August 21, 2012 9:30 PM | John Polson
The indie dev community appears split over Kongregate's new contest which attaches a monetary prize to this weekend's Ludum Dare 48- and 72-hour competitions. Kongregate's prizes total $2,400 for the three games which are the highest voted on their service. From the judging rules, they are "100% popularity based on the average five-star user rating on Kongregate.com as of 11:59:59 p.m. PT on September 28, 2012."
Ludum Dare organizer Mike Kasprzak clarified that the two events should be seen as separate. "It's not sponsorship. We aren't getting a dime."
Organizer Phil Hassey said Kongregate approached them a while back. Hassey responded, "We would be totally cool with you creating a post on LudumDare.com telling the Flash devs that 'Hey, put your Ludum Dare game on Kongregate, and we'll do a community competition' or whatever. While we don't offer prizes as part of Ludum Dare, we have no problem with encouraging people to seek out prizes as part of separate but related competitions."
Hassey explained that organizers have encouraged entrants to take their games to the next level. Several of them have gone on to win prizes in the IGF and other competitions.
Ludum Dare's rules have not changed this competition, but the Kongregate contest asks submissions to conform to stricter standards. Users must integrate Kongregate Statistics API and heed a laundry list of restrictions.
For example, Johan Pietz's popular A Super Mario Summary would probably be ineligible, since it would seem to infringe on a third party's intellectual property or privacy or publicity rights and references third party trademarks, names or third party logos or any copyrighted works.
The trouble here is not that a game like A Super Mario Summary couldn't participate but that Kongregate's contest could deter developers from creating playful games that otherwise dance the legal, ethical, moral, or social line. Such games aren't explicitly forbidden in the Ludum Dare rules.
[Edit:] Developers such as Hayden Scott-Baron worry that "profit goals discourage experimentation and risk taking." He further tweets that "greedy people are already preparing to design a game for Kongregate rather than for the theme."
Sos Sosowski, whose McPixel was #1 in humor for Ludum Dare (LD) 21 and went on to release commercially, spoke to IndieGames about the controversy. "LD's tagline was 'Your game is your prize'. And some people got concerned that monetary incentive will decrease game quality because people won't take risk. I see that issue but the Kongregate compo is not related to that.
"People realised LD is a good way to kickstart a game meant for profit and they would have that incentive anyways. Also, I think that such prizes will provide an oppoturnity to the hobbyist that will enable them to 'go indie' in the future perhaps. Also, there is an October Challenge within LD that is focused on making a game especially for sale. So yeah, I think the fuss is overblown and the competition has good will behind it."
IndieGames also reached out to two-time Ludum Dare winner Chevy Ray Johnston for his reactions. "It's great to see increasing outside interest in Ludum Dare, it draws a new kind of attention to these mass game making sprees, as there's always lots of awesome games to be found in them. As for the specs themselves, I dunno, [they're] kinda neat. [It] seems the popular will just take the prize, which is what usually happens anyways, so I'm mostly meh."
As for it tainting the creative process, "I kinda like the grassroots-ish process, so as long as it keeps separate from the main event, that's good. As soon as Ludum Dare turns into a prize-winning money competition, it significantly changes the whole thing in a way I don't like. But it'd be funny to see multiple different portals doing this."
The next Ludum Dare is three days away. Johnston has posted 10 tips and trick on Reddit, for those wanting to prepare for the event.