Thank you for your detailed description of your thoughts on the Manchester event and the competition. Thank you also for your kinds words about our meeting - it was a great pleasure and honour for me to meet you in person .
I would like to reply to some of your thoughts below. My replies are in green, to distinguish them from your text visibly.
> I've just belatedly noticed this thread, so as one of the people who was there, I thought I'd say a few things from my own perspective, particularly about the competition.
Thank you for your thoughts, Richard!
> Danny is correct that my "Join the Jet-Set!" came second in the competition, after "Maria vs Some Bastards".
> As for the competition itself, I had very mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I was pleased to have one of my games picked at all; that in itself was a real honour, considering the sheer number of JSW games developed, and also considering that mine is one of the very oldest, having been completed back in 1985.
> But on the other hand, the way the competition was presented and run was simply not fair on any level. What was the criterion on which the games were supposed to be judged? How they played? How they looked? How much they stretched the JSW engine in terms of quirky exploits or new routines etc.? Having a competition for which one is "best" is actually pretty meaningless. The only criterion that the audience was permitted to judge, really, was how the games looked – based on the 30-second visual run-through that each one got.
I agree with your evaluation of the competition.
To be honest, I never perceived it as a "real" competition. From my perspective, it was just a bit of fun, really, something to enrich the event with (the main event being the UK premiere of Paolo Santagostino's film "WILLY: 48K About A Legend" and the meeting with Matthew Smith on JSW's 35th anniversary). In that sense, it was not a bad idea, getting the people who were there involved (by voting) and making people aware that there ARE various remakes of the original.
I had expressed my reservations about the vote - before it even took place - on the World of Spectrum forums. Let me quote a part of that comment here:
It is perfectly understandable that it would not be feasible to have the audience vote for the best game from among all of the JSW remakes which have been created so far - that would be almost 100 games! So a shortlist had to be created. It should be noted that it eliminated automatically all 128K remakes of JSW, so the games which use the so-called JSW128 game engine and those that use the JSW64 game engine - over 40 games in total. The competition is limited to games using JSW48 game engine, i.e. the one from the original Jet Set Willy.
The five "finalists" that Paolo Santagostino chose represent quite a wide range of JSW remakes. We have among them: an old-time classic "Join The Jet-Set!", two games which feature serious modifications (very different ones!) of the JSW48 game engine ("ZX Willy the Bug Slayer" and "Maria vs. Some Bastards"), one game which was created at the time of the "Great JSW Games Explosion" of 2000 (although gamma-released 5 years later - "Jet-Set Willy (again)") and one game released when that "golden" period was already ending ("Maria's Revenge").
So, before all of your points are even considered (and all of them are valid, I believe), the problem was that it was NOT a competition of the "favourite mod of the game" - as advertised - but of the "favourite JSW48 game-engine mod of the game" - because over 40 JSW games (mods) were not even admitted to the competition because they use game engines other than the JSW48 engine!
> That's the most superficial way possible of judging the games, and even then it wasn't a fair comparison because we weren't comparing 'like with like'. Of the five games being judged, four were pretty straightforward JSW games that looked much like the original JSW and played in the same way. But the fifth, Maria vs Some Bastards, is much the most recent of the set and has been MASSIVELY hacked about to allow the game engine to do all kinds of things it was never supposed to do. The end result is that it has big, bold, spectacular graphics that none of the other games could achieve, and it totally outclasses the competition in terms of looks. But no-one can actually do what that game does with the game engine without a massive amount of hacking; you can't achieve those graphics just by creating a new JSW game with an editor.
> So, the audience was asked to judge which of the new games appeared to be the best, based on a brief, superficial viewing of a few screens, yet what they were shown was four 'normal' JSW clones and one super-enhanced on that featured a massively rewritten engine that permitted all sorts of big, bold, cartoony graphics to be used. So *obviously* Maria vs Some Bastards won; there was really no other possible outcome, under the circumstances. Maria vs Some Bastards was written 18 years after Join the Jet-Set! was released, so it's hardly surprising that there'd been plenty of time in those 18 years to do a lot of hacking and find ways to make it look better! Is it really fair to compare a game that's barely been hacked at all (in terms of its engine) with one written two decades later and hacked massively?
I fully agree with your comments about the graphics in Maria vs. Some Bastards and the superficiality of the choice.
Just a couple of points here for the sake of accuracy:
This is not entirely true: Of the five games being judged, four were pretty straightforward JSW games that looked much like the original JSW and played in the same way.
Three of the five games were "pretty straightforward JSW games" in the sense that their game engine was not modified. These were: Join The Jet-Set!, Maria's Revenge and Jet-Set Willy (again).
Two games featured heavily-modified game engines. These were: Maria vs. Some Bastards and ZX Willy the Bug Slayer.
