Zachary Katz Games

Ludum Dare 33 Results

It’s a little tricky to predict your Ludum Dare game results.  I can usually ball-park it, but even they are way off sometimes.  For example, I thought my LD28 entry, Sixteen in One, and my LD31st entry, The Reaping, would place around 150.  Sixteen in One ended up getting 38th, while The Reaping got 409th, so there’s a huge margin of error.  Many factors, some obvious, and some not so obvious, contribute to the way people rate your game, and how you ultimately rank, but that’s a topic worthy of its own post.

When someone asked me how I thought my Ludum Dare 33 entry would do, I’d say something like:

“Pretty good,  I’m guessing it will get in the top 100”


EarthWasABadChoiceSmallIf I had to be more specific, I’d guess that Earth Was a Bad Choice would rank somewhere around 40 or 50.  The game came together quite nicely. The simple graphics look good, the gameplay is fun, and it may be my most polished LD game to date.

Results were revealed on Monday, September 14th.  I was completely beat from waking up at 3:30AM, flying to Austin, and working for 6 hours.  I had finally gotten to my hotel room, and was talking to my girlfriend, eagerly waiting to see the results. At 9:00PM that night, after 3 weeks of waiting, the Ludum Dare 33 results were finally posted.

There are a few ways to view results. You can go to any game’s page to see it’s ranking and score in each category.  There’s a page showing the highest scoring 25 games in each category, and there are also separate pages showing the highest 100 scoring games in each category.  Out of all the categories that Ludum Dare games are judged in, the “Overall” category is the most prestigious.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 11.05.37 PMThere’s a little ritual I go through each Ludum Dare ever since my 3rd LD.  When the results are posted, I go to the page listing the top 100 overall games, and scroll down hoping to see my game somewhere.  It happened in three of my first nine Ludum Dares, and I was hoping for a fourth.  The page loaded, and the top three games (or more so their creators) were no surprise.  Certain people consistently make great games that always rank well.

I began scrolling down the page, thinking if my game were in this list, it had to be much further down.  Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 11.09.12 PMAlmost immediately, I saw a very familiar image; a screenshot from my game.  My tired eyes widened.  I was still on the phone with my girlfriend, and said something like:


“Holy shit… my game got 4th”


Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 11.14.49 PMOut of a pool of 1199 games, my game was ranked 4th overall, and 2nd in the “fun” category.  It’s amazing to think how far I’ve come since I started making games 3 years ago, and after 10 Ludum Dare’s, I’m pretty content with 4th place.  However, I’m already counting down the days until LD34.  I may never exceed my LD33 scores, and that’s OK, but I promise it won’t be from lack of trying.

Posted on September 18th, 2015

From 0 to Game Development

I remember thinking how great it was the first time I played a web game.  I didn’t need to worry about downloading or installing files.  Just go to a webpage, wait a few seconds to load, and play.  The games were simple, easy to pick up, and free.  When one of my high school classmates introduced me to, I was blown away.

Fast forward to one particular evening in 2011.  I was browsing Reddit, and had the urge to play a quick and easy web game.  I hadn’t been to in years, and decided to give it a try.  Its interface was outdated, a relic from the Internet’s earlier years.  There were still mountains of games, but no easy way to wade through them.   I was not in the mood to randomly pick something, and hope for the best.  I turned back to Reddit for help.  Reddit, with it’s voting system would, would be my litmus test for finding something to play.  I don’t recall the exact sub-reddit I was on, but I found a post titled something like “What’s Your Favorite Web Game”.  There were  maybe 5 replies, the top one being a single word… Endeavor.

EndeavorLogoEndeavor is a game made by Zillix.  The premise is simple.  You play as a dwarf, exploring a large world.  As you explore the world, you gain abilities that let you explore new areas.  The game mechanics are not unique.  In fact, there’s an entire genre dedicated to that type of game (metroidvania), but there was something special about Endeavor.  The story, graphics, sound, and gameplay created this wonderful experience.  I played the game for maybe 2 hours, trying to find the different endings.

I wanted to see if there were any other games created by Zillix, so I googled his name and quickly found his website.  If you get a chance, I highly recommend checking out his site and playing some of this games.  As I scrolled through his list of perhaps 7 games, I noticed many of their descriptions said something like…Made in 48 hours for lld

…but with different numbers at the end.  I was curious as to what “ld” was, so I googled it and found It looked like some poorly design blog, with words like “jam”, “compo”, and “48 hours” thrown around.

(The site has since been updated)

I really didn’t know what any of it meant, and left thinking it wasn’t worth trying to figure out.

At some point in the next few months, I was back on Zillix’s site, and saw that he had a new game.  Again, it was made for Ludum Dare.  Once again, I was back on Ludum Dare’s site, but this time, I figured it out.  In short, Ludum Dare is a site that hosts a pair of event held every 4 months, where developers from around the world create a game over the course of either 48 hours or 72 hours, depending on the event.

If you’re not familiar with game development, 48-72 hours is not much time at all.  It takes a huge amount of time to create a finished product, especially when both creating assets, and programing the game.

