Indie game competition in Norway

Today was the finals of the “NM i Gameplay” (Norwegian Championship in Gameplay) at Filmhuset in Oslo. I attended as audience, not as one of the sleep depraved, but was happy to meet both old ex-colleagues (Thomas Wollbekk of Frost Software) and some of my students (Håvard Skjærvik, Olav Helland and members of Krillbite Studios).

Most of the developers in the competition were unestablished hopefuls, yet to publish a commercial game.

I was surprised over how small the audience was (NFI need to do a better job at marketing the event next year), but the quality of the competing games was higher than you could hope for when the contestants have only had a week from start to finish. There’s obviously a lot of talent in Norway, waiting to dazzle the international gamer community. I really wish many of them will make it – for their own sake and for the sake of having a healthy dev environment in Norway.

The theme of the competition was “light”. Every entry had to focus on light, however they chose to interpret it.

One team that didn’t make it to the finals, but should have, was D-Pad Studio. Their game was a 2-player platformer, where 2 ghosts competed to steal money from each other by taking control over some poor fellow by possessing him. The ghost that did not control the possessed then had to try to wake him out of it by turning on lights, place bananas to fall on, etc.

They probably didn’t stick by the “light” theme closely enough to get the jury’s approval, but for me it was the most entertaining title of the bunch – I laughed out loud watching the presentation.

D-Pad is a promising studio – check out their work-in-progress game Owlboy, having already gotten a bit of international attention.

The winners, Kenneth, Stig-Owe and Andreas, deserved to win. Their (playable) software had unique and fun gameplay, wrapped in good looking visuals. The foundation of their game was the blending of colors; a platformer where you have to solve puzzles by combining different light sources into specific colors.

They get 100 000 NOK – I hope they spend every öre on developing games.

Koster on “gamification”

A great annoyance to many game designers, the idea of “gamification” of websites is getting increasingly popular. It’s the idea of borrowing a foundation of game mechanics to motivate consumers to interact with content, to stick around and become loyal to the site – by giving the consumer (I almost wrote “player”) points or other rewards for doing so. It’s not only cynical, it’s a misunderstanding of what games are.

Raph Koster said it much better than I can hope to do, so I’m quoting him:

“When we train game designers, when we critique projects, and when we discuss what makes games compelling, we certainly do discuss feedback. But what we dwell on is the game systems, the core loop.”

Click your way to his blog – and if you haven’t done so yet, read his excellent book A Theory of Fun.