Planning

Planning
by on (#194047)
Did we say we want this to be an annual thing? If so, we have only a few weeks to get the next one rolling. I suggest a few rule additions:

  • The main category is for games. In the past, judges have found it difficult to judge entries that aren't games. Thus tools and toys should go in the free-for-all category even if they fit the mapper and size requirements.
  • Excessive padding is discouraged. For example, an entry's 10 KiB of PRG data shouldn't be strewn across a 32 KiB PRG ROM; it should instead be packed into 16 KiB. Nor should a CNROM have two CHR ROM banks that are less than half full; NROM with $2000 switching is usually better for that situation. This helps ensure more entries can fit on the multicart.
  • The blurb should contain instructions for the multicart menu to display. This is up to 16 lines, each roughly 28 characters long.
Re: Planning
by on (#194048)
Can I impose?

Since we had troubles with uninitialized values, maybe we should insist on a standard INIT routine, so we don't have to do a dozen error fixes.
Re: Planning
by on (#194057)
I like tepples' suggestions. As for what dougeff suggests, I'd rather ask explicitly for all RAM and VRAM to be properly initialized for an entry to be eligible to be included in the multicart - unless the mentioned INIT routine is designed to be easily portable.

I'm in, of course. We are planning a nice vertical scroller with several levels :)
Re: Planning
by on (#194082)
I've been talking with Frankegraphics recently about multiplayer games on the NES. With the increasing AVS popularity, including its native 4 controller ports... and the relative lack of quality 4-player games on the NES, having a themed focus for 4-player games could be really beneficial.

A53 vol 4 could become the go-to suggestion for party games on the NES, especially considering the marketing abilities of "volume 4" being the one known for 4-player games.

Moreover, the judging problems associated with comparing multiplayer games with non-multiplayer games would be taken care of by having all competition category entries be multiplayer. As for judging issues, coordinating some netplay schedules could be helpful, especially if a larger base of other players were brought in through a thread at NA or whatever.
Re: Planning
by on (#194085)
I think we need to be cautious of having overly specific requirements of technical and/or game style demands from entrants.

Initialization issues are extremely common, and we're always going to desire some compressing. Having good documentation on do's and do not's for developers to review when questions arise is always good. Just don't want to make a big deal about it to the point where it might deter new developers from submitting entries. If we go to the point of demanding technical items of this nature I think we'll scare people away especially if they're not as experienced.

I think it would be much more beneficial to provide guidance, or perhaps boiler plate code that does perform suggested startup. Going about it in tone of here's some help, and code you're welcome to use is more inviting. Compared to stringent technical requirements a novice may not even understand which could make them feel they don't belong.

Perhaps a good time to direct entrants to the technical list of dos and dont's is after they submit their entry and are awaiting judging. Allow them to submit their efforts even if they haven't made time to compress their entry yet. Having these things well documented to avoid having the same conversation multiple times should make it easier for all.

I have a hard time imagining a successful compo on par with last year's if we require all competing entries to be 4 player. Making 4 player a requirement still doesn't make judging them easier. In general suggestive themes haven't worked out for us in the past in the form of sub-compo either.

Something to keep in mind is that we probably will be hitting our 53 game target with this compo. I think we actually hit 53 entries last compo, but I guess tools don't count. Anyway, if there's something specific we have in mind for the big cart, probably good to address it this compo.

Overall last year's compo was a great success on many accounts. I'm of the mind that we can copy paste last year's rules, etc for the most part. And make sure we announce it on NA, as that was the biggest real issue we had. If there's something that needs changing lets get it addressed. But the direction we were looking for is to have an annual schedule that can be copy pasted from one year to the next. Without letting deliberations on what we should do this time drag on to the point where they delay the compo.

That's my $0.02 take it or leave it ;)
Re: Planning
by on (#194087)
Maybe this was already addressed in the A53 thread, and since I don't know how the A53 mapper works, this might be a dumb suggestion.

But if initilization is such a big issue, would it be terribly hard for the A53 menu to initialize all 8 RAM pages and relevant registers to zero during its routine for starting up a game?
While this of course differs between emulators, it's my impression that almost all initialization errors tend to assume the value to be zero.
Re: Planning
by on (#194098)
M_Tee wrote:
A53 vol 4 could become the go-to suggestion for party games on the NES, especially considering the marketing abilities of "volume 4" being the one known for 4-player games.

I too see value in exploiting the 4 ports on an AVS and Analogue Nt mini. Here are a few games on previous volumes that are for 4 players or have been updated to be so:
  • Super PakPak is on volume 2.
  • Spacey McRacey is on volume 3.
  • NovaSquirrel has an updated version of DABG.

infiniteneslives wrote:
In general suggestive themes haven't worked out for us in the past in the form of sub-compo either.

