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Gorilla Hugs Kitten, Activision's Indie Compo Winners

Next year, I imagine Activision will also host a best Call of Duty contest. Winner gets a contract. Everyone else gets sued.

No, for real! See? Amazing, right? Activision’s indie competition, I think, follows a similar pattern – except with slightly fewer kittens and tremendously less publicity. I mean, I hear about the winners (and their $175,000 prizes) and think “Wow, good on Activision for setting such a cool thing into motion.” Then I remember that, no, this isn’t new. And finally, I remember why I didn’t remember: because Activision does a horrific job of giving these things any promotion. I suppose, though, that some is better than none, and so let’s have a look at the winner’s podium, shall we?

In first place (aka, the one that gets you $175,000), there’s Iron Dragon by Christopher Hui. Apparently it’s an “action flight adventure optimized for touch-screen devices” – and that’s precisely all anyone knows about it. Meanwhile, second place (and a sum of $75,000 so paltry that it may as well be flung at random passersby, especially in the Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco) goes to Michael Stanton’s Planet Smashers. An enterprising young man, Mr Stanton even has one of those newfangled webscroll pages, which – once unfurled in all its flowing majesty – says things like this:

“Planet Smashers is a class-based multiplayer 2D shooter at its core. Using the Spork engine, it is not played on a traditional flat / platformer environment. Instead, players run around on the surface of moons. When available, players can use jumpjets, vehicles and launch platforms to move to nearby moons. In this way, we are able to add a new dimension to side-scrolling 2D game play without making it 3D.”

“Players will run around the surface of small moons firing at one another as they go. At a moments notice, they can lift off using jump jets and land on another moon, making progress towards the enemy base. Vehicles will allow some players to control the spaces in between, but prevent them from landing. Some weapons can only be fired in a short range, while some can fire between moons. While everything may be going poorly on one moon, a player can quickly hop to an adjacent moon controlled by their team and change the game up.”

There’s also an incredibly basic playable prototype and a semi-detailed blueprint of Planet Smashers’ core features (for instance, single-player featuring a System-Shock-ish twist) if you’re interested. Oh, and a rather encouraging pitch video, which you can view below.

Last year’s winners, Dstroyd and Rigonauts, still haven’t been released, but they’re making progress. Technically, Activision had first right to refusal for publishing rights to both, but it didn’t snap up either. Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, that stipulation appears to have vanished from this year’s iteration. Here’s hoping the whole competition doesn’t do the same – though the general lack of promotion is, as ever, worrisome. But at least we know there will always be gorillas that love kittens. And in that, I take tremendous comfort.

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Nathan Grayson

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