It’s fun to win at games, and it’s fun to succeed at work, and some independent Australian developers have done both at the 2014 Intel Level Up Contest.
The competition looks at independently developed game demos from around the world and awards a spotlight to the winners. This might not sound like much – anyone working online is wary of being promised ‘exposure’ – but the whole point of a game demo is getting more people to play your game. A computer company like Intel shouting “Everyone should play this” is about as hard as a demo can succeed without somehow becoming real and teaching the programmers an important lesson about friendship.
The game looks like two Pong pellets teamed up to escape their rectangular court through an endless corridor of obstacles. The graphics are the beautifully polished minimalism that suits small studios so well, with a haunting soundtrack by Tim Shiel and voice work by Jojo Petrina.
Over The Top Tower Defence (aka OTTTD), created by Sydney-based indie studio SMG, won Best ‘Other’ Game award.
Best ‘Other’ is always an exciting category when the subject matter is ‘Anything anyone in the world can imagine and program without oversight from vast bureaucracies, or marketing divisions, or being lashed to an endless franchise death march like most major studios’. Because the opposite of an independent developer is a dependent developer, i.e. one dependent on guaranteed return on investment, which is why most game series have stopped using numbers, switching to evocative nouns (Call of Duty 11 really sounds like you’ve run out of ideas).
Tower defence games combine the satisfaction of designing and building with the even-more-satisfaction of exploding everything you see. OTTTD adds controllable heroes for on-the-spot responses, a fun multiple parallel universe setting which provides a constant flow of original enemies, and a sharp sarcastic story of private military corporations providing “Preemptive Defence Campaigns (TM)” against everything you see.
Competitions like this are proof that electronics have reduced all distances to zero. It used to be that a cunning computer programmer could only share their software with people by physically exchanging material, creating an inverse relationship between the quality of the software and the number of viewers, and big business would beat down even the thought of competition.
Now people can share games across the globe, and multinational corporations, which have already extended across most of it, will help – just to make themselves look good by being associated with so much fun.