I was going to wait until after the results were announced before writing my summation of the Liberated Pixel Cup experience, but right now it’s not quite clear how long that’s going to take, and I want to do this while I still remember anything, especially since my life might get a little hectic starting this week.
I don’t really know if I have a chance of actually winning anything. My entry was not as polished as I had hoped to make it, it lacks a strong single player mode and I’m aware of two significant bugs that did not appear on my testing system. However, I can definitely say I’m happy about it. I think it reached the three most important goals I had in entering the contest: It’s a playable, fun game, it is very much built for the contest art and uses it naturally (although, if I had more time for polish, I’d have to make some graphic effects to reduce the “squareness” of the tiles, caused by the nature of my chosen game type), and I think it’s a creative idea – it’s very different from anything else I’ve seen submitted to the contest. Either way, I learned quite a bit from the experience, and here are some conclusions:
- The contest itself was a great idea. I truly salute the organizers (who are, if I’m not mistaken, Bart Kelsey and Chris Webber) and hope they will be happy with the results.
- There were some great entries to the art phase, but I still found myself using mostly the art initially provided by the contest organizers. I’m not sure what conclusion to draw from that – I guess we’re still not quite at a point where free art can defeat professional art.
- That said, I can only praise the art initially provided for the contest. I was initially a bit skeptical about the style – I’m not a fan of the retro, Nintendo-like style. But after working on it I realized the success – making the unified style, standard tile structure and standard character animation structure really allowed creating a big variety of art with less work than would be otherwise necessary.
- Unfortunately, my last-minute project change meant I did not have time to use some very good art entries. I had some big plans for Casper Nilsson’s beautiful Japanese set, for example, and for Daneeklu’s farming sprites. Maybe some other time.
- I got a reminder how important UI elements are. Usually when people think about game art, UI elements aren’t the first thing that comes to mind – but Pennomi and Laetissima’s UI elements turned out to be some of the most important parts of the art repository for me.
- The LPC blog was very quiet, after a reasonable start. At some points I was actually wondering if something was wrong with the contest. I think it might have been better to talk there more to keep everyone updated and make it clear that everything is going well, but it’s not extremely important.
- Apparently, several people complained that the time frame given (one month for the coding phase) was too short – I completely disagree with that. I think a contest is good for making you step away from your daily routine and work strongly on something in an attempt to win. You can’t do that for a long time – I don’t think anyone would put their personal projects on hold for months just for the chance of winning a relatively small-scale contest. Even a month was borderline, in my opinion.
- In his recent post, BartK mentioned how the contest made him reevaluate his dislike for Java because of the difficulties in compiling some of the C and C++ projects. This kind of echoes my post from a while ago about my own barriers for entry to the open-source scene. I hope there’s yet a chance for an additional open-source scene, based on less hardcore-Linux-programmer principles. Not to replace the existing scene, but to augment it. When I become a little more stable financially, I’ll of course try to make that happen myself.
Finally, my general impression of the contest – did it achieve its goal?
I think the contest was a great idea, well executed and provided some good new products for the open-source world. But one thing I think is a little unfortunate – in the code phase, the contest advanced one of the least-lacking things in the open-source gaming scene – new game projects. In my opinion, it would be better to focus efforts on some other things – general tools and game engines, coding less attractive or more difficult elements for games (like UI and AI, respectively), and other things that are difficult for open-source developers to do on their own, but might happen with some encouragement.
And just a clarification, in case I won’t be understood as I intended – any criticism I might have expressed here in no way affects my huge appreciation for the contest organizers, who put a huge effort for the benefit of all of us. I write this with the assumption that discussion about ways to improve the open-source world are good for everyone.