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Feedback wanted on Help Wanted and related columns.

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WoA V Judging

The following are my scores and feedback for all the fantastic entries in the fifth annual 'Week of Awesome ' contest, which has just wrapped up.

I was meant to be an official judge for this contest, but due to an unforeseen family medical problem, unfortunately, did not get my scores submitted in time for the official results.  I would like to extend my sincere apologies to all of the participants who put in such a great effort creating your entries.  I'm so impressed with what you all managed to create, and I hope that even though you didn't get my feedback in time for the official results you might still appreciate reading it -- I had all of this done before the deadline but unfortunately was simply unable to submit it.

As I missed the deadline and results have already been finalized, I've elected to publish my scores here but not submit them to the official tally this year, as I'm told that may alter the final scores published on the contest site.

 

Assassins 'r' Us:

Gameplay: 19
Graphics: 12
Theme: 16
Audio: 5
First Time User Experience: 7
Participation: 10
Judge: 4
Total: 73

Thoughts:

Great effort overall.  For the short duration of the contest, I'm impressed with the variety in levels provided.  I had some difficulty getting used to the controls, but they worked reasonably well with a bit of practice - I did forget a few times and press the wrong direction though, and the camera was also a little jarring.  The audio wasn't bad, but not a great fit for the theme and feel of the game.

I'm impressed by what was done within a week and think this would make a great candidate to be polished up for a proper release if the dev wanted to put more time into it.

 

Knights vs. Aliens:

Gameplay: 14
Graphics: 8
Theme: 16
Audio: 0
First Time User Experience: 3 
Participation: 10
Judge: 2
Total: 53

Thoughts:

Multiplayer was an interesting decision - unfortunately, it made this one a little difficult to judge.  I ended up playing against my wife (not really a gamer), which may have impacted my experience.  A more intuitive/modern way of connecting would make a nice improvement, but sticking to something simple and functional is understandable given the time constraint.

I had a bit of difficulty figuring out controls and wasn't great at the game - some sort of mini-map would have been a huge improvement, and I would have liked to see some sort of terrain/background. There was no audio.

 

ThunderStruck:

Gameplay: 20
Graphics: 18
Theme: 17
Audio: 9
First Time User Experience: 6
Participation: 10
Judge: 4
Total: 84

Thoughts:

This was a pretty cool game; definitely one that could be a great experience with a bit more work.  I liked the retro-styled graphics, and the audio was a great fit.  Gameplay was pretty good but got a bit repetitive at times (this could probably be improved with more time than the contest allowed), and I would have preferred some in-game prompting for the controls, which took me a while to figure out.  Definitely got that retro RPG feel.

The shockwave was a pretty neat idea!

 

The Tower of Chains:

Gameplay: 15
Graphics: 16
Theme: 16
Audio: 8
First Time User Experience: 4
Participation: 10
Judge: 3
Total: 72

Thoughts:

Although I've enjoyed a few of the popular ones, I've never been very good at FPS games - my reflexes aren't great.  Controls felt a bit sluggish, but I'm not sure if that's a genuine problem or my lack of skill. That being said, I'm impressed with the effort for one week, and could see this potentially being a really fun game.

I had to try this on a second computer, as there was a problem with the graphics at first.  I'm told this is possibly related to some bug with AMD chipsets.  Once I could see something, graphics were pretty good if maybe a little basic - very understandable with the time constraints.  Audio was pretty good.

The chains were a clever interpretation of the theme.

  

Strawberry:

Gameplay: 12
Graphics: 18
Theme: 11
Audio: 0
First Time User Experience: 8 
Participation: 10
Judge: 3
Total: 62

Thoughts:

Very well executed, but there wasn't a lot to it  With more content of the same quality, this could be a pretty good game.  Castle theme wasn't particularly integrated into the game.

Gameplay was probably a bit easy - this could probably be improved with a variety of enemies and some clever level design if more time was put in to the game.

No audio.

 

Invasion of Planet Frog:

Gameplay: 13
Graphics: 17
Theme: 10
Audio: 8
First Time User Experience: 8 
Participation: 10 
Judge: 3
Total: 69

Thoughts:

I'm invading the aliens?  Nice twist on the theme, but otherwise the themes felt somewhat superficial rather than a part of the game.

Overall really good - I'm not a huge fan of the graphical style, but it was pretty well done and overall consistent, and the audio was quite good.

Controls could use a little work.

