Posted by: Morten Nobel-Jørgensen | April 24, 2010

Pitching the game “Bounce”


It’s not everyday that you pitch a game idea to a jury of the three largest game companies in Scandinavia. But thanks to Dare to be Digital and NITH we were given this opportunity in Oslo this week.

Dare to be Digital
Dare to be Digital
is a video games design competition for university students. The competition is created and hosted by University of Abertay Dundee, Scotland. Teams of 5 students spend 10 week competing to design and implement the best video game while receiving daily support and weekly training sessions from industry specialists.

This year NITH (The Norwegian School of Information Technology) held the regional selection event, where the best Scandinavian team were selected. There were 8 applications for Dare To Be Digital in Scandinavia, and only 5 teams were selected to go to Oslo to pitch their idea.

I was in Team Red Flag – one of the lucky 5 teams the made it to Oslo. Our team consisted of:

  • Morten Nobel-Jørgensen (Me): lead programmer
  • Prakash Prasad: programmer
  • Martin Skou Nielsen: 3D artist
  • Jonas Herløv Wæver:  game and level designer
  • ???: Scottish student ambassador

Bounce: The game idea
The game concept we came up with was Bounce, a pinball inspired arcade game where each player controlled a robot ball (Mr. Cronk) in a cartoonish environment. The game world contained many elements from pinball, such as bumpers, rails and flippers. The core game mechanics would be bouncing around and exploring this game world.

Bounce concept art

Each level in the game would have its own theme, and the three levels we have planned are: Science fiction, medieval and toys. The level design will focus on multiplayer experience and provide both cooperative and competitive challenges for the players.

Preparing the pitch
To test out our game idea, we created a simple prototype. The goal of the prototype was to convince ourself, that the core game mechanics (steering a bounding ball in a pinball-ish environment) was fun. I created the prototype in Unity during a weekend and we were pretty happy with the result. We added a simple point system, just to make into a game. The simple point system isn’t related to the game rules of Bounce in any way.

3D scene setup for presentation

We also decided to create our presentation in Unity. This might been seen as a slightly odd choice, but it gave us the freedom to add 3D glimpses of the game world from within the presentation. I wrote a simple presentation script manager, that basically triggered animations using mouse events (left click = next slide, right click = previous slide). As a help to the speaker I also added a timer bar in the top of each slide, that showed how elapsed time of planned time (per slide).

Judgement day
The 22nd of April was judgment day. In front of 3 judges from the game industry (Dice, Funcom and IO Interactive) we pitched our game idea. The presentation took around 15 minutes and after that a short Q&A session. Generally the judges seem to like our idea and we were all satisfied with our presentation. After two long hours of waiting the winning team was announced. Unfortunately it wasn’t us. Even though we didn’t win, we all happy that we did sign up for the event. It was fun to pitch our idea to people from the game industry, and they gave valuable feedback.

The full presentation and prototype can be found here:
http://www.nobel-joergensen.com/projects/unity/bounce/bounce.jsp

Edit 27-04-2010

We just recieved the individual feedback from the judges. Here it is:

Aleksander Grøndal/Dice:
I really liked your presentation and the fact that you did it in Unity is a big plus in my book. I got the feeling that you guys really believed in your project and burned for it, and I am sure that you are more than able to finish this one.

Brent Ellison/Funcom:
This was a very nice presentation – your slides were very professional, you did a great job of selling your team members, and the game clearly has a good aesthetic. However, while your basic concept was good, it seemed you were overreaching a bit, and not necessarily from an achievability perspective. The co-op/competitive idea is great, and the speed and energy mechanics sound solid, but I believe that going for that exploration aspect made the game seem a little less accessible, especially for a “couch co-op” game. I actually thought the single-screen, top-down perspective of the prototype you showed seemed like the basis for a more appealing game than the split-screen one you pitched. I think this concept would be greatly improved by narrowing your focus (i.e., taking out the exploration pillar), and choosing a primary platform more suited to offline co-op, like the Wii.

Jonas Lind/IO Interactive:
You have created a basic premise for a fun coop game very well. You have thought about how to make it an interesting coop experience and have designed fun mechanics to support that. I think you are making a grave mistake by not aligning your target audience with your target platform (couch game on pc). This decision will handicap the potential of the game I’m afraid. I also think you are making a mistake by doing three (radically different) levels instead of just one. Focus your energies and deliver on the promise and potential the game really has and balance that, rather than mock up a bunch of stuff nobody is interested in seeing.  

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Responses

  1. It kind of bugs me that they slammed us for focusing on PC, seeing how we pretty much only said that because Unity doesn’t have X-box 360 support yet. We were designing it for gamepads, and portability is super easy with Unity, but I guess they kind of caught on to the dissonance between the play experience we wanted and the platform we said we were targeting. Prakash was right – we should’ve said Wii instead of PC :-/

    • Yes there were a few things that should have done different. But we gave it our best shoot. Next year, we’ll have our revenge 🙂 We’ll be back!

  2. […] invite you to check out this post over on Morten’s blog (which has also been added to my sidebar), as it has lots of details about the game we pitched, […]

  3. It does kinda sound* like a game I could imagine playing on the xbox, not so much on the PC. Was XNA an option, or was the use of Unity mandatory?

    * Unfortunately Unity doesn’t run in Linux so I can only form my opinion based on the text.

    • There were no restriction on use of game engine, language or target platform. The only real restriction was the target audience, since the game were to be presented on a public event (ProtoPlay), where kinds attend. So no sex, drugs and violence allowed.


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