer over that. :D

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game-design ludum-dare protean video-games