Ludum Dare, Code in the Dark Aftermath

I took part in not one, but two competitions last weekend. First was Ludum Dare 45, a competition to make a game in 48 hours. Second was Spokane Code in the Dark 2019, a HTML/CSS competition with a nightclub vibe.

Beginning of a Code in the Dark round

Code in the Dark had such a cool atmosphere. I met a gentleman who works for one of the companies who sponsored the event. I got some interesting insight from him and encouragement for my participation.

The actual challenge was much more difficult than last year. The first round of last year’s challenge involved placing a number of images on a page. This year, round one required players to make the outline of a robot from scratch. Very difficult indeed.

I improved from last year, as my code actually rendered to the screen this time! However, I did not proceed to the second round. Very fun times regardless.

Ludum Dare 45 was the other competition I participated in. As usual, I always get excited for this one. In the hours leading up to the start of the competition, I anxiously awaited the reveal of the theme. This year, the theme selected was “Start with nothing.”

I wasn’t feeling inspired by this theme. I think a large part of the community can agree.

https://twitter.com/PixelProphecy/status/1180224031527784448

That’s part of the allure of Ludum Dare. You never know what you’re going to get! I struggled for a few hours to find the will to write lua using the fantastic love2d engine. In the end, I decided that programming a game from scratch is probably not for me. This isn’t exactly my realm of expertise, and I had a limited amount of time.

I struggled during the previous Ludum Dare as well, ending up with only a sprite sheet. I have tried dozens of times to get excited about making a game using low level code. Event loops, tiles, sprite sheets, physics… I struggle every time. The activity feels so disconnected from story and art, so I quicky lose interest.

Sprite Sheet Created During LD44

I think this is just how I am. I like looking at visual things. I like drawing. Sure, I write tons of JavaScript, Python, YAML, etc. But that’s all to achieve a goal of improving user experiences or automating workflow. I’ve grinded thousands of hours to be able to do these things. A video game is an entirely different beast.

I have had the most success with game creation suites. Game Maker and Stencyl to name a few. Other than those, my successful Ludum Dare games have been in my best languages, JavaScript and Bash, oddly!

A few hours passed before I decided I would drop out of the competition to improve something I am passionate about– my novel! Since the script is already set, I couldn’t think of any way to tie in the LD theme.

I quickly researched visual novel software. I stumbled upon RenPy Web, a project which exports visual novels made with RenPy to HTML5. I was inspired to try this new software, and dove right in.

??? is later revealed as Tanaka Aoi. Inspiration for her hair comes from Kasane Teto, and Dekomori Sanae.

I needed to draw some characters, so I fired up GIMP. It felt good to draw. I haven’t had the chance to exercise my creative artistry like this for many moons.

I didn’t remember what my characters originally wore in my novel. Since my universe is loosely based on Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor, I just went with a straight copy of the outfits from that universe. As I read the script, I learned that the outfits reveal quite a bit more skin that what I had originally written. Mine is a harem story so it definitely works!

The visual novel can be viewed at https://insanity54.github.io/ld45/. It contains the first chapter which introduces the setting and the main characters.

Working with RenPy is very intuitive. It’s got a scripting language which I found to be easy to use and quick to learn.

I also appreciated the fact that RenPy works with whatever text editor I use, rather than forcing me to use a specific editor, or some built-in featureless editor like some software does.

Once configured, RenPy opened up script files in Atom like a champ.

I’m unsure if I will continue the visual novel past this weekend. It would be a lot of work to convert all 50,000+ words of my novel to RenPy. Not only do I have to create character images, but I have to create all their various expressions. Then there is scripting, character positions, background images, audio files, music and more. I’ll have to wait and see just how compelled I feel to share my story.

It was definitely worth the effort to learn RenPy, as I think it is a solid platform. I can see myself using RenPy for more projects in the future. As I write this, I can see RenPy being useful for more than just visual novels, but educational presentations as well!

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