Github Game Off II (2013) : BVGB Picks

By Zott820Zott820
12 Jan 2014 04:31


In November 2013, GitHub had their second annual Game Jam. The theme was “change”, and over 80 entries were submitted. I worked with a team on the game “Turkey Cooking Simulator”.

The contest challenge can be viewed here:

A list of all entries can be found here:

The winners of the Game Jam can be viewed here:

Now that the background is out of the way, let’s discuss. I was very disappointed by how GitHub handled the winners of this Jam. In my experience, Jam Winners have descriptions by the judges of what made those particular games stand out among the crowd. Instead GitHub wrote a listless description of what the game IS, a description that I could sooner find from the game’s readme or by taking 5 seconds to play the game.

In addition, having played nearly all the games before the winners were announced, I would have to say I vehemently disagree with the decisions. Games that I think deserved the crown were nowhere to be found, while some mediocre games made it to the top. In the essence of self-improvement, I am going to pick out a few games and post them below, as well as doing what the judges should have done; give a brief description of what went right, what went wrong, and any glitches found so that future revisions of the game can benefit from third party criticism.

Biased Blog Winners:



Title: Color Quest

What Went Right: Addicting gameplay, further exemplified by the addition of the store. I died, and said “Oh Well”, but then found out that there was a store. OH NO! Now I’m going to have to play forever to unlock all the items. Collectable MegaPixels help give the player that extra bit of carrot to try dangerous maneuvers. The addition of the three power-up types mean that players can determine their own strategy of play, and which pixels they prefer to seek. This game would be ideal for the mobile market, especially given its orientation and screen ratio. Game feels very finished, with boost effects, physics, particles and unique sound cues.

Glitches: After reviving there was a block directly behind and directly in front of the player. The game refused to resume and the player couldn’t move. It was not frozen however, as the on-screen gems/pixels and music continued to play.



Title: The Wizard Hierarchy of Needs

What Went Right: Including a reference to Gauntlet was an obvious and appreciated move. Hits a high note on exposition; most of the instructions can be boiled down to a few words, which the player then uses to solve the puzzle. Zany and chuckle-worthy puzzles, such as being turned into an inanimate object and trying to hide a dead body. Good design economy; doesn’t include more frills than it needs to succeed.



Title: DungeonFall

What Went Right: Maybe this concept has been done many times, but I haven’t seen before. Gameplay felt highly original. Different enemies to fight, and power-ups to build towards kept the gameplay interesting. Plus, completely player designed dungeons means that players decide how easy and hard the levels are. (I think you deserve no potions little dungeon guy!)

What Went Wrong: As the author mentions on his website, the game is lacking sound. More documentation that describes the effects of all the items would help a lot. It isn’t always intuitive and clear where the dungeon crawler is going to move next.



Title: CHANG$

General Comments: It has been two Game Jam’s now where the topic has been ‘change’. I’m sure there isn’t one team involved that hasn’t thought about the very literally interpretation of change with financial dollars. Yet, so far, CHANG$ is the only one I’ve seen, out of probably 100 entries that has been so brazen as to actually go for it. Maybe all the other teams figure the other guy is going to do it literal and thusly, avoid it.

What Went Right: Exactly as imagined, the player is given money to make change with, and an amount to change. Viola! Having limited denominations spices up the action by encouraging the player to not use only familiar coinage. (Example: All Pennies) Keyboard hotkeys ensure quick response times for those who get really proficient. Nice training tool opportunity.

What Went Wrong: The GitHub branding limits some of the off-site appeal. Chiptune music could have been better. I was expecting grocery store/elevator music. Of course, the grocery music would have to get intense! ROCK SOLOOOOOOO! I would argue that restocking bills shouldn’t use time, but instead require a recharging period until they are available again.

Glitches: When some coinage is out, IE no pennies, the player can click on the bill directly above the out-of-stock coin to instantly refill it.



Title: Kitten Beats Depression

What Went Right: Let’s be honest here. No game that heavily advocates *spoiler* had a chance of winning the GitHub Game Jam Competition. However, Biased Blog has no company morals holding it back.

Kitten Beats Depression uses the traditional medium of a side-scrolling platformer well. For example, at the first gap, players have the intrinsic instinct to jump, and blam, Kitten Beats Depression knows how to respond to make the player emotionally invested. “Awww poor kitten”

When the first spoiler showed up, I was paralyzed with laughter for nearly a minute. Such a twist!

What Went Wrong: There isn’t much content, but at the same time, once the joke is played out, there wasn’t much the developers could add. (Make it more morbid I suppose).

Glitches: Some of the music cues seem to activate too late.

