Xerra's Blog

Drunken coder ramblings

How my games have done in Syntax Bomb competitions – Part Two —

Edit: I had to change the date of this post so it appeared at the top.

Another post that’s a bit overdue now. I started drafting this back in March, 2021 and it got left half finished in the life-swirl of moving house, changing jobs, moving house again, and general slackness on my part. So today I finally got around to picking it up again.

I left off part one having gone up to my third game, Bah, Humbug!, which in retrospect actually stood the test of time a lot better than I thought it would. I even did a kind of mini re-release of it for Xmas 2020 (2 years later) by faking a discount to free of charge on itch.io because I just wanted to get more people to see it. Shit loads did, which surprised me, as it seems people would rather download and play a game that’s been temporarily discounted to free of charge, if they think it used to be a chargeable product. From having around 80 views in total, it went up to almost four figures just for the week it showed discounted to free. Possibly Itch showcased it because it was Xmas themed.

So, from the financial success of Bah, Humbug!, I moved onto the next competition when it was announced, which was number 8. This time round the theme was to make a game that looked like it was being played on an 8 bit computer. Same palette and no effects that looked like they wouldn’t be possible on the real machine. Naturally I chose the C64, as I needed to be able to use sprites for everything, and you could get away with quite a few moving objects on the C64 with interrupts trickery.

This competition was probably the most memorable of them all so far, as it still has the record for the most entries, and the quality of most of the entries was absolutely amazing. At the time I thought my game, Damnation Alley, was ok, but it hasn’t stood the test of time anywhere near as well as some of the other games. In the end it came in 6th place. Not actually that bad considering the number of entries.

A Damnation Alley post-mortem is something I’ve yet to do, as I was a bit slack on the blog entries at that time, but I’ll do it at some point because my comment about the test of time in the last paragraph was written last year and I think now that it’s a bit harsh. Suffice to say that I loved playing Spy Hunter as a kid and that was the game i was going to try and emulate. I succeeded in some areas, and failed pretty badly in others, but the game does have a lot of redeeming qualities on reflection, such as the Invadeaload addition, for example. More on all that in a separate post.

I was keen to try and do a much better game with the next effort for the Syntax Bomb competition 9, where the theme was Mix it up. This would be my second game in 2019. You had to choose two categories, one from each list of ideas generated randomly. I chose the easy option and went for the two subjects that would most appeal to me, which were Retro and Shooter. Endless, tactical, RPG and some of the other options didn’t really appeal for creating a short game, and there were only 8 weeks to get it done.

What I came up with after a fair bit of thinking was Centipede. I very nearly ran with some kind of remake of radar rat race, which was an early cartridge game for the Vic 20, but in the end decided to leave that for another day. I loved Centipede in the arcade, and Millipede, which came out a bit later. There were several versions of this game for both C64 and Vic 20 that I played but obviously none ever came close to the belting Jeff Minter classics, Gridrunner and Matrix. Matrix was also known as Attack of the Mutant Camels at some point, just to add to the confusion.

Anyway, as usual, because I had played and loved games like these as a kid, I wanted to try and do something similar myself. This is another game i completed that only warranted a quick released post on the blog when I finished, so I’ll do a retrospective at some point later on. Suffice to say that I really enjoyed making and still playing this one but my major failing was probably in the artwork inconsistency and a couple of flawed elements in the gameplay itself. It didn’t make the top three but, again, it probably didn’t deserve to, with some of the better games that did. This game is high on the list of the ideas that I would like to develop into some kind of sequel one day.

The next competition was for the “Reboot” concept where we reimagined a game that had been created for a previous competition. I created Validius for this one, and wrote about that in the previous post. That game turned out much better than expected as I managed to win the competition for a second time.

My first game in 2020 was Tommy Gunn and this was for the “Go Nuts!” competition where the theme was exactly that. You could make whatever game you fancied doing. Again, I need a separate post for this one, as it deserves a bit more than a couple of paragraphs on this post.

The main difference between this game and all my earlier efforts was running it as a project with multiple contributors, rather than just me doing the coding and almost everything else, then throwing in some assets at the end like music. I had a fellow Syntax Bomb member, Tony Blinco, do all the fantastic artwork for me, and recruited a mate, Carl Kingsman, to create the title screen music and jingles. I also had a guy contact me who really wanted to do sound effects for games and asked if he could contribute, which i was very happy to agree. After getting the usual technical assistance from Aaron, and testing duties by our partners and some friends, I found i had enough people who deserved a credit to fill out all the spots in the high score table.

Tommy Gunn did well in the competition by making third place. I was really pushed for time to get it over the line, however, and I really had to cut out a lot of ideas for the game to get it over the line. Blinko also had many suggestions that i wanted to put in that didn’t make the cut. I think I should have put more hours into my side in all honesty. The game ended up being far too easy as a result and that did affect how well the game came across, I believe.

That was the only competition game I actually released in 2020, it turned out, but I did also finally finished my version of Boulderdash, after starting it in 2017 as one of my first projects using GameMaker. That meant I had technically released two games in 2020, which wasn’t as productive as the two previous years, but a definite improvement on 2021, where i finished none of the three i started. More on that in another post.

As I’m writing this in June, 2022, I have put out another competition game this year, and did manage to get a placing again, but there were only four entries, unfortunately, so it’s not the achievement I’d like it to be. Faces of Qube I will talk about in a later post, but again I didn’t get the time to do quite what I wanted to do so hopefully for the next half of this year I’ll get a chance to put 2020’s failure behind me and maybe either get at least one more done, or possibly pick up and finish something else that I never got round to completing in previous years.

Categorised as: Competition | Creepy Crawlies | Damnation Alley | Development | Game Studio 2 | Syntax Bomb | Validius

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