MGSA Competition H Results - Now with survey results on the side

As the drum beat slows… (where is that coming from anyway?) we have the results of Comp H for you! The theme of Comp H was to make an entry that was constrained to 7 minutes. For this competition there were 3 entries, which is a little lower than we’d like, but the post-comp survey revealed some good reasons for this, chief among them being a little something called “exams”. We can hopefully address this in the future by not having exams scheduling better. Nonetheless, 3 entries is nothing to scoff at, because now we have 3 whole new games!

No need to split the reviews and results this time. Here, in ascending order of placement, are our entries:

My Plane Leaves in Seven - @FanieG

Crazy Taxi meets classic top-down GTA, minus The Offspring. Race your client from place to place in your miraculously indestructible car as he completes a bunch of last-minute tasks before his... ahem... flight.

This game’s greatest strength is that it doesn't take itself seriously. Between the crazy cut ‘n’ paste art, bizarre characters and generally absurd plot, there’s plenty to laugh at and enjoy here. @FanieG also tries to mix things up beyond the “get to destination X in Y time” basics by introducing different flavours of challenges, from racing against AI opponents to nighttime stealth driving. Navigation to the many destinations is made accessible by the city’s predictable layout and a “GPS” system that ensures you always know where you are. There’s even rudimentary traffic simulation in there that works about as well as you’d expect. Nicely done!

As entertaining as the presentation is, the game itself can be pretty unforgiving. Timelines are super tight (especially in the late-game) and objectives can be distressingly far away. The fact that there’s very little you can do mechanically beyond mashing the accelerator and finding the one feasible route across the city to reach the endpoint in time can feel frustrating. The environment graphics are also a bit TOO muddy at times, and what you can collide with isn’t very clear until you actually collide with it, at which point you seldom have any chance of recovering in time to make it to your objective. The game does restart at the beginning of the last failed challenge as an anti-frustration measure, but it can often feel unfair.

My Plane Leaves in Seven has some great ideas and succeeds admirably in terms of its narrative and theming. When it works, it really works. With a bit more leniency in its mission objectives, and a bit more focus on the actual driving and navigation aspects (Jumps! Slides! Nitro boosts! Secret shortcuts to discover! Chase and evasion!), @FanieG can ratchet the gameplay of MPLIS into something as great as its theme.

Shape Shooter - @Vince

Shape Shooter could best be described as Devil Daggers meets Geometry Wars. Your aim: survive for seven whole minutes against increasingly lethal waves of polygonal enemies.

Almost all the basics of the venerable Shmup are here. Responsive movement and aiming? Check. An array of enemies with varied movements and behaviours? Check. Scaling difficulty? Triple check. A bunch of interesting weapon modifiers to give you the upper hand? Checkaroonie. Nice touches are the simple HUD (displaying your collected modifier slots inside your character is brilliant), and a score-multiplier system that rewards you with more points for staying alive but ensures that you can keep playing after losing a life and recover without losing your precious, precious score.

A pivotal feature of shmups is that they do their best to provide players good situational awareness even if the screen is flooded. Unfortunately SS doesn't give a lot of time or information to react, especially against faster enemies like the red arrows. Player movement feels good and enemy behaviours are predictable, but being unable to see enemies until the last second nullifies these aspects. The lives/multiplier system takes the sting out of death, but getting blindsided from offscreen is neither fair nor fun. In addition, powerups are so important to survival that they should be far more visible, especially since they’re often spawned outside your view.

A camera that was further out from the action would certainly help with situational awareness and allow reaction using prediction as well as raw reflex. If you can also add some variety to attacking, so there’s a reason to not just hold down the fire button, you should be able to increase the amount of player skill. Shape Shooter is off to a good start and nails many of the fundamentals - with a few more tweaks, it’ll be a pretty scholid schmup exschperience.

Bubblegrab - @WilliamHK

You are, somehow, a bubble. You live on a quaint desert bubble-world with another bubble. It is orbited by four more tiers of smaller bubbles. Grab more of those bubbles than the other guy before they're all gone! What are you waiting for? GO!

