Miner Distraction

By: fuzz

On: January 8th, 2010

Miner Distraction

Miner Distraction, by Bento Smile, is a game made for Ludum Dare 15, which had the theme of “caverns”. It lasts a mere 5 minutes, and yet it feels like it has entirely fulfilled its purpose by the ending. There is no narrative or sound to speak of; it consists only of its visuals and its gameplay. No enemies are to be found, either; Bento Smile seems to get by very well with only friends, although there are none here. Miner Distraction utilizes the purest aspects of the exploration game in such a way that it is a perfectly serene experience. It opens with the image of a yellow-clad miner inside a cavern with red and black walls. The miner treads carefully through this underground land, and as he walks the walls fade from red to purple to a somber shade of blue. He encounters various imp-like shadows on the walls and castles that were obviously built by these subterranean creatures. The playing area is presented such that it appears to be very non-linear, but with subsequent playthroughs it reveals itself to be non-linear only inasmuch as that several inconsequential details are shown when different paths are followed. The path is self-correcting; if you fall off of a platform, you will reach a lower level that will gradually get higher and take you back to the central path. Beginning with the fiery tinge of the first area, the miner walks and jumps through a lonely underground paradise until he reaches a patch of sunlight; this is the way out, and this is the end.

The colours are quite minimalist and are carefully chosen in order to place the player’s focus on the act of exploration, rather than the particular details of the world. The animations of the miner evoke a sort of calmness in the viewer rather than being overly showy. For the most part, the design of the game means that there is little to no backtracking, although there were at least one or two places where I felt the placing of the platforms was slightly off, not allowing the player to correct their mistakes as easily as elsewhere. Being able to constantly be moving forward is allowed due to the excellent placement of most of the platforms, and thus the player can feel like they are progressing without the need for many visual rewards. The lack of sound can make the game a bit tiresome, but if you’d like some background music, I highly recommend Brother Android’s Space Hymns. All in all, it is a perfect game for the length of time that it takes to play.

Hit the jump for an interview with Bento Smile:

Interview with Bento Smile

TIGSource: Miner Distraction was created for Ludum Dare 15, and so you had a very short timeline in which to complete it. Did this 48 hour restriction on development time foster creativity, or did it hinder your creative efforts?

Bento Smile: Yes and no. It’s good to be forced into a decision quickly, and interesting to create as much as possible with the smallest amount of work. However, because I’d not had much practise I got stuck on some code and couldn’t implement some features I wanted. It’s definitely useful to learn to work so quickly though! And I really like crazy limitations.

TIGS: The design of the caves and platforms of Miner Distraction is very organic. Was making the world feel organic and realistic a goal of yours during the development of the game?

Bento Smile: It was necessary! I think most people would cry at the way I created that level, as I just opened up a huge Photoshop document and started drawing. So from the start the layout itself was quite organic. From there it was easy to work more detail and wobbliness into it, before chopping it into much smaller chunks and putting it in game.

TIGS: The ability to constantly progress forward in a seemingly non-linear world greatly adds to the appeal of Miner Distraction. Did you intend for all paths to branch back to the central one in such a way that progression is always evident, or was this an unconscious decision?

Bento Smile: I think Miner Distraction could do more of that… It’s something I want to revisit in a different game. It’s more luck than judgement! All that said, a lot of the layout was driven by there being no enemies, and no traditional achievements (like collecting things).

TIGS: You seem to focus more on making interesting worlds than interesting stories, although the story of Miner Distraction is hinted at by the appearance of the shadowy imps in the walls and the castle at the bottom of the cave. Is this method of telling a story via small visual hints the best in your view, or do you enjoy traditional stories just as well?

Bento Smile: I like them both. For my own work, I find creating environments which contain some story, or are more conceptual most interesting. Games are very visual, more-so than comics and films I think, because the bulk of the experience is without dialogue or strict direction. So to fill the spaces between bits of exposition it makes sense to put some narrative into the environment.

In traditional stories there’s a degree of separation which gets closed in games. In a film or a novel, you passively watch a character do things. But in a game, you are the character, you are in control, there is no separation. This is the (rather pretentious) thing that makes games special to me. It’s nice sometimes to have things happen to the player, rather than the character.


TIGS: Tanaka’s Friendly Adventure was your first released game, but prior to its public release, did you spend much time creating games for yourself only?

Bento Smile: Nah, it just happened to be the first piece of code I got to actually work! I’d only played around a very tiny amount making games before that.

