[Competition] B: Results!

Competition B showed the forum the sheer mind-blowing awesomeness of Dive Kick and tasked you all with compressing games down to their respective essences in similar ways. It asked you to find the simple nuggets of glee within overproduced genres. It asked for insight and synthesis and other words that get applause if you're wearing a suit.

It also took a damned long time. That's my bad, sorry. I guess I could talk about the strange fad for completely arbitrary randomly-generated names that some of you decided to use, or I could mention that I have a game to finish or I could moan a bit about how the theme seemed really well explained to me, but caused some confusion for many of you (again, sorry). But that's all largely irrelevant now: Thanks for making things and I hope these concepts inspire more development and ideas for everyone!

Here, in alphabetical order, are the mini-reviews of every single entry that I could play:

Attack and Defend - @Stray_Train
The intro screen for Attack and Defend is certainly stylish, although it doesn't give much of a hint as to what genre Attack and Defend is trying to condense. The prototype feels like it might be trying to be a fighting game, but then there's the impact of hidden information in the turn-based attack/defend combinations players lob at each other. This confusion makes it hard to tell where the concept is trying to go: The implementation right now has the interesting (unintended?) effect of making players watch each others' hands rather than the screen; Meaning that the best strategy in the exchange of blows is simply to mash all 3 keys instantly when attacking and trust to the variances in micro-switch technology to give you random unpredictability. The unconscious flow state that Stray_Train talks about trying to encourage could be heightened by adding subtle visual cues to the different "attacks", possibly even going as far as to remove the turn-based element of the game entirely and adding in players receiving damage for each attack of theirs that is blocked, making some players' choice of staying defensive and reactionary a viable option.

Attract & Repel - @Ally
Attract & Repel is a good, solid idea for a game: Move around a 2D space, alternately attracting or repelling things, as you choose. Attracting pickups is good, repelling enemies is bad and vice-versa. All this needs is not to be Ally's first game ever (congratulations!) becuase that's all that's wrong with it: The controls are a little sketchy because controls take a while to get right, making the player object smaller in relation to the maze would help there; The enemy movement is a little unpredictable at times, again, mostly due to a couple of beginner mistakes with GM's collision handling; The objects don't do all that much right now, other than interact with the player, yet another thing that will come in time as Ally learns more about the craft of game development and design. As starts go, it's quite hard to find a better design to iterate on than this. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens when you can repel enemies into traps or bounce coins off walls and back towards yourself with strong bursts of repelling energy, etc.

BB - @Pomb
Same-screen multiplayer games are in the middle of a revival of sorts at the moment. Pomb's attempt at condensing down versus gameplay to the same keyboard feels like it doesn't really go far enough in that concept and ends up missing out islands of gameplay as a result. While hose-piping towards your enemy and draining their health crazily fast (or is that counting up damage?) is fun and bouncing projectiles off the walls produces some interesting results, it feels like you're done after a couple of rounds. What if the players were restricted to firing along cardinal and diagonal directions (perhaps with Binding of Isaac-style shot direction locking while the fire key is held down), would that create more strategic play due to positional movement being much easier AND more important at the same time? What if players couldn't move freely at all, only shunt from cover to cover (perhaps by hitting cover-specific keys, similar to GIRP) and fire blindly as a sort of minimalist homage to the cover shooter? These are questions that I'm curious to see the answers to.

Conquest of Grandnecity - @CorruptedHeart
Throwing 1898749153 armed men at an enemy sounds like something very few games give you the ability to do (well, apart from Ninety Nine Nights, kinda) and the numbers of "units" in Conquest of Grandnecity can get truly ridiculous. It's just that they don't really seem to do very much beyond that... CorruptedHeart seems to have fallen foul of a common pitfall with his first game and focused too much on systems instead of getting something with an interactive feedback loop working right off the bat and iterating on that. After all, who wouldn't want to see a minimalist RTS or strategy game? What types of decisions might frame that gameplay? Would your only interaction be placing units on a board, proximity to resources or enemy units determining the role those units took and the eventual impact on your economy/war effort? Would you instead be spending resources piecemeal on buildings that constantly produced units/resources? Basically, an interesting game concept was scuppered early due to the choice to use slider bars as a primary interaction, that's never a great idea in a condensed gameplay sense - slider bars are there to act as modifiers to other behaviors, so you need those behaviors/interactions underlying them first before slider bars become relevant... It's still an interesting question though: How would you make slider bars fun to mess with?