Bubblegrab is a two-player splitscreen local multiplayer game. One player takes the keyboard, the other a controller, and away you go. Bubbles exist in four orbital layers around your tiny planet, each layer corresponding with a button on your controller. Holding down one of four buttons places you in a layer and highlights any bubbles in that layer for collection. Also floating around are powerups that allow you to create a slowtime sphere that retards your opponent’s movement. The controls are simple and sessions are over fairly quickly - the game is frenetic the way only a local MP game can be. This is helped along by a happy, bubbly soundtrack and lovely cartoonish graphics.

It’s also extremely difficult to see bubbles, and in which layer they’re in, until you actually highlight them by entering it. This makes planning a movement path tricky. Unfortunately, the bubbles only exist in simple rings, meaning that it’s a relatively simple matter to devour them all in a single smooth movement once you can see them. Holding down buttons to remain in a layer also feels unnecessary - a toggle would feel much more elegant.

Regardless, Bubblegrab is a lot of frenetic fun. With more varied powerups, more intricate bubble movement patterns, and a bit of work to make bubbles more visible, Bubblegrab would be an even more magnificent arcadey party game.

  • Gareth Wilcock
  • Francois van Niekerk

Again, a hearty congratulations to the entries, considering the number of games, it’s clear you overcame an additional obstacle and managed to make a game despite a tough theme and difficult scheduling times.

We’re looking forward to the next competition, which is scheduled to start in September (mark those calendars!). Next time we’ll try keep the obstacles to a minimum ;)
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  • Congrats to the winners! Hope the next comp gets better traction.
  • Thanks for the results. Congratulations to everyone and I can't wait for the next one.
  • I really wanted to compete in this one, but corporate work deadlines managed to get in the way. Boo work. I had a basic platformer in place using Unity Effectors similar to what Fengol did somewhere, but I had to abandon it due to time constraints and after hour work required on work projects.

    Congratulations to the entrants for completing your entries and I sincerely hope the organisers aren't deflated by the turnout (uni exams were also to blame I see). You 2 guys rock for arranging these compo's as do those who can commit and finish something we can all play in the end.
  • Great job all!

    I very much look forward to getting involved in the next one :D
  • edited
    It's also worth thanking everyone who took part in our post-comp survey. We had a damn fine response, and your submissions and comments really helped us nail down what we've been doing right and wrong so far (as well as a lot of much-appreciated moral support!).

    In summary:

    - The two most-cited reasons for not entering were time (CURSE YOU EXAAAAAAMS o/), and the theme not being terribly good. We can get around the exam thing by planning our comp periods better. As for the theme, we've taken the hint - Comp H's theme was waaaaaay too tightly focused and restrictive, and while constraints are essential to giving comps flavour (and getting those creative gears turning), people much prefer having more freeform constraints, and some wiggle room in how they can tackle those constraints. Done and done.

    - Every single one of our thirty (!) respondants said they were interested in entering the comps at some point. This is very likely because only the people interested in the comps actually took the survey, but the sheer number of positive responses confirmed that running these things remains worthwhile.

    - 97% of you felt that prizes weren't a fundamental requirement to make the comps worth entering. Which is just as well, because we don't have the budget. Sorry, 3%. T_T

    - A vast majority of you felt that a comp every 2-3 months was manageable. We concur - as much as we'd like to run comps every month (or less), we simply don't have the time or manpower to judge them effectively at that rate while still having functional lives. :P

    - 73% of you either didn't care how long the comps lasted, or were happy with the month-long deadline. We did have some interest in shorter periods, but frankly I see no reason why you can't just start a week or two before deadline as a self-imposed restriction if that's the case. We've historically had winning entries that were whipped up on the weekend before deadline, so take that as you will. ;) As for longer periods, there may come a time when a comp theme is complex enough to warrant it (especially if we get shiny, shiny prizes to make the effort worthwhile). We'll just have to see.

    Thanks again to everyone who responded. We hope that we can apply what we learned to make next month's comp a lot more interesting and challenging. Until then!
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