The BYOND Cartridge Classic '05

In July 2005 I proposed a game contest: Create the best game in 8K of source code. Officially published libraries were allowed, plus any files used by DmiFonts would not count. The goal was to recreate some of the glory of old cartridge games that had only 8K to work with. Because of that, I called it the Cartridge Classic. The top five entries were to be awarded prizes, out of my own cash hoard.

Prizes are as follows: $50 for 1st place, $40 for 2nd, and so on down to $10 for 5th. The top 5, plus any honorable mentions, receive a subscription to my Regex library.

The original deadline for the contest was October 31, 2005. However when BYOND started up a contest of its own that month, the Cartridge Classic got rather buried. A deadline extension to December 31 helped somewhat, but because of the holidays Christmas and the new year, a lot of people accidentally missed the chance to submit their entries. Finally this was pushed back to January 15, 2006. By the end of that time there were 14 entries, a healthy number. 11 of those entries qualified for judging.

Judges included myself, digitalmouse, IainPeregrine, splattergnome, and Unknown Person. I asked judges to score their entries on four criteria:

There was a lot of variety in the judges' results. Some judged more on potential than on what was actually there. Some were very generous to some iffy entries, while others were a little more demanding across the board.

Final scoring was done by taking a root-mean-square average of the individual scores, which tends to weight scores slightly in favor of higher marks vs. a direct linear average. It also has the nice effect of making ties a little harder to come by.

I was rather impressed that a lot of entries remembered to take care of some important basics. Ingame help was present in most of the entries, and a couple of board game entries included player queues. The very different styles of the games made judging interesting, and competition for the top 5 was strong. The layout of the final winners was a bit different than I expected.

A few minor notes: Some games were mispackaged as libraries or as games rather than DM demos (pure source code), but this didn't impact their results. Polaris8920's entries had some trouble compiling, so splattergnome was unable to get results for those.

Now, let's get to the results!

Gello Jumper

by DarkCampainger

5th Place

 AvgLDISU
Gameplay7.3689369
Presentation7.7599578
User-friendliness7.3279578
Overall7.658.5956.58.5
Average7.528.1694.586.648.39

Concept: A TV show contestant is put through a jiggly gelatin obstacle course.

I really dug this game. Gello Jumper was a combination of fun gameplay with great use of icons and music. Control could be a little frustrating at times, and there were a couple of minor glitches that could use some work, like that there's no way to reset to a checkpoint after getting stuck. I wasn't too thrilled with the alert() boxes at the beginning, but they were easy enough to plow through. Mostly though, the judges' major complaint was only that it was too short. More levels would have been nice.

Interestingly, this game can be played multiplayer. It's actually rather a blast that way.

Since no compression was done on the code, there'd actually be room to add a whole lot more features, perhaps new types of obstacles. Picture this game with 100 levels, a little smoother movement, and some more creatures to avoid, and you can really see the potential of an expanded version.

Gello Jumper had a good shot at 4th place but was just barely edged out; the early scores made it look like a strong 3rd place contender. More than any other entry, though, this one delivered the retro feel I was hoping to see. As sponsor of the contest I awarded an additional $5.

Total prize: $10 + $5

Knight

by Hiead

4th Place

 AvgLDISU
Gameplay7.5799468.5
Presentation6.856.5867.56
User-friendliness8.2899869
Overall7.5988.76.56.58
Average7.598.198.686.296.537.96

Concept: 2-player strategy moving a knight on a 7x4 board from a random starting point until one player is blocked.

Knight is a simple concept, executed well. Overall I was impressed by how much thought went into the game interface, including the use of a queue system so players could spectate in between matches but still be sure to get a chance to play. A game log records each game.

Judges mostly agreed that the board needed some more work. I thought in particular it could use some edges, and labels for the columns and rows (which are used in the game log). Alternating colors on the board might have been nice. This entry, like Fallout, also suffered from the "the name" effect with lowercase keys.

In general Knight did so well with what it had that it just barely beat Gello Jumper to land in 4th place. It was clear from the outset of judging that this was one of the better entries in the competition. Well done.

Total prize: $20

SkyWurm 8k

by SuperSaiyanGokuX

3rd Place

 AvgLDISU
Gameplay7.8099569
Presentation8.518988.59
User-friendliness6.526926.57
Overall8.1099769
Average7.778.0995.966.838.54

Concept: 1942, with dragons!

