GameMaker Challenge #2: 60 Seconds ASCII Games

As part of their studies of becoming successful game-scholars, 1st year Games Computing students at the LSoC have to use and learn existing tools to rapidly develop and extend original game design ideas into fully fledged playable games. One of our favourite approach to the introductory of game studies is the use of game developing challenges. The rules of challenges: Make a game based on a given theme, within the available time scale. Volunteering students present and discuss their game in front of a playful crowd made out of their colleagues and university staff members. We previously reported about the Challenge #1; this post focuses on the results of Challenge #2.

Challenge #2: Design and produce a game which is based around the theme “ASCII”. Take inspiration from arcade games and Atari VCS games of the 1980’s by using the ASCII character set only as game components and graphics. The only other constraint on the game is that it must play in sixty seconds or less.

We were quite overwhelmed by the quality and brilliance of the games implementation submitted to the given challenge. The submissions ranged from dungeon crawlers, space ship battles, supermarket explorers, hacking terminals, serious games to tower defence, multi-player jump and runs, virus deletion, to racing games. As good as all game genres and ideas were looked at from a different perspective and re-engineered into a new innovative and fun game. Very well done to everyone who participated! As usual, Ben Kirman recorded the presentation sessions and created a short show reel video. The video is available on Youtube and gives a good glimpse of what is happening during the challenge presentation sessions!


In addition, we have hand-picked the following submissions; feel free to get them separately; or download them all in a handy zip file. Leave a comment and tell us what you think of the games!

Legend of Ascii by Kieran Hicks
Take control of a mighty warrior and battle your way through hordes of hellish monsters and kill the dragon that killed your father.  You shall have your revenge!


Neon Mage ASCII by Martin Smith
Minding your own business as a rogue mage, your home town is being attacked! Your most powerful spell, the teleport takes 60 seconds to charge, you’ll have to defend yourself against waves of enemy numbers with all you’ve got until it kicks in.


ASCII Blocker by Richard Lannigan
As the head systems analyst, it is your job to protect your base from a sixty seconds wave of enemy virus cells attempting to destroy it. Use blockers and turrets to aid you in your defence, or drop the almighty nuke and wipe out all enemies in range. Protect the system core at all costs to ensure law and order is upheld. Get it done analyst.


Enigma by Ashley Clewes
ENIGMA is a text-based hacking/decoding game, designed to appear like a simple terminal/console application which has been adapted by its creators to allow for a level of competition.


Asciinauts by John McDonagh
The evil Asciinauts have captured the inhabitants of the planet decimalus. It is your mission to kill the 10 evil asciinauts before they get away with their crimes towards the decimals. A retro 60 second fast action shoot em up. Can you save the decimals before it’s too late?


Mind by Laura Buttrick
A minimalist exploration of seasonal affective disorder.


Draw! by James Brown
Draw! The clue’s in the name.


@LAD by Jack Guerrier
@LAD is a cross between a Maze/race/collision style games, allowing the player to manoeuvre around other obstacles to reach a particular point before another object. Plan their path towards the point gaining object!


ASCroller by Jack Broughton
ASCroller is a space scrolling shoot em up with a rewarding level-up system. Take control of the brutish Battleship or control the nimble Yen ship. Collect as many points as possible before time runs out while dodging or destroying asteroids. Players can gain power by collecting objects and use it for special powers.


Rocket Racer by Christopher Dye
In Rocket Racer you have 60 seconds to test your rocket car! Using the arrow keys collect money to increase your score and speed, but watch out for potholes, hitting too many will force you to slow down and decrease your score!


ASCIIPE by Matthew Housley
ASCIIPE is an ASCII themed Dungeon Crawler. The goal is to navigate your character through one of three randomly chosen puzzles, fighting your way past enemies while finding the exit within the given time limit. Every time a puzzle is loaded the room will look different as it is randomly generated.


Astonishing work guys! Challenge #3 will be set in Unity and has been unveiled. Results will be posted in the following weeks!

Video Games & Virtual Worlds, POCOS : Keynotes online!

Sean Oxspring previously reported about his experiences at the recent POCOS symposium on Virtual Worlds and Games. We have been recently informed that the videos of the speaker led sessions are now online and are available to view.  We put a handful of speeches in this post, however all of them are available on the POCOS Vimeo streaming webpage.

Dan Pinchbeck,The Chinese Room, UK – Standing on the shoulders of heavily armed giants: why history matters for game development

Professor Richard Bartle, University of Essex, UK – Archaeology versus Anthropology: What can Truly be Preserved?

Ian Livingstone OBE, Co-Founder, The Games Workshop, UK – The Future History of Video Games

Tom Woolley, Curator of New Media, National Media Museum, UK – Curatorial Issues in Preserving Games for Museum Collections & Public Display

Student conference report: Video Games & Virtual Worlds, POCOS.

This post has been written by Sean Oxspring, a 2nd Year Games Computing from the University of Lincoln. He recently attended at the 3rd POCOS Symposium, which discussed the fundamental tasks around the preservation of video-games and digital worlds.

In the 1920’s movies were not considered as a significant cultural object, this meant a great deal of films to not be archived for the future and they were lost to the ages… unfortunately history is as per usual repeating itself – only this time with video-games.

Oliver and I travelled along to the POCOS symposium in Cardiff in order to be a part of a discussion on the future possibilities of games archiving in this country. Other attendees ranged from games designers to archivists and librarians, all interested in preserving the history and future of games for both research and cultural purposes.

