Pluto Strikes Back

By: ithamore

On: November 29th, 2006

On a whim

<img src=“” width=“240” height=“180” alt=“Pluto” hspace=10 vspace=10 align=left />

On a whim, I browsed through the recent games at the Experimental
Gameplay Project
in search of a decent entry that was mostly complete in concept, gameplay, and execution. After a trying few disappointing quasi-games, I gave Petri
Pluto Strikes Back a go and found it rather accessible but a bit irritating at times. Luckily, a recently updated version was posted on his blog, which made the game a more pleasant experience.

In it, the Plutans are quite miffed over the dwarf planet
demotion their home world has received. With vengeance pumping through their veins, they
power up the meteor magnet and wield their cosmic bat to reek their wrath upon
the solar system.

Even with its gravity/magnetism mechanics, Pluto SB played much like an old
fashioned baseball themed pinball game in a penny arcade, which made the
background music very fitting. I wish there was a way to control the strength of
the meteor magnet. It was too strong at times, and being able to manipulate it
would enable some interesting slingshoting.

Petri Purho plans to release a new game each month, and his next work will be out
tomorrow. Since each game he has released has been better than those
before, I’m looking forward to it. The style of his artwork alone has piqued my
curiosity, but I’m still hoping for something with a bit more gameplay than his past

Now, if only the EGP and its developers would learn from Purho’s experience and
realize that, just like good graphics, a unique concept alone doesn’t make a
game fun. I’m truly thankful for all the quirky development they share and encourage, but I’m starting to get disappointed with the increasing number of “toys” they’re releasing.

  • Jimmy

    The entire point of EGP is to rapidly demonstrate new gameplay concepts, NOT to deliver polished games. Note their blurb: “Each game must be made in less than 7 days by 1 person, and show off something we’ve never seen before.” Cave Story was not made in a week …

    I’m not going to say EGP is perfect, just take it (and the games on it) in context. Don’t go to a research lab and complain that its experiments aren’t polished for the end user.

  • moi

    Pluto is pissed off but at least we won’t get a planet called ‘XENA’in my solar system, and that’s good news.

  • Petri Purho

    First of all big thanks for the blog post and blog roll spot.

    And even bigger thanks for the honest bit of criticism on Pluto Strikes Back.

    Which brings me to the topic I wanted to talk about. Jimmy posted a nice comment about how EGP games shouldn’t be criticized, because they are experimental games done in a very rapid speed. I have to say that I disagree. I cannot speak for the rest of theEGP developers, but I can say this for my games: I hope that they would be criticized as “real games”, not as something done-in-under-7-days.

    It’s very easy for fellow developer to get blinded by the speed of the development. Thinking that this is very good for something done in a week. If the game has a bad game design, it’s a crappy game regardless of how long it took to develop the game. The problem is that people might think “He had only seven days to create the game, so I’ll forgive him for the crappy game design”. So I hope that nobody spares critique for my games, because their development speed.

    Even though critique hurts sometimes, it’s essential for the development of good games. At this moment the EGP community doesn’t really give out helpful comments and usually the only feedback you’ll get is in the form of a rating for your game. I think that’s the biggest reason why EGP is drifting to a collection of toys. Nobody tells there, that this is just a toy and could be improved to a game by adding this and this. When nobody gives any critique, it’s hard to learn from your mistakes.

    So criticize my games away.

  • ithamore

    First of all, I want to congratulate Petri Purho. You’ve raised the bar while being a breath of fresh air.

    Now, I know what the EGP is all about, therefore, Jimmy, I make my comments about it on purpose and not out of ignorance.

    Although I consider Pluto SB to be the new standard by which I judge EGP submissions (yes, it is possible to create a decent experimental GAME in week), I still haven’t found any of them more addicting than SI’s Speed Shooter (, which was also created in a week.

    I wish more of their developers (especially the “most prolific game creators”) would take the mechanics they’ve demonstrated in earlier entries and implemented them in a real game. If 7 days seems like too little time, then translate the terms as a game created in 148 hours of actual development (not counting sleeping, eating, breaks, et cetera).

    Also, too many of the developers seem to be ignoring the comments left for their works, even though EGP states nothing against updating. All the “toys” and proof of concepts are interesting for a few minutes, but if they aren’t implemented in a real game environment they fail to reach their goal. Just because one is interacting with software doesn’t mean he’s playing a game or beta-testing controls for a game.

    I’m glad the Experimental Gameplay Project exists, but I wish it would evolve and mature by taking its Power Gloves and turning them into Wii-motes.

  • Jimmy

    “Jimmy posted a nice comment about how EGP games shouldn’t be criticized”
    I wasn’t saying the games on EGP can’t be criticized — just that they should be taken in context. It’s not a site for polished games, it’s a site for experimental prototypes. Of course you can put polished games on it, even with the time restriction — fairly polished games show up even in Ludum Dare — but that time restriction and the nature of the project says: that’s not the point. It’s *for* proof-of-concepts. Of course, it’s still completely fair to say, for example: “Most of these proof-of-concept games aren’t proving anything.”
    … which is actually a complaint I have. Taking the EGP as a site for experiments, I have to ask: “What have these experiments actually shown?” As far as I can tell: very little. And I think it’s partially that failure (of EGP as a research testbed) that makes people look to EGP as merely a large repository of interesting games, like ithamore wants to. And, as ithamore said, it doesn’t do very well in that regard either. But at least in that regard it has an excuse.
    “Also, too many of the developers seem to be ignoring the comments left for their works”
    Another thing to remember is that it’s an open site where anyone can put their project. Like most free indy games, the ones in there are just hobby projects, often done by people who don’t have the time to devote to their project. Just in the nature of that, there’s going to be a lot of stuff that’s abandoned, under-developed, or just bad. Blaming the EGP for that is a bit like blaming the Internet for having lots of worthless junk. I mean: it’s true, but what do you want anyone to do about it? All the EGP can do is put a decent ratings / feedback system on top of it, try to highlight good new stuff, and hope some people do good work.
    I also think it would be nice if there were some ongoing effort on the part of the EGP originators / maintainers to write up what they think the interesting experimental results are, and to highlight the projects that demonstrated those results.

  • Jimmy

    Argh. I always forget this site eats newlines unless they’re double-newlines.

  • ithamore

    148? I meant 168 hours. But if someone really needs extra time, most of the development could take place over any number of nights, so the game in 7 days limitation isn’t violated. ^_^

    Jimmy’s suggestions for write ups and highlights are great ideas. If the originators/maintainers won’t do it, some of the more senior developers should.

    There needs to be some sort of counterbalance for the ratings and comments just any user can leave. It would be nice if an upper group of developers could have at least a separate voting system. Since they would have more experience at the EGP and should thus be able to give more objective votes.

  • pithamore

    I demand more pithy-ness!