 

Castle Spaceships:

Gameplay: 17
Graphics: 16
Theme: 18
Audio: 8
First Time User Experience: 9  
Participation: 10 
Judge: 4
Total: 82

Thoughts:

A Very simple arcade-feeling game, but also very well executed and enjoyable for a bit of fun.  Unfortunately for such a simple game I felt it lacked that "one more try" factor, so if I were to make a suggestion to improve the game I would suggest either adding some more complexity with additional mechanics, or trying to really tighten the core game loop and get the player invested to try to improve on subsequent plays.

Graphics were a mixed bag, and I felt lacked consistency.  The environment (especially that night sky!) were fantastic, but some of the props could use some work -- and I wasn't sure if the changing colours were meant to signify something?

 

TowerDefenseFPS:

Gameplay: 2
Graphics: 15
Theme: 5
Audio: 0
First Time User Experience: 3 
Participation: 1
Judge: 0
Total: 26

Thoughts:

The author straight up says this one wasn't actually completed due to participation in another jam.  Models look good, but otherwise there isn't really anything to comment on.

 

Castilla 1528:

Gameplay: 22
Graphics: 16
Theme: 19
Audio: 8
First Time User Experience: 7
Participation: 7
Judge: 3
Total: 82

Thoughts:

I'm not really a fan of the NES-styled retro graphics, but they were very consistent and seem quite well done for that style.  

Controls were a bit awkward, but gameplay was quite good overall.  Good candidate to polish up for a proper release!

Not to my personal taste, but a very well executed game.  I appreciate the added constraint of meeting requirements for TWO jams at once.

 

Merlin & The Invaders from Mars:

Gameplay: 20
Graphics: 16
Theme: 18
Audio: 6
First Time User Experience: 8  
Participation: 10
Judge: 3
Total: 81

Thoughts:

Really well executed!  Controls were intuitive and the game was easy to get in to.  I found it dragged a bit after getting towers placed, but find most TD games to be similar.

Some of the SFX were a little grating, but overall the audio was pretty good.

 

Humanity's Last Hope:

Gameplay: 12
Graphics: 19
Theme: 13
Audio: 9
First Time User Experience: 8  
Participation: 10
Judge: 4
Total: 75

Thoughts:

Fantastic start to a game - everything that's available is really well polished.  Unfortunately, it's not complete.  For any future jams with such a time constraint, I might suggest either picking a smaller game that can be completed with this level of polish, or making something less polished with a bit more gameplay.  I would definitely like to see more of this game, and think it could possibly make for a good release with more content of the same quality.

I found it a little difficult/fiddly, but otherwise the gameplay that was present was very good.

I felt that the incomplete nature of the game left the themes a little lacking.

 

Alien Day Heroic:

Gameplay: 14
Graphics: 14
Theme: 17
Audio: 6
First Time User Experience: 8
Participation: 7
Judge: 3
Total: 69

Thoughts:

Gameplay was fine if a bit repetitive and not particularly interesting.  Definitely a good basis to expand upon with more time.

Graphics (not a style I particularly like, but quite well executed) and music are both good, but there's not much in the way of SFX.

 

Invasion of The Liquid Snatchers:

Gameplay: 24
Graphics: 18
Theme: 18
Audio: 8
First Time User Experience: 9  
Participation: 10
Judge: 5
Total: 92

Thoughts:

Extremely well executed, this is a fantastic effort in 7 days.  Would definitely be worth pursuing as a larger release.

Appreciate the effort behind the fluids.

 

Aliens from The Sky:

Gameplay: 23
Graphics: 16
Theme: 17
Audio: 8
First Time User Experience: 9  
Participation: 10
Judge: 5
Total: 88

Thoughts:

Really well made and polished, I could see this as a web game or mobile release with little or no changes needed.

While it is a pretty basic experience, I felt like this one has that "one more try" factor.

While the castle theme is present, I felt it could have easily been re-skinned as something else, but overall good use of the themes especially for such simple gameplay.

 

ProjectCastle:

Gameplay: 6
Graphics: 10
Theme: 5
Audio: 0
First Time User Experience:  7
Participation: 5
Judge: 1
Total: 34

Thoughts:

Good start, but not really any gameplay present, this entry clearly wasn't finished.  Despite that, the physics is enjoyable to mess around with briefly, so this could possibly be turned into something cool with more work.  

I assume one of the themes is chain reaction, but there isn't really a second theme present other than the hint of "castle" in the title.  No audio.

