Mike Kasprzak started developing games more than 20 years ago. Designing games is creative and fun, but the grind of doing it as a “day job,” where game creation takes months or sometimes years, zapped the thrill from him. When a friend suggested the crazy idea of creating a game in 24 hours for fun, Mike jumped at the challenge.
Not only did the one-day challenge excite him, but Mike was also drawn to the collaborative nature of a “game jam,” a competitive game creation event, like a hackathon for games. Anyone can sign up for free, and the community votes on winners after the event.
The concept offers anyone curious about game development the opportunity to learn what works and doesn’t work in a competitive—yet friendly—environment. Ludum Dare, also known as #LDJam, has transformed itself by trying out different event tactics and formats based on community members’ recommendations. For example, participants said that the 24-hour time frame was too short to build an amazing game, so it was extended to 48 hours.
“We provide the community for the game jam, basically serving as the platform for what is now a weekend-long game creation event that happens 2-3 times per year,” said Mike. “Jams are open to anyone interested in making games, especially those who need extra motivation to get started on their great game idea or finish one they’ve already started.” Mike describes it as a real way to level up their skills as developers. Participants can join using any tech stack they like but benefit from seeing other tools used by people in the community.
Ludum Dare and Akamai Linode
Starting on a shared hosting platform, Ludum Dare has been on Linode since 2015. To date, more than 50 LDJams have taken place. Mike has scaled the technology stack supporting the jams to keep up with the growth in participants and features. Today, 7,000 and 9,000 people sign up for each jam, and around 3,000 games get created during each event. This massive level of participation means thousands of images get loaded to the website over the course of a two-day jam, so reducing latency becomes extremely important. Switching to Linode’s compute instances with fast Solid State Drives (SSDs) greatly improved the website performance, giving users an improved experience with much faster speeds at a lower overhead cost.
“Linode is great because whenever there has been a problem, they’ve detected it ahead of time. Working with them has been really smooth. Updates come seamlessly to us, and often there’s no increase in price. I’ve used Linode for other professional projects as well, and I always get what I need and expect.”
Mike’s vision of having an all-encompassing game jam platform, from game inception to playing completed games, is finally coming to fruition. Ludum Dare’s recent move from Cloudflare to Akamai helped make this possible. The Linode IP remains the origin, and Ludum Dare has deployed several Akamai products, including Ion, App & API Protector, App & API Security, and NetStorage. At a recent game jam, developers could upload their completed games and play them on the platform for the first time, which excited community members. The move to Akamai solved cost, security, and performance concerns.
“Having game developers uploading and playing each other’s games on the Ludum Dare platform has been a wish-list item for me for a long time,” said Mike. “It’s exciting to see so many people coming back each time we host a game jam. It’s inspiring to see the collaboration begin once the theme is announced and then to watch the engagement as participants play the games at the end of the weekend. I’m looking forward to the new integrations we can put in place enabled by our work with Akamai and Linode.”
The jam’s sphere of influence expands beyond a large Twitter following to include numerous videos, live streams, and other content created by the event’s fans. As a game developer and now the owner, Mike approaches game jams with a new perspective. He wants to create an excellent experience for the LDJam community and is looking to find sponsors to keep it strong.