This was one of the best action entries I saw, recalling the overhead skyscrollers of the '80s and early '90s. The icons looked great, and I particularly liked the use of sound effects and music. The music did have a minor bug, in that it's played on a channel used by a different effect, and on newer BYOND versions that means the music will stop at that point. To compensate to get the full experience I had to recompile with a change. There was a little trouble for some people with the player's dragon disappearing temporarily. Picking up items was a little difficult; gameplay would probably be enhanced by allowing any touch (wings, etc.) to pick up an item.

Controls are decent but could be better, particularly with the attacks. Actually there's no help file whatsoever included, which made the attack keys a bit confusing to figure out; judges had to look into the source to figure out the special attack key (down). Still, given the author's grammatical proclivities, maybe the lack of a help file was a good thing. ;)

Surprisingly this game was also not slow; digitalmouse had the guts to do his testing under an emulator, and SkyWurm 8k ran fine for him. I too had no problems with performance. Some judges did point out that some more variation in the levels, opponents, etc. would be nice, and that some concept of stages or progress would add to the gameplay. I can but agree, but I still found this enjoyable and addictive.

SkyWurm was really something special, definitely the most action-packed entry. It's a great anytime sit-down-and-play sort of game.

Total prize: $30

Traffic Jam

by Crispy

2nd Place

 AvgLDISU
Gameplay8.0598589.5
Presentation8.63888109
User-friendliness7.3288288.5
Overall8.1488789.5
Average8.058.2685.988.549.13

Concept: Puzzle game based on the classic. Move cars around till the green car can escape. Includes editor.

This was a great BYOND version of the puzzle game, even including an editor so you can make your own levels. The icons were good, although I felt the cars came off a little 16-color and would have liked to see something with a wow factor. The game makes decent use of audio at the end of each level, but more sounds would have been nice.

The help file was a sticking point for some, since it is not immediately apparent and kind of hard to find. The Help command is there, but to realize that you basically have to hit the tab key to see a list of verbs. Once you get past that, though, the game is pretty intuitive, straightforward, and fun.

Traffic Jam was the only true puzzle entry of the contest, but it's hard to imagine it would have competition otherwise. It was pretty decently polished, and as such was one of only two entries to pick up a 10 in any individual score.

Total prize: $40

Breakthrough

by Ben G

1st Place

 AvgLDISU
Gameplay8.539.5987.58.5
Presentation8.871010789
User-friendliness9.319.599910
Overall8.979.59.3989
Average8.939.639.338.298.149.14

Concept: Checkerboard game of strategy. Break through to the other side first.

A huge standout in terms of professionalism--and that with no compression done on the code--Breakthrough shows just how effective a simple concept can be. The board game may be familiar to some, since it's a chess/checkers variant. Each piece is identical; they may move forward straight or diagonally by 1 square, and capture diagonally.

Breakthrough was the judges' general favorite, earning rare 10s in some categories. It's not hard to see why. The gameplay is simple and it's freaking addictive; the use of a player queue was a good thought. In presentation everything was well done, from the graphics (including woodgrain on the board!) to the audio, and touches like a running game log were not overlooked. User-friendliness was also far above average.

I discovered one minor runtime error that occurs in certain rare situations, but it turns out not to affect the game in any way. Overall this is a solidly made game and a great deal of fun.

From the moment judging began, Breakthrough had star quality. It was an uphill battle for any of the other entries to catch it, and with three 10s on its scoreboard none of them could. A perfect example that more is more when it comes to presentation and features, fleshing out a basic easily-understood game, this one made the most of its 8K allotment and the competition as a whole.

Total prize: $50

Rogue Stickz

by Polaris8920

Honorable Mention

 AvgLDISU
Gameplay7.07866-8
Presentation7.21884-8
User-friendliness6.56775-7
Overall7.297.57.56-8
Average7.047.637.165.32-7.76

Concept: You're one of the few non-zombie stick figures left. Gun the zombies down with your weapons and escape the notebook!

This was a fun simple game after my own heart. Rogue Stickz can be played in two ways: A single-player escape from the notebook played on multiple pages, or a multi-player deathmatch on a randomly-generated map. Players have multiple weapons available. Good work was done with audio overall, and I thought the graphics fit the theme really well.