 

RobinDuck:

Gameplay: 9
Graphics: 8
Theme: 15
Audio: 0
First Time User Experience: 5  
Participation: 8
Judge: 1
Total: 46

Thoughts:

I can see the idea, but unfortunately the game is too dark, which makes it very hard to see much or play the game.  Could be good with better lighting and some more work.  

 

KingGame:

Gameplay: 15
Graphics: 19
Theme: 15
Audio: 9
First Time User Experience: 8  
Participation: 10
Judge: 4
Total: 80

Thoughts:

Really well executed - good graphics, great audio.  I think my wife (enjoys adventure games, mysteries, and horror themes) might actually enjoy this one.

Some puzzles were a bit unintuitive, but I think that's par for the course for the genre.

 

Domino Castles:

Gameplay: 18
Graphics: 19
Theme: 17
Audio: 6
First Time User Experience: 7  
Participation: 10
Judge: 3
Total: 80

Thoughts:

Clever idea, I think this could be a really good game with good potential for that "one more try" factor.  Unfortunately, I found it really difficult, even after finding the easy setting (which I probably would have made the default).  I'm actually planning to give this some more playtime, as I, unfortunately, didn't have time to really master the gameplay and get a good rhythm going during the judging period.

Graphics and audio (fitting, but simple) were very good, and overall I think this game would be a good one to polish up (and tweak that difficulty a bit!) for a larger release.

 

Wovanosh Invasion:

Gameplay: 15
Graphics: 11
Theme: 18
Audio: 6
First Time User Experience:  8
Participation: 10
Judge: 3
Total: 71

Thoughts:

Simple, but pretty good given the time constraint.  Would like to see some more variety if more time were spent on it.

Graphics obviously amateur but consistent and not at all bad, and audio is pretty reasonable.  Overall a good entry.

 

Assassinator:

Gameplay: 10
Graphics: 14
Theme: 10
Audio: 0
First Time User Experience: 3
Participation: 7
Judge: 2
Total: 46

Thoughts:

What I saw seemed good, but unfortunately, this was buggy and had a few crashes, and ran into a few others bugs as well.  Would love to see this one polished up a bit so that I could really give it a proper try.  Probably not able to judge gameplay fairly due to the problems.

Audio not present.

 

...and that's it folks!

Just a quick update this time:- I've updated my popular 2008 blog post on "Why you shouldn't use Dev-C++", and also moved to a new url -- the old one has a re-direct page for now, but I probably won't host that for ever.

The article can now be found at http://clicktobegin.net/programming/why-you-shouldnt-use-dev-c/

Please update any bookmarks. smile.png


I'm planning a follow-up entry discussing the merits of using an updated version of Dev-C++, as I've recently seen a bit more awareness of wxDev-C++ and the much newer Orwell Dev-C++.
Cross posted from http://www.jasonbadams.net/


Facebook can be a great way to connect with people and keep in touch. However, by default Facebook generates a lot of notifications, both via it's own interface and by email, often about a lot of things you might not care about. There are however a few things you can do to manage and reduce the traffic so that you see less of the junk, and hopefully more of what interests you. If you have a couple of spare minutes and would like to try removing a lot of the annoyances that come along with Facebook you might consider some or all of the following simple suggestions:

1. Filter your news feed to show status updates only.

The news feed is what you see by default on your Facebook homepage when logged in. It contains status updates, recently posted photos or links, new notes and a wide assortment of traffic generated by Facebook applications your friends use. Many people would prefer to see less of the other (sometimes annoying, particularly in the case of some applications) content and just see status updates in this section, and it's quite easy to do so.

Full post at Unrefined Awesome...
Those who view the front page of the site or peruse the news forum may have noticed a monthly column I've been posting for a short while now to help bring a bit more attention to some of the projects in Help Wanted.

To give a couple of examples of recent editions I'll link to the June Help Wanted Picks, and the July edition; this month I made the experimental adjustment of seperating out "services offered" into a seperate edition posted in the middle of the month.

Why am I posting this?

I'd like feedback on what I'm doing. Anyone who has been following the column will see that I've been making changes each time trying to find out how best to provide a useful piece that people will actually value. In particular, there's some discussion in the comments of the latest 'Help Offered Picks' that I'd like additional feedback on, and any other comments on the column (either version) in general are most welcome.

What do you want to see in the Help Wanted/Offered Picks?
As most of you probably already know, we have a required template for posts in the Help Wanted forum... but why do we have it?