Perhaps what discouraged entries to the 2014 sub-compo was the size limit. Or we could tweak the prize structure, giving the highest-scored sub-compo winner a first place prize in that category and awarding the main first, second, third, fourth, and fifth place prizes as if the winner of the sub-compo had not entered. Does NintendoAge have members who have competed in game jams and can add thoughts about multi-category competition?

infiniteneslives wrote:
Something to keep in mind is that we probably will be hitting our 53 game target with this compo.

There are a few entries on volumes 1 through 3 that are not fully baked, to put it mildly. That's why I want to have the remix compo as at least a side deal before we release the all-in-one anthology.

Sumez wrote:
would it be terribly hard for the A53 menu to initialize all 8 RAM pages and relevant registers to zero during its routine for starting up a game?

Initializing almost everything is practical. Initializing absolutely everything isn't.

The menu needs to set the outer bank, inner bank, game size, and default register (CNROM: CHR bank; others: inner PRG bank), and jump to the game's entry point. The last of these need to be done in RAM because the menu bank is no longer visible. And I can't make code in RAM clear itself; it's not like loading an SPC700 saved state (.spc) on the Super NES, where the last steps of the process can execute out of the I/O ports. Would it be enough to clear nametables, clear $0000-$00F7 and $0100-$07FF to value $FF, and leave eight bytes of code at $00F8-$00FF?
Code:
  clrzploop:
    sta $00,x
    dex
    bne clrzploop
  jmp entrypoint


Another thing we could try is to provide a stand-alone version of the ROM builder, so that a developer can test how a game will behave when added to a collection. For this, I might need someone's help with py2exe.
Re: Planning
by on (#194101)
Quote:
Excessive padding is discouraged. For example, an entry's 10 KiB of PRG data shouldn't be strewn across a 32 KiB PRG ROM; it should instead be packed into 16 KiB. Nor should a CNROM have two CHR ROM banks that are less than half full; NROM with $2000 switching is usually better for that situation. This helps ensure more entries can fit on the multicart.
Eh, even if there had been such a rule, it's not like it would have changed anything about Sinking. The space was going to be used by larger title graphics, health issues prevented that, and I was in such a bad shape I couldn't have changed the mapper and packed things more tightly without breaking everything.

Edit: Also, seems contradictory with the call for filler with so much unused space :P
Re: Planning
by on (#194108)
calima wrote:
Quote:
Excessive padding is discouraged.
Eh, even if there had been such a rule, it's not like it would have changed anything about Sinking. The space was going to be used by larger title graphics, health issues prevented that

Now that we have CNROM support, it's not quite as important for CHR ROM as it is for PRG ROM. For PRG ROM, I can fit two NROM-128 entries into one 32K bank using the autosubmulti script, which (ab)uses UNROM (2) and UNROM (180) to mirror 16K into both the top and bottom halves of the bank.
Re: Planning
by on (#194114)
dougeff wrote:
Since we had troubles with uninitialized values, maybe we should insist on a standard INIT routine, so we don't have to do a dozen error fixes.

I don't think it should be an explicit rule for submission.

Nobody submitting wants to have bugs in their program, but there's a lot of things someone needs to learn to make a valid NES program. If you're new to the NES, there's a lot of stuff you're just not going to be able to catch your first time. Submitting it to the compo is a peer review process, and a learning experience.

We caught these initialization problems easily, at an appropriate time, and I think in a way that was helpful to those who submitted. Compo rules, on the other hand, aren't very good teaching material.


(FWIW, I think the more common bug category was PPU access outside of vblank.)
Re: Planning
by on (#194162)
M_Tee wrote:
I've been talking with Frankegraphics recently about multiplayer games on the NES. With the increasing AVS popularity, including its native 4 controller ports... and the relative lack of quality 4-player games on the NES, having a themed focus for 4-player games could be really beneficial.

A53 vol 4 could become the go-to suggestion for party games on the NES, especially considering the marketing abilities of "volume 4" being the one known for 4-player games.


While I agree with others that limiting it to 4-player games might be bad, I've been thinking a lot about trying to get a separate 4-player party game multicart going. I also envision a "party mode" where it cycles through one round of each game, keeping score of the various winners. You'd have to get the authors to agree to add hooks for this mode, but I think it'd be an awesome use of the 4-player ports.

Of course, the hard part is finding enough people that want to contribute :D


Quote:
Nobody submitting wants to have bugs in their program, but there's a lot of things someone needs to learn to make a valid NES program. If you're new to the NES, there's a lot of stuff you're just not going to be able to catch your first time. Submitting it to the compo is a peer review process, and a learning experience.


