I just received the feedback for The Ultimate Celebration from the IGF judges, and I have to say, I’m pretty pleased.
Be warned, the feedback contains some SPOILERS, so you should probably play the game first before reading ahead. It will take just a few minutes.
First, here’s the feedback I received from the student competition:
I’m sure you realize this is a game that requires multiple playthroughs in order for it to “click”. There may be something you can do – even if it’s as simple as a brief game-over screen with the friends you did or didn’t save in this playthrough versus the previous – to help convey that.
Overall, I thought it was nicely done. I liked the contrast between my first playthrough (oh, this is easy!) to the frantic timing of any subsequent runs.
I’m not sure I completely understand the first comment, since the game already has a game over screen. I do like the idea of displaying a list of all the friends you found, though.
The contrast between the first and subsequent playthroughs is intentional, so it’s good to see that the game had the intended effect. The player is expected to go through a range of emotions during the first playthrough. The game starts out cheerful, gradually builds up a sense of dread, and culminates in a desperate struggle to survive.
The part of the feedback that disappoints me the most is where the judge refers to finding friends as “saving” them (the subsequent feedback makes this same mistake). One of the major themes of the game is the futility of fighting against the inevitable end. Finding your friends doesn’t save them from anything. In the end, they still die. But at least they had their friends with them during their final moments.
Here is an especially nice bit of feedback from the main competition:
Brilliant game, I really enjoyed it. I thought it was quite subversive, darkly humorous and playful. I’ve played through it twice, and intend to give it another few goes to see how much better I can do. To some degree I think it’s a shame that the (fail state) ending is something that never has quite the same impact after the first time, but I suppose that’s the nature of the beast.
I especially liked how initially I thought it was really easy because hitting enemies just knocks you back slightly instead of killing you/reducing health like what you might expect. That idea quickly gets turned on it’s head when you realize that getting knocked back a bit is a very real set back in a lot of scenarios.
It’s pretty damn hard. I play a lot of platformers, but my best score yet on this is finding 8 friends.
Bloody lovely music.
I’m disinclined to check out the video of the ending for if you save all your friends, because I want to try and get it myself eventually. I do suspect that most players won’t be able to achieve this, because I reckon it’s very hard to do so, but that’s ok, not every game has to have completion that is achievable by everyone.
Fantastic use of the short form. Well done!
This judge really understood the game. He or she was correct that few players are able to find all 20 friends. I know of only one other player who found all of them, though this has probably happened a few more times and I just haven’t heard about it.
The high difficulty is intentional, because The Ultimate Celebration is really two different games: the first emotional playthrough, and the subsequent speed-runs. For the first playthrough, the high difficulty is not a problem, since the intended message is even stronger if the player fails (it is virtually impossible to “win” the first time through). Subsequent playthroughs are there more for people who like to challenge themselves, which works best when the difficulty is high.