Ludum Dare 36: Amelia Deerhart and the Elemental Temple

September 2, 2016

The last weekend of August saw the running of the thirty-sixth installment of Ludum Dare. Ludum Dare, which means “to give a game,” is an event where computer game developers are challenged to develop a game in 72 hours. The event ran Saturday, Sunday, Monday with the challenge’s theme announced Friday night. The theme this time was “Ancient Technology.”

[Our hero, Amelia Deerhart]
Our hero, Amelia Deerhart.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would participate in this installment of Ludum Dare as I have a number of other projects on the go, but when the theme was announced, I knew I had to participate. For some time, I’ve had the idea of doing a computer adventure game based on the character of Amelia Deerhart, who I introduced in one of my previous games, Sleuthhounds: The Cursed Cannon. An aviatrix and adventurer, I had been thinking of putting Amelia in a sort of Indiana Jones-ish scenario on a deserted, tropical island. When the Ludum Dare theme was announced, I saw an opportunity. Not to do the game that was percolating in my head already, but rather to do an opening gambit to such a game.

Opening Gambit

An opening gambit is a small introductory story to a movie or TV show that generally has little if anything to do with the rest of the story. The first three Indiana Jones movies have such opening gambits as did many of the early MacGyver TV episodes, which is where I first saw the term used.

When I’ve participated in Ludum Dare in the past, I’ve specifically done non-adventure games. It’s useful to stretch out into different types of games to experience and learn from the design challenges associated with them. However, for what was to become Amelia Deerhart and the Elemental Temple I very much wanted to try doing an adventure game this time around. With my Sleuthhounds adventures, I spend months putting them together and refining and polishing them. I was curious to see what the result would be with creating an adventure game in only three days.

To give myself a bit of a head start, I used the same interface as for my Sleuthhounds games. Fortunately, when creating The Cursed Cannon I had already created an Amelia themed version of the interface for a short sequence in that game where you control that character. Speaking of Amelia, I also had a bunch of sprites and animations already created for her available from that same game. All of this meant that I could focus on the story and puzzle design of the Ludum Dare game rather than interface and animations.

I spent a good portion of Saturday morning sorting out the design and roughing things out on paper. I had a lot of ideas, even for a short game, and I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be able to get them all in. A key step before writing any code or creating any art was to prioritize everything in the game so that I knew what was most important to work on. The hope was that by leaving the least important items for the end that I would at least get everything that absolutely had to be there in order for the game to work from beginning to end.

[Getting untied is only the first step.]
Getting untied is only the first step.
Click to view larger.

The rest of Saturday and part of Sunday morning was given over to asset creation. This entailed drawing the backgrounds for the game, sprites, inventory items, et cetera. All the visual pieces that would be needed to make the game. I had carefully planned out the game so that I could create it without having to create any Amelia animations from scratch, although I did have to tweak a couple of the existing animations to fit into an ancient, trap filled temple setting.

[Navigate the water chamber.]
Navigate the water chamber.
Click to view larger.

By mid-Sunday morning I was into the coding of the game. Coding lasted the rest of Sunday and all day Monday up until about an hour and a half before the game jam deadline. By that point I had implemented all of the absolutely critical design and had managed to get in one or two of the nice to haves. Even though there was still a little time left, I decided to stop at that point with something that was complete and stable rather than open it to potential bugs (which is not to say there are no bugs in the game, just nothing major that I’m aware of).

[Nothing suspicious about a golden idol standing out in the open.]
Nothing suspicious about a golden idol standing out in the open.
Click to view larger.

At the end of the day there were a few puzzles and animations that I had really wanted to get in but that didn’t make the cut. As well, on replaying the game myself I do feel there are a couple of puzzles that aren’t clued as well as they should be, so it’s probably a harder game than I usually aim for. All that said, given the short development time I’m quite pleased with the end result.

At a future date, I do intend to pull this “opening gambit” adventure into a larger Amelia Deerhart game. For now, if you want a little more adventure gamey goodness and don’t mind a few rough edges and a bit less polish, why not download Amelia Deerhart and the Elemental Temple and give it a try.

[Amelia Deerhart and the Elemental Temple]Amelia Deerhart and the Elemental Temple

Aviatrix and adventurer Amelia Deerhart is in search of glory and fortune. But when the lost temple of Auctor failed to produce any treasure, her hired treasure hunters tied her up and left her behind. Help guide Amelia free from her plight and maybe, just maybe, find the hidden idol of Auctor as well.

Note: You're not going deaf. I didn't have time to incorporate any sound or music in the game.


  • Amelia Deerhart in her first solo adventure.
  • A challenging escape from an ancient temple.
  • Classic point-n-click adventure game. Left-click to interact. Right-click to examine.

Minimum Requirements

[Microsoft Windows]
  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP or later
  • CPU: Pentium 3 1.2 GHz, Athlon equivalent, or better
  • RAM: 256 MB
  • Graphics: Hardware Accelerated with full OpenGL 1.4 support (ATI Radeon, nVidia GeForce 5, or better)
  • Hard Drive: 21 MB free disk space for install
  • Input Devices: 100% Windows compatible mouse or single touch based PC

Download Amelia Deerhart and the Elemental Temple Installer for Windows (Download Size: 3.9 MB)