Dare ProtoPlay

Dare to be Digital is the UK’s premier video games design competition, supporting the creation of video game prototypes by talented, young developers. The competition aims to prepare the participants for working in the gaming industry and stimulate new IP creation.

Teams of 5 students attending Universities or Colleges of Art or recent graduates, usually made up of a mix of artists, programmers and audio, are filtered through a rigorous industry selection process for the chance to work together for 10 weeks from June to August. If selected to do so, the teams will work in a near to real world development environment set up in a university or even in a development studio. They’re then supported with hardware, software, ยฃ200 to buy what they need to develop the game and training from industry professionals along with studio space.

At the end of the 10 weeks the teams demonstrate their games to the public audience attending that year’s Edinburgh Interactive Festival at a major showcase event called Dare ProtoPlay. By this time the teams are expected to have developed a working prototype of their game to compete for a cash prize awarded by a high profile panel of judges from the video games industry. The 3 winning teams then form the nominees for the BAFTA Ones to Watch Award.

This particular event has already proved an extremely valuable experience to any budding talented developer willing to give it a shot. 80% of the participants are hired every year by high profile employers in the gaming industry such as Codemasters, Rare, Microsoft, Rockstar North, Free Radical and Disney to name but a few.

Since Ready Up attended the Edinburgh Interactive Festival this year, I spent a lot of time downstairs at the Dare ProtoPlay event, trying out all the games and seeing what today’s developers will be offering in the future.

Now obviously when you’re playing a game in the prototype stage the graphics won’t be at their most impressive in most cases and even the gameplay may feature a few faults. So with this in mind, I had to keep my thoughts on the idea and where the game could be taken when further polished in order to keep my opinion on the games fair.

The first thing that caught my eye as I entered the huge room was the massive banners for each game, basically wherever the banners were is where you could play the specific game. Obviously the room was dark to make the gaming experience better, with a few spacey lights flickering around the room. As soon as I got in the room it was a matter of waiting to grab a free space for any of the games, this was no problem for a few of the games but some seemed to be more appealing to the audience.

One of the games that appeared to appeal to the gamers more was Team Contrived’s game Grav. From the minute you saw the game you could see it was quite far developed in both graphics and gameplay. Taking control of Magnetron 3000, Grav’s latest invention that takes the strain out of moving any metal object, it turned into a game of puzzles. Using Magnetron 3000 the aim of the game was to use different methods of magnetism to continue onto the next room, to do this you found yourself using the Magnetron 3000 to charge objects using two different colours; blue and red. Magnetism has one rule that applies here, opposites attract and likes repel, so charging two objects blue would cause them to instantly cannon away from one another, whereas charging one object red and another blue would cause them to fly into one another. By using magnetism you could destroy robots using scrap metal or even send them flying across the room. This game was definitely one of my favourites at the event and was the one game that was developed furthest out of all of the others.

Another game that caught my eye was team Blue Skies’ Origamee, set in a cute fairytale-like pop-up book world. The player controlled ‘Giff’ who had been transformed into a piece of paper as punishment for wasting natural resources. This then enables Giff to fold into a variety of Origami forms, including a frog and rhino, each form featuring its own special ability. By then using a combination of these forms, the player makes their way through the level.

Ctrl D’s VegeMe was another game that stuck out in my eyes. Set in a colourful galaxy with many different planets, players controlled a seed which they would use to roll over planets to colour them in the seed’s specific colour. The game involves jumping between planets to further expand your domination and has a definite tactical aspect to it, enabling either player to use power-ups to defend their territory. The aim of the game is to paint as much of the planets as possible within the time limit, competing against another player who can paint over your colour.

Team Caffeine’s Plight of the Weedunks brought co-operative play to the event, involving 2 players taking control of Kohi and Grando – an alarm clock and hot water bottle. The two characters are faulty COST products who each suffer from massive and mysterious allergic reactions. Kohi’s allergic reaction is an explosion whereas Grando’s involves the product growing in size, also enabling Grando to float upwards. Combining the two allergic reactions is what will enable players to complete each level. This game is definitely the most original idea I saw at the Dare ProtoPlay event and actually turned out to be quite an enjoyable game to play.

