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Independent Games Festival Announces Student Showcase Winners

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the tomorrow's-funmakers dept.

Education 16

The Independent Games Festival has made this year's picks for the ten best student games. More detailed descriptions of each of the games are available at the IGF's website. These are games (and developers) to watch because, as Gamasutra points out, "Notable previous IGF honorees include many of today's breakthrough independent games, from Number None's Braid through 2D Boy's World Of Goo and Invisible Handlebar's Audiosurf. Previous Student Showcase winners have included Narbacular Drop — subsequently evolved into Game Developers Choice Game Of The Year winner Portal — and Cloud, from the student team who then created downloadable titles Flow and Flower."

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Try 'The Color of Doom' (2, Informative)

gravos (912628) | more than 5 years ago | (#26572609)

If you haven't tried any of them yet, give 'The Color of Doom' a shot. Not only do you get the Serious Sam-style hordes of enemies, but it's a source mod so it looks pretty good for the time. The humor ain't as great as Portal, but it's not bad.

Can a single developer still make money for games? (1)

physburn (1095481) | more than 5 years ago | (#26572793)

From link, "The color of doom, was created by a team of 16 students over 6 months"

Is it still possible for a single developer to make anything near decent in computer games? Back in the 8-bit days, teenagers could build a game in there room, now its big business.

What about flash games, there much easier right. Flash games feed [feeddistiller.com]

Re:Can a single developer still make money for gam (1)

minsk (805035) | more than 5 years ago | (#26572983)

Yes, a single person (or developer+artist) can easily produce a decent computer game. The problems are the quantity of art, the complexity of the game, and how much custom code is needed. One person is simply not going to rewrite Half-Life 2. But they might well be able to do Civilization 1...

Leaning C++ and OpenGL sufficiently to write a little game is not a huge undertaking. However, players still have to download and install it. Flash and Java are more convenient for players, and performance penalty is often not a sticking point.

// "their" is the possessive you were looking for

Re:Can a single developer still make money for gam (3, Interesting)

ledow (319597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26573047)

It's possible, but people are getting lazy now and are usually much more specialised.

A lot of the old teams were more than one person too - Codemasters for instance - but I know what you mean. It's not that it can't be done, it's that people don't spend several years solely on one game any more, or that they feel they need graphic artists and musicians and level designers etc. because they can't do it themselves. To an extent, that is true, but the idea of a game is to be... fun. Crayon Physics was one person, I believe, and that's taken a couple of years to come to fruition.

Nowadays, people tend to be "coders" or "artists" or even more specific such as "AI coders", "GUI coders", etc. and there isn't much done without a small team because people are aiming for pretty results from the off. But then, from a coders point of view, I currently have an idea for a game I want to do and I find it hard to start because although I have the game code at the starting stages, I'm not getting good visual feedback from my code so I tend to get stuck in a rut and have to force myself to program. I know that once I get the bare basics of the graphical side up, I will start getting sucked into making the game work as I imagined it and start to "see the code" I need to write rather than just write it.

Collaboration is good, especially for rapid results, but it's the gameplay that makes a game. Personally, I found Crayon Physics a brilliant idea that didn't last long. I really wanted a lot more levels, a lot more freedom, a lot more tools. I can remember taking twenty attempts to join a line to the point that I wanted it to join to. On the other hand, I played Peggle (which is a very basic pinball kind of game), which isn't really my sort of thing at all, and I played it for DAYS straight. It wasn't the graphics (99% of it is red and blue circles and the rest of the graphics just get on my nerves) or the sound, or the controls, it was the gameplay. It was smooth, easy, pick-up-able, intuitive and it just worked.

Re:Can a single developer still make money for gam (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 5 years ago | (#26573151)

I had fun this month spending a week and a half developing a game for the Java 4k [java4k.com] competition - fit a game into a 4kB .jar file. With that kind of constraint you're forced to concentrate on getting the gameplay right and then trying to squeeze in a bit of graphical polish. Not to say that all of the games that people have submitted have good gameplay, but there are a number which are fun to play (including a Peggle clone).

Re:Can a single developer still make money for gam (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26577435)

Code size restrictions seem to me like they're more likely to force coding styles than a focus on gameplay. Any small team focusses on the gameplay because there's nothing else they can implement to a high standard (well, okay, music but that doesn't tend to be the main focus of a game). Then again I guess it's wrong to talk about focus at all, every team tries to get everything done and they'll always try to make a game that's fun (at least to them) though not everybody succeeds every time. Even dev teams at big companies will always try to make their game fun and again it doesn't always succeed (though overall I'd say you can have fun with almost every game, just more with some than others and with that much competition people have high standards). Designing a fun game isn't just a matter of focus, it's also a matter of ability and experience. It's way more complex than just thinking "hey, this seems neat, let's do it!", unless of course your goal is simply to copy another design (but even then you can mess up if you don't notice where the design's strength comes from or why what seems like a suboptimal approach is in place). I think most people approach game making with the attitude "I liked game X, I want to make something like that except better!" and then produce something that feels fairly derivative to the end user. Hell, I've seen it in Spring, many people want to make their own mod but in the end they keep thinking in TA logic and produce something that is still pretty much TA at a basic level even though they may have made everything from scratch.

Game design is hard, guys! Just saying "we'll focus on gameplay over [insert component]" doesn't automatically get you a good game.

