A Look Back At Ludum Dare’s Rise With Organizer Phil Hassey

Ludum Dare Phil Hassey
Ludum Dare Phil Hassey

With Ludum Dare’s 10th anniversary just passed, it seems appropriate to talk to one of the people who have turned it into the great 48 hour game jam event that you know it as today. We’re of course referring to Phil Hassey who is one of the gentlemen behind Ludum Dare as well as being a well known solo game developer. In fact, Phil is such a big part of Ludum Dare that his bio on the site reads: “Phil was instrumental in the big switch from Ludum Dare’s random unfinished compo websites and webhosts, to WordPress and the custom code we run today. If the website is working, chances are he fixed it. Phil also tends to pick up the slack when Mike is .. slacking.”

As part of an interview in which we chatted about his upcoming release, Dynamite Jack – which is itself created out of a Ludum Dare project from 2005 – I took the opportunity to talk to him about his involvement in Ludum Dare and how he has seen it grow since he got involved as one of the main hands in 2007. Phil also talked about his ideas on game development, the role of game jams and marketing your indie game too, but we’re saving that for later.

“It was back when I made Galcon, [Ludum Dare] was just kind of falling apart because there was no one running it”, Phil says as he reminisces. “So I stepped up to take charge, then Mike [Kasprzak] joined in to help MC the thing. That’s actually worked out really well because there’s quite a lot of tech work and quite a lot of MC’ing work to be done to keep it running. But the whole thing just blows me away – like this past Ludum Dare I think we’re going to hit 1200 games by the end of the day.”

This interview was conducted before all of the submissions were in and the final count is actually 1401 games, which is a tremendous effort from everybody involved. The target for Ludum Dare 23, in order to celebrate its 10th anniversary with style, was 1000 entries. So as you can see, that has been blown out of the water.

Ludum Dare 23

“It’s so awesome to be able to help out and create this opportunity for so many people to just make games and learn that they actually can make a game. That’s one of the things when you’re a hobbyist developer, like myself who doesn’t have any AAA background or anything, you make a game and never release it because you’re just screwing around with it forever. But with a game jam you’re given a 48 hour limit and you actually get something completed…It’s great to see so many people getting involved and making the games they want to make.”

We then steered Phil towards talking about how he has seen Ludum Dare grow while he’s been behind all of the tech side of the event and helping plan things, before anyone else who is currently part of the organization of it all.

“It was in 2007 that I started working on the site, so December 2007. When I started that’s when we began to use WordPress and keeping track of everything. So it was back during Ludum Dare 10 that I started out and if you look at [this page] you can see how much it has grown. I think Mike came in around 11 or 12 and just having the competition more consistent helped the site grow and you can see it growing steadily until about Ludum Dare 18.”

“About then, Notch, well he’s actually been doing them since about Ludum Dare 15, but 18 was after his rise so around then he started promoting the jam just by tweeting about it as he was continuing to compete in it. You can really see how that made it explode, just by the numbers – 18 had 200 entries, the next one had 280, then 350, then 600, then 900; and now we are about to hit 1200. Between just having the competition be more consistent and having Notch promote its existence, Ludum Dare has grown like crazy and it’s pretty exciting.”

Ludum Dare 10th Anniversary

So according to Phil, who is one of the main driving forces behind Ludum Dare, you can all blame him and the other Ludum Dare organizers as well as Notch for its growth, particularly in the last five years. Of course, it’s the huge and ever-growing indie development community that makes the figures rise and it’s great fun seeing what can be achieved together. Phil also mentioned that it feels like indie games in general have grown a lot since about 2007, his focus in particular being the arrival of the iPhone and how this has attracted a whole new wave of game developers.

If you were a part of Ludum Dare 23, feel free to post your game in the comment section below.

We’ll have the rest of our lengthy chat with Phil Hassey published in Issue 22 of The Indie Game Magazine.

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