As someone who used the compo as a motivator to make my first nes game, I agree. It was helpful to submit first, fix later. (Of course, it would have been much easier if I had just gotten my powerpak earlier so I could have tested on hardware before submitting. I was surprised at how many errors didn't show up in fceux)
Re: Planning
by on (#194173)
gauauu wrote:
I was surprised at how many errors didn't show up in fceux)

The use of multiple emulators during development it's highly encouraged, because even if none of them are perfect, just the fact that they disagree with each other on the output should be a big red flag.

As for the compo, I play games mostly by myself, so I'd probably have a hard time thinking of something for 4 players, I don't know if any other programmers are the same. Not that the NES is particularly suited for that many simultaneous players in the first place, considering the ridiculously tiny number of sprites that can be in the same scanlines. Anyway, I guess it's OK to encourage the development of multiplayer games, as long as that doesn't push developers away.
Re: Planning
by on (#194175)
True, 4-player is listed in Limitations. But perhaps the idea is to contrive game rules to keep all four players from lining up horizontally. Case in point: Warlords ran on a system with even fewer sprites. Or use 8x16s, like Smash TV and Spook-o-Tron. Or use 16-pixel-wide characters and no other sprites, like Super Sprint and Bomberman.
Re: Planning
by on (#194184)
tokumaru wrote:
gauauu wrote:
I was surprised at how many errors didn't show up in fceux)

The use of multiple emulators during development it's highly encouraged, because even if none of them are perfect, just the fact that they disagree with each other on the output should be a big red flag.


Really, I'd go all out and just say test on hardware. One of my bugs didn't show up on any of the 3 or 4 emulators I tried :)

tepples wrote:
True, 4-player is listed in Limitations. But perhaps the idea is to contrive game rules to keep all four players from lining up horizontally. Case in point: Warlords ran on a system with even fewer sprites. Or use 8x16s, like Smash TV and Spook-o-Tron. Or use 16-pixel-wide characters and no other sprites, like Super Sprint and Bomberman.


We discussed this at some length in my thread for Spacey McRacey, where my opinion was that some of the fun was, like you said, contriving game rules that work despite the limitations.
Re: Planning
by on (#194188)
I don't agree with the limitations page on the subject of 4 player "party" games. There are plenty of ways to implement these kinds of games without any of the issues mentioned being a problem at all.
That said, if I were to actually participate this year (around 30% chance maybe....) it would most likely be a single player game, as that's the only thing I could realistically playtest on a deadline.
Re: Planning
by on (#194190)
I had plans for a 4 player party style game for last year's compo. Unfortunately I never put in enough time to actually get it done, even though I'd really like to for this years compo. (One compo rule I had some trouble working around was the no prg-ram one. I needed some extra ram on the cart to get things working)

The chances of me actually making it for this year would probably increase a little if it was a dedicated party cart with neat features like shared scores between games and such, but I think such a requirement would dillute the already very thin nes homebrew scene a little too much.

Such a cart could be made anyways once there are enough authors of party games interested in adjusting them for it. I'm sure people wouldn't mind if some (or all) of the games were already released on the compo carts.
Re: Planning
by on (#194487)
I'm pretty sure I said this last year but I'll say it again: People who want to create new categories (e.g. best 4-player game) should put up money of their own for the prize.

Also, the other thing I wanted to bring up was whether the scores of non-winning games should be displayed or not. Ranking the lowest-scoring games may be discouraging to creators, especially newcomers.
Re: Planning
by on (#194488)
I think it's important to know how you ranked even it was low.
Re: Planning
by on (#194495)
As someone presenting a low-rated entry, I loved to see my score. It allows to compare to others watching objective numbers and (since details were released) it allows to analyze what's going wrong or not-so-wrong category by category. That's actually a very good thing and my favourite part of participating to compo/jams: never hopping to finish first, but see what to improve.

In the cart itself, the "runner-up" titles are sorted alphabetically so players do not start with a bias. It would not be useful to them to have the score and may be perceived as "This game is bad, you will not like it. Play it."
Re: Planning
by on (#194499)
RogerBidon wrote:
As someone presenting a low-rated entry, I loved to see my score.