There were a few places for improvement. Reloading took a long, long time. In single-player mode the missile weapons were dominant but in multi-player they were basically useless. I also would have liked for the missile's mouse cursor to allow you to select any place on the map, not just a stick, because sometimes hitting the stick exactly was a pain. It was sometimes difficult to tell if you had correctly initiated a rocket launch or not. Missiles could also still be dropped after a player's death. AI was a little simplistic, but I did like how stickz would jump over your bullets to dodge them.

Overall this felt like it might need a tad more development to really finish it off. Still, it's pretty fun as-is.

A contender for the top 5, Rogue Stickz fell behind in the stiff competition between Gello Jumper and Knight. However, it's a pretty well done game and earned some recognition for that. Per my own discretion, I'm awarding a $5 prize for this entry.

Total prize: $5

Airsoft

by ATP Development

Honorable Mention

 AvgLDISU
Gameplay5.396.57363
Presentation5.997.57374
User-friendliness5.4267156
Overall5.476.572.564
Average5.576.6572.516.044.39

Concept: Collect guns and ammo; be the first to earn 25 points by shooting your opponents.

A potentially awesome but half-finished game, Airsoft was a case study in potential. (For my part, my ratings had more to do with that potential than what was there.) The ultimate goal of this game can still be realized: a fun, fast-paced deathmatch between a large number of players. It's clearly designed for a big group.

So where did it go wrong? Well, there were runtime errors when non-gun items tried to respawn; as a result they did not reappear. The movement system is a bit hard to get used to, between turning/running with the keyboard and shooting with the mouse. (The pixel-based shooting, however, is quite cool.) A bigger problem was switching weapons, which required clicking on the weapon in the statpanel. Some parts of the map also didn't work right, like a bridge in the southwest corner. Audio was nonexistent. Final compression was never really done on the game, so a lot of this could have been addressed.

The help file also could have used some more detail, including spelling out various weapon strengths and effects. Some random level generation could have been cool, or perhaps just a bigger map. Another gameplay issue that should be looked at is the fact that players can simply stand in one place and click until somebody dies; given the movement system that's actually the easiest way to attack.

What I liked most about Airsoft was the HUD. This was shockingly well-designed. A lot of attention went into this part of the interface; it's just unfortunate some other portions suffered as a result. The icons were also very good, though as ever I could find room for improvement: The stream could use some autojoining icons and some more tree types would be good.

I'd really like to see this game brought up to its full potential and hosted regularly on the hub. It had the makings of a contender, but it ended up kind of half-finished.

Fallout

by ATP Development

 AvgLDISU
Gameplay5.4865267
Presentation5.905527.58
User-friendliness4.8034754
Overall5.0044.6466
Average5.314.634.674.276.196.42

Concept: Fall without running into blocks. Get powerups, survive longest. Primarily designed for multiplayer.

A sort of upside-down version of The Sky Is Falling, Fallout is based on the idea that you're falling from a great height and want to outlast the other players. There are powerups you can use to do so. The game overall is decent, but needs work. In multiplayer, some judges found that players didn't interact very much after the beginning stage, when they would become more and more separated--kind of the opposite of TSIF where obstruction is the dominant strategy.

The icons were okay, but probably should have been better, especially the black space to either side of the screen where we could have had the sides of other buildings or something colorful. Heck, awnings and clotheslines and the like might not only have added to the visuals, but might have made interesting game elements as well. Multiple player icons were also a must, I think. And splattergnome pointed out that this game fell victim to a common mistake new authors make, in that they use "[src]" or "[usr]" to display a name so it ends up saying something like "the splattergnome" for lowercase keys.

There was universal agreement that the startup sequence of hitting the left arrow, right arrow, left arrow again, etc. was ridiculously complicated for no reason. Even though it was documented it still confounded gamers.

There was a lot of room for additional features, since Fallout wasn't compressed at all. The source code was mispackaged as a game entry on the hub.

Combat Proliferation

by Polaris8920

 AvgLDISU
Gameplay4.09370-3
Presentation4.77571-4
User-friendliness6.82883-7
Overall4.4547.31-3
Average5.145.347.341.66-4.56

Concept: Machines and clones battle for dominance.

Combat Proliferation had a good concept but failed in execution. The most widely noted problems were that maps took forever to load, and when they did, no map icons appeared. The latter problem was no doubt the result of a packaging error. The former was caused by reliance on Polaris's .Txt Parser library, which apparently is horrifically slow. No visible map made gameplay difficult, but there were also several runtime errors to contend with. IainPeregrine summed this one up nicely: "Though I have to give the game this score based on my experience, I would love to have the chance to play it as it was meant to be. It looks like it could have been very fun as a multiplayer game."