Then there was ShutterBug, created by Team Panoranmic Vision, probably being my favourite game at the event. In ShutterBug you take control of the loveable little Camera Droid Sunny-16, who works for a news publication that reports on the cultures of the universe, the next subject of study being Planet Earth. By scaling buildings, flying by windows and various other actions, you attempt to get the best pictures of happenings in the environment. During my turn on the game pictures I took included a bank robbery, a lake monster, the town mayor, a ninja, an escaped zoo snake and an FBI car. This proved an addictive game in which the player is given a set time limit to take as many valuable pictures as possible, being awarded varying points depending on the picture.

The last game I’m going to talk about is one by Team Infection Vector, going by the name of The Manhattan Strain. This one game, compared to all the rest present at the event, was in a totally different field. Instead of enabling you to take control of a character in a cute little 3D world, The Manhattan Strain was all tactics. A deadly virus has broken out in Manhattan and you must manage the crisis by any means possible; quarantine buildings or even air strike your own civilians to attempt to kill the virus off! You have to try and manage the crisis as best as possible using biologists to detect the virus early and police to keep everyone in line, all whilst keeping the panic levels of the civilians as low as possible. Every action you take has a consequence, for instance if you air strike a building, the panic levels will rocket.

Well, the games above stood out most for me and proved the most enjoyable but there were plenty more available to the public gamers to have a go at, 17 in total. What was also interesting is that the stalls for each of the games displayed some of the early development artwork, including pictures of characters and environments. This being my first time at an event such as the Dare ProtoPlay held downstairs at the EIF, it was quite the eye-opener for what can truly be achieved in such a short time by today’s talented developers.



, ,




10 responses to “Dare ProtoPlay”

  1. Dave avatar

    I voted for Origamee and it was the 1st winner too ๐Ÿ˜€

    I’d happily buy that game on Wiiware.

    Ah EIF, only another 300-or so days until you roll around again ๐Ÿ™

  2. Martin avatar

    I really liked Vegeme, it was vibrant,, easy to play just an all round good game. The talent on display was amazing many of the games put a lot of XBLA games to shame. Congrats to all involved.

  3. Paige avatar

    Yeah, I think a lot of people have voted on these and when I last looked at the site all the games I liked were usually near the lower end of the chart ๐Ÿ™

  4. Neil avatar

    Grav was only so polished because it used the source engine
    basically had the game ready made for them. even things like the lighting were ready done. i really wanted something more deserving to win the protoplay award. like shutterbug or plight of the weedunks

  5. John avatar

    Having wandered around the hall I have to admit to being blown away by the talent that is out there now. From those raw coding to those making existing tool-sets work for them, the skills cannot be denied.

    I actually don’t have a problem with the use of ‘engines’ as long as what’s produced is good. Lets be honest, there are more than a few commercial, full priced games out there sharing engines technologies, we don’t seem to have a problem with that!

    I spent a little bit of time with the Blue Skies team at lunch on Monday and those guys really WANT to make good games!

    I say hat’s off to the bright sparks out there showing us that our entertainment future is in good hands.

  6. Jade avatar

    lol wassit me or another team member you were chatting with monday? i chatted with alot of people and i dont remember much of monday xD

    i still cant believe our game won, and thanks to all the people who came and played our game ๐Ÿ™‚
    makes it all worth it when so many people enjoy it.

  7. Chris avatar

    Great write up Paige, you’ve covered so much in good detail! I only touched on this with the Sunday review but Im glad someone did it justice and went into more detail. Big thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

    I voted for Origamee as well

  8. Jonny avatar

    All I can say is…. Pliiiiight of the Weeeeduuunks!!!

  9. Jabba_the_Hutt avatar

    I agree with Neil, apart from “Vege me” I thought there were other more deserving games of the top prize. Top of my list was plight of the weedunks to be honest. I effin’ love Grando!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Finlay avatar

    I agree with Jonny though i also think that Manhattan Strain and Shutterbug are good with Shutterbug the interface and comical refernces are great. With Manhattan Strain the game just is such a great idea and with more time it might of become a game i would buy in shops instead of downloading it for free.

Leave a Reply