Re:Can a single developer still make money for gam (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 5 years ago | (#26578491)

I agree with a lot of what you say, although not all of it. I think that high expectations of fun aren't specifically due to competition from other games but rather because game playing is a leisure activity, so games are also competing against TV, reading, sport, etc. (Obviously graphics and audio expectations are driven by competition from other games). I would also qualify your comment about being able to have fun with almost every game by saying that almost every game has an audience who can enjoy it. And I think you're simply wrong to claim that a small team can't implement graphics to a high standard: the key is to go for a strong visual style rather than trying for photorealism.

But on the main point, you're right to say that a focus on gameplay doesn't automatically result in good gameplay. I quite explicitly didn't claim that all of the entries do have good gameplay. It would be interesting to know how many intended entries were discarded because people couldn't make the gameplay fun in the space available, but obviously that isn't possible.

I do wonder to what extent you're taking into account the context of my GP post. GGP was talking about the need to focus on gameplay: I mentioned a context in which it's for all practical purposes impossible to focus on anything else, where graphics more complicated than a square or a circle are frequently left until last.

Re:Can a single developer still make money for gam (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26580213)

As I said, I don't think the file size is making gameplay the focus, instead it puts the focus on, well, filesize. Look at .kkrieger, that was designed for filesize and ended up as 64kB IIRC but it wasn't terribly interesting to play. Technical limitations create a focus on the technology. If you had e.g. the restriction "here are 10 images, your job is to make a game that uses no other assets" then the focus would be free from hardware constraints though I guess people would still try to bend that 10 image restriction into absurd stuff like Vectorman-style graphics... Of course you can just say "make a game" without any restrictions...

Re:Can a single developer still make money for gam (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26573281)

I'm not getting good visual feedback from my code so I tend to get stuck in a rut and have to force myself to program.

I'm sure there are lots of people who've worked as programmers that feel exactly the same.

I spent a month playing with XNA and a physics engine and, while I got a lot of fun from it, having to learn and do everything else i'd need to make a face for my code, I simply chose a different hobby.

No more than a week ago I thought about making a game controlled by OCZ's NIA and simply thinking about relearning shaders killed any imagined enjoyment.

Re:Can a single developer still make money for gam (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26574453)

It's horrible.

I know that this game could be really good. I will need about 60 or 70 basic sprites/models and eventually all of those in various forms of animation, but even just thinking about how to line that up is daunting. So you start off with dummy models. That gets you so far before you realise that most of the programmatic foundation stuff has been done and now you need to make sure it plays nicely and start on some sort of primitive GUI so that you can call it a game. That's before you get close to refining gameplay.

In some ways, business apps etc. are so much easier - you can literally just plod along with a few buttons and comboboxes quite happily. It's all coding and it takes minutes to make the interface usable. Non-trivial games, though, inevitably require graphics skills at some point.

Re:Can a single developer still make money for gam (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 5 years ago | (#26575459)

Creative commons? I get some Google hits for "creative commons" "3d models".

Re:Can a single developer still make money for gam (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26577583)

The work needed depends in part on the style you choose. Abstract styles seem artistic but behind that facade they're really just a massive timesaver and that's why you see so many smaller games use "artistic" styles.

Re:Can a single developer still make money for gam (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26576507)

Definitely possible, you won't make the next Halo or anything like that but you can get a good game done alone, especially since these days you can get many components off the shelf (game engines, for example) and tools have advanced a lot since the 8 bit era plus you don't have to push the hardware to its very limit to get something that looks pleasing to the eye so you can afford less optimized code.

As for flash games, I can't imagine that being that much easier than just grabbing an off-the-shelf engine and coding your own game except that would run waaaaay faster (flash in fullscreen DOES tend to push my PC to the limit, for simple things like 2d platformers even). Hell, I got basic 2d platformer gameplay going in maybe 2 days using PyGame and most of that was figuring out the physics for colliding characters with the environment without glitches (there are many ways to mess that up and get glitches, I don't believe Flash includes that by default since I've seen glitchy jump and runs in Flash too) and I've never implemented something like that before. Obviously all this gets more complicated as your game gets more complex (a 3d engine is going to be way more complicated than a 2d engine) but it's still no biggie.

Of course one problem is that you won't find the full skillset needed to cover all aspects in one person or at least not to a degree where that person can produce high-quality output in every area. Getting 1-2 other people can help with that.

Portal (2, Informative)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26572929)

Portal and World of Goo are trully fantastic games.

When I think what would happen if suddenly every large game company crashed for some mistical reason, I remember Goo and Portal and feel better.

Ok, and puzzle quest, too.

And Amorphous+ (stupid flash game. too many hours spent on it)

Re:Portal (1)

Truekaiser (724672) | more than 5 years ago | (#26578421)

look back at the 80's video game market crash. the same stuff that is happening now happened before that event.

Maze Stopper 2 - RFC (request for competition) (1)

EventHorizon_pc (1306663) | more than 5 years ago | (#26579913)

Speaking of stupid flash games that I've spent too many hours on.....try Maze Stopper 2. This is probably a good place to find more competition.

http://www.flashrelax.com/game/2538/Maze-Stopper-2.html [flashrelax.com]

I happen to have the high scores for all the interesting levels, and most of those I've had for months. And by interesting I mean the non-trivial levels and those levels that people don't gain much (if anything) from using cheat engine to get extra "mana."

If you get stuck, you can look up videos on youtube for basic solutions, though I recently posted my solution for three levels (and, surprisingly, nobody has tied or beaten those scores since then).

http://www.youtube.com/user/EventHorizonPC [youtube.com]

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