My ‘real’ job is as a games artist, which gave me art experience at least. My games are so low-res as an antidote to where I was working at the time. I got tired of making ‘next-gen’ 3D, which was becoming increasingly tedious, soulless and misdirected. I wanted to make games for people who don’t care about normal maps, or don’t know what ambient occlusion is.

TIGS: Tanaka’s Friendly Adventure has been criticized for being incomprehensible in the patterns of movement used to find new friends, yet lauded for the appeal of its visuals. Were these two elements intended to complement each other, in that the difficulty of finding friends makes the appearance of new ones at the party more rewarding?

Bento Smile: Haha, yes! Pretty early on I realised I had to make the party section as the reward. The low resolution was intentional too, as I can make freaky strange characters and keep it cute, and everyone else can fill in the gaps the low-res art leaves with their imagination. I filled it with a bunch of nonsense jokes as well (like holding right in the main game, and all the silly stats in the party) just for fun.

TIGS: Seeing as both of your games thus far are purely exploration based, do you consider “gameplay” to be irrelevant to the value of a game?

Bento Smile: Yes, but because I think games without gameplay and games with gameplay are both valuable in different ways. I admire people who can come up with interesting mechanics, or express ideas through gameplay, because I currently can’t do any of that fancy stuff.

TIGS: Outside of the creation of games, do you express your creativity in other forms?

Bento Smile: I draw comics, but it’s a secret!

TIGS: Are there any closing comments that you’d like to make?

Bento Smile: Hmm… I hope people enjoy my games, despite their flaws!

  • Steve

    I like this iteration of this post the most.

  • Glenn

    The second one is the best. imo

  • Mr. Podunkian

    great post

  • anothergol

    How did you manage to write so much about pretty much nothing? You made it sound like it was a real game.

  • Steve

    I agree, Glenn!

    I thought I *DID* write this comment in the second post. Hmm.

  • Parthon

    It took longer to read the post than play the game.

    In that case, go play the game, it’s worth it.

    (5 mins, that’s it)

  • ZeppMan217

    Triple Miner Distraction FTW!

  • Dodger

    Get with the times man!

    This is old news… it’s been posted 2 times before! :P

  • http://www.g4g.it Firesword

    Triple post, Triple A, AAA, 3X

  • deadeye

    You must have really liked the game a lot to post it so many times :)

  • noname

    Christ, looks like someone is obsessed with bentosmile. I’d look out if I were him/her.

  • judgespear

    A game so good, you had to post it thrice.

    I seriously doubt it will live up to the hype you just gave it. You set the bar pretty high just now.

  • judgespear

    okay it’s fixed now. had me worried there for a second.

  • paul eres

    whoever posted this three times needs to pay more attention :)

    i deleted two of them

  • Bob

    This game is terrible because it is boring.

  • fuzz

    sorry about the triple post. my browser froze, and i clicked ‘save’ several times, thinking that it was doing nothing. unfortunately that resulted in the post occurring three times.

  • RicardoA

    If it has no gameplay, how is it a game?

  • fuzz

    @ ricardoa: of a book, you might say: if it has no novelty, how is it a novel?

    besides, there is gameplay here, but not in the form that you may be used to.

  • Ape

    That’s quite an exhaustive post. Surely, there is developer on the TIG forums that deserves the limelight more than this.

  • http://mirosurabu.com mirosurabu


    There’s topic on forums to discuss issues like that one. I don’t think it’s gentlemanly to flood the comment sections with such comments.

  • Adamski

    The character reminds me of the one from snapshot only without the weird shading 8|

  • Dodger


    Not only should you apologize for the “3X Post Ordeal” as it has now become so popularly called, but to make amends you should now lead a campaign to abolish disease, famine, war, game and movie publishers, record labels, and shoelaces!

    Aside from that, no harm done.

  • fuzz

    shoelaces are an abomination

  • dbb

    I just played through this game (twice). To be honest, I don’t quite understand why it’s been featured here. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s not much particularly good about it, either.
    This isn’t really a criticism of the game, more a criticism of whatever mysterious process gets games selected for the front page here.

  • Dinsdale

    Why 48 hour restriction on development time? What good did you expect to come out of that? Saddest part is that Miner Distraction could have easily been a (good) game.

  • Langdell’s Ghost

    @dbb: why not feature it?

    Ludum Dare is part of “the scene”..it’s interesting to see what someone can knock up in Construct in a couple of days the first time they use it..it’s a nice example of a visual style and use of color..even though it’s incomplete as a game it’s a pleasant little vignette that demonstrates exploration and discovery as a gameplay mechanic..etc.

    Better to have more posts and more variety. For all you know this post might have inspired someone who’s never thought about making games to have a go at creating.