The first reason is fairly obvious. Most people looking for a project to join have the same few generic questions regarding things such as payment, choice of technology and the goals of the project. The various sections of the template provide the majority of that information, saving people the need to ask and allowing people to quickly glance over the sections that most interest them.

The second reason can be somewhat less obvious however. Having to fill out the template forces people to think about those details of their project, and (although this doesn't seem terribly effective) it is hoped that in at least some cases will encourage people to do a little more preparation before forming a team. The majority of sections are things that any well thought out project should be able to answer without any problems, and apart from those headings marked as optional it should probably raise warning-flags if you're having trouble coming up with answers to any of them.

Thirdly, a poorly filled out template can often be a quick indicator to experienced users browsing the threads that a project probably doesn't have good chances.

Look at for an entry in the next few days on potential alterations to the current template.
Cross posted from Unrefined Awesome.

There's a well-known document called How To Ask Questions The Smart Way that a lot of forums, newsgroups and faqs link to as an explanation of how to approach seeking help. It's well written, comprehensive and gives a very good explanation of how and why people should improve their questions. However, it's also really long, makes frequent use of the term "hacker" (which to the majority of people in need of help with asking questions has a meaning other than what is intended) and in my opinion is probably a little too long winded and a bit out of touch with many (but not all!) modern programming fora and newgroups. The following is my attempt at a more concise version without some of the dated jargon or opinions that may not be relevant to some communities.



Read the rest of the entry at Unrefined Awesome.
Just snippets from a couple of posts from my blog, Unrefined Awesome:

Quote:
from Why you shouldn't use Dev-C++
I still see a lot of people using the out-of-date and unmaintained Bloodshed Dev-C++ IDE (Integrated Development Environment), and I'd like to briefly explain why this is a bad idea as well as pointing any interested readers toward a couple of good alternatives.

Read the full post at Unrefined Awesome.


Quote:
from Why you shouldn't use Visual C++ 6
In the same vein as my earlier post on Why You Shouldn't Use Dev-C++ I'd like to outline a few reasons you shouldn't still be using Visual C++ 6.0. These arguments may not apply if you're working with a computer that is both particularly underpowered and running a very old (pre-'98) version of Windows, but in the overwhelming majority of cases VC++6 is a terrible choice of development environment.

Read the full post at Unrefined Awesome.
I took on board some of the feedback from last time when posting the new Help Wanted Picks to the front page. This time we've got screenshots, and the list of services offered at the bottom of the post is sorted into categories with a couple that I personally recommend for anyone interested specially marked.

Check it out and let me know if you've got any more feedback.



I also got the suggestion last time of highlighting one bad post as an example of how not to do it. While this would be both educational and potentially amusing I don't feel it's really in the spirit of encouraging beginners (even if they're really bad now they might get better with some prompting), and doesn't seem overly professional. As an alternative however, would people be interested in seeing short snippets giving tips on succesfully recruiting from some of our current and/or previous users?

Help Wanted Picks

Just a quick post to point anyone who doesn't regularly visit the front page of the site in the direction of the second edition of what will hopefully continue to be a regular fortnightly news-item here at GDNet: Help Wanted Picks.

The basic idea is to handpick a few projects every couple of weeks which stand out amongst the others and give them a bit of front-page exposure on the site - hopefully it'll get more skilled developers connecting, thereby attracting more promising projects which traditionally sometimes shy away from our beginner-friendly (and therefore sometimes unfortunately swamped with low quality projects) HW forum.

While I'm less confident about the success of my first and third choices for featured projects than I was the first time I think the chosen threads do clearly stand out amongst the rest, and still have the very-likely-to-succeed EDI project in there.


So, anything that could/should be added/removed/done differently? As a reader who might be looking for help, would it be worth it to you if I'd spent the time to sort and/or summarise the list of services offered at the bottom? Do you agree with my choice of projects, and with what I said about them? Have you recently visited Help Wanted and think I missed a brilliant project that should have been included?

Help Wanted!

It's rather interesting moderating the Help Wanted forum, I get to see a whole miriad of different projects and potential projects constantly parading through, some of which do quite well and the majority of which go absolutely nowhere. It's rather unfortunate that there are often some very good projects which slip through the cracks and don't seem to get much attention and I'd just like to draw a bit of focus towards one at the moment if there are any artists out there who may be able to contribute:

Cryptex of Time
Cryptex of Time screenshots
Click for larger...

Cryptex of Time is a casual puzzle game under development by one of our long-time but not overly well known users AJirenius and intended to be published via online portals. He's actually got the game to a completed state except for some graphics and audio assets and is currently looking for help with finishing it off, and apparently already has some interest from at least one publisher.

