Ludum Dare turns XV | Develop

This month marks an impressive milestone for the industry’s oldest and most famous regular game jam. Ludum Dare celebrates its 15th birthday on April 21st by kicking off the 38th major jam and revitalising its web presence with a new site, ready for another 15 years of 72-hour global game dev competitions.

For those unfamiliar (all five of you), Ludum Dare asks participants to create a game within 72 hours based on a theme voted on by the community of jammers. These games are then rated by the community until one is crowned king. With thousands of games created and rated per jam, Ludum Dare has grown huge since its inception in 2002, when it was created by a group of games industry buddies.

“Ludum Dare started as this niche thing my friends and I did as a hobby,” says co-founder Mike Kasprzak. “Many of us were also involved in the games industry, so as we ran more events, it became interesting to watch how Ludum Dare paralleled the industry. You could track current trends in game development tools by checking what people used for Ludum Dare. Highlights over the years include the rise and fall of Flash, the rise of middleware and the explosion of indie games.”

The mention of Flash should give you an indication of just how long 15 years on the internet can be. “We actually predate popular services YouTube, Twitch and Twitter, but we started using them as part of Ludum Dare very early on,” Kasprzak says. “Today, I don’t know what we would be without them. 

“Nowadays there’s even a term for what we are: a game jam. We didn’t have a term when we started. I used to call us a ‘game compo’, something I borrowed from the Demoscene. Even the term ‘indie game’ hadn’t caught on yet. I think we were still calling games ‘shareware’ back then.”

I’m humbled that this ‘hobby’ project my friends and I started means so much to so many

Mike Kasprzak, Ludum Dare co-founder 

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Ludum Dare’s success is the industry’s success, as many people who take part in the jams have used it as a way into working in game development. “Ludum Dare being successful means more people are making games,” Kasprzak says. “I’ve been told many stories about how Ludum Dare got Them into games, and I’m always thrilled to see the next big indie game to come out of the event.”

The growth of Ludum Dare over the years has several reasons, according to Kasprzak. There was some struggle early on, but the indie game boom gave the game jam a large boost. One famous indie developer in particular contributed to the jam’s reputation in a big way. “After a rough few years in the beginning, we finally kept to a schedule,” he says.

“Twitter hadn’t caught on yet, so consistency was one of the few things we had to keep people interested. That meant as 2008 rolled around, when indie games were finally gaining traction and mobile gaming exploded, more and more developers were looking for…

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