The Clockwork Imperium is a real-time strategy game, with a focus on synchronizing the gameplay with the ticking of the in-game clock, and a visual style inspired by Elastic's title animation for Game of Thrones. My partner and I created it entirely within three days as part of the Ludum Dare 50 competition with the theme "Prolonging the Inevitable". My partner contributed the audio assets, and I contributed the programming, modelling, and animation.
The Clockwork Imperium can be found on and its contest entry can be found on Ludum Dare.
Wow! Perfect realization of an idea! I like the move animations which correspond to the sound. Magical atmosphere!
- Gandelianna
This is the best game I've played this jam so far. The idea is great, and the animations are so simple, but they fit perfectly. And the music is very atmospheric.
- lilkrit

The player starts the ticking of the clock and raises two Towers. When the clock strikes Midnight, the game is over.

All animation in the game is synchronized with the audio. In order to ensure that this synchronization is maintained over time, the game constantly checks to see if the audio is beginning to drift. If it is, the game corrects the issue by adjusting the playing speed of the audio track very slightly. This correction is never noticed by the player because its magnitude is well below the psychoacoustic threshold for a just-noticeable difference.

Clockwork Soldiers spawn from the Towers before advancing to their objectives. The assets were modelled in Blender. All animations are modified by a single curve that dictates the relative speed of motion a component should have throughout the duration of a tick. This gives all animations a uniform appearance without the need to match each one by hand.

Archers fire on a Clockwork Soldier as it advances. When an Archer shoots an arrow, the game first determines the ideal trajectory and then modifies the angle and power of the shot randomly according to a truncated normal distribution to introduce some inaccuracy.

Clockwork Soldiers defeat enemies to collect orbs of Time, the only resource in the game. Time can be reinvested into more Towers and units, or used to prolong the game. Both the volume of the sand in the hourglass and the reading on the clock face on top indicate how much Time the player has to spend.

During the review phase of the Ludum Dare 50 event, The Clockwork Imperium was well-liked. In the context of the competition, it was placed in the 84th percentile overall, in the 93rd percentile for the Innovation and Theme categories, and in the 96th percentile for the Audio and Mood categories. This represents an improvement over my previous Ludum Dare entry, Dread Knowledge, in every category.
The game seemed to stand out to players because of its unifying focus around the central motif of Time. The wood-grained and metallic textures combine with a depth-of-field camera effect that mimics tilt-shift photography to sell the idea that the game consists of clockwork miniatures on a vast game board. The free movement of the Archer tokens contrasts with the mechanical motions of the Clockwork Soldiers, lending them a cold, imperious presence. Together with a somber and menacing original soundtrack that complements the fatalistic ticking of the clock, these factors create a distinctive tone that has resonated with players.
Where the game needed improvement the most was in the difficulty tuning and user interface. Some players were able to reach a state where they had defeated all of the Archers with Time and units to spare, making for a slow endgame. This problem could have been improved by reducing the inaccuracy of the Archers' arrows, but I was concerned that making these values too low would have created a more serious problem by making the beginning of the game impossible. While players generally did seem to understand the game's mechanics from the tutorial panel, the competition's time constraint prevented us from implementing an interactive tutorial and tooltips, which would have made for a more elegant player experience.
Players seemed to particularly admire the synchronization of audio and animation. This was achieved in part by programming a modular animation system that affects each object individually, governed by a single animation profile that ensures that each object ticks forward in exactly the same way. The audio both emphasizes this movement and serves a gameplay-relevant purpose, lending the game a very cohesive design and sense of atmosphere.
In all, my partner and I were satisfied with our work. We were happy to hear how much players enjoyed the game, and we were grateful for their feedback and constructive criticism.
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