The latter game is not modified graphically like Maria vs. Some Bastards. It does not *look* so different from the original (or any other "pretty straightforward" JSW game). However, this was the game which introduced (and has been the only example of so far) the so-called "Geoff Mode II", significant modifications of the game engine created by Geoff Eddy, building upon his "Geoff Mode I", applied in his three earlier games: J4 (The Fourth Remix), Willy the Hacker and Willy Takes a Trip. These modifications allow for, among other things, diagonal, wrap-around and fast-moving guardians, and the use of the so-called patch vectors, which can produce an infinity of special effects which the original JSW doesn't (and cannot) offer. An archival description of these changes can be found here.
If the competition had been about the quality or diversity of gameplay, ZX Willy the Bug Slayer might have challenged Maria vs. Some Bastards (which also has some special gameplay effects well beyond the original JSW) seriously. In the visual compartment, though, it probably stood no chance in 30-seconds' previews.
It should be noted that while Maria vs. Some Bastards was gamma-released in 2003, ZX Willy the Bug Slayer preceded it only by a year, coming out in 2002. So both games are from the same period, really (more than 15 years after Join The Jet-Set!).
> I don't begrudge Maria vs Some Bastards winning in terms of the effort that's gone into creating it, because it's actually a pretty remarkable game and a lot of work and talent has gone into its creation.
Yes, that's absolutely true. It is an amazing game both in the sense of technical modifications of the game engine and the graphics.
> I just didn't think it was fair to put that particular game alongside other 'normal' JSW games that didn't stand a chance because they hadn't been totally rewritten in the same way.
True, always when referring to the visual aspect, always bearing in mind that ZX Willy the Bug Slayer is also rewritten significantly.
> Besides, if the games could actually have been judged in terms of how successful they are *as games* (i.e. in terms of being fun to play), then I think my own game might even have won.
That's quite possible!
> The point is that I deliberately designed it to ( a ) recapture some of the whimsical humour of the original, ( b ) be fun to play, ( c ) be interesting and fairly easy to explore, and ( d ) above all, to be fair. The latter point means that (i) active steps were taken in the design to avoid death loops, (ii) there are few nasty traps (there are a couple, but it's easy to learn where they are and avoid them), and (iii) the game can be completed without losing even a single life if you're skilful. I've always believed in fairness, and my game is fair and completable.
Join The Jet-Set! is a great game, Richard - an early classic on a par with the original JSW!
I had a great pleasure of recording it once for RZX Archive, and I relived this pleasure only yesterday, when I took the screenshots of all of the rooms for JSW Central. They can now be viewed on Join The Jet-Set!'s page on JSW Central.
> That puts it in stark contrast with most (all?) of the other entries, which range from weird and unpredictable to impossible to complete.
I beg to differ! Maria's Revenge, Jet-Set Willy (again) and ZX Willy the Bug Slayer are perfectly completable. RZX recordings of successful walkthroughs of these games have been hosted on RZX Archive for years now. Also, I wouldn't call any of them weird, really. They are very good games, actually.
> Maria vs Some Bastards is impossible to complete without a third party hack (released in the same week as this competition!).
This is true. The Manchester event was, in fact, a decisive factor for the third party hack being created. I had been in touch with Paolo Santagostino, doing my best to help out with some things like getting in touch with JSW authors, etc., and he asked me why an RZX recording of Maria vs. Some Bastards wasn't available. I told him the game wasn't completable and I volunteered to see if something could be done about it. In the following weeks, thanks to the invaluable technical expertise and involvement of Ian Rushforth, with the participation of Andy Ford (both active on this forum, Andy being the Administrator), we were able to produce a fixed version of the game, of which I am actually quite proud .
> On a positive note, I was given the microphone and was allowed to talk through my own game as it was demonstrated on the screen, which was nice. That permitted me to mention a couple of important points about it, namely ( a ) it was one of the very first new JSW games that demonstrated that it was possible to recapture something of the spirit of the original in a new setting, and thus played a significant part in kickstarting the surge of enthusiasm for creating new JSW games, which arose after my two games and Adam Britton's three had been released in the 1990s; and ( b ) I was the first person to figure out how to reprogram the in-game music and offer new tunes in my games.
These are indeed your great and lasting contributions to the JSW scene, Richard! Thank you so much for them!
> Looking back at my own game, and having played it again recently because of this competition, I can see various ways in which I could have made a better job of it, and there are certain things I wish I'd done. E.g. I should have been less half-hearted about redesigning Matthew Smith's guardian graphics and drawn more of my own original creations; and I should have animated some of them better and not made them so 'jumpy'. Maybe I should have redesigned more room graphics too (i.e. walls, floors etc.). And so on. Considering all the other games that have come since, and all the engine enhancements, it's shown me just how ingenious some people can be with this game and made me feel that maybe I cut a few corners that I shouldn't have done. But to be fair to myself, I was only a 15-year-old schoolboy when I wrote it (amazing how some of those memories are still quite fresh, 35 years later…!), and I had lots of other commitments at the time, and very little free time of my own… so actually, I do think I managed to make it a pretty good game under the circumstances.
