Thursday, October 20, 2011

IGF Pirate Kart

The IGF Pirate Kart is here. It's a collection of games made by lots of cool people and also by me.
You should probably check it out. It's a huge download, since it's 300+ games by 100+ people (about 1.4 GB compressed), and takes a lot of bandwidth to host, so please use the torrent link.

I made 3 games for the competition - and music for some of the others as well - and thought they all were maybe not too great but worth inclusion in the Pirate Kart for the sorts of statements they made. I'm curious as to how more people will find them, but as a less-known name compared to Anna Anthropy or Terry Cavanagh or Stephen (thecatamites) Murphy, I'm not surprised to find a reaction that's not very strong so far.

On a DIYGamer article about the Pirate Kart, I left a comment about these games. Since it stands quite well on its own (or at least with the games it discusses), I have crossposted it here.


Each one is straightforward and continuous (only ending on game over), inspired by the design of arcade games from the early 80s.

The first game (the third one listed, in fact!) I suppose is a good one to start off with; it's a parody of/counterexample to an article by Brian Moriarty:

It's designed to take an idea for a game as "art" (he refers to it as "All Your Art Are Belong To Us" in the article) and actually make it playable, taking cues from old electromechanical shooting gallery games; that is, from before actual "video games" existed. In some sense it's a more abstract version of Fountain, as it's found art that tries to piece itself into a coherent whole and thus redefine the place of art in games, and counter the claim that a piece of work like this cannot be art (in my opinion, the fact that it makes this statement is what defines it as art). This work inherently includes a subtle jab at the IGF who I have heard in the past evaluate games on the same sort of "graphics, music, etc." checklist many professional reviewers do. It's also a bit unstable, having been built using a framework I was inexperienced in. Ultimately I think the fact that it's near the top of the list is a good thing (assuming either alphabetical listing is used), as I think it's better for the judges to see this sort of entry near the start of their playthrough of this beast.

The other two games are more closely related to that idea of 80s arcade games. Good performance increases score but also increases the game's difficulty.

In X Means Multiply, inspired by Space Invaders and a Ludum Dare challenge that featured enemies as weapons, you shoot red Xs that will destroy the player character craft on contact. Each X adds to the score, but 2 Xs take its place. The game quickly fills with enemies, making survival past a certain point unlikely. When an X reaches the bottom of the screen, it shows up at a random horizontal location at the top of the screen, done to prevent stalemates.

Pongspar is similar in nature. As the name suggests, I designed it to be based on Atari's pong as well as practice against a determined opponent (the other paddle is computer-controlled, fixed to the ball's Y position). Points are scored by touching the ball (whereas letting it go past the paddle resets the game, though high scores are recorded), which also increases the ball's speed -- and the paddle's. This makes it harder to just follow where the other player's paddle is to get a feel for the ball's Y position, and also lessens the likelihood of situtations where the ball can't be hit in time. Note that when the opponent touches the ball, it is allowed to change angle randomly, to make it harder to predict. Although the range is fairly narrow, there are checks done (made to make sure this doesn't make the ball go vertically) that can mess up unprepared players.

As espoused in Matthew Syed's book Bounce (and obvious to many video game players as well as athletes, musicians, and scholars), the best way to develop skill is to partake in what is called "deliberate practice". That is, challenging one's self at a higher level than one normally plays or competes at -- after playing PongSpar for a length of time, it's quite possible one's skill at Pong and related games may have significantly improved. These games then fully also capture what I feel is the spirit of the Pirate Kart and Klik of the Month challenges -- they are about gaining practice and experience and skill in game development, game overs be damned! (Also that you never really finish, but just run out of time, but that's a secondary notion. :P)

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