BYOG Jam Games – Part 1

The 10 finalists have been selected out of the 27 games that were submitted for the BYOG Jam last month, and they will be showcased at the NASSCOM Game Developer Conference later this month in Pune. We’ve been going through the entries and have found many interesting ideas. We’ll be sharing a few thoughts about each of the entries, irrespective of whether they made it as finalists.

Here are the first few in no particular order:

Verdant – Themes: shell, environment

verdantVerdant puts you in control of a shell that contains a small seed – the last bit of life on the Earth. The seed has begun to sprout, and it is trying to get out of the shell without touching the walls for some reason. The goal and the controls are simple – you rotate the shell to allow the rapidly-growing shoot to make it out of the shell that is both its saviour and its prison. When you make it out of the shell you move on to the following level – a different calcium carbonate maze.

 A Mother’s Love – Themes: parenting, travel, shell

A Mothers Love

These guys get a special mention for using drug dealers throwing needles at you as one of the dangers in their runner. “Shell”, and “parenting”, along with the name, pay lip service to the themes and are used to give a reason for a shield, dash and jump move that can be used to dodge the various dangers that pop up during the levels. The movement and jumping don’t work too well, and in general it isn’t particularly polished or unique.

Parenting 101 – Themes: parenting, experiment

Parenting 101

This is a promising game that puts you in the shoes of a parent dealing with issues that arise during their child’s upbringing.

It’s nice to see that they decided to try dealing with actual situations that could come up while raising a kid and the negative effects that they could have as opposed to treating parenting as an abstract concept that is always good for the child. It’s interesting that they often made available the option to respond to the child with physical abuse, and in some cases it is less of ‘spank them because they did something wrong’ and comes across more as ‘beat them up because domestic violence’. There’s a surprising lack of positive reinforcement that you can give your child though, with most options involving turning a blind eye, punishment, or lecturing.

From what I can tell, each child is born with a personality, though this doesn’t really manifest at any point during the game. My first child was apparently born to be responsible, and he turned out to be a socialist – ‘you could do better’ the game told me. Could I? What was ‘better’? Had the game set up a scale to judge my parenting? If so, why was raising my child to be a socialist not a good thing?

That one line left me completely confused – what was the purpose of this game? If the idea was to experiment with how different methods of raising a child then why was it grading me on it at the end? The second time around the game left me with: ‘Congrats! You did good. You were the best parent to your child.’ when I had decide to see what being an abusive and controlling parent would achieve (apart from leaving me slightly disturbed) and this led my second child to be destructive.

The sudden change in tone was odd, and it was slightly perplexing to find that the game was trying to be sarcastic all of a sudden.

It would be interesting to see children respond differently based on the way you interact with them and the way that they develop – as I understand, this is something that was aimed at, but unrealised by the limited time available during the jam. I hope the developers, Manish and Sanchit, continue to work on the game and see how far they can take it.

Guide Me – Themes: travel, parenting 

Guide Me

This game is about leading three lost orbs of light across the screen to the exit. The little orbs are full of life and they spin around with energy and enthusiasm in the darkness full of danger and obstacles. The idea of parenting here isn’t really developed apart from the fact that you’re guiding these three ‘children’ to the exit. The bright little lights are starkly contrasted against the dark maze they find themselves in, and you lead them by shining a small circle of light into which they move. The orbs looks lovely as they jump towards any illumination they find and then huddle together in the dark.

The biggest problem with the game is that the act of clicking to get them to move just isn’t very satisfying. Moving them around a static map isn’t much fun either, and the only challenge initially is that obstacles need to be discovered before they can be circumvented. Things get interesting with moving obstacles though, which presented a greater challenge. It would be nice to see more of these, along with tougher and better-designed levels.

Snake_wars – Themes: parenting, environment, preference

snake wars

Though this is pretty much snake in its most basic, unchanged form, the idea of adding in a second player has actually led to a lot of fun – even if the fun stems from the fact that the game is pretty buggy.

For a game named Snake Wars it seems a bit strange that it keeps telling you not to fight. Every time the snakes collided into each other or bite their own tails, the score resets for both players, making it pretty much unwinnable – a player can sabotage the game just before the other player wins by biting their own tail. Sometimes it resets and tell you that the snakes are eating themselves or each other, even when they were not. I’m not sure if this was intended, but it ends up leading in an interesting direction: after a few minutes of frustration, both players will inevitably get fed up and either quit the game, call a truce, or decide to work together. Even when a truce is called, the players still have a hard time – the snakes seemed to be allergic to each other, and even when they are a few blocks away from each other it registers that they have collided. When I played it with a friend it took us many tries to get one of us to the target score, even after deciding to work together.

The game doesn’t really fit the themes that were selected, but my theory is that this is the devs’ take on Richard Dawkins’ ideas about cooperation contributing to natural selection.

Check out Part 2 here!

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