It is amazing what you were able to do at 15!, Richard!
Don't you ever feel like designing a new JSW game now? Like you say on your website:
"And do I have any plans to create a third JSW game? No serious plans, no; but, for the sake of nostalgia, I do let the possibility run through my mind from time to time. I still have a few good ideas for rooms, and I sometimes think it might be quite fun to create another game. So, in the 'unofficial' words of James Bond: never say never again!"
Perhaps now would be the time for it: to create your third JSW game, to design more guardian graphics and more of your other creations?
> Anyway, it was good enough to inspire others to make many more games of their own, so I'm pleased about that, and if I was indeed partially responsible (through my two games) for helping to kickstart the JSW revival then I'm delighted about that. In the end, whilst I'd have like to have won the competition, under the circumstances, coming second was the best I could hope for, and I was actually pretty happy with that. My game is by fair the earliest of the set in the competition and maybe it looks primitive. I do happen to think that it's the only one of the five that's really genuinely fun to play, but that's not something that can be ascertained from a casual 30-second viewing! So coming second was really pretty good.
It does not look primitive at all, it looks great!
However, I beg to differ regarding this sentence: I do happen to think that it's the only one of the five that's really genuinely fun to play.
I had a great time years ago playing Maria's Revenge and Jet-Set Willy (again) to completion (and recording them for RZX Archive). I also enjoyed playing and RZX-recording the fixed version of Maria vs. Some Bastards, although it was frustrating in the sense of the map ("Which is the most efficient route to take?") before I figured it out (it's a problem with many JSW games though - in fact, a challenge rather than a problem). I haven't played ZX Willy the Bug Slayer to completion yet (because someone else had recorded the RZX walkthrough before me), but I will do it one day and I can't see any reason why I shouldn't enjoy it.
These are just personal feelings / opinions, of course.
> So anyway, overall I had a very nice time.
I had a great time in Manchester, too! I was so glad I had decided to go . I flew there just for that weekend across the Atlantic, but it was really worth it - especially because of meeting people like yourself, Matthew Smith, Daren Pearcy of the RZX Archive, Paolo Santagostino, Paul Drury and various others.
> I hope I don't seem to be whingeing in what I say above; it doesn't really matter to me that my game didn't win. I was just a little disappointed that the competition wasn't fairer, and that the odds were stacked so unevenly, because I do think that if one is going to have a competition, it should be fair. But that's just me.
As mentioned at the beginning of my comments, I think it wasn't really meant to be a serious competition and I think it shouldn't be treated as such. It was fun for the people involved and the audience, it was useful for the promotion of JSW remakes, but it wasn't a serious and fair competition as such.
A couple of additional thoughts about the rules and the outcome of the competition:
In your comments, Richard, you refer to the age of the entries more than once.
Speaking in general terms, I would say that the age doesn't have to matter at all. If a competition is to decide which game is best (overall or in some specific category: gameplay, graphics, atmosphere, special technical effects, etc.), it doesn't matter when each entry was created. We are not judging some kind of "value" of each game based on a coefficient of "quality versus age" or something like this (along the lines of "Game A is almost as good as game B, but it is much older, so altogether it's more valuable"). We are simply judging which one we consider to be the best. We don't even have to know when each one was created. Did one author have more time than the other to create his game? Well, it doesn't matter, we are not looking at that, we are judging the actual quality of the game, without referring back to the reasons *why* it is what it is.
Another thing: Your 1985 game came second in this particular "competition". Let's treat this competition with all seriousness for a moment, and let's imagine your game had won it. What would that mean for the JSW scene? It would mean that there was the original Jet Set Willy in 1984, and then your Join The Jet-Set! in 1985 and then, in the following 34 years, *nothing* as good as these two was ever created. This would be really depressing for the scene and the people on it. From this paradoxical perspective, much as I admire and appreciate Join The Jet-Set!, I would *not* have wanted it to win - to avoid the conclusion that the development of JSW games in subsequent years was all in vain .
> Basically I had a great day. It was a genuine honour to have my game picked for the competition (and I found it installed on three of the machines in the main hall where you could play retro-games, which was also flattering) – and of course it was a privilege to meet Matthew Smith (something I never thought would happen). I also enjoyed meeting Martyn Carroll and Paul Drury… and, in particular, Daniel Gromann. Danny was kind enough to take a number of photos of me with Matthew Smith, and then he walked me back to the railway station after the event, so that we could chat further. It was great to meet him.
It was great to meet YOU, Richard!
> By the way, a video of the whole presentation was indeed made and was put online somewhere. I no longer know where it is/was, but I downloaded a copy to keep myself.
It's here, for example.
Edited by jetsetdanny, 03 November 2019 - 07:19 AM.