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And the winner is... №4

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JayThe Tall StumpFour times we have made a call for entries to a competition that celebrates and rewards excellence in casual gameplay, and four times we have been, ourselves, rewarded by the Flash game development community. The level of quality shown in the entries submitted continues to impress and delight us, and we are very pleased to be able to share these quality interactive experiences with the world.

Choosing a small group of entries to represent the best of those submitted, whether for the selection of finalists or for the top awards, is not an easy task. We wish we could reward everyone who submits an entry, but for every competition there must be a winner.

Fortunately we have more prizes to award this time than ever before, and we have our kind and generous sponsors to thank for giving us this opportunity: Sierra Online for taking the helm as lead sponsor and for the competition theme (Thanks to Ed, Amy, Kat, Joe, and Jose Maria!); Arcade Town (Thanks, Joe!); Armor Games (Thanks, Dan!); Free World Group (Thanks, Frank!); and Adobe (Thanks to Simon, Michelle, Jennifer, and Kristan!); and to Mat of Nitrome for designing the UI graphics. It is due to the efforts of all these people that we have the following prizes to award, so please show them all your kind support as well.

We would also like to thank everyone who voted by contributing to the Audience Award. The success of these competitions hinges on your continued participation, not only in the comments with your feedback and constructive criticisms, but also with your kind donations to the designers and developers for the fantastic experiences they provide us with each time. Thank you for continuing to raise the bar each time with the level of support we see.

And now, to the people who have made this competition very special: the designers, developers, magicians and architects of the prize winning entries. The panel of 7 reviewer-judges—zxo, Dancemonkey, JohnB, Harukio, John Beaver, Jess, and myself—scored one game higher than the rest by a healthy margin. The rest of the field was very close:

  • First Place
    ($2500 + Adobe Flash CS3 + Switchball game):
    • The Tall Stump by Team MAW (Adam Wilkinson, Alex May and Handre DeJager)
  • Second Place
    ($1000 + Adobe Flash CS3 + Switchball game):
  • Third Place
    ($500 + Switchball game):
  • Best Use of Theme
    ($500 + Nintendo Wii + Switchball game):
  • Audience Prize
    ($281.75 + Switchball game):
    • The Tall Stump by Team MAW (Adam Wilkinson, Alex May and Handre DeJager)

With 10.38% of the popular vote, Team MAW's game proved to be the favorite among the JIG community as well (not by much, though, the voting was very close). Team MAW will be awarded the Audience prize of $200 to go with the donations their game received, for a total of $281.75!!

For full disclosure, I have made available a spreadsheet listing all proceeds received and how they were distributed based on the voting. We will be in touch with each game designer to arrange for the transfer of all respective voting donations. Our sincere thanks and appreciation go out to everyone who voted.

Most of all, congratulations to everyone who submitted an entry! Just being able to complete a game within a short development period is quite an achievement, in and of itself. Moreover, your continued participation in these competitions makes future competitions like this possible, and we can't thank you enough. We consider ourselves very fortunate, again, to have received such an excellent response to our call for entries, as the entire collection of entries are all quite deserving of our praise. To show our appreciation, we will be featuring a review for each of the competition finalists, complete with our own feedback and constructive criticisms, in the days and weeks ahead.




great choices.

Anonymous October 22, 2007 5:51 PM

This was a good game. I really liked the way they used ball physics in a creative way and how they gave the game different reward structures to make it replayable. Fun and well deserved!

Darkness_Keeper October 22, 2007 5:59 PM

Bravo! Indeed!

I enjoyed this game very much, and the Bobteds one just below it. The Tall Stump was very enjoyable to play, and I'm glad it made it through.

littlebum2002 October 22, 2007 6:03 PM

I will have to say I agreed with the most of the results, except I really don't think the Awesome ball game was the second best game out there.


I can't say I agree littlebum. I spent more time playing Absolute Awesome Ball Game than I spent playing any other game this competition, and I'll be playing it for a long time to come, too. Thanks, Felix! and congratulations to all the winners!

Monkeynutz October 22, 2007 6:15 PM

Agree with littlebum2002 Sorry but its just not worth a second spot. But they amazed me with there choices before.. Contour and Angular Momentum are way way way better than that game. Tall Stump concrats with your first price and Contour you deserved more.

Monkeynutz October 22, 2007 6:21 PM

Stephan can you tell my why you would wanna play this game over and over?


angular momentum was polished, but not fun. the level design was uninspired and a bit boring. a shame, too, because it was packaged nicely. there's just so much more to aabg, so many things to unlock and to discover about it. i've already spent over 10 hours playing and I still haven't unlocked everything in it. it's one of those games that may be slow to get started, but then you reach a point where you can't stop playing.


