Instead Of Lighting Up The Indie Game Dev Community, Atari Pong Contest Raises Familar Questions About Ownership And Intellectual Property
"Enter Game Development Contests At Your Own Risk!"
We've written about this in the past, both online and in our book The Essential Guide To Flash Games. "Game Contests" are not always what they seem. Not "all" mind you, but many "contests" are simple ways for sites and publishers to acquire free content without paying for it.
Now it looks like Gamasutra has taken a closer look at Atari's Pong Development Contest we reported on earlier, and they don't have anything good to say about the terms and conditions for submitting your game or game ideas.
According to Brian Robbins @ Gamasutra :
"Atari's Pong Indie Developer Challenge seeks to get all entrants to give away game ideas to Atari that Atari can then exploit, and the entrant relinquishes all further interest in the idea. Atari then selects 20 "semi-finalists" to put months of work into building out their ideas into playable versions that Atari has full ownership over. Half of those finalists will then receive a modest $5k payment for putting in even more work to complete their game. Finally the Top 3 "winners" will receive half of the advertised prize as a result of all their work, and are then subjected to a horrendous royalty structure as they seek to earn out the rest of their awarded prize."
Since Atari contacted us directly to promote this contest, we would appreciate to hear back from them about this controversy. Hopefully there is still a good way to make it worthwhile for both developers and publisher alike.
As far as we are concerned, as long as you know the terms of a contest, enter at your own risk. From our perspective, we do think the Pong contest asks a bit much of developers: the finalists have actually finish their game and make it a viable, polished product in order to win, yet they have no guarantee of any compensation and don't own the rights to game if they lose. Those are TOUGH terms for any developer, big or small.
So, what Atari had up it's sleeve was a $100,000 contest to re-imagine Pong. While this might appear to be a let-down for fans angling for something new (i.e Roller Coaster Tycoon 4, Food Fight 2012), for indie developers it's an AMAZING CHANCE to help redefine the quintessential Atari property and bring it into the new gaming age.
The emphasis here should be on "re-imagining", and not simply re-making the regular Pong in 3D or something like that. Some may argue that Bit.Trip.Beat already did this in spectacular fashion, but Atari hasn't done it themselves, and it's high time they tried.
We here at 8bitrocket.com towers are looking forward to this contest very much. It could be very very interesting.
In conjunction with the Stanford Dance Marathon / Hackathon 2011 (?!), Stanford University is throwing a three week long Flash Game competition with the theme of Benevolence. Squize, Iain Lobb, and Keith Peters (along with Steve and I) will be judging the games. We can't just pick the best game, but the best game that also fits the spirit of the contest (hmm sounds familiar...what have we agreed to step into again?)
There are a lot of great prizes, such as a copy of Adobe Master Suite. You can read about them all and get the full info at Icky Dime's Blog-o-Rama. One really cool thing is that each participant will receive a copy of FDT Pure Bronze. Now that makes it worth just entering!
So, get your benevolence on and get coding!
We had a very tough time choosing the winner(s) as every game was excellent. Some made excellent use of technology, some were every inventive, and others made nice use of the source material as a jumping off point to push in new directions. Some were a combination of all three.
So, with no further delay, here are the winners and also a capsule review each game entry. We have also chosen a runner up that Steve and I agree was the most technically marvelous of all the games submitted. This second place game will receive a copy of our book.
FIRST PLACE WINNER (Grand Prize Award Winner):
We are proud to announce that 16K Lander is the winner of the first place prize package. So, Robert Podgórski of BlackMoon Design, please contact us at info[at]8bitrocket[dot]com so we can confirm your identification and an address to send out your prizes.
RUNNER UP WINNER (Technical Achievement Award):
The second place winner is Battle Wire 16K! Although every entry was excellent, Steve and I felt that this one was a technical marvel. So, TFernando (Nightflyer Games), please email us at info[at]8bitrocket[dot]com to claim your book. If you already have a copy, we can make arrangements for you to receive a copy of put forthcoming HTML5 Canvas book instead.
