Ludum Dare 46: Game Ideas

I am continuing with the pre-preparation I did for Ludum Dare 39 and 42 in Ludum Dare 46. I’ve come up with a handful of ideas for each theme in the final voting round. The plan is to at least have some fallback options in-case a terrible theme leaves me staring at a blank canvas on the morning of the jam.

The (+1/-1) in the title shows how I voted.

This time I’ll also add a short sentence on why I voted the way I did at the start of the section for each theme.|

Any idea with a Codename is a game idea Sas or I came up with in the past. We’ve just been looking for an excuse to implement it. These are quite fleshed out ideas, and you had to have been there for the conversation to understand, so I’m not going to elaborate on these unless someone asks - the code names will at least hint at what the idea is.

There will likely be a strong bias towards turn-based strategy games or roguelikes.

My votes

So without further ado, here’s my list of game ideas for Ludum Dare 46.

(-1) Dreams

Capturing the confusion and wonder of dreams would be extremely difficult!

  • Prophetic dreams: The player sees some aspect of the future in a dream each morning and must then try to use this to their advantage. Not sure what the actual game would be - maybe a turn-based life simulator like Jones in the Fast Lane.
  • You are the Sandman: Play as the Sandman: bringing sleep and good or evil dreams to humans based on your whims.
  • Punish the Sandman: Try to capture and destroy the powerful and immortal Sandman to punish him for hurting the one you loved.
(-1) You are the power source

I’m almost sure this theme already happened somewhere in the last few years?! Also Notrium’s Android already kind-of played like this if I remember correctly.

  • Robot Charger: You are a robot, use your surplus energy to charge stuff in the environment. Kind-of a puzzle or adventure game I guess - not really my favourite genre to try to make.
  • Wizard Wars: You are a wizard trying to kill other wizards while not being killed yourself. Maintaining your spells continuously drains your power, so a powerful summons may leave you unable to cast shorter-lived utility spells. Would probably do this as a roguelike.
(-1) Turn a violent genre non-violent

I know 99.9% of games have violence at their core and trying to find non-violent ideas for games is probably a noble cause, but not when I’m under time pressure. It’s much more likely that I will be turned into a violent, murderous freak by the experience of trying, than that I will succeed.

  • FPS Photography Simulator: Boooring… already done.
  • Conservation TBS: Save the Rhinos! I mean the Unicorns! Is it still non-violent if I let you shoot the poachers?
  • Disaster Management TBS: Something like the Pandemic board game - a turn-based strategy where you try to save the world in a non-violent sciency kind of way. #coronavirus
(-1) An abandoned world

As with dreams, I think this would be a problematic setting do justice to. Especially in the short period of a jam. The problem is that you need to do a LOT of world-building to create something that feels like a real world, but you only show a small percentage of that to the player directly, so not a great fit for a short jam.

  • Mystlike: Some kind of a puzzle game where you explore the abandoned world and try to figure out what happened?
  • Futuristic Tactical Battles: You could make a nice turn-based tactics game in the vein of Advance Wars or Fire Emblem. In this one, you’ll fight the robots that forced humans to abandon the world.
(+1) 1 minute to prepare

This is actually a bad theme, and I shouldn’t have voted for it, but it does sound like a fun experiment!

  • Flash-forward Roguelike: A roguelike where you can scroll around the revealed map for a minute before starting the level. Can you use your foresight to beat the overwhelming odds?
  • Tactical Insertion: A turn-based tactics game where you have one minute to decide which of your soldiers to use and where they should enter the map, then you fight!
(-1) Decay

Too abstract - I can’t come up with concrete game ideas for this.

  • Radioactive Decay: More of a thematic idea - I don’t know what game to make around it. Maybe some kind of puzzler based on the theme of radioactive decay?
  • Decomposition: A game that is literally about stuff rotting. Again more of a theme interpretation than a concrete game idea.
  • Decaying Empire: * You are the emperor of a decaying empire… try to lose as little as possible during your rule.
(-1) Side effects

A fundamentally bad theme! You will need to build a system complex enough for primary actions to have side effects. Then elevate the side effects to be the core of the gameplay. So you’ll be doing core actions to produce specific side effects - are they still side effects at this point? This would just make for obfuscated gameplay with very poor feedback to the player, which defeats the point of playing a game (concrete, instant and direct feedback - unlike real life).