Dwarves vs Alien Freaks - @Nandrew
Turn-based tactical games are all about managing your action points, making sure you split them between combat, special abilities, movement, activating equipment, going into and out of cover, healing your teammates and hopefully managing to defeat the enemy. Bugger that, says Dwarves vs Alien Freaks: All you get to do is move. After any move, your Dwarf is going to attack and heaven help anything in the way of that axe swing! It's your job, as the player, to try to make sure the things getting hewn apart are enemy Aliens (or presumably indifferent earth) instead of your other Dwarves. The way the game forces you to take moves (there's no skip action) means that often you end up smacking your Dwarves into oblivion simply because you had no other choice... This would be a bad thing if it didn't actually make the rest of the game slightly easier. There's definitely something to explore here, especially with the different attack patterns granted by weapons and spells you pick up as you adventure, but I can't help feeling that your own Dwarves need a few more hit points, at least at first. How would the game feel if Dwarven healing was in short supply, but they started out with 5 HP each? What impact would aliens with different movement patterns have on the game? These are all questions that I hope Nandrew returns to this prototype to answer some day.

Everyone Hates the Blood God - @3dge
Never made it out of the early framework phase... It's a shame, the hex-grid seemed to be working well and I was keen to see what gameplay options combat would have created.

Happy Driving Bloodbath / Police Escape - @D3zmodos
Condensing the idea of escaping from chasing police cars in a Need For Speed-style scenario has a couple of interesting ways it could go. D3zmodos chose to focus on route-selection as his primary mechanic, meaning that you're driving through a maze of Pacman-like paths at a fixed speed and your only choice is to select which direction you take at an intersection. Police move at the same speed as you do, which means that sometimes you won't see a police car for ages and other times you'll be stuck heading down a road with a police car coming right at you with no way to react or do anything but stare at that suicidal cop's frothing visage as it expands to fill your last remaining seconds with explosive terminal justice. You can't help feeling that the condensation has removed a little too much player agency, so a way of adding that back in could increase the fun factor: Maybe players could turn at any point and crash through buildings (slower than driving on a road, obviously) but that would open that path up for the cops to follow - giving players escape options when surrounded, but also turning the city into a smoking wreckage as you played longer; Maybe players could get a boost ability that would allow them to "hand brake turn" around a corner and speed up in some illogical way, or they could use the boost to do a u-turn and potentially escape a cop on the same road as you; Maybe cops need to drive slower in general but get a speed boost when they see you that runs out over time, resulting in stressful chases through the road-maze. There's a lot to learn about game design in solving this sort of player agency issue.

Minihorde - @Merrik
Minihorde quickly diverges from the question it initially asks - that being "What happens when you play bomber-man in co-op and each player can only fire in 1 direction?" - in order to explore a fun concept. As a result, it ends up being quite a bit more complex than bomber man, involving an extra bouncing shot attack, ammo for both the bounce shot and your bombs that needs to be collected and spawn points that need to be closed with bombs. It feels more like a minimalist take on a co-op shooter game than anything else after it finishes it's transformation sequence. It's also slick as hell: The menu sets the tone (instructions included, yay) and the game continues to sort of lightly show off that it's actually in 3D despite choosing to be flat all the time. It's a very well executed style, the only issue I had was not being sure which of the difficulties was selected when there were only 2 available choices, but that's a common interface snafu when you don't have an extra pointer and looping lists. Minihorde ends up being a distillation of a different kind of gameplay, more action-heavy than puzzle and more frantic than considered. It's a really sweet game as a result and good fun to play with your action-gaming friends.

Neo Katana in Middle-Earth - @Rigormortis
Trying condense down RPG-style combat is a noble goal, it's just that it seems to require a little more interaction than Rigormortis provided in this prototype. The game suffers from a lack of information on the enemy you'll be facing, which makes every other choice in the game feel rather linear. Perhaps if there were a set of enemies presented and you could choose which one to fight, depending on some sort of stat prediction screen and/or difficulty metric? The actual combat mechanic could also be slightly expanded to use a click-and-hold system to make the combat feel more interesting. In general though, a binary combat outcome is great, provided you have something else to manage - RPGs are all about stats, so some stats to poke would be great!

Power & Toughness - @Tuism
Lane-based card combat games seem to be all the rage at the moment, Power & Toughness seeks to be a real-time variant on the idea. Unfortunately it feels like the game didn't really end up distilling down enough and fell over under the weight of its own implementation needs: There are lanes, there are cards that you send down said lanes, cards have stats, cards cost energy that you earn over time, etc. Unfortunately the stats on the cards don't really DO anything much as yet and cards can't really interact with each other. So you end up being able to knock over the other player's castles, but nothing really happens when you do and there's not much they could have done about it to stop you. That's a shame, seeing as there are some interesting design spaces around this sort of play, reachable by compressing the game down a little more: Moving away from the card-based stats into real-time lane-based resource usage heads into the territory occupied by Tri-tri-triobelisk and Halcyon, perhaps combat and tactics could be found in there as well? While heading further towards the card mechanics open up some interesting space for cards as resources, what if you moved cards towards your opponent's cards by "pushing" them forward by playing cards behind them? ... I'd play the crap out of that second concept.

