Ludum Dare (LD; Classical Latin: [ˈluːdũː ˈdarɛ], meaning 'to give a game', also referenced as LDJAM) is a game jam competition. It was founded by Geoff Howland and was first held in April 2002. It is currently run by Mike Kasprzak, who has been part of the team since the beginning. Participants are required to create a video game that fits within a given theme in two or three days. Participants often release a time-lapse video of the development of their game.
Ludum Dare was originally only an Internet forum. The first competition—often referred to as "Ludum Dare Zero"—was held in April 2002, with 18 participants. Its popularity turned the focus towards the competitions rather than the forum. The time limit was subsequently increased to 48 hours, because 24 hours were decided to be too few. Since 2011 the competition has seen significant annual increases in numbers of game submissions, partly owing to the public awareness of Minecraft designer Markus Persson, who has participated seven times.
Until 2014, the event was very informal as the Ludum Dare team worked on it in their spare time. Due to the increasing number of contestants, long-time organizer Mike Kasprzak announced in September 2014 that he would attempt at setting up a business model allowing him to work full-time on the project. Charging for Ludum Dare is however "out of question", and money is currently exclusively raised through donations.
During Ludum Dare 35 in April 2016, an announcement acknowledged various issues regarding the game jam's rating system. In particular, it explained that some users had attempted to artificially boost their game ratings with alternative accounts. As a consequence of this problem, future Ludum Dare events were indefinitely cancelled pending a replacement website being constructed for hosting the game jam. This led to a community backlash, and Ludum Dare 36 in August 2016 went ahead regardless, organized by website administrator and long-time community member Sorceress. Due to the complaints previously raised, the community decided by referendum to forego the game rating phase after the game jam, so no winners were named.
Starting in Ludum Dare 44, the schedule was changed to run twice per year in April and October due to organizer Mike Kasprzak struggling to keep up.
Currently, Ludum Dare is held twice annually. In the week preceding each competition suggested themes are subject to votes by prospective participants. A theme is subsequently announced before participants are given 48 hours to create a video game (although board games or similar are accepted) that fits within it. All game code and content must be created during the competition and by a single person, and source code is encouraged to be included. During the event many participants record multiple screenshots of the development of their game to later produce a time-lapse video. In addition, many broadcast a live video stream, particularly since April 2013, when a widget showing Ludum Dare video streams hosted on Twitch was added to the Ludum Dare website. After the end of the competition participants are given three weeks to play and rate other submitted games to determine the winners. There are no physical or cash prizes, but each participant retains full ownership of their game—some have achieved financial success after developing their initial submission.
As of the 18th edition of the competition, which was held in August 2010, a more relaxed version called the "Jam" was introduced. The Jam, which allows development teams, private source code and extended development time of 72 hours, takes place concurrently with the solo competition ("Compo").
From early in the game jam's history until 2016, a smaller competition called "Mini Ludum Dare" or "MiniLD" was held during months without a main Ludum Dare competition. These were organised and run by community members with assistance from the website's various administrators and moderators. The host would choose the theme of the MiniLD, set the rules and duration, as well as prepare announcement posts throughout the event. Meanwhile, a staff member would create and manage the game submissions page, make various bookkeeping changes to the website, and generally oversee the event from behind the scenes. These MiniLDs were much more informal, and following the rules was usually optional. The themes were often more specific or technical, such as a jam focused on making games with reusable assets "Swap Shop", or making game-development tools "Tool Jam", or making a real-time-strategy games "7dRTS". Due to the popularity of hosting these smaller community-led events, a booking system was introduced, where interested persons would choose which MiniLD they wanted to host, which ended up with a two year backlog at it's peak. After 70 MiniLDs, the event was retired after October 2016, much to the dismay of the community.
For several years during the 2010s, October was home to the October Challenge, which challenged people to "Finish a game, take it to market, and earn $1". Participants had 31 days to upload a link to their game to the website. The event was not competitive and was meant to encourage commercial game development from people who hadn't attempted to made money from their games previously.