  • Politics Simulator: My wife is watching West Wing: it seems to be all about doing three things we don’t care about, to achieve one thing that we do care about. Would probably be very difficult to make into something playable though…
  • Rube Goldberg Disaster: Force the player to interact with a complex Rube Goldberg machine, the interaction will cause several side effects which the player must try to prevent.
(+1) Fragile
  • Bullet-hell: Literally begs for this one genre: the player has 1 HP and if anything touches them, they die.
  • Rube Goldberg Jenga: Force the player to interact with a complex Rube Goldberg machine, the interaction will cause several side effects which the player must try to prevent.
  • Space Colonization: “The Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in it.” – Robert A. Heinlein
(+1) Outdated technology

This is probably a bad theme - the upvote is thanks to a shower-game-idea.

  • Fire Emblem - 3 Musketeers: Fire Emblem’s addictive turn-based tactical battles with primitive, slow-to-reload gunpowder weapons instead of magic. Love the 3 Musketeers stories, and it’s public domain, so this would be beautiful!
  • Asymmetric Warfare: Also a turn-based tactics game, but choose from any of the following: terrorists with WW1 weapons against modern weapons; American Indians against gunpowder weaponry; modern weapons against futuristic alien weaponry (X-COM style).
(-1) Ruins

This isn’t a theme so much as it is a setting. Could be interesting, but it seems to me like you would also need a lot of window dressing to be thematic instead of focusing on gameplay.

  • Plunderer: A turn-based tactics game where you play the European invader trying to subduing the occupants of an Incan temple so you can pillage it.
  • Alien Pyramid Conspiracy: More of an adventure game - solve the mystery of the insert ancient monument here to reveal it for the alien artefact it really is! The aliens will love you for fixing it! The human race, maybe not so much…
(-1) Momentum

Seems more like a requirement to use a physics engine than a theme.

  • Something Something Portal: Try to do something new and exciting with Portal’s conservation of momentum mechanic.
  • Runaway Truck Simulator: Build up as much momentum as you can before your engine dies to try to get your massive a truck through as much traffic as possible.
(-1) Automation

Already done to death by games like Minecraft, Factorio, Rimworld, the clicker genre and many others. It’s unlikely that a game jam is going to produce something new and innovative in the design space of letting players automate things.

  • Clicker: A genre, not a game idea. A number-goes-up game where you progressively automate the tedious task of clicking to make the number go up.
  • Management Sandbox: Try to come up with a fresh theme for a management sandbox type game like Rimworld or Factorio.
(+1) Keep it alive

A solidarity vote with Sas. Also, see Garden.

  • Feed the Beast: A great demon has settled in your village and it demands constant sacrifices. To save your people, you must go out and conquer other people so you can sacrifice them instead! A turn-based strategy game where you try to achieve side-quests to prepare to fight the demon while you pillage to keep it pacified.
  • Garden Game: A peaceful game of keeping your garden alive.
  • Farming Game: Keep your village alive by farming.
(+1) Garden

A solidarity vote with Sas. Also, see Keep it Alive.

  • Crossbreeding Game: Where you try to breed the most awesome mutant flowers.
  • Garden Game: A peaceful game of keeping your garden alive.
  • Farming Game: Keep your village alive by farming.
(-1) Connections

Seems more like a requirement to use graph theory than a theme. Graph theory is a recipe for disaster - it has sunk many a jam attempt!

  • Power Grid: We already failed to build this power-grid failing idea in one jam, I guess we could try again…
  • Political Connections: A simulation of South Africa’s ruling party - it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Matt Van Der Westhuizen

Back-end service developer at Ubisoft Blue Byte by day - wannabe game designer & developer by night.