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.

    m "Is this some kind of lovers quarrel?"
    "Miyake looked behind him to see who she was talking to."

    hide tanaka
    show tanaka red condescending at center
    mystery "No, you! You right there with that dumb look on your face!"

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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