This game also takes the cake for being hardest to compile. It was mispackaged as a library, and also had no instructions regarding which libraries would be needed for the final result. Some of Polaris's libraries include each other indirectly, which confused issues further.

Nauses Ned

by ThugHead

 AvgLDISU
Gameplay3.5533254
Presentation4.3436263
User-friendliness6.7248947
Overall3.9735.73.543
Average4.803.285.955.034.824.56

Concept: You're nauseas [sic] and need to eat pills to feel better. Eat the required number of pills, then move to the next level.

Most of the judges agreed this made a good first effort, but needed more actual gameplay elements to make it interesting. The addition of crude enemies, perhaps other types of challenges, would have helped a lot, but nothing was invested in making this more fun. I liked the fact that the maps were randomly generated, which was a plus. The game also had an interesting retro feel; splattergnome said he liked the way the tall screen enhanced that effect.

As several judges pointed out, the game didn't give any indication of elapsed or remaining time, which would have been helpful, nor did it say how many pills remained to be eaten. A timer would have given the game more much-needed suspense. Little details like this would have improved some of the scores slightly, but for greatness this game needs more action.

Pong

by Hiead

 AvgLDISU
Gameplay3.8733454
Presentation3.8222256
User-friendliness4.8522259
Overall3.6922.3355
Average4.082.292.362.8756.82

Concept: Classic Pong

Sometimes simplicity can be its own enemy. So it was with Pong, which was presented in a disastrous minigame format that made the screen difficult to impossible to see. (The screen shot you see here does not expand to a larger version. That's it.) Most judges scored it low on presentation as a result. Sounds were also nonexistent.

No real gameplay was involved because there was no way to change the ball's direction as in Pong. The computer opponent is therefore also perfect; IainPeregrine said it may as well have been a wall, since it only gave the illusion that it could miss. The scoring is also just to 1 point, which is rather silly; whoever misses first loses the game. I had an even bigger problem with the controls, which really highlight how BYOND isn't designed for arcade games and this should have been handled with something else like a mouse. In his review digitalmouse agreed: "Keydown/keyup events are needed for a game like this. Controls were difficult to get used to."

In summary: It may or may not be possible to redo the minimalist classic Pong in BYOND, but if it is, it isn't via keyboard controls or on a 4×1-tile screen. With no scoring system and no means of affecting trajectory and speed, the game is just a challenge against yourself to see how long you can go without missing. It actually has fewer features than the original.

Classic Zelda

by FinalFantasyFreak

Disqualified

I have such mixed feelings about this entry. Classic Zelda was disqualified twice over for two important reasons. First, its total code size was 8200 bytes, which is 8 bytes over the legal limit. That was just tragic because the code wasn't compressed at all; it contained a lot of useless whitespace. The worse issue, however, was that this was just a playable demo; there are only two screens, three if you count the cave. This wasn't a complete game.

What I did like about this entry, though, is that it raises two interesting questions: Can Zelda be recreated more or less faithfully on BYOND? And if so, can it be done in 8K? I suspect the answers are yes and probably, respectively. It'd obviously take some mad technique to cram the code into 8K, but I think it just might be feasible for someone with that skill.

Prehistoric Hunter

by FinalFantasyFreak

Disqualified

Prehistoric Hunter was, like Classic Zelda, disqualified for being a demo only. It's a sidescrolling game with just one screen to get through, which you can do in under 2 minutes. After that it thanks you for playing and that's it.

Graphically this game had very interesting presentation, including some nice icons and health bars over each creature including the player. Gameplay and interface-wise, it had some issues. The jumping system, for instance, jumps straight up but then falls diagonally forward, a rather more frustrating departure from physics than the typical "control your jump mid-air" method. Enemies were also very difficult to kill, and had little variety. Although there were supposed to be some items to boost your health, I never found any.

Racer

by FinalFantasyFreak

Disqualified

What was Racer? Was it a demo like the author's other two entries, or a full game? It never compiled, so I have no idea. The original submission was sent in with all three entries packaged together, which was an obvious no-no. When FinalFantasyFreak repackaged and resubmitted the entries individually at the 13th hour, Racer had no working download link, and even a manual link provided in the hub entry didn't work. So while I know the source code is only about 2K for this game, it was never submitted in an easily compiled form even though it had two chances to do so, one of them after the submission deadline.