Ludum Dare 33: You are the Monster

August 28, 2015

Ludum Dare is Latin for “to give a game”. It’s the name of a website and a thrice annual, global challenge to produce a computer game in 48 to 72 hours. The local Calgary indie game developers made me aware of this fantastic event not too long ago, and this weekend just past I participated in my first Ludum Dare. The result? Two new computer games sporting some of my work.

It was announced the evening of Friday the 21st that the theme of the thirty-third Ludum Dare challenge would be “You are the Monster”. The local indie group had rented a room at the university for the weekend so I headed over about nine o’clock both days.

Since I wasn’t familiar with how the challenge worked, I wanted to be a bit of an observer. As such, I didn’t really come to the challenge with an idea of my own, but instead volunteered my services as a 2D artist to whomever could benefit from them. I was so fortunate to hook up with two great projects and the people working on them.

Get Out of the Way

Get Out of the Way is a side scrolling action game set in a department store during Black Friday. You play a shopper hell bent on getting all the good deals in the store, even if it means avoiding security, smashing through packing boxes, running over service clerks, and knocking down the occasional old lady or two (monstrous!).

You can download the game for free from its entry page on the Ludum Dare website.

For this game, I got to work with Ryan and Danielle Dallaire. Ryan handled the programming chores and Danielle rustled up some fantastic music and sound effects. Danielle also contributed a couple of sprites to the finished game, although creating the bulk of the art was left to me.

Of the two games I worked on, I created more artwork for this one. The artwork started with the sprites for the shopper and his shopping cart and then went on to include the background of the store, various items that could be bought, and a number of characters serving as obstacles or just background flavor.

I was a little uncertain at first as to the humorous/serious balance of the game when I started working on the art on Saturday. However, on Sunday Ryan had enough implemented to show me a blue rectangle that would blow apart when you ran into it. Ryan obviously wanted a sprite to replace the blue rectangle but as soon as I saw that rectangle flying apart I “got” what the tone of the game should be. After that I started pushing the character designs for new sprites much farther.

I really feel like I pushed my cartoony abilities on this game. I did more extreme poses and more caricature type work on the different characters than I’ve ever done before. I only wish there’d been enough time to go back to the original shopper sprite and push his design to be a little more extreme. However, considering the tight timeline for creating the art assets I’m quite pleased with the work I did. I really enjoy the final game that Ryan pulled together from my art assets and Danielle’s sounds and extra art.

Ryan’s game is quite pacy. It goes by very quickly, as it should to give a challenging play experience. However – typical artist comment here – it does mean you don’t really have the opportunity to “study” the graphics in the game. Here’s a sampling of some of the artwork I did to peruse at your leisure.

[The shopper running and ducking.]
The shopper running and ducking.

[Denizens of the department store.]
Denizens of the department store.


Evilator places you in the role of the bellhop from hell. You man an elevator at a hotel where guests are wanting to go to different floors. However, you can’t simply take them there by the shortest path. Instead, you’re looking to prolong their ride in the elevator to achieve the most monstrous score possible.

You can download the game for free from its entry page on the Ludum Dare website.

On this game I helped Radu Muresan by creating a bunch of the graphical assets for him. Radu had a very clear vision of what he wanted his game to be and I felt I had a handle on it when he told me that the bellhop should have devil horns coming out of his head. Interestingly, the bellhop sprite didn’t make it into the final game. Just not enough hours for everything, I guess.

The visual style for Evilator was quite different from Get Out of the Way. Radu very much wanted something to suggest the evil nature of the elevator. I made heavy use of reds for the elevator, the background, and the furnishings for obvious reasons. I also created an initial assortment of four generic passengers. I later supplemented these with additional passengers based on other indie game developers who were at the university at the time.

An interesting component of Radu’s game was the inclusion of all ten floors of the hotel on the same screen. This meant that the artwork had to be quite small to all fit on screen at once. The background image for each floor is only 64 pixels high, with the elevator doors being 56 pixels high and the passengers being, at most 48 pixels high.

I worked on all the art assets at a slightly larger size than their final dimensions just because it was more comfortable to draw at. I then scaled them down to the needed sizes. That means that the original sprites actually have a bit more detail than can be seen in the final game. Here’s a sample of the “full size” artwork.

[The basic floor and the evilator.]
The basic floor and the evilator.

[The passengers and the bellhop.]
The passengers and the bellhop.

[An assortment of furnishings to add variation to the floors.]
An assortment of furnishings to add variation to the floors.

The Future

I had a blast working on the artwork for both games across three days. Accounting for breaks and eating and sleeping I figure I put in about 28 to 30 hours during that time. I’m excited for the next Ludum Dare and will likely try my hand at creating my own game in the 72 hour period.

Speaking of creating my own game, over the course of the three days I did think of an idea for my own “You are the Monster” type game. Once my current game, Sleuthhounds: The Cursed Cannon, is done and released I’m planning to take three days just to myself to try out my own monster game idea. I now know how much art I can get done in three days and am curious to see how much game programing I can do in the same amount of time. We’ll see!