Capsule Reviews of Each Game Along with a review each also receives an achievement tag line that can be used in the title screen or to pump up sponsorship $$). Just like pee-wee AYSO soccer here in the USA, everyone is a winner in some capacity.
16K Lander: This is a remake of a classic Atari coin-op. It won the public voting for best game and it is very impressive. Just like the original it is difficult to play, but becomes easier as you get the hang of the controls. The visuals, sounds and game play are not arcade perfect (we didn't ask them to be), but they are decidedly retro-awesome in their own right. This is one of the best Lunar Lander re-makes that we have ever played. We especially like the random terrain, and the realistic physics model.
Achievement Tag Line "8bitrocket 16K Atari Retro-Remake: Grand Prize Winner"
BattleWire16K: This is almost an exact duplicate of the classic Atari Coin-Op. What is most impressive is the 3-d engine that was spun up in only 16K. Tony was able to fit in music and sounds as well. The controls are a little on the difficult side. I would have used the mouse for the pitch and firing, and the WASD for right, left forward and backward, but who's to say that would have been any better.
Achievement Tag Line: "8bitrocket 16K Atari Retro-Remake: Technical Achievement Winner"
Niculus: This re-skin of the classic Nebulus / Tower Toppler was the second runner-up in the technical achievement department. The incredibly fluid scrolling reminded us of the Atari ST classic right away. I had no idea that this kind of game with such beautiful visuals could be squeezed into as little as 16K. Aside from the technical aspects, this is just a fine fine game, that is very fun to play. It was very close to winning the second prize. Steve and I actually had to flip a coin to see which game won the last copy of our book that is available to give out.
Achievement Tag Line: "8bitrocket 16K Atari Retro-Remake: Technical Achievement Winner Runner Up"
Axe Quest: I love Ace's games. This is an excellent tribute to side scrolling "beat'em-ups". It looks quite like what an Atari 7800 version of Golden Axe might have looked like, and is fun, if not a little difficult to play. Ace paid much attention to detail in this contest. I especially like the little touches such as the "GO>>" message when the player has killed all of the foes on the level. Ace was able to squeeze a lot of different sprites, blood particles and the like into his 16K game. The enemy AI is very well done and make the game quite a challenge.
Achievement Tag Line:"8bitrocket 16K Atari Retro-Remake: Special Achievement in Sprites and Animation"
DABOMB: This is almost a straight port of one of the best Activition games of all time My top-5 list is River Raid, Pitfall, Key Stone Capers, Kaboom, and Hero. Kaboom is the game that this is trying to duplicate, and it does so very successfully. It looks and plays almost exactly like the original, but everything has been re-drawn by hand as to not violate any intellectual copyrights. It is a quite enjoyable and well crafted 16K entry that brings back the enjoyment of plugging in that 2600 cart for the first time.
Achievement Tag Line: "8bitrocket 16K Atari Retro-Remake: Best Atari 2600 game port"
DDDD (The Diabolical Dungeons of Dr. Devil) : Another Ace game, but this time he goes way back in time to tackle the classic RPG game, Rogue. This one hearkens back the the earlier 70's RPG games that existed only on systems like the PDP-11. This version is closer to the classic version on other early 80's computers such as the Atari 800, Spectrum, BBC Micro, C64, and the like. Ace has added much depth to his game and has squeezed an amazing amount of content into the 16K. His dungeon generator is freaking amazing. I find the symbols a little confusing, but once you play enough to learn what they mean the confusion is cleared up.
Achievement Tag Line: "8bitrocket 16K Atari Retro-Remake: Deepest, Most Re-playable game award"
Fate Of The Universe: This is a nicely crafted Pong variant that uses some classic Ace sprites to create a real "Tennis for two" using swats from the weapons of the on-screen avatars. Again, Ace's visual touches, character graphics, and animations are top-notch and very well done. Ace was prolific in this contest and it goes to show that he really should be making games for a commercial company.