I agree. I was glad to see my score, even though it wasn't good. (And I don't mind having others see my score either)
Re: Planning
by on (#194761)
Not sure the best way to make this clear, but our definition of explicit is being questioned for last year's compo cart. Perhaps there's some E10 PG13 rating rules we can link to in the compo rules for games seeking inclusion on the cartridge.
Re: Planning
by on (#194768)
That would definitely help. The meaning and extents of "Explicit content" varies greatly from country to country. I think those who have entered in previous compos know what is or isn't acceptable, but, to avoid future problems with newcomers, I'd link to an official set of rules of what's considered "all audiences" in your country, which I think is what you are aiming for when you ask for no "explicit content" to be added if the entrant want his or her work eligible for the multicart :)
Re: Planning
by on (#194777)
na_th_an wrote:
I think those who have entered in previous compos know what is or isn't acceptable, but, to avoid future problems with newcomers, I'd link to an official set of rules of what's considered "all audiences" in your country.

I don't think anyone really knows, because the definitions are always vague. If you live in a particular place, you probably have a reasonably good idea of what is "acceptable" for children within your sphere of culture, but that's about it, and there are no hard rules.

There aren't really hard rules for official ratings systems either, there are a lot of subjective decisions made by the various review board in place. They do generally have public guidelines, but the rating decision is ultimately made arbitrarily by a closed group. Some of the guidelines are stupidly arbitrary at face value (e.g. can you say "fuck" one time, but not two times in a PG-13 movie?).

What I think we really need is not so much an attempt to make rules, but a hierarchy of authority so someone can make the subjective call as needed. I think basically infiniteneslives should have the final say here, since he seems to have the most liability and is essentially the role of publisher here. (I can't think of any publisher that does not reserve the right to make arbitrary choices of censorship.)

Putting up some guidelines would be helpful though, as to lower the amount of potential surprise when a censorship decision is made.
Re: Planning
by on (#194794)
rainwarrior wrote:
If you live in a particular place, you probably have a reasonably good idea of what is "acceptable" for children within your sphere of culture, but that's about it, and there are no hard rules.

And even then there are families with different beliefs, values and traditions living in the same region, with varying degrees of tolerance to "explicit content". If you end up going with the lowest common denominator, things may get pretty limiting.
Re: Planning
by on (#194797)
I've sorted the alphabetical list of ESRB content descriptors available here by category and intensity:

Quote:
Blood
Animated Blood - Discolored and/or unrealistic depictions of blood
Blood - Depictions of blood
Blood and Gore - Depictions of blood or the mutilation of body parts

Violence
Cartoon Violence - Violent actions involving cartoon-like situations and characters. May include violence where a character is unharmed after the action has been inflicted
Fantasy Violence - Violent actions of a fantasy nature, involving human or non-human characters in situations easily distinguishable from real life
Violent References - References to violent acts
Violence - Scenes involving aggressive conflict. May contain bloodless dismemberment
Intense Violence - Graphic and realistic-looking depictions of physical conflict. May involve extreme and/or realistic blood, gore, weapons and depictions of human injury and death

Language
Lyrics - Mild references to profanity, sexuality, violence, alcohol or drug use in music
Strong Lyrics - Explicit and/or frequent references to profanity, sex, violence, alcohol or drug use in music
Language - Mild to moderate use of profanity
Strong Language - Explicit and/or frequent use of profanity

Humor
Comic Mischief - Depictions or dialogue involving slapstick or suggestive humor
Crude Humor - Depictions or dialogue involving vulgar antics, including "bathroom" humor
Mature Humor - Depictions or dialogue involving "adult" humor, including sexual references

Nudity
Partial Nudity - Brief and/or mild depictions of nudity
Nudity - Graphic or prolonged depictions of nudity

Sexuality
Suggestive Themes - Mild provocative references or materials
Sexual Themes - References to sex or sexuality
Sexual Content - Non-explicit depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including partial nudity
Sexual Violence - Depictions of rape or other violent sexual acts
Strong Sexual Content - Explicit and/or frequent depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including nudity

Gambling
Simulated Gambling - Player can gamble without betting or wagering real cash or currency
Real Gambling - Player can gamble, including betting or wagering real cash or currency

Substances
Tobacco Reference - Reference to and/or images of tobacco products
Use of Tobacco - The consumption of tobacco products

Alcohol Reference - Reference to and/or images of alcoholic beverages
Use of Alcohol - The consumption of alcoholic beverages

Drug Reference - Reference to and/or images of illegal drugs
Use of Drugs - The consumption or use of illegal drugs


Some of these have already been clearly outlined in the A53 guidelines (gambling for example), but making a clear call beforehand in each category could help reduce confusion and minimize debate. Moreover, if arguments were to arise about what constitutes as what, the ESRB library of rated games is available for comparative reference.
Re: Planning
by on (#194819)
Well, maybe everything is more simple: just add to the rules a notice that the publishers and organizators have the final word on what's considered acceptable for all audiences and may require retouches to the finished product if the author wants it included in the physical multicart.