As the old saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Everyone has their own favorites for each competition, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

What is important to remember here is that a panel of 7 judges scored these games individually based on a set of metrics published here. If you disagree with the results of that scoring without doing similar scoring yourself, then you're just not doing a fair comparison.

So, it's ok to say you had chosen a different favorite; just please be respectful to the winners. :)


I've gotta say that I'm disappointed Ballistic Wars didn't place first. It was the best use of the theme, the most polished, visually stunning and by far the funnest (in my opinion).

I'm playing the Tall Stump again, just to see if it's as good as everyone says. I'm finding it frustrating at best.


Congratulations to the winners! I'm very happy with the top three choices, since those games are, in fact, the games I voted for. Out of all forty-something games, those three were the ones that stuck in my head and made me feel like the authors really did something special with the theme.

There were a lot of good games in this competition, though, and I'm looking forward to seeing completed sequels to the games that didn't quite reach their potential due to time constraints. Nice work, everybody!


Ohhh myyy godddd....

I can't believe it! This is seriously the biggest break in my history as a game designer! I'm so happy!!! :D

A big thank you to everyone who played Ballistic Wars, especially to those who left detailed feedback, and of coz to those who voted for it! Being the second most voted entry ain't too bad at all ;)

And reely great thanks to Jay and his team. You have given a big opportunity for a small time developer like me. I just can't thank the team enough.

Congrats to Team MAW, Felix and Sean Hawkes! And also all the entries in general. The games were all great in their own right.

I look forward to the next competition! ;)



Thanx so much for thinking highly of Ballistic Wars :) I'm glad you enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed developing it. We will not stop here of course, so look out for the sequel sometime soon.

Boston Gamer October 22, 2007 8:22 PM

Ballistic Wars was definitely my favorite too, and I think that Contour was also a very nice entry with the theme, so I was glad to see them rewarded (although higher placing would have been even nicer!) The Tall Stump was good, and I really wanted to like it more (it is cartoonish after all, which I love), but it was just a little too slow for me. I did like the concept of Angular Momentum, but I also agree that it wasn't as polished as some of the others.

Wan, I'll be watching for your Ballistic Wars sequel, and I'm sure you won't disappoint.


Congrats to everyone mentioned - and those who haven't made it but entered the competition! Sometimes we, the players forget how much work behind each of the(se) games there is. One tiny bug or conceptional error might be enough for us to forget about that. So, everyone whose games I had the opportunity to try and comment on - thanx heaps.

PS: Glad to see my favourite, Contour got some prize. Well deserved!


Congratulations Team MAW. The Tall Stump definitely deserved to win :)

And HOW did I miss Ballistic Wars? It must have gotten lost in the midst of so many entries. That game is so fun!

I also agree about Contour... though that was a hard toss up with SkyBlocs, which probably ate up the most of my gaming time during the competition.


Boston Gamer:

Thanx for making Ballistic Wars your favourite :) It's with your continued support that I will make a better Ballistic Wars than ever before!

istvan and Boston Gamer:

With that, I would love you both to be the first people to playtest any future release. You can click on my name and we'll correspond via email. Thanx! :)


Yeah Ballistic Wars was my favorite of the group (with The Tall Stump right up there too), I almost feel like it should have won. But I'm not going to say that I feel like anything should be different here--I think most of these particular entries deserved a prize anyway!


Congratulations to all the winners, and a special congratulations to Sean (and Brian) for the Best Use of Theme Prize. It was my favorite by far, and deserves all the accolades it can get.

I'll have to go back and retry The Tall Stump as well. I got stuck and gave up on it fairly early my first time around.


LOL... and I love the nod to Counterstrike!


Yeah, I don't envy the judges' task in picking the winner.

I'm another one that didn't really get into Absolute Awesome Ball Game, but I had checked the comments recently and saw a lot of people were finding a lot in it. I'm sure if I have another crack at it I'll get more from it.

I really enjoyed the other winners though. I think I like my online games to be instantly rewarding which AABG wasn't, but looking at the judging criteria I can see the winners were well chosen.

I'm done rambling now. Well done to all the winners! And thanks to Jay + Team for hosting the competition!


Deciding the winners of this competition was unbelievably tough. As I told Jay, when I first heard the announcement of "Ball Physics" as the theme I wasn't electrified (I'm more a point and click kinda gal), but I was simply blown away by the excellence and creativity displayed by the designers.

This may sound trite, but I hope all of you are really proud of yourselves. I am in awe. <salutes>


As one of the people who contributed a game (Jig Easy, Sam) I'm pleased that what I thought of as some of the best games in the competition were judged to be the best both by the judges and the readers. I'm happy that my game made the first cut and congratulate the other developers on such good work.

