Ludwig Von: Beaten Down
Released Ludwig Von Beatdown into the wild this evening. It’s a funny feeling one because it feels like I’ve been absent from any kind of visible game-making for so long (since War Game) and, being embarrassingly honest, I was vaguely struggling with this sensation of being unknown and forgotten by… what?… the internet? Hard to say, but a sense of losing my rhythm and voice, say.
So releasing the game makes me feel better about that, at the very least. (And, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s not like I wasn’t making things before, either, as both Celebrate FTW! and Kicker are games I’ve made but haven’t been able to “release”.) On the other hand, LV Beatdown didn’t completely turn out the way I’d wanted – but ain’t that always the way?
Specifically, when I started in on the game, I’d had in mind Doug (Wilson) waxing lyrical and sports games (like the amazing Hokra for instance). And so I was all like, “hell, I can make a sports game!” And then I thought it would be hilarious to make an Atari sports game, because I’d been playing Atari basketball and baseball (which are both kind of incredible). But it turns out that making a sports game is hard as heck.
I spent quite a while trying to make LV Beatdown a “good” sports game actually. I worried about symmetries of action and how you could create some level of skillful play within such a simplistic system of motion. And, frankly, I’m pretty sure I failed. Playing the game feels borderline random to me – not helped by the “AI” I wrote, which, while complex for me to produce, leaves a lot to be desired on the “actually working” front.
On the other hand, the game really started to amuse me when I positioned it in my mind as this ludicrous “force for democracy” relative to JS Joust. I kind of pictured it has having been made by some well-meaning Atari developer who wanted people to be able to “really experience” a sport they would otherwise not have access to. Except that it’s all wrong. Almost everything about LV Beatdown is absurd and twisted compared to what it is the JS Joust does so extremely well. So there’s a 0-player mode (for a game that’s almost entirely about getting people together), it’s digital and on the internet (instead of physical and situated in the world), and the controls are extremely limited (instead of involving all the subtleties of a human body).
Looking at it that way makes me like the game more, even if I am the well-meaning fictional idiot in the story.