Balloon Bullies – A Ludum Dare 34 Game

I recently participated in the Ludum Dare 34 game jam. Participants are tasked with creating a game in 48 hours on their own (for the ‘compo’) or in 72 hours alone or in a team (for the ‘jam’).

I went for the hard ‘compo’ option. 24 hours to made game seemed like a challenge, especially with an already busy weekend planned. However, I squeezed something in.

It’s called Balloon Bullies, and it is a deep and thought provoking game about the plight of a singular red balloon.

Okay, maybe not. It’s a simple game, with simple graphics, ridiculous sound effects and funny little stick people that throw rocks at yourever so precious red balloon. And  you’ve got to move it out of the way.

Let Me Play!

If you want to give Balloon Bullies a go, I’ve put it up on itch.io, which is an awesome indie game developer website. You can even play it right in your web browser.

Here’s a widget with a button you can click on for fun.

I hope you enjoy it. And if you do, please rate it on itch.io and/or leave a comment.

If you want to here my thoughts on its development – a post mortem of sorts – keep reading.

Themes

The themes for Ludum Dare 34 (or LD34) were ‘Growing’ and ‘Two button controls’. When developing Balloon Bullies, I made sure to include elements of both.

  • Growing – When in game, the balloon you control (pilot?) inflates over time. Growing larger and larger, it becomes a bigger target, thus making the game more and more difficult. Yes, I know, balloons tend to deflate over time if left alone, not inflate. But the sake of a sensible difficulty curve it inflates.
  • Two button controls – You steer your balloon using two buttons. One swaps the up/down directions, and the other swaps the left/right directions. Simple!

It’s actually quite rare for there to be two themes in Ludum Dare game jams. The themes are voted for before people start developing, and usually one wins outright. In this case, these two themes got exactly the same number of votes.

Crazy.

Retrospective

Overall, I’m happy with the game. Sure, it is simple, but its a bit of challenge (especially on the higher difficulties) and most importantly it is fun to play.

I got a few awesome comments, like these:

Something like this would probably work very well as a mobile game. Bonus points for using both themes. I liked it! @oav

Cool game! Great use of the theme! @87meansSuhail

Nice take on two buttons. I like the toggle concept. Would be cool to see it taken further. @xopsx

Finally someone is talking about balloon violence. @awentzonline

So that’s great and of course, pretty motivational.

I’d like to participate in another Ludum Dare game jam in future, perhaps at a time where I put my full focus on the development. The things I really feel like I need to improve on for the next Ludum Dare I take part in are as follows.

  • Graphics – All the graphics in my game are built using basic 2D geometric primitives (lines, circles, rectangles, etc.) and nothing else. Despite having visuals, the game files actually contain no images whatsoever! This is great in that it keeps file size down and means the game runs speedily on all but the slowest of toasters, however it does mean you get some mixed-bag comments. Perhaps some pixel art next time?

The art style looks like something a 6 year old would draw, but it doesn’t matter because I had a good time.

  • Sound effects – This really covers audio production in general. I was a little limited in what I could do, because I was having to develop on my old on-its-last-legs laptop. However, all the sound effects were literally me making whoosh and weeeee noises into the microphone and then tweaking them slightly. My aim was to get sounds that were obviously made in this fashion, but in a comical way. I think I did this okay, but the sound quality and production methods weren’t great.

The sound effects were really funny, albeit not of good quality.

Technical

Balloon Bullies is a HTML5 game that makes use of the Convergame game engine, which I am also a developer for.

The game has been made so it is compatible with a variety of web browsers and devices. It works on the latest versions of Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox at time of writing this. It also works fine on the mobile version of those browsers, so you can play it on mobile phones and tablets. Yay!

Regarding mobile browsers, unfortunately audio was not always working on the mobile version of Google Chrome. I didn’t have time to dig into why. Other than the sound, gameplay and graphics work perfectly.

Conclusion

I made a game and had fun doing so. Cool people played it, and most of them had enjoyed it as well

I’d say that’s a win! 😀

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