I have some thoughts about the game-development process. I'll spoiler it so it won't take up too much room:

Two months was actually too long a period of time for someone like me, who not only makes casual games, but takes a casual approach to development. The first week was a lot of brainstorming, but very little work, since there was so much time left. Weeks 2 through 7 was more procrastinating, then pretty much all the design, graphics, coding, sound, and playtesting were completed in just the final week.
When I have a month or less to do something, I'll get on it, but more than that and I dilly-dally. That's my problem, not one of the competition, but I wonder what the ideal timeframe for this kind of competition is. Too little time and we would get a mix of total crud and entries that were already developed and then had the theme plastered over the existing game. But with very long times, the entries would get better, but the best entries would be made by a) people with loads of free time (I'm thinking students on vacation) or b) professional developers who hope to get some exposure. I don't know, but a month feels like the right amount of time to me.
If these competitions continue to grow in popularity, Jay will have 100 entries next time, and there may need to be 'weight divisions' like in boxing to separate the amateurs from the pros.
In terms of the actual development, my strategy was to start with a 'toy' where there was fun interaction, figuring I would make a game out of it later. So I built a basic interface where you make your own pinball machine, draging bumpers on to the screen, and have a ball bounce around. This was kind of fun by itself, and more so when each bounce made a different sound.
Next I needed an objective, so I added a target, and my friend Joe suggested having it be a game about throwing furniture out of a window, so the target became a moving truck, and the bumpers became flower pots.
I was inspired by all the 'tower defense' games and figured that a TD-style strategy system could work for this game, although instead of upgrading bumpers, I had them be destroyed though usage.
Next I added rats as a kind of safety net for the player, and after much brainstorming tried all sorts of different bumpers, rejecting many (such as special types of moving men who throw all objects in a particular direction, fans to blow upward, etc.)
After lots of playtesting I settled on flowerpots, satellite dishes, and moving men, and gave each a different 'retirement' point, based on their price. The pricing itself was a huge cost in terms of my time, as I had to figure out how to give people step-wise objectives (first earn enough to afford pots, then men, then dishes). Selecting the cost of crashing an item on the ground also took lots of thought.
Sounds were next, and it was only a day or two before final completion that the storyline, title, and all the sounds were done. (rejected titles included: 'Portable Day of Insanity!' and 'Ball Handler'. The chosen title is an anagram of "Jay is Games"). In hindsight, having the story set at the beginning would have helped direct the thought process for everything else.
One of the last big changes was changing the 'bounciness' of each item, making the cheapest things bounce most. This added a level of strategy, sort of, but with more time I would have radically changed this feature.
The clocks, which many said made the game too easy, were added around 11pm of the night the submissions were due because I felt the game needed another intermediate goal.
As I have after the other competitions, I think I've learned quite a bit about game design, both from my own experiences and from looking at the other entries.
A] The hardest thing is balancing. It's very difficult to stay on the line between boring and frustrating. 'Jig Easy, Sam' and many of the other entries suffer in this regard. The only way to know you're in the right place is to have lots of playtesting, ideally by people other than yourself. The best games here obviously did this. The other games obviously didn't.
B] Levels are key as is level design. J.E.S. doesn't have levels, but that would have made it a much more engaging experience. (eg. Level 1: 5 chairs, only 3 flowerpots. Level 2: 10 TVs using 5 moving men, etc.) It was an experiment to have just a single ongoing experience, but instead of 10 minutes doing one thing it's better to spend 2 minutes each on 5 successive things. The best games are well-paced, through levels (or in the case of The Tall Stump, through successive rooms) and good level-design.
C] Story is key, not just for the background, but people like having a guy on the screen move around having little adventures and puzzles (like in 'Sprout' from comp#3)
D] The player should always be trying to solve a puzzle. You can't have more than about 10 seconds of midless clicking, or it gets boring. And it's okay to have a few 'What the *$#!' moments, as long as they're followed by the 'Ohhhh' moment. But there should always be things on the screen that beg the player to figure out what they mean, or how to get them, or around them, etc.
E] Graphics matter, but not as much as the interaction. Also, graphics need to be suited to the audience. It seems that this site has two types of player: those who like cute, hand-drawn graphics, and those who like clean, simple, vector graphics.
Just some thoughts. I'm curious to read what others think.


No Osmosis? Sorry, but that's just ridiculous.

I don't doubt the judges used the criteria given and the winners are all fine games, but if this is the result the criteria need fixing so that brilliant design actually gets rewarded. (I am reminded of what happened to Timebot last time.)


The scores for the top 7 games were very close, with Osmosis a very close 4th place. With so many excellent games, it's just not possible to reward every brilliant design (as much as we would like to).

Here's how the top 7 games finished:
1) The Tall Stump
2) Absolute Awesome Ball Game
3) Ballistic Wars
4) Osmosis
5) Bisection Dominion
6) Balancing Act
7) Space Kitteh

Dom, do you feel you can come up with a set of criteria that will select prize winners that everyone will agree on?

