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  • Ragdoll Acrobats: An Interview with IGF Finalists CarneyVale: Showtime Team

    - staff
  •  CarneyVale: Showtime, a student-made game about a circus acrobat, was just named a finalist in the IGF 2009 main competition. GameCareerGuide caught up with the students and spoke to them about developing the game, from how they optimized the code to the use of ragdoll physics. Programmer Bruce Chia, a student at National University of Singapore, whose professional affiliation is with Singapore-MIT Gambit Game Lab, spoke on behalf of the team.

    In CarneyVale: Showtime, the player plays as Slinky, a circus acrobat trying to rise up the ranks by performing acrobatic tricks and death-defying stunts through increasingly complex arenas.

    You can manipulate a wide variety of props to get Slinky through the challenges he faces. Catch and fling Slinky toward ever-greater heights using trapeze-like grabbers. Ride flying rockets and weave between dangerous hazards! Dash through the air in spectacular displays of agility. Perform special acrobatic tricks to gain more fans, and much, much more...

    Master each of the 18 regular levels with Slinky: collect all the balloons in the arena, find the secret star hidden somewhere in the level, then leap through the Ring of Fire to end the performance! Do all this under the time limit without injuring Slinky to please the audience and get rave reviews. Earn star ratings for better performances and rise up the acrobat ranks.

    Showtime also comes with a map editor that you can use to create your own maps. If you want even more acrobatic ragdoll action and challenging levels, create your own and share them with family and friends!

    GameCareerGuide: First off, congratulations! CarneyVale: Showtime was just named a finalist in the IGF main competition!

    Bruce Chia:
    Wow, thanks! We're very glad to hear the news, too! This year's competition was really tough with the record number of entries and well-known titles like PixelJunk Eden submitting alongside our game. We're very surprised to come out as a finalist! We sure hope to win the Seumas McNally Grand Prize!

    GCG: Tell us how CarneyVale came to be. Where did the idea come from initially? When did development start?

    BC: The theme of CarneyVale: Showtime was based on a previous game that was developed under Gambit called Wiip. In that game, you played as a ringmaster, trying to tame your animals by whipping them.

    We decided to develop this game in the same world, but instead base it on circus acrobatics. This led us to the idea of using a ragdoll as the acrobatic main character named Slinky. We tried out various ways to make the ragdoll perform tricks and stunts including gaining points by crashing into the surrounding environment. However, the idea did not turn out to be very fun so we decided to invert the controls such that the player controls the environment instead of directly controlling Slinky. We were much happier with the change, and although some work was discarded, it turned out to be the best decision we made.

    Development started around March 2008 and we developed the game in four months of full production time.

    GCG: As you developed the game, what kinds of things did you find yourself concentrating on the most: mechanics, gameplay balance, gameplay testing, graphics, physics? If it was more than one thing, tell us who did what and what kinds of difficulties each person faced.

    BC: Throughout the entire development, we all contributed to the gameplay or game design and we prioritized that as the most important part of our game. However, each of us had our own things to concentrate on besides the game design, as we used the Scrum methodology of production. Each of us picked out our own set of tasks to work on to put the game together, and we had meetings almost every week to review what we had done.

    In terms of individual work, Desmond [Wong] was working on both the art and level design. The art style was nailed down relatively early, but we had multiple instances where we wasted some of his efforts by changing the user interface or when we wanted some part of the game improved.

    Level design was also very tough, as we had to keep looking for testers who never played the game but were within the target audience. These got harder to find after we exhausted our networks. We even had some trips to schools around the country to get more feedback.


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