In spite of the advanced stage of development, relative ease of the work required, near guarantee of project completion and the fact that he's willing to negotiate some compensation for work done he has unfortunately not yet recieved any (well... only one composer) interest from people who may be able to help.

If you are or know of anyone who may be able to help out, please take a look at or pass on his Help Wanted thread.


Honourable mentions for interesting Help Wanted thread also currently go to:
Are Fell; oldschool RPG looking to fill various positions
and 1944 D-Day; WWII sim seeking gameplay programmers and other roles.

Splish Splosh Splash

I'm sure you're all familiar with splash screens in games by now. I mean the full-screen animated things that display company logos. I don't believe splash screen isn't really the correct term for these, but it seems to be what they're commonly known as these days and I'm sure you're all aware of what I'm talking about. For anyone still confused, and for purposes of illustration a few examples are in order. The following are screenshots taken from the splashscreens of Activision, Westwood Studios and EA respectively (thankfully for me I don't seem to own any games new enough to get a capture of the now infamous "challenge everything"):
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

...and the following are three seperate frames captured from the splash screen of Raven:
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Now, personally I think that the Raven splash screen (captured from my copy of Quake 4 btw) is actually pretty cool, and I'll admit I've let it play a few times. How many times have you put in your favorite game and simply pressed escape, or space, or whatever key happens to skip one of these splash screens though? How many times have you actually watched one of these splash screens? I think you'll find that apart from perhaps the first time you rarely watch the splash screens; you want to get to the action (never mind the fact that you'll still have to navigate a menu before you can get to the gameplay!) and the splash screens - sometimes in groups of up to 3 or 4 - are slowing you down, wasting your time.

Worse still are games where you can't skip the splash, and are sometimes also subjected to an intro movie (it was cool the first time...). I'm sure every avid gamer has some amount of hatred for the EA games' "create everything" splash, and keeping gamers from getting to the gameplay isn't really a great idea. There is however a method to the madness of these big studios and publishers; they're building brand loyalty. You'll remember most of the annoying splash screens, and that might help generate sales in future; in theory you'll remember the excellent games you've played before and be more inclined to purchase (or at least consider) future titles by the same companies.

"So, what's your point?"

I'm glad you asked. My point is that your indie or hobbiest game need not inflict players with this same annoyance. I see a lot of people including a splash screen just because it's what all thier favorite games do; you don't need to. If you do include any sort of cinematic, make it skippable. You aren't a big studio, you don't need to stoop to these marketting tactics.

Still want to display a logo somewhere and build some brand loyalty? Here's a not-so-secret: The player will look at the menu screen every time they load up your game. Put a logo on there somewhere if you must, and earn points from your players by not stopping them from getting to the action.


Anyways, just a little rant, hope someone finds it interesting. [wink]



By the way, check out Primal Damage, by mcguile25. The website isn't very impressive yet, but it looks like it'll be a cool game - he's been posting about it in his journal, and now he's also looking for help (2d/3d artists, web design).

Emoticons

Among other projects, I've been working on some custom forum software. I'm aware that there are plenty of existing packages out there I could potentially use, but I don't like any of them, so I'm trying to write something following a few guidelines:
- The content comes first
- No 'feature bloat'; if I don't need it it shouldn't be there
- Validating XHTML/CSS that works reliably on major browsers
- Avoid tables for layout if possible
- Clean markup and code
- Must load quickly, even (especially?) on slow connections

Anyways, more on that at a later stage I'm sure. For now, in order to take a bit of a break from it but still spend time working on something that will contribute, I've started creating a small set of basic emoticons to be used with it. I only want a few (about 10) covering what is commonly used in line with my 'no bloat' guideline and so as not to detract from actual content, and my art isn't great, but thus far I have:
:) :( :| :D ;)

I've managed to get the filesizes nice and small, and I think I've got them looking pretty decent, if pretty basic. I've also done some of them in green, but I think I prefer the blue, and it'll certainly fit into the intended site design better unless things change.


Check out Lugaru, by Wolfire Software. They're currently looking for programmers to help with a sequel!

First entry

So...

...figured I may as well start posting in this thing sometimes. Updates will be non-regular, and will cover a range of topics, including my projects, non-GD related projects, and the occasional rant. I'll also likely take some time to pimp some of the more interesting projects currently going on in Help Wanted.

For now I shall leave you with this suitably mysterious picture:
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
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