I perused games from the last few Ludum Dare events, and was amazed at what some people could do in such tight conditions.  I was sold on Ludum Dare.  For the next several months, I regularly visited the site, and played a bunch of Ludum Dare games.   One particular time in July 2012, I noticed something was added to the site.  At the top of the site, in bold letters, “Ludum Dare 24  – August 24th-27th”.  The next event was coming up, and I made a decision.  I decided to not be a silent observer; I decided I was going to participate.

RPGMakerThe first real experience I had with game making was a tool called RPG Maker 2000.  It was a tool that gave you a framework for making 16-bit-style RPG’s without any coding. All you needed to do was provide the graphics, game’s story, and some simple in-game logic using a point and click interface.  In retrospect, it was quite limited, but at the time, it blew my mind.  I was a 16 year old kid with no knowledge of programming, and suddenly, I could create a game.  For the next 2 years, I played with the software off and on, ultimately becoming proficient with it.  I didn’t create anything worth noting, but I did learn important concepts like variables, and conditional statements.

Eventually I lost interest in RPG Maker (and RPG’s in general).  Throughout college, I would occasionally get fired up, thinking I’d learn other tools or programming languages, without every amounting to much.  I think part of the problem for people trying to break into programming is that there are so many options for learning how to do it, and so much to learn, that it gets overwhelming, and you don’t know where to start.

When I was 26, I once again attempted to learn how to make games.  After googling something like “best way to learn programming”, I downloaded a tool called GameMaker. GameMaker GameMaker is a game engine with a proprietary programming language.  I found a series of beginner programming videos on youtube, and went through then, making sure I understood each lesson/concept before moving onto the next.  The video series ended, and while I had learned quite a lot about programming concepts and syntax, I wasn’t sure what to do next.  I didn’t know how to leverage what I’d learned, and my interested quickly faded.

It’s at this point that these 2 stories collide.  Ludum Dare 24 was coming up, and I wanted to participate using GameMaker, and  the small amount of knowledge I’d amassed.   When reviewing Ludum Dare’s rules, I came to a listed of recommendations.  The top recommendation was “To reach more participants, web entries are best”.  Just as I had discovered a decade earlier, it’s faster and more convenient to play a game in your browser instead of having to download anything to your PC.  I wanted my entry to be a web game, but at the time, GameMaker didn’t have any options for a web export.

Construct2I started looking around to see what else I could use.  At the time, Flash was the most popular web gaming platform, but I’d read too many articles talking about Flash’s ultimate demise that I figured I was better off not learning Flash/ActionScript.  Several articles discussed HTML5 as Flash’s obvious replacement, so I googled “HTML5 Game Engine”.  I soon found a tool called “Construct 2”.

Similar to RPGMaker 2000, Construct 2 requires no programming, but unlike RPGMaker, you aren’t limited to any specific type of game.  Construct 2 can create pretty much any game you can think of, as long as it’s 2D.  Once I tried out Construct 2’s interface and workflow, I quickly decided that it would be my Ludum Dare 24 tool


It’s been 3 years since my first Ludum Dare.  In less than 2 weeks, I’ll participate in Ludum Dare 33, my 10the event in a row.  I’ve used Construct 2 every time, simply because I think it’s best 2D game engine for Ludum Dare.  The engine and interface allows me to create most game logic at a rate far faster than if I had coded it, and it’s HTML5 export options makes publishing to the web a snap.

WarpPaintIt’s difficult to quantify how much I’ve learned from using Construct 2 and participating in Ludum Dare over the last 3 years.  I’ve created img2puzzle-platformers,  point and click adventures, online card games, paint programs, and many other applications.  I’ve learned HTML, CSS, PHP, SQL, XML, JSON, and Javascript (poorly).  This website wouldn’t exist without Construct 2 and Ludum Dare.

MatrixAlso, it’s not just making games that’s changed, it’s playing them as well. I feel like Neo look at the Matrix as code.   Mario is no longer just a character on a screen; He’s a series of animation frames. He had an X and Y position, a collision box, method for calculating movement, and stored values for acceleration, max speed, and jump strength.

Despite all I’ve learned, I don’t think I’ll be using Construct 2 for any serious projects in the future (if there are any).  With all it’s good aspects, there are certainly some downsides.  The fact that it exports to JavaScript makes it ideal for the web, but if you want your games to be stand-alone apps for PC’s or mobile devices, things can get a bit hairy.  However, those issue are likely to improve over the next couple years.  The real issue is that Construct 2 can be extremely limiting in certain ways.  Its designed to do a lot of the “heavy lifting” of game creation.  However, trying to do something beyond the tool’s designed capabilities is incredibly difficult, often requiring workarounds that would not be necessary in other development tool.  I’ve run into enough of these limitations that I’m likely to only use Construct 2  for prototyping and game jams like Ludum Dare in the future.  Construct 3 is currently under development, and I’m sure it will be a vast improvement.  However, based on what I’ve read, it’s likely to have similiar issues.Fortunately, transitioning to other IDE’s and programming languages has been far easier than I expected.

I honestly don’t know how game development will play into my future.  However, I am confident that it will play some part, even if it’s only making games for Ludum Dare every few months.

Special thanks to the makers of RPG Maker 2000, Game Maker, and Construct 2.  Without you, I’d probably know little to nothing about game development.  Special thanks also goes out to Zillix for leading me to Ludum Dare, and Mike Kasprzak for continuing to run it.

Posted on August 11th, 2015