Xerra's Blog

Drunken coder ramblings

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

I can’t believe I’ve not actually published about this before but I’ve properly released seven games on Itch in just over two years and six of them were for Syntax Bomb competitions. Nowhere have I actually mentioned much about how they have done in these competitions so I really should rectify that now.

Firstly, in April of 2018, I entered the fourth competition on the site with my game Envahi. A remake of one of my favourite Vic 20 games, this competition was the imputes to actually write it because I’d been planning it for years. I hadn’t entered the previous three competitions as I was new to the forums back then and missed them. The game did pretty well for a first entry and came in at third place – mainly because the host doesn’t count his own games in the judging as that would have put me down into fourth and out of the prize fund. For getting on the podium I got a prize of £100. When I factored in the development time, including numerous blog entries on here, I worked out my rate was roughly £1 an hour working on it. More than I usually get for writing games 🙂

Around 2 months later the fifth competition began and I had 8 weeks to come up with my next game for it. I came up with an idea for a top trumps style game involving retro computers and even got some nice artwork done for it. Around 6 weeks in I realised it wasn’t coming together very well and I pulled out of entering. I’d put a lot of work into the game by that time and I would say I was around 70% done but the game just didn’t feel right when playing and I was also having some technical issues which didn’t help. I was still pretty inexperienced with the dev system, even though I’d worked on a few games, so I just put it down to experience. Luckily, since then, I’ve managed to make every deadline since. While developing RAM – as I called it – I also wrote a short story of 8 chapters which I planned to have unlock as the story mode of the game progressed. If I haven’t published it on the blog yet then I will do so later somewhere, as it’s not a bad little effort and I can’t really do much else with it since I canned the game.

I was a bit more focussed when the next competition came around and as the topic was a maze game, I decided to proceed with another remake of a game I’d planned to recreate for years. Rockman was one of my favourites on the Vic 20 as well, so I went all out to try and get this done in six weeks and it worked out pretty well. I’ve blogged a fair bit about the process for this at the time and I’m especially proud of uploading the final build and forum post at 8 minutes before the deadline. The closest I’ve ever been. The game itself was pretty well received and I’m still rather proud about how polished it is even now, for a six week game. Obviously there’s a few quirks and bugs that could do with fixing or improving but it’s stood the test of time pretty well and even had a few payments on the site from people who donated after they downloaded it. As for the competition, it went up against some amazing competition so only got joint fourth place. I can’t moan about this because that competition in particular was very popular with entries.

At this point we had got to mid-November and discussion was going on about having a Xmas themed game. I’d bandied the idea around possibly having an adventure game theme and this was picked up. I had seven weeks to work on this one and I got some help from a friend to come up with 20 locations set around a house and a Xmas-themed plot where you are a school boy out exploring the house looking for codes to open the safe and find your xmas presents. I expanded on this to come up with some optional extra side quests and then got my nose stuck into writing a basic framework for creating adventure games before getting the core game in place as a text adventure. After this I commissioned an artist to draw all 20 locations for me, with a heavy xmas theme, and also got some gui help from another syntax bomb user so the game could have a more modern feel with icons for moving around etc. Bah, Humbug! did win this competition but my glorious victory was somewhat subdued because there were only 3 entries submitted. Still, the prize was £250 which covered my expenses for the artwork and development costs around the same as Envahi of roughly £1 an hour 🙂

I will continue this in the next post.


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