In this era of triple-A titles with their long development cycles, hyper-realistic blood-spray modelling and ultra-lens flare, there aren’t many things I find quite as impressive as the entries to Ludum Dare, a 48 hour long game development competition where games are made from start to finish inside a weekend.

PhotobucketPast winner FrostBite

Now entering its 24th iteration, the competition consistently attracts hundreds of entrants, with developers of all degrees of competency coming together, and foregoing sleep for a weekend, all for the chance to make a winning title. Held 3 times a year, the rules are simple: everything from the source code to the artwork must be created inside the time limit, everything must be done solo, and the game must fit inside a theme which is only released at the start of the competition. The themes are the pivotal point of the contest, as they can be interpreted many different ways. In the past, there have been extremely specific themes, like LD14’s “Advancing Wall Of Doom”, or themes as broad as LD19’s “Discovery”. This has lead to an incredible diversity in the games created, with everything from simple platformers to abstract, contemplative, interactive stories being hastily mocked up, refined and finally submitted, finished or not, when the time limit is up.

The average LD entry.The average Ludum Dare entry at this point from FPMiguel

For me, (I’m definitely not a good enough programmer to enter) the most exciting and interesting part of the competition is seeing the blogs and live streams of the developers, watching their games gradually come together, watching ideas change and, occasionally, watching all their best laid plans come crashing down around them. Another great part of the competition is after all the entries are in, people compile time-lapse videos of their programming antics. Most notably, Notch (creator of indie sensation and highest selling unfinished game, MineCraft), has entered into several Ludum Dares, and has made some exceptional videos that show just how bizarre it is that MineCraft is such a mess (I have some problems with that game).

For LD24, the theme is “Evolution”, and currently the competition is about a quarter of the way through. I’ll be keeping an eye on it over the weekend and over the next 3 weeks, several of the best games I find will be featured on this site, hopefully along with some chats with the developers about what it’s like to put yourself through such pressure.

Find live streams here, and follow LD either on the site or using the #LD48 hashtag on Twitter.