Honorable Mentions (No Particular Order):


Title: Super Fantasy Queue

General Comments: The 8-bit art is very plentiful and nice for this game. That being said, it comes from an art pack which I feel spiritually takes away from the principle of a Game Jam. Why am I pickier about art than music/sounds? Well, the barrier to making any kind of music on a computer tends to be higher than just opening Paint and drawing something. Also, it is easier to re-appropriate music, say a classical piece, towards any purpose, vs. art which is very distinct and noticeable. Visual Culture.

What Went Right: Original idea. Running into enemies to defeat them is an effective battle simplification. Unique final battle dialogue after losing once is a nice treat to prevent re-reading repetitious dialogue.

What Went Wrong: Cashier attributes could have had more presence.

Glitches: When getting in line respectfully, enemies that are walking to join that line treat you like you cut them, even though they are 2+ tiles away.


Title: Change the Lightbulb

General Comments: Same as for Super Fantasy Queue; I would have preferred self-created art rather than an art pack.

What Went Right: Tongue in cheek humor from ‘facilitation’ payments to satire of the complex nature of computer password requirements. Well-written E-mails. Cute and clean vectorized art - helps give comic distance. Game saves progress in browser, for coming back to later. Not completely linear – can choose among two levels to continue progress. Death isn’t punishing- softens the unpredictable nature of object physics.

What Went Wrong: GUI for the E-mail program is messy – Needs better borders and text alignment. Telekinesis aura is not visible enough. Difficult to tell when objects, such as blocks, are within the sphere of manipulation and therefore moveable. Shift Key being the telekinesis hold feels awkward. Would have preferred objects be continually held as long as within the sphere of influence. Either that or a toggleable hold command. Needs background music.

Glitches: Player can throw boxes out of reach and become stuck. No level reset button. (Luckily, the game saves browser progress, so limited loss to refresh)


Title: Panic Backlog

What Went Right: I enjoyed this game, maybe because giving orders as a manager makes me feel powerful. “What’s that Bob? You don’t like Firefox programming? Well have a 6-star CSS!” :P If the game was a bit more frantic for task management, it could be super addictive.

What Went Wrong: The music is not long enough; it repeats way too often with a noticeable loop. GUI should include description of power-ups without having to use mouse-over text. (Imagine trying to play it on a mobile device/ignorant uses who don’t understand that mechanic) I know there is some satire here, but pausing should be allowed. I don’t like when games advertise company services in-game.


Title: Flows

What Went Right: I don’t care if it is super simple, this game made me feel smart. Playing with the particles, even if it isn’t leading to a solution, is a treat.

What Went Wrong: Gray Orbs depicting flow should instead be arrows. Would do well with a progress bar on the portals until ‘full’, to give more precise player feedback rather than color shades. More puzzles and sound, I’m thinking color mixing mechanics, like green from blue and yellow.


Title: Corruption

What Went Right: Civilization-esque game of building up resources to conquer a foe is enjoyable. Catchy music. Very engaging and intense, requires lots of micro management. Different varieties of sustainable resources means the player can strategically seek out high yield hexes.

What Went Wrong: Repair and building costs spiral out of control in the late game, which causes a collapsed economy, and eventually submittal to the corruption. Corruption spores feel cheap; Player deserves some kind of devastation attack as well. While documentation exists, the scope of this game severely requires a lot of trial and error to understand the mechanics. An in-game tutorial would have been greatly appreciated. Without it, the barrier to entry is incredibly steep.


Title: Turkey Cooking Simulator

General Comments: If you didn’t read the disclosure at the beginning, this is the game I worked on for the competition.

What Went Right: The game actually uses thermodynamic functions that correspond to a real turkey. So, in essence you could cook a virtual turkey while you cook a real turkey of equivalent weight then time one by the other. Buying things is fun. Stories from Grandpa. Simulation uses player’s computer clock time for the day-night cycle start point.

What Went Wrong: The game is boring. But that was the intent. See: Desert Bus. Needs an intense dose of gamification to keep it interesting. We were making art and gameplay in that direction but ran out of time to integrate it. Dialogue and some items were not designed around Casual mode.
Glitches: Lots of spelling and grammar mistakes. If you slow cook the turkey you can get a ‘fire’ core, yet no explosion animation. Makes sense…yet it doesn’t.



Title: The Frog Lifecycle

General Comments: I followed this game on Twitter during development and would have preferred more effort towards the fun tadpole stage than the addition of the annoying frog stage.

What Went Right: That country music got my head a waggling, and then the game basically played itself. Clean graphics.

What Went Wrong: Not enough food on screen at once. More food means more hectic in the player’s favor. Also helps mitigate food that spawns on the side where enemies just POP into you. Lily-pad jumping end-game is in-precise and infuriating. Can’t move diagonally.

Glitches: The frog can move opposite to its facing direction if both movement keys are pressed at once.


