Ludum Dare 54 Post Mortem

Lou Bagel Logo

Lou Bagel

December 27, 2023

Some time has passed now since entering Busy Bar into Ludum Dare 54, but I felt like I might as well do a post-mortem anyway, well, I guess because I have never done one before!

Busy Bar

I'm honestly not really sure how you are supposed to do one and if there is some kind of format that would be good to follow. I kind of rambled on with whatever thoughts I had. I didn't really do much editing or revisions, as I normally attempt to make everything as concise as possible. Also, I'm not adding a lot of images or other visuals as typical, as if you don't want to read my thoughts, some pics aren't gonna change that much.

Now that you are warned that this won't be a masterpiece in literary writing, I will do you the favor of organizing the content into sections with a summary sentence and link to jump down to that section:


Here are the results from Busy Bar ordered from highest ranked to lowest ranked.

Note that I believe the Jam gets about 4,000 entries, but I believe these rankings are only based on Compo entries, which I think was more about in the 400+ range.

First Thoughts on Results

Here I'll simply go category by category with my initial reactions and thoughts on the score in that category.

*This blog post doesn't directly demonstrate that genre is a marketing choice, I learned that from another one of his talks. As you can see from the graph though, you can sure temper expectations when releasing in certain genres.

How to get a higher score?

This isn't my purpose in entering a game jam, and I don't think most others as well, but while I'm in it I do feel some competitivenes kick in. So I will address this as I don't think there is anything wrong for people to flex their competitive nature and go into the jam trying to score higher than everyone else.

I'll give my answer in two words:

High Scores

There has been multiple times when I have jumped onto Twitch to watch some people stream Ludum Dare entries. Somewhat in hopes to see mine get played but moreso to see other games in a less stressful way, as some games are difficult to figure out, ha.

As I'm bouncing around between streams, I've noticed that streamers get hung up on games that have like a high score challenge, whether its points or under a certain time. Either the developer has passed on their high score or the Twitch chat is sharing their score. But the point is, I've seen them spend like 5 minutes on a good looking game before moving on but I'll leave and check back in and they have been trying to get a high score for 45 minutes on a pretty simple game.

This is purely anecdotal and opinion. I could even fact check it by going through the top ranking games to see if it aligns with my theory, but I'm talking about how to improve your score easily, not get the top score. From what I've seen, the top scores can come from very talented/experienced developers/artists who usually prepare for the jam.

This also comes after thinking about my low fun score. And I don't mean if I just added high scores to Busy Bar it would have done better. What I mean is that if I created more of an arcade type of game that people could fight for a high score I believe it would have gotten a better fun score than Busy Bar, with it's puzzle mechanic.

Though . . .

What would I have done differently?

Honestly, not much.

Despite with what I just said about how to get a higher score, that wasn't why I entered the game jam. Of course I struck up my competitive nature when looking at the scores and thought about what I could have done differently to get a higher score, but like I said, from studying more game marketing, I think a different genre could potentially have done better.

My goal was to make basically a prototype for some new mechanic (like not just a basic platformer) to see how people responded to it. I made something I'm proud of and I had really positive feedback in the comments.

I did come in with the hope to make something that could work on mobile. I had just finished putting Lou Bagel's Waffle Bar in the app store so had that fresh on the mind. Busy Bar did fit that criteria as you only need to click or tap, and you can play it on mobile.

The only catch here is that I'm trying to test out a mobile mechanic in a setting where people aren't going to be testing on mobile. It was still useful for feedback and just getting started on the idea, but if the goal is to test out a new mechanic or prototype for a game, it makes more sense to match your target audience with a game type that would be played on computer.

Work Flow

Busy Bar didn't get bad scores, so it wouldn't make sense to focus so much on what I should have done differently. Focus should also be spent on what went well!

I feel like my workflow went well this time. Sometimes game jams feel like complete chaos. For the most part, everything went pretty smoothly for me despite not dedicating my entire weekend to the game jam.

Pre-Jam Preparation


I've heard other people talk about how they brainstorm a list of ideas for each possible theme and such. That's fine, but it sounds like a lot of work and I wanted to hit the game fresh. Sure maybe I lost like an hour starting my brainstorm from scratch, but I also see people complaining for hours that they didn't get the theme they wanted, haha.

I think it is smart to think about what YOU want out of the game jam, though.

