January 22, 2007
THE 2006 DONATIONCODER.COM ACCESSIBILITY GAME PROGRAMMING CONTEST RESULTS
We received 9 "Switch" Game Entries (games for which the only control available during play is a single button or key):
Branston and the Lost Machine
Hanan Finnerty isn't even in college yet, but his entry to the contest was chosen as our overall favorite and top prize winner.
His "Branston and the Lost Machine" Flash game is so packed with style and personality and fun that it's bursting out of every scene.
Although the drawings in the game don't have a professional polish, they are funny and clever and compelling, and as we played the game we found ourselves laughing and constantly surprised by new things. Not satisfied to stick with one control scheme, in Branston you actually switch at different points between dramatically different control schemes. The creature riding levels are inspried and not to be missed.
We dare you to try to play this game without smiling.
Now that's not to say it's perfect - not by a long shot. It's not a completely finished game, and it's not a polished or professional experience, but it's so damn impressive in terms of vision and ambition that it captured our heart immediately and never let it go. We can't wait to see what the author will come up with in the future..
Because of all this, "Branston and the Lost Machine" was our choice of best overall entry. Congratulations Hanan, we think you have a real future in the game development world.
Play the online flash game: Here.
Herder is a zen experience as much as it is a challenging game. We hesitate to spoil it for you by explaining it too much. Basically you hold the key to change the orientation of the snake's rotation, and encircle the bubbles using the snake to make them disappear.
In order to eliminate the floating bubbles, which is the objective of the game, you need to have the correct orientation and the snake's color should match the bubble's color. It really is a unique and fun experience.
You'll find two other simpler games by the same author in the comment thread for this entry.
Don't be deceived by the simple graphics in SpaceHopper - it's actually a challenging, fun, and very clever game.
The basic control scheme is similar to some of the other switch games, an autonomously rotating directional indicator is locked using the switch key. But SpaceHopper adds another element in that you then change to a different control scheme where a power-bar regulates the strength of your "hop", and then hold the key to bounce.
It's actually a surprisingly effective way to control a character in a platformer. Trying to coordinate your actions in a real time world of enemies is difficult but feels natural and fun.
The game was created using GameMaker and loads level files that can be modified using a rudimentary level editor - so clearly this game has room for growth. Very cool stuff.
Zombies Ate My Peoples
Ethan Levy's Zombies Ate My Peoples is a switch-game inspired by the Tower Defence flash game.
Endless hordes of the dead are rising up from the ground with an unquenchable thirst for brains. They are coming for your town and will not stop until they’ve eaten all your peoples! Build towers and upgrade them to protect your peoples from this unspeakable horror.
It's one of the most elegant examples of how to make a switch game from an existing game, and in some ways the conversion to a switch game in this case has the possibility of adding to the game in reducing the open-endedness of the original.
It's worth noting that Zombies Ate My Peoples is the second game submitted to the contest that was created with the GameMaker system, which we would have contacted about donating prizes for this contest except that their game creation tool is such a great bargain already at $20 that there just didn't seem like a point! If you want to get your feet wet trying to build a game, GameMaker is worth a look!
You use your switch key to advance through your tower positions, and then double press to select and modify. This same scheme of advance and modify works smoothly throughout that game to great effect. A further meta level control is available by holding the key for a longer period to trigger some discrete events. A clever visual feedback bar indicates the current operation. One of the more satisfying control schemes we saw in the contest.
Personal note: As a huge fan of the tower defense game genre - I was ecstatic to see this entry. I only wish that some more effort had gone into playtesting it and balancing the game dynamics - it seems to me the game is too easy until it hits a certain threshold and then instantly becomes impossibly hard. With a little more work this game could be incredibly fun - mouser.
Wakerider is a very professionally finished Flash game by Alan Rawkins (website) with a serious learning curve and some fast and furious game play.
It's a racing game where you steer a boat through a series of checkpoints in a certain amount of time. And you'll need some sharp reflexes to master it.
Control is via an automated directional indicator that rotates constantly - you hold the switch key to lock the direction and steer the boat in the locked direction.
As if controlling the fast boat wasn't hard enough, you are towing a wakeboarder who is trying to do tricks. You need to be wary of his balance; if it depletes, he falls and you lose time, but if he stays up and lands tricks, you win bonus time.
There is a series of levels and unlockable boats and boards in the game that increase the challenge and speed as you go along. It's a serious challenge.
Play the online FLASH game: Here.
Asteroids of Orion
Asteroids of Orion is an inventive take on the classic asteroids game.