Title: Room for Change

What Went Right: Unique level manipulation gameplay. Preparing players for one of the dungeons in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

What Went Wrong: This game just didn’t grab me, I can’t say precisely why. Other things to consider: Controls are a bit floaty. Spider enemies are annoying in the perspective they move. There’s a reason lots of Zelda games use floor shadows to show the position of hanging enemies.

Glitches: Changing rooms with spiders still alive inside can cause them to not update their position. IE, the top of their string will be showing because they are drawn too low.


Title: Changing of the Seasons

What Went Right: There is a nice skill gap. Players can pick up each nut and drop them in one by one, throw them in from across the map, or just stack nuts in a pile for the next round. Randomized branches for each game.

What Went Wrong: The game needs sound, as in crisp autumn leaves and crunchy bouncing acorns. The time limit given is too tight.

Glitches: Out of bound one time, but can’t recall how that happened.


Title: Psiral

What Went Right: Beautiful Art - Clean and vivid colors and shapes. Calming music. The status bar in the top right allows the player to know what is happening at a glance.

What Went Wrong: Super boring and drawn out gameplay, and not for satire like some of the other games. Allow me to pick out specific examples of where the game play went astray.

Firstly, it takes too long for each person’s turn to pass. If a block is changed by a spell for example, it takes about 1-2 additional seconds for the turn to end.

Secondly, each game is too lengthy. While the game may move quickly in the last few turns, the spiral nature of Psiral means it takes a long time approach the center. Additionally, the spiral makes it visually difficult to judge player rankings, meaning the ferocity of the race just isn’t there.

Thirdly, mana is a punishment not a reward. If I had to choose between moving the character and mana, I would choose movement every time. Rolling a three means that not only do I NOT get to move, but I can’t even use the mana I gain that turn. Since spells consume a turn as well, I better hope it stops them for at least 2 turns, because otherwise I probably would have been better off trying for movement.

My suggestion would be to strip mana from the dice and reward pure movement (except the skip-a-turn). Then take the many colored tiles on the board and reward mana for tiles of the player’s color that are passed. Landing on spots of the player’s color can reward double mana. Now instead of wanting to avoid rolling a three, it may be desired so one can not only move, but land on a colored square that will double their mana intake. Also, since the mana is flowing, but movement is much more common, players can use spells freely without fear of falling behind. Now they can slow the opponent on one turn with a spell, then speed ahead with pure movement on the next. They don’t face the risk of fluking on a mana roll.

Glitches: Players can click the CHANCE or SPELL button spots even the GUI is not present to make the clicking noise.


Title: Pakito in Tileland

What Went Right: Conceptually was a good idea, but it would seem 2D puzzles weren’t the way to do it. Tacos are delicious.

What Went Wrong: Many of the ‘puzzles’ can be passed by rapidly jamming the movement button. The changing of the colors doesn’t feel as rewarding as rapidly moving. Ditch the keys, and have the challenge be purely dodging and evading enemies for a real thrill.


Title: CH₃CH₂CH₂CH₂CH₃anges

What Went Right: Raising the water level and melting the ice caps was a bold mechanic.

What Went Wrong: Message was a bit too preachy. That point happened right around the presence of the first ice rectangle. Remedy: remove the water rising, keep the ice that does the same. Don’t have repeat functions. Easy to screw up and make the game unbeatable without realizing it until it is too late. (OMG Moral! Except, not great for gameplay) Controls are very fast and tight, too much so.

Glitches: While idle, character plays flinching animation.


Title: Swap

What Went Right: Allowing the player to skip any level with no penalty. Puzzle mechanics such as the sphere being able to pass through blocks when not controlled was interesting.

What Went Wrong: VERY surprised this game was a winner. Collision detection is fickle. Some of the puzzles require the player to precisely center the spheres within the grid. There should not be sphere seizures when hitting a wall, instead, the sphere should just stop. Recommended action: when the player touches a wall or transfers control away, center the sphere automatically in the center of the grid. Learning curve too steep, should rearrange levels to put death scenarios closer to the end. This way, players are rewarded when they beat thinking puzzles vs. reaction time puzzles. In essence, they can feel smart.

Glitches: You can skip the last stage and are stuck on “You Won” screen. Can’t ‘Space’ the dialogue box away.


Title: Dem Creepers

What Went Right: Blocking enemies with golem bodies. Walking through corpses slows down the player is a nice addition and strategic to boot.

What Went Wrong: Can’t fire the axes in any direction; I can’t think of a reason why axes should be limited to 45 degree axis. Enemies are kind of stupid navigating the golem blocks. Needs more enemy types to keep the gameplay fresh. Lag at round beginning on older computers when they try and compute all the decaying bodies changing.

Glitches: Golems that are partially off screen appear to disappear completely. Might as well always render all enemies no matter their position.