I think that would sort things out. Of course I know the above statement is implied, but maybe making it clear from the beginning will avoid future conflicts.
Re: Planning
by on (#194865)
na_th_an wrote:
Well, maybe everything is more simple: just add to the rules a notice that the publishers and organizators have the final word on what's considered acceptable for all audiences and may require retouches to the finished product if the author wants it included in the physical multicart.

I think that would sort things out. Of course I know the above statement is implied, but maybe making it clear from the beginning will avoid future conflicts.


I agree with this. I think it's also important to realize the difference between the compo and the cartridge. There are no restrictions on compo entries one can be as artistic/explicit as they would like with their compo entry. But when it comes to including that work on a completed cartridge that's a community project, some discretion may be to be exercised.
Re: Planning
by on (#195711)
In the past we occasionally had missed or was uncertain about when and where updates to entries happens.

Could I offer a suggestion that the entry stubs contain a URL to where updates will be posted, and that the file names of the updates have some sort of incremented version number (whatever that be a serial number, day count, or date).
Re: Planning
by on (#195792)
infiniteneslives wrote:
Not sure the best way to make this clear, but our definition of explicit is being questioned for last year's compo cart.

I didn't realize this was an issue. I do have plans for the next compo that would possibly touch the last entry in that ESRB list.
Re: Planning
by on (#196948)
I wanna make sure we're still moving forwards.

  • Are the rules finalized?
  • Has NESHomebrew been contacted?
Re: Planning
by on (#196952)
I pinged NEShomebrew just now. Hopefully we can get the rules officially posted soon.
Re: Planning
by on (#196955)
Thanks :beer:
Re: Planning
by on (#197262)
Sorry guys, didn't mean to leave everyone hanging... Real life is busy, who has time for hobbies? :)

I've made a tentative updated guide for 2017 here. Once we get this finalized, I will cross-post on Nintendoage. Does anyone else have any recommendations where we should post this?

This thought just came to me now, but I'd love to do some kind of collab with the NSF scene and include a jukebox on the cartridge. Thoughts? This might also be a good way for artists to offer up music services for people who don't have time to write their own, or don't have the music skills.

Another thing I had in mind was how the prize money worked last year. Previously, the cartridge was already released before we decided on prize money. Now we have no idea how well it will sell (honestly I'm not really worried, but arguments have been made that the scene is getting slightly saturated). I think we are sitting pretty good with funds, but Paul might be able to clear this up for us.

The only other suggestion I had off-hand was if someone who is very familiar with the Multicart mapper would be willing to put together a well commented/documented template for an absolute beginner (which maybe other volunteers could convert to different assemblers). Essentially just a little shove in the right direction to get a beginner using the best practices for inclusion on the multicart.

*edit: One more thing! Did anyone have an opinion on giving the competition it's own dedicated domain? I'd like to avoid any animosity between the different forums and demographics.
Re: Planning
by on (#197303)
NESHomebrew wrote:
Another thing I had in mind was how the prize money worked last year. Previously, the cartridge was already released before we decided on prize money. Now we have no idea how well it will sell (honestly I'm not really worried, but arguments have been made that the scene is getting slightly saturated). I think we are sitting pretty good with funds, but Paul might be able to clear this up for us.


We've got a sizable balance built up of $3.3k right now. This is more than enough to cover printed materials and contributor cartridges for vol3. My poll of CIB boxes of traditional cardboard vs. bitboxes on both nesdev and NA, results show a favor towards traditioinal boxes. To help offset the investment of traditional boxes I'm planning to make a number of limited edition cartridges available to the general public. That will help us recover the printed material costs rather quickly compared to 2 years later like we had with vol 2.

In short, our finances are very healthy. I see no issues in awarding prize money immediately as winners are announced just as we did last compo. If anything we have a surplus of funds, that we can afford to utilize for anything we see fit. Larger/more prizes in the form of cash or physical goods. Web hosting fees, etc.

I've heard some people make similar comments about the market being saturated, or on the decline. From my perspective I see absolutely no evidence of this, all things I see argue the opposite. The homebrew community, and sales are stronger than they have ever been, and continue to grow. Applying the word saturation to the homebrew market doesn't even make sense to me honestly. But I haven't heard the arguements either.

My only guess as to where the sense that the market is saturated is when looking at limited edition NA homebrew auctions. When developers first started offering these auctions collectors went wild and emptied their pockets in the excitement. With growing popularity and frequency of those types of auctions, collectors started to get more realistic with how much money they're able to spend on LE auctions. I view that as an over reaction initially, which didn't take long to settle down to the reasonable level it is now.