[Update: I made a mistake in the ranking of the top 6, I've corrected it above by including the top 7. -Jay]


I doubt it would be possible to find something everyone would agree on, but in any case I don't think criteria are necessarily the way I'd see the problem. Things like graphics and sound and so on can spoil an otherwise good game if they're inadequate, but at the end of the day the top three criteria are gameplay, gameplay, gameplay.

Still, good to hear it came fourth. And I don't want to give the impression I'm finding fault with the games that did win, so I think I'll leave this discussion here. :-)


Cheers, Dom. :) And you're more than welcome to join us for judging the next competition if you like.


Well done everyone!

I am glad that two of my favourite games were in the top two and I'm looking forward to seeing Ballistic Wars Two! That ice cream van cracks me up every time :)

It's interesting that the winning game - both of the competition and the audience prize - is one that I just don't 'get'. That's more a reflection on me than on the game itself! I'm looking forward to a full review of the game and an explanation of the ball physics behind it as I still have no real idea what ball physics is :)



I think your observations are right on.

Good game design seems to include one major goal chopped up into manageable sub-goals. In The Very Tall Stump, you deal with one room at a time, but there's always a sense that you're working towards something important. Your girlfriend has been transformed into a square, there's all these weird square people around - it feels like you really need to accomplish something, even if you're not sure exactly what. But the game never lets you go too far without encountering a new gameplay element or bizarre character. The pacing is great.

So it's compelling because there's a point to what you're doing, and it's involving because you're always working on something new. And then it's addictive because when you finish the game, you find out that there's ton of stuff still to be found. I think if you nail those three things - purpose, pacing, and replayability - you've got a great game. The hard part is figuring out fresh ways of sculpting those basic building blocks.


I am so glad to see AABG did well! I really enjoyed that game and got a lot of gameplay out of it, so boo to the naysayers. :/ And I'm glad about Contour winning a prize too--that was an excellent game.


the Best Use of Theme prize was OBVIOUSLY the best. it had a Wii. a (second) Wii would have been all I needed as a prize :P

congrats to team MAW, anyway. $2800! thats not even my own currency but I can tell its a large amount. well done.


First I thought that the golfer game would win, but it failed to ake the cut. Then I thought it would be the awesome ball game and i almost won :)

I thought these games would win because they two were just like Gimme Friction Baby, the absolute winner of the previous contest - many people loved it a lot and many just didn't see why it was such a good game.

As for the tall stump - I did just what Suho did: gave it up soon because i got stuck. I'm sure 5 more minutes would have gotten me thru - but there were so many other entries to try that it had no chance for that extra 5 minutes. Maybe this time.


How many votes were there in total? Just curious.


PS: I'm asking for the vote total, since by my analysis of the spreadsheet (min difference between games % figures seems to be ~0.38) the difference between the top two games seems to be exactly ONE vote.

Waaagh, why didn't I vote?


I just wanted to say congrats to all the winners! I think the prizes are well deserved (and I LOVE the tall stump!)


Brilliant, I prefered Ballistic Wars to Tall Stump (not very enjoyable with a touchpad)
They MUST be a sequel to Ballistic War I demand it!


Squishy: ??? The Tall Stump uses keyboard control.


Dividing 100(%) by 0.38 makes 263.15 votes. Which is probably around about the correct figure.


FhnuZoag - yes, that is correct. 4 votes separated the top 4 games for the audience prize.

There were 260 votes total.

Note my comment posted to the Audience Prize thread on Sunday: "And I cannot stress enough how important each vote is. The people who vote today are likely to decide who gets the audience prize, it's that close."


And for those who need a little incentive to dig a little deeper into Absolute Awesome Ball Game, here's a few spoiler images of what you're missing:


And that's just scratching the surface.


I loved AABG. It's real fun and the design is awesome...


Just got into AABG. Brilliant. Loads of structured random fun! Well done!


absolute awesome ball game is my favorite, simple and fun. got more than 130K before i accidentally hit refresh... i need sleep anyway, that game is darned addicting.


OK. Wow. I'm still blown away by this. There were so many great and deserving entries, so this is an unexpected honour.

Our team really only came together to make the Tall Stump as a one-off thing for this competition, but a lot of the player feedback was really useful, it's given us a great foundation to work from when we make the sequel, so thanks to everyone who participated, the whole process has been truly inspiring.

And thanks again Jay for everything you've done to put these competitions together and make them the huge success they are, I'm looking forward to the next one already. ;)


Aw, I wish Space Kitteh could have won something. It was easily my favorite. I just had so much fun zipping around planets with my rocket pack and the game had so much zany humor. Lol, I think I might go play it now.

Congratulations to all the winners though. Every game that won was worthy of winning something.


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