The control scheme is quite unusual. Rather than pressing a key to change direction, or to select a directional heading from an autonomously rotating direction indicator, here your switch key releases a "mine" - which explodes when the key is released.
The mines serve dual purposes. In addition to destroying the asteroids, if the mines explode close to you they will propel you. The novel control scheme adds a lot to the game and, like WakeRider, means there is a real learning curve to the game and a real challenge ahead of you. Really well done.
Built using the Torque Game Builder trial version.
Here's a tetris style one-switch game that is designed to run on Java phones. It demonstrates another kind of control scheme we see in one-switch games, a directional indicator that moves autonomously and is activated by the user when it points in the right direction.
Play it online: Here.
Rescue is a one-switch 2d space shooting game - the goal is to rescue all the humans on the ground.
Rescue is not easy. It follows the same control scheme used by Go Rabbit - your button causes the ship to rotate 90 degrees on command. It's interesting to notice how easy or hard it is to adapt to limited control options, and what kinds of different strategies of play are required.
Rescue home page: http://project.cakeneko.com/rescue/
Go Rabbit, Go
Go Rabbit, Go is a simple and slow moving Flash switch game specifically designed to be playable by people with handicaps who may have difficulty playing the typical frenetic and demanding game. It's friendly and suitable for a wide range of players.
The idea is based on the idea of the 'broken tractor maze' in which you must traverse a maze, but can only turn left (or only right). The character moves at a constant rate and must grab all the carrots on the screen. A flying tortoise chases the character, at 1/3rd the character's speed, helping to motivate the activity. When a carrot is landed upon, it is replaced with a clod of dirt, through which the character cannot pass again, so the rabbit essentially creates a maze for itself as the level progresses.
Play Flash game online: Here
AUDIO ONLY GAMES
We received 5 Audio-Output-Only Game Entries (games which can be played by someone without the ability to see the screen):
Black Cat in a Black Room
Black Cat in a Black Room is a delightfully simple and charming audio-only Flash game, ironically written by the genius who developed the Haaf's Game Engine for Windows.
In the game, you're standing in the middle of a black room. A black cat is rambling somewhere around. You walk around in search of the cat by calling it and listening for it's 3d spatially located meows.
This was the only game in the contest that actually takes advantage of 3d sound localization, and the result is quite charming and will make you smile for sure. It does make you yearn for a more complicated game though, where you could really test your localization skills.
Blankblock is a version of the classic "peg-jumping" game, with a range of difficulty levels from easy to mind melting.
It's the only entry in our contest designed by a team that actually works in the accessibility-game field in real life. Yakir Arbib led this work, and is a member of the audiogame company called "Lighttech Interactive", that makes free games which are accessible to people with visual disabilities.
In Blankblock you start the game you get a randomly generated board with block(peg) slots, and an empty slot. Your goal is to clear the whole board from blocks by jumping blocks(pegs) over one another into blank slots. We had a hard time hearing some of the instructions over the sound effects - hopefully the prize sound effects cds will offer some more subtle choices for the next game.
Download: Lighttech Interactive Website.
TAMPOKME is an acronym for "The Audio Multi-Players One Key Mosquitoes Eater."
Written by Thomas Gaudy, a French PhD student working on audiogaming with the CEDRIC laboratory from the CNAM, the INSERM INOVA laboratory from the UPMC and the CECIAA Company.
Tampokme is a fantastic idea which is in pretty rough form, and can get downright chaotic when you sit down with a couple of players to try it out. But it's overflowing with playfulness.
It can be played in both French and English, and although the English audio translation is quite good, when you combine it with the chaotic nature of the game it can be a real challenge.
Basically this game is in the "quick-reaction" genre. Players hear various sound cues and must react quickly to each one with the proper response.
The competition and cooperation element in the game is very clever, as is the use of key press patterns. A wondefull idea, but one which could benefit from some work making it cleaner and easier to follow.
Not only is this an audio-only game, it's also a one switch (per player) switch game!
A Dark and Deadly Path
A Dark and Deadly Path is a super tiny little audio game engine (can be used to make audio-only one switch games too).
This was an unofficial entry into the contest that was not eligible to win any prizes, as it was written by one of the organizers (mouser).
It works like the old Dragon's Lair LaserDisc game , or like those "choose your own adventure games , but is audio only and involves no graphics. An author narrates a story/game is an audio story where the reader/play must make choices along the way by pressing a key on the keyboard.
The choices may have to be made rapidly in quick succession within a narrow time window which can add an element of panic to the story - and make it a particularly appropriate device for suspense stories.
Audio files are normal .mp3 files that an author records with standard software. The game script is an .xml file with a format to be described in a separate file.