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No Dribbling: Basketball

I've been meaning to check out the enigmatically named Flash game Basketball for a couple of weeks, after spotting it via Mr Parkins' blog, but first it wouldn't work, and then I forgot. I remembered again! I'm glad I did. This is rather fun. As the canniest amongst you may have deduced, it's a game based on an element of basketball - a sport in which you must put balls in a basket.

That's what this focuses on. You might call it a penalty shot simulator. There's a basket on the left of the screen, and a ball appears at a random position anywhere else around the court. Using an upward trajectory indicator you aim the ball as best you can to find its way into the basket. It's automated Gorillas. It's shooting hoops. But not on your own.

At any one time there tends to be around 750 to 1000 people playing, of which about half congregate for a two minute competitive game. This is automatic. Choose 'play' and if a game hasn't started you'll be in practice mode, with a countdown to the next game (generally no more than three minutes away). Then it switches mode automagically and you're now competing against a few hundred others. Rather brilliantly, your score and ranking is shown in realtime between each shot, in the form of a dynamic bar graph that shows your position sliding forward or backward. (You can also create your own private groups to compete against friends.)

Scoring is based on the accumulation of distance. The longer your shot, the more metres you score. Get a clean shot (i.e. don't hit the backboard) and your distance score is double. Getting a clean shot from 12m away is enormously satisfying. Do it with your first shot of the game (should the ball randomly position itself that far away) and you'll likely enjoy the brief placing at number 1, and a little gold trophy appears. For about the one nanosecond before someone infinitely better at the game than you takes their rightful place.

It's really good fun. But I can't help thinking of ways it could be way more fun. I'd love to see it be invested with the attitudes of Flashbang's Blurst games. Right now you only score for getting the ball through the basket. Which makes more than a small amount of sense. But when you're shooting from the other side of the court and you catch two sides of the rim and then bounce out, it would be nice to have some compensation. Then there's the stranger moments. A few times I've had the ball miss, then bounce up in such a way that it would score on its own rebound (if the game didn't remove it before it could fall through the hoop) - that's got to be worth something. Or the one time I scored, and the ball bounced up and scored itself again. Clearly it counts for nothing in a game played straight like this one, but man, that should at least be celebrated on screen. It's great that scoring a clean basket is worth double, so extend that logic, make other actions worth pursuing, create different routes to reaching a high score.

The other oddity to mention is its insistence on being played in fullscreen. In a way I've never seen another Flash game do, it automatically resizes itself to fullscreen as soon as you click on it, which may not be ideal for your circumstances. It seems deeply odd not to give you the option to stop this from happening.

Still, in this simple form it's a splendid way to spend two minutes, especially with the realtime competition against a few hundred invisible strangers. So as is only appropriate, boast your high scores below. Mine is currently a very beatable 161.89m (coming 32nd amongst around 500). Go do better.

And here's the RPS group, thanks to El Stevo.

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