We received a great deal of information on the problems surrounding preserving games, some were similar to other forms of media, but a great deal of things were different. Several speakers talked about the great deal of metadata surrounding games, hardware specifications, software, user created content, patches etc. etc. the huge amount of metadata surrounding games makes it hard for archivists to decide what is important to keep and what researchers will not need to know in the future.

Ian Livingstone discussing the importance of games culture.

The vast majority of games preservation today is done by private collectors and through legally dodgy websites. IP is a very big problem as a lot of publishers do not wish to release their works for archiving as the public would have access to them – meaning in the future they might lose out on selling their retro-titles as a re-release (Nintendo’s WiiStore being the most obvious one). Some archives have copies of very old games, but are unable to show the public as they find it difficult to get permission to display them in exhibits (IP being owned by several people made it hard to get hold of everyone’s permission).

Richard Bartle spoke on the problems with preserving an MMO game, the main problem here is that although it would be reasonably easy to preserve a server and the client software – you would only have half of the picture, as an MMO’s main reliance is its players. Bartle described it as ‘evacuating Leicester and then covering it in clingfilm, then coming back in a hundred years’ the cities structures would be preserved, but the people living there make the city what it is. As such to fully understand an MMO a great deal of player metadata would have to be preserved along with it.

Ian Livingstone gave a talk on his history in the games industry and ran with the idea of games being of a phenomenal cultural value. He showed how Tomb Raider became a hit with both sexes, and the great deal of adverts that used Lara Croft as a spokesperson.

Dan Pinchbeck talking about why history matters for game development.

Dan Pinchbeck, the creative mind of ‘Dear Esther’, did a presentation entitled ‘Standing on the shoulders of heavily armoured giants’. He expressed the point that we needed to remember and preserve gaming history in order to understand how to design better games in the future.

Later on both days we split into groups and discussed ideas about games preservation, and how we can tackle such a task in order to avoid losing games in the future. There were several problems to tackle: What to preserve, Who would want access to it and the most difficult one being whether or not we can get publishers to give up their IP for archiving purposes.

Announcement: ULCS Game Jam, 24th-25th March 2012

The University Of Lincoln Computing Society is organising a weekend of Game Jam on the 24th and 25th March 2012. Everyone is welcome, regardless of background, knowledge, experience or ability; as long as they are willing to get hands dirty on making games, either on their own, or in small teams. A theme will be announced at the start of the weekend, and competitions entries will be judged by a panel, and many prices will be given out for all sorts of game achievement. The Game Jam is kindly hosted by the Lincoln School of Computing, and the whole event will be held in the Media Humanities and Technology building, which is located on the Univerity of Lincoln campus. More in-depth directions can be found on this map. If you have any further questions or wish to enter the event, read on, or contact directly . Alternatively, if you are a University of Lincoln Student, head to the SOAP Center to enter this event. An entry cost of £5 will be required to cover refreshment costs.

What is the ULCS Game Jam?
The goal of the ULCS Game-Jam is to come together and to quickly develop video-games. Participants have got to develop a game that explores the ideas of a shared theme, within a given time limit, while being surrounded by other participants, who are coming from different backgrounds, each with different abilities. The short time-span encourages participants to generate and develop innovative experimental game-play mechanism and to share and present them to other people. The games do not have to be full games, but the core of them should be fun.

The first ULCS Game Jam a two day event at the University of Lincoln’s Games Development Lab. Participants are welcomed to work either on their own, or in small teams. Teams can range from artists, coders, designers, or people that are met on the day. As the event is open for everyone, it is also a great place to meet and socialise with people alike.

There is no development platform limitation at the ULCS Game Jam. It is allowed to use any software or hardware available at the event and the use of external peripherals (i.e. home-made controllers) are highly welcome.

Who is organising the ULCS Game Jam?
ULCS Games Jam is organised by the University of Lincoln Computing Society. The society is receiving additional help and funding from the Lincoln School of Computer Science and the Students’ Union.

Who can come to the ULCS Game Jam?
Initially, the event has been restricted to participants who study at the University of Lincoln. However, depending on the number of registered participants, we welcome universities and individuals to come along to the Game Jam. However, we hope to open future ULCS Game Jam to all participants who desire to come. If you are not a UL student, feel free to contact with ‘Game Jam’ in the subject, to arrange attendance.

Where and when will the ULCS Game Jam be held?
The ULCS Game Jam will be held at the University of Lincoln. The Lincoln School of Computer Science (SoCS) has allowed us to use their computing labs for the duration of the event. It will run over the weekend of the 24th and 25th March 2012, starting from Saturday 9am until Sunday 7pm.

What do I need to bring to the ULCS Game Jam?
With giving us access to their labs, the SoCS have been kind enough to supply us with 60 XPS 630i computers, all up and running ready for development. These computers are free to use for all attendees of the ULCS Game Jam. Feel free though to bring your own equipment, keep in mind though that there is limited available space, so don’t bring too much. As it is anticipated that people will require sleep at some point, a quiet room will be available for people to crash-out. Remember though to bring your own sleeping bag. Other than that, you just need to bring yourself and a love for video-games.

So who will be judging?
Judging the event will be done by industry professionals. We are looking at having 3-4 judges for the ULCS Game Jam, who will be looking to find the best, most innovative, and the most fun games. To start with, we will have members of the Lincoln Social Computing (LiSC)/Lincoln Games Research Group. Additionally, we are currently in the process of filling in the remaining positions with representatives from Rockstar Lincoln and Crytek Nottingham.

This Game-Jam sounds interesting! How do I enter?
Simply send an email directly to with your contact details. If you are a University of Lincoln student, head towards the SOAP centre and ask to enter the ULCS GameJam.

We hope to see you soon at the ULCS Game Jam!