Like I mentioned, I wanted to try out a new mechanic that would work on mobile. The other aspect I was looking for was a mechanic that would work with a progression system. Though I didn't get to implementing it in Busy Bar, it would work with being able to progress through different employees, drink, patrons, etc as you upgrade your Bar between levels.

Some questions you could ask yourself to get your frame of mind right:

Theme Announcement

I heard the theme, grabbed a note pad, and sat down in front of the TV.

Yes, my initial action was to watch TV. I laid down and didn't even have the notepad in front of me.

In the past I've rushed to start coding or drawing. Usually it would just either be all a waste or pigeon hole you into an idea that isn't thought through.

Once again, I didn't want to build up stress and tire myself out working on something that would just get tossed out.

Take some time to just think things through. Write down some ideas as you brainstorm but also give a little time to sit with it.

Planning the Game

I put a lot on paper before getting on the computer at all.

I listed out employee types, tasks per employee, drinks, ingredients in drinks, customer types, equipment in the bar, upgrades for the bar. Obviously not all of this got used, but it was still organized and that helped my later when I had to cut scope.

I was also drawing out levels and other things visually to work on figuring out how the movement mechanic would work.


It might sound a bit crazy that when you only have 48 hours that you would have time to prototype before, I dunno, “starting” or whatever else you would call it. But with limited time, it is actually more important.

You want to make sure you are able to achieve the core mechanic before diving into art and content. If core changes from what you are envisioning need to happen, you have to figure out that right away.

I think that is why you find some completely broken games. And I've been guilty of that in the past. Aspects are focused on that aren't the core mechanic first and you don't realize til later in the jam that something won't work the way you expected. Then you end up with a broken game but too late to back track, so left with no good options.

At the end of day 1 I had completely brainstormed out the game (of course things get changed as you work on it, but had a plan) and finished the prototype with dev art, aka colored rectangles.

It was ugly, but the main mechanics were working! You can see the prototype that I had text to show states so I knew all the logic was working.

Art and Animations

The next stage would probably vary by game, but for mine, I chose to focus on the art and animations next.

pixel art woman chugging beer

This took a big chunk of time but not a lot of notes to make about it. I do have two things to share as tips:

In the past, I had kind of worked on the “back and forth” model. I just made that up, ha, but it is when you go make one asset, go to the game engine, put it in, test it out. It is probably good to do that for the first asset to find any issues, but at some point, you probably want to batch it. Especially if you are like me and end up testing the game longer than you need to, ha.

Getting in a habit of making a list of animations also helped with scoping later. There were some features I wanted to add so I listed out all of the animations that would be needed to add that feature. After seeing some of the lists, I could easily see that I wouldn't have enough time.


I think I worked on the music while laying in bed before going to sleep. Since it was done on my phone, I thought that workflow made sense. 🙂

Scope Cutting and Completing the Game

There might be a lot skipped over but eventually you get to the stage of your game looks to be in a somewhat of a “actually looks like a game” state (hopefully) and also I can see the end of time coming.

There are some things I did very last minute that I should have got done earlier. Like having the game open up to a title screen and how to check for level 1 being done and time to transition to level 2, and what to show in between.

Besides just not putting that off until last minute, that can also help identify some things you might need. For example, do you need to have a way for the player to restart the level or what not so they don't have to resort to refreshing and restarting the game from scratch.

Like I said, I did that last minute, but I'd advise doing that earlier, before the final scope cutting decisions.

At some point, you will need to say I only have x amount of time left. What do I need to work on?

Again, that is where the planning on paper becomes handy again. You should be able to see what you hoped for on paper and reconcile with what it actually looks like right now, and what it desperately needs from looking at it, and look at how much time you have left. You just gotta make a decision of what to go with and let go of certain hopes and mechanics.

For me, I cut all of the progression aspects and focused on animations to polish the game. That is why my mood score outweighed my fun score. I'm curious to know how it would have resulted if I went with the minimal amount of animations I could have gotten away with and created more levels with a hint of progression (unlock a new employee or equipment).

Here are the Busy Bar related links:

Final Thoughts

I'm happy with what I created but it would have been nice to get some kind of progression mechanics implemented. The extra animations and polish were nice to get implemented, but if the goal is to test out a prototype or game mechanic, the polish isn't what you need to get tested.

Next time I might really try to focus on the mechanics and let art, animations and polish take a back seat. I've always wanted to create a tactics combat - tile based; turn based; like Xcom and Final Finatasy tactics - so maybe I'll go for that the next jam, regardless of theme.