|No.||Month||Theme (bonus)||Participants||Compo winner||Jam winner||Ref.|
|0†||April 2002||Indirect interaction||18||Endurion||Magnetic Fields|
|1||July 2002||Guardian||136||46||Hamumu||Scarecrow: Heart of Straw|
|1.5‡||September 2002||N/A||12|| |
|2||November 2002||Construction/destruction (sheep)||116||49||ShredWheat||Sheep Town|
|3||April 2003||Preparation – Set it up, let it go||84|
|5||October 2004||Random||93||Jolle||Random Dungeon Exploration|
|6||April 2005||Light and darkness||143||52||Jolle||Uplighter|
|7||December 2005||Growth||27||Jolle||The People|
|9||April 2007||Build the level you play||DrPetter||Spatzap aka N/A|
|10||December 2007||Chain reaction||158||51||Hamumu||Short Fuse|
|11||April 2008||Minimalist||71||mrfun/SethR||Strong AI|
|12||August 2008||The tower||57||Hamumu||Rise Of The Owls|
|13||December 2008||Roads||59||increpare||Rara Racer|
|14||April 2009||Advancing wall of doom||123||mrfun/SethR||Mind Wall|
|16||December 2009||Exploration||121||chuchino||Cat Planet|
|18||August 2010||Enemies as weapons||172||invicticide||Fail-Deadly|
|19||December 2010||Discovery||242||deepnight (Sébastien Bénard)||Time Pygmy|
|20||April 2011||It's dangerous to go alone! Take this!||288||deepnight (Sébastien Bénard)||Appy 1000mg|
|21||August 2011||Escape||599||Chevy Ray Johnston||Flee Buster||Ian Brock
|22||December 2011||Alone (kitten challenge)||891||Pedro Medeiros||Frostbite||Harry Lee
|23||April 2012||Tiny world||1402||Tyler Glaiel||Fracuum||TurboDindon||Inside My Radio|||
|24||August 2012||Evolution||1406||Nicolas Cannasse||Evoland||X-0ut||LD24 X0ut|||
|25||December 2012||You are the villain (goat)||1327||deepnight (Sébastien Bénard)||Atomic Creep Spawner||Free Lives||Ore Chasm|||
|26||April 2013||Minimalism (potato)||2346||TimTipGames||MONO||Mark Foster
|Leaf Me Alone|||
|27||August 2013||10 seconds||2213||Andrew Shouldice||Probe Team||Graeme Borland||NXTWPN10|||
|28||December 2013||You only get one||2064||Daniël Haazen||One Take||Mark Foster
|29||April 2014||Beneath the surface||2497||Daniel Linssen||The Sun and Moon||Shannon Mason
Diane de Wilde
|30||August 2014||Connected Worlds||2538||PixelMind||SuperDimensional||Kevin Zuhn
|31||December 2014||Entire Game on One Screen||2637||Daniel Linssen||birdsong||Simon Larsen
|90 Second Portraits|||
|32||April 2015||An Unconventional Weapon||2821||01010111||ＢＥＤ✰ＨＯＧＧ||Bogdan Rybak
|The Rock the Paper and the Scissors|||
|33||August 2015||You are the Monster||2725||DragonXVI||Writhe: The Thing from the Omega Sector||Pietro Ferrantelli
|34||December 2015||Growing/two button controls||2870||vegapomme27||Frank & Stein||Big Green Pillow ft Mgaia||Slash Quest|||
|35||April 2016||Shapeshift||2718||Daniel Linssen||windowframe||Barney Cumming
Paul Dal Pozzo
|The Maitre D|||
|36||August 2016‡||Ancient Technology||1912||No ratings||N/A||No ratings||N/A|||
|37||December 2016||One Room||2390||Daniel Linssen||Walkie Talkie||three-way tie:
|38||April 2017||A Small World||5065||2980||impbox||Smalltrek||David Fu
|39||July 2017||Running out of Power||5423||2355||Jezzamon||VUEL||Linver
|40||December 2017||The more you have, the worse it is||6175||2889||stevenjmiller||Permanence||DDRKirbyISQ Xellaya||Samurai Shaver|||
|41||April 2018||Combine two incompatible genres||6827||3049||lukbebalduke||DUNK EM UP!||Pietro Ferrantelli
|42||August 2018||Running out of space||6405||3065||Goutye||Reverse||Jonathan Murphy
Angelo Di Rosa
Ben Weatherall Dave Lloyd
|The Not Very Golden Age of Piracy|||
|43||December 2018||Sacrifices must be made||5611||2515||adventureislands||Total Party Kill||Hydezeke||F R I E N D G U N|||
|44||April 2019||Your life is currency||7855||2536||Skoggy||Oink Royale||CosmicAdventureSquad
|45||October 2019||Start with nothing||5838||2612||Joe Williamson||World Collector||Sheepolution||Lost in Translation|||
|46||April 2020||Keep it alive||10330||4959||Daniel Mullins||Keep It Alive||Ismael Rodriguez||Keep It Alive|||
|47||October 2020||Stuck in a loop||6662||3206||ZakAmana||GLITCH LOOP||Pedro Medeiros||Chamber|||
|48||April 2021||Deeper and Deeper||7881||3866||thegreenworm||ROOTS||logan||Fallumns|
- † — Competitions were held for only 24 hours.
- ‡ — Competition was run without ratings
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