Achievement Tag Line:"8bitrocket 16K Atari Retro-Remake: Best Fusion of classic and modern game-play"
16K Heli: Choplifter was one of the first games we played on the Apple IIe and the Atari 800. This is a particularly well made version that required a lot of different character graphics, AI and sound to be crammed into a small 16K package. This version is more difficult than I remember, but it is an impressive achievement.
Achievement Tag Line:"8bitrocket 16K Atari Retro-Remake: Best classic Atari 800 computer game re-make."
Must Destroy Your Heart: This game is a very creative take on the classic game, Berzerk. Out of all of the entries, this one took the original game concept and modified it enough to make a completely different game based on the same technology employed in the original. The firing system is very fluid and it reminded me more of the Robotron control scheme (or the Tron Arcade Game) than anything else.
Achievement Tag Line:"8bitrocket 16K Atari Retro-Remake: Most creative re-imagining of the source material."
Thanks to everyone for contributing, voting and playing the games. We hope to have another contest soon as this was a very enjoyable experience all-around.
Here are the final public votes. We will put this together with our votes and announce the First and Second place winners this week. Thanks for playing.
Get your votes in for the 16K contest! Only 2 more days.
Update: I just looked at the voting logs and it appears that are some "oddities" in the voting records. We will take a long look at the data and adjust the results accordingly. As well, don't forget, 8bitrocket.com still has not voted, and we get and our votes weigh heavily...
Now it is time to vote your favorite game in the 16K contest! Voting ends in one week (Monday, January 11th)
(voting is now closed)
Not sure? Try the Games Again:
Well the holidays smacked-up hard over here at 8bitrocket.com Towers, but we are preparing for the final voting for the 16K Game contest. We have decided to wait to start the voting until most pople are back from vacation/holiday on January 4th. (Note to self: never start a contest near a holiday again!) Here are the entries again:
Go play them and prepare for the pixelated voting battle to start next week!
The deadline has passed for entering a game into the 8bitrocket Atari Inspired Retro-Remake contest. We have received a number of high-quality entries.
You can play each at the links below. Voting will start later in the week and run through the end of the year.
Here are the games in alphabetical order:
Thanks to all of our entrants for their hard work. It is truly inspiring. As a reminder, the game that is voted the winner will receive the below prize package. Also, the second place winner will receive a copy of our book, The Essential Guide To Flash Games. Thanks to all of the below sponsors for helping to put together the prize package.
The winner will be selected based by 1/3 community voting, 1/3 by Jeff Fulton, and 1/3 by Steve Fulton. We will also be posting complete reviews of each game after the contest is complete. Again, the voting will begin later this week and run through the end of the year.
The winning prize package:
3. A physical copy of our book, The Essential Guide To Flash Games
4. Clint Herron has graciously offered a license for his Platformer Starter Kit as an additional prize for the contest:
Clint’s product is a full featured development kit for use with the Push-Button Engine. You can see a demo that includes many different examples of the games that can be produced using the kit here: http://hanclinto.com/site/index.php/demo
5. Richard Davey and his wonderful new game, Cat Astro Phi have become an official sponsor of the contest. Richard has graciously added a copy of the masterpiece soundtrack to this game to the prize package.
6. A Snap! Classic Arcades PC game CD collection including: a copy of Atari Warlords for the PC , a copy of Atari Millipede for the PC , a copy of Atari Crystal Castles for the PC , a copy of Atari Combat! (90's remake from Hasbro).
7. The immeasurable prestige and honor of winning the first 8bitrocket.com 16K Retro Game Remake Contest.
So we are now 15 days from our 16K contest deadline. We have had a lot of interest and we are expecting some really neat games to play. Today we are announcing a new prize to Grand Prize package. Clint Herron has graciously offered a license for his Platformer Starter Kit as an an additional prize for the contest.
Clint's product is a full featured development kit for use with the Push-Button Engine. You can see a demo that includes many different examples of the games that can be produced using the kit here: http://hanclinto.com/site/index.php/demo
We are going to to review the product soon, and we will be adding an update to the contest prize page as well. We'd like to thank Clint Herron for getting into the spirit of this contest by providing a prize that we are sure many game developers will be interested in using.