Title: Chromacore

What Went Right: The soundtrack is the ingredient that ties the game together. Similar to SoundShapes, the player collects the orbs along the path and adds to the musical score. Unlike a lot of side-running game’s I’ve seen. Checkpoints are included, providing progressive, vs. punishing gameplay.

What Went Wrong: The changing color is only loosely integrated. It should be progressive rather than jarringly sectional. Animations and controls are unresponsive. Falling down a pit undermines the illusion of walking on buildings, when you see the images cutout.

Glitches: During respawn, the music hitches and the player jumps around sporadically.


Title: Jekyll and Hyde Collide

General Comments: Jekyll and Hyde Collide is too close to Canabalt without enough evolutionary changes. It is almost Chromacore, except that had a musical draw and was more playable. The GitHub judges should have chosen one or the other for runner up.

Glitches: After double jumping as Jekyll then pressing the transform button, the player doesn’t transform into Hyde unless they hit the ground. That may be intended, but it leads to a lot of weird behaviors. After double jumping as Jekyll, the player can hit the button to transform into Hyde, then perform Hyde’s dash attack in the air despite the sprite being Jekyll. After dying as Hyde, the player can still jump and dash. As Jekyll, double jump, transform in air (no sprite change), then hit a pillar, the player will then transform into Hyde and die.


Title: 9 to 5

What Went Right: 9 to 5 gets just the right amount of satire in, from overfeeding and killing your goldfish to turning into a blood seeking wolf. (Wait what?)

What Went Wrong: Unfortunately there isn’t enough stuff to keep the game going. Each day is like the last (satire baby!), but even in those days, there aren’t enough ways to change the outcome. The objective of the werewolf stage is also vague. Object clicking with mouse needs to be touched up; either items need to have a larger hitbox, or be touchable farther from the player character.


Title: ChipChange

What Went Right: I enjoyed the subtle humor with the swearing symbols and the slightly sarcastic text.

What Went Wrong: Difficulty ramps up too quickly. Needs more levels that gradually introduce the lemming’s concept. In the level with the push-able block, it isn’t clear that you can push the block. More tutorials needed. When the counter says x0, then there should be no chips left, not 1 left.


Title: Chaos Slots

What Went Right: Epitomizes chaos. However…

What Went Wrong: WTH, what’s going on? Who am I? What am I doing? What’s this? How do I play? Why can’t I shoot? Why can I shoot? Questions, oh so many questions!


Title: Trans Cube

What Went Right: The pacing for the game was just right, from super easy to mind boggling. Not all solutions required concrete executions.

What Went Wrong: Stylistic decisions such as the blocks disappearing, instead of scrolling, off the sides annoyed me greatly. Also, the changing perspective of ALL the blocks when the player changes direction ruined more than one jump attempt, and is the single biggest annoyance. Very jarring and put me off from playing further.


Title: Contraspective

What Went Right: Running through the black and white pathway searching for the open door was intense with the breaking glass edging closer behind. The rotating room felt straight out of Willy Wonka. Arty style.

What Went Wrong: This ‘game’ is more an art piece than something you can really play. The directions for the rooms are vague and glitches impede progress.

Glitches: Items falling through the floor. Try and drop the watering can, picks up the flower pot automatically. Can’t drop both items, infinite item carry loop.


Title: Green Gauge

What Went Right: Land is randomly generated on each play through. Strategically placing buildings on the hexes is fun (Gotta avoid the global warming!) The programming for the placement is also smart in how it makes the multi-hex structures fit. Addicting to balance the various knobs controlling my plane t- Build one item, then forced to respond with another type to keep the planet going.

What Went Wrong: Vague documentation. No build order control; can’t prioritize important structures to be built. Can’t see building progress. Need power to build power plant? Wut? Can’t prioritize power usage -This means I can’t turn off a research lab or two to put power towards vital infrastructure. Forced to sell buildings I want in a moment. Built structures should not be a list; I don’t want to scroll long pages to find one item. Recommended to group items by type.

Glitches: Some of the music cues seem to activate too late.



General Comments: Everybody from YTMND's hayday has at least a some emotion that characterizes the Blue Ball Machine. For some it represents nostalgia, for others scorn. Upon playing this game, I immediately felt that tinge of familiarity, but with a twist. What is this? I can make my own?

What Went Right: The art is cute, and the first 8 widgets were fun to see how they reacted. The widget dropping interface works well. Being able to change the ball color is a clear advantage over the original BBM. Rainbows!

What Went Wrong: Not clear which direction the balls will move through the widgets without trial and error. Game does not allow have built in art creation tools. Being able to set the direction of balls moving through custom art widgets would have added a lot of long term appeal for casual players. Without tools, has a I-came-I-saw play depth. Also, this rendition, to my knowledge, lacks music. The breakfast machine music on the original BBM MADE it!

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