Shepherds - @notsimon207
Herding sheep while trying to either be ambidextrous OR perfectly in sync with another person is quite fun, apparently. It's also rather difficult. Shepherds gives you a top-down view of a field full of blocky, randomly wandering sheep (most convincing sheep AI ever, seriously, these are significantly smarter than most sheep) and gives you two blocky shepherds that are inexplicably tied together by a long stretch of rope. It's your job as players to use said rope to try to entrap and maneuver sheep into specially marked areas of the map which they can't escape from (and in which they also cease colliding with your rope, thankfully) - try to get as many sheep in those enclosures as possible in 99 seconds, go! The game's use of physics (a @notsimon207 speciality) means that sometimes the way your shepherds bounce off walls and get pulled around by the rope is a little unpredictable, but that's pretty much forgiven when you realise the same physics allow you to headbutt sheep into their enclosures, so it's all good. There's definitely something fun here, down at this low level, from here it's a process of adding mechanics to the basic rendition of the gameplay to see what makes that fun really explode into sheer glee for players. Perhaps adding a limited recharge movement boost, or competitive 2-on-2 action, or sheep feed that you can strew around the level to pull sheep into specific areas, or flicking mechanics with the rope to let you catapult sheep across the level space... There's a lot of room to try things here :)

Spanner Valley Racing - @Rigormortis
This seems to have died to the horrible 404 monster... Anyone get to play it before that happened?

Spectacular Walrus Fortress - @Elyaradine
Didn't manage to reach a playable download, unfortunately. It sounded interesting :(

Thief: Game of Shadows - @Fengol
This was really fun and got quite tense as you got further into the castle. The only real interaction being timing of your arrow key presses in an otherwise entirely unforgiving stealth environment felt neat and helped the game emphasise the "You need to be SNEAKY! SHHH!" aspect of stealth gameplay quite nicely. I feel like the only real issues came from too little information being given to the player: You had no idea where guards were going to turn next, maybe if their head orientations just before a turn could give observant players a hint? You were also stuck quite close to the edge of the screen when exploring, which sometimes meant that a guard could appear and you'd be in his/her sight range immediately with no warning - keep the player closer to the centre of the screen! And finally, it would be wonderful if your noise-making had a visible radius, that way you could tell when a guard was going to hear you much easier and it would help raise the stakes of those super-tense moments... Plus that opens up the possibility of you making "more noise" (larger radius) as you pick up more gold ;) Unfortunately the game crashed when I stepped onto a set of stairs, bringing an end to an otherwise enjoyable run that I'd gotten pretty far in.

Final Results:

1st: Thief: Game of Shadows
I was genuinely upset when I finished this and there wasn't more to explore. The crystallisation of the stealth mechanic feels really, really good to play. All it needs is more things enemies do for you to sneak around in exactly the same way and maybe moss arrows.

2nd: Dwarves vs Alien Freaks
In tactical game Russia, moving attacks you! Or something to that effect... I'm not actually sure where those damage-happy dwarves are from and I don't think it really matters in the end. You have a tactical game with really simple controls that gets deeper and deeper as you fight against your own rising damage potential. Take that, me!

3rd: Shepherds tied with Minihorde
One is the simplest, most emergent concept entered into the competition, the other is the most complex and action-heavy game here. They're sharing third with each other for completely different reasons: Minihorde felt a little too expanded upon compared to where it started, it's a good game (and the most playable out of the whole lot, keep at it Merrik!) but it's just not a compressed concept and while that's totally okay, it's not what the competition was about... Shepherds, on the other hand, is almost as simple as it gets. The physics work, the sarcasm of Notsimon's implementation is nigh-on perfect and the concept plays, it really does. It just needs to be more of a game to beat Minihorde. Give it some goals! Give us a reason to herd those sheep.

Best New Entrant: @Ally!
Attract and Repel. First playable game concept, no training, no experience, finds a fun idea right off the bat. Well bloody done!

In Closing...

Thanks for entering everyone! MGSA's first game-concept competition was a lot bigger than the first such competition back in the Game.Dev days, with more new entrants than veterans too! The next competition shouldn't take nearly as long to judge AND should be starting pretty much instantaneously. Woo! I promise I'll try to make the theme more explicit next time.

P.S. If any of you would like to take screenshots of the games, I'll gladly add them to this post to make it slightly less text-wally ;)


  • Just want to say, even though I was not involved with this comp. Thank you for taking the time to do a very good write-up and judging for this comp. It takes a lot of work and we are all busy people, and I think we all appreciate it.

    In the end it is all about the learning experience, but anything that brings the community together like a comp is so valuable.

    Also again I ask if there is not a way to get the community involved in the judging process to reduce the load on a single person?
    Maybe we can ask who would be interested in assisting in the judging process, and divide the games up between the judges to do the write-ups, but have a vote on all games to determine the winners? I'd be willing to assist as a start.
    Thanked by 1hanli
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