  • deadeye

    He was using Construct for the first time while making this? That’s pretty impressive. Just goes to show how easy it is to pick up Construct, I guess.

    And I guess that’s why it’s not got any sound or enemies… if you’re just learning a new tool then even getting this much out the door in 48 hours is a feat. Especially considering all the art assets which must have taken up a good chunk of time.

  • nobody2

    Creepy levels of Japanophilia detected.

  • deadeye


    It’s not like the game is bukkakeing all over the place, or probing tentacles into weird he-she anime mask fetish, girl-pillow-toting, otaku robot-fuckers or something. It’s just a platform game, man.

  • nobody2

    His games are actually quite charming.

    I was mostly referring to this whole Bento Smile deal. Maybe it’s just a single project group, which is cool and all; but man, I hope this isn’t his whole persona. It’s like you wouldn’t even know who this developer really was, because he’s been completely replaced with some Japanese pop culture facsimile, which is where the weirdness comes in.

  • fuzz

    it’s just his online nickname, like mine is “fuzz” and my real name is alex. i didn’t bother asking his real name, so i just went with the nickname.

  • KlayMan

    I would love to see that entire Photoshop map image.

  • Adamski

    Wow deadeye, it is by no way obvious that you’re a moderator on the Construct forums.

  • Dusty Spur

    I found Tanaka’s Friendly Adventure rather charming and in that way fun, but this is just pretty boring honestly.

    The art is nice, but that’s about all there is to the game.

  • bento_smile

    @nobody2: I started out as anonymous as possible, because I was hiding from my bosses. :D

  • Adamski

    I don’t even find the art especially wonderful. Hardly any gameplay either, or anything to look at.

  • RicardoA

    @fuzz Thats not really what I meant. If a book had no plot, you wouldn’t call it a novel. I guess I just feel like there should be another word for arty games like this, where gameplay is not really the purpose. I dont know

  • Anthony

    But the title, it’s clever! I’m aware that this was made in 48 hours, but it would be nice to see a more fleshed-out adventure game. The art was pretty charming, I liked the little imp guy that was playing games.

  • Dusty Spur

    If being able to play the game isn’t the purpose I don’t see why you’d make a game.

  • Dusty Spur

    I’m referring to RicardoA’s post about games in which gameplay is not the purpose, I should mention. Not attacking bento_smile or anything.

  • cellulose

    Enjoyable. I liked finding the little secrets.

  • deadeye

    “Wow deadeye, it is by no way obvious that you’re a moderator on the Construct forums. -Adamski”

    Gee does it show? I’ve only talked about it a bunch on TIGS. These people know who I am, and I don’t mind spreading the word on a project I think is worthwhile.

    This is still pretty impressive to me. I answer newbie questions all day long, so most of the time all I see are people having trouble. This guy made this in two days without so much as a how-do-you-do. He deserves some credit for that, and if it gets even one person interested in Construct, all the better.

  • http://starfruitgames.com/blog Dock

    This really is a good advertisement for Construct. Using any tool for the first time and succeeding in completing a game within 48 hours is impressive, no matter what the tool.

    Bento Smile seems to have posted up a response to ‘Creepy levels of Japanophilia’ here: http://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=10361.msg319199

  • http://www.klikscene.com Radix

    This was made for Ludum Dare. As I see it, LD is about making something for yourself, not so much for others. If someone wants to push themselves to make a bunch of graphics and animations as their 28-hour thing, that’s great, even if the assembled game is pretty boring: a lot of LD games are barely playable. It’s not really the point.

    Personally I really don’t like this or his other game, but I appreciate that the type of game bento_smile sets out to make, he does quite well. It’s not my thing at all, but from the reception TFA got there’s obviously a segment that does dig this stuff. And for an LD game? Great show.

  • Marcus

    Why not have a short write-up on a couple of LD entrants instead of this ridiculously long post on a single very bland entrant?

  • http://mirosurabu.com mirosurabu

    All indie devs are male until proven otherwise.

  • Dinsdale

    there’s that chick with the pig.

  • superflat


    lol … except in this case!

  • bento_smile

    @superflat You can’t prove nothin’! XD

  • http://vacuumflowers.com/ Sparky

    I quite like this- for a Ludum Dare game, it has a lot of charm and feels very complete. I have a couple of small recommendations.

    Because this game is entirely about moving a single character through environments, it would probably really pay off to invest more time in the way the player character animates and the way movement feels. Effects like dust puffs, etc., could also be very effective here.

    This is probably a matter of taste, so feel free to ignore this, but I would personally have liked the look of the game more if it had a consistent pixel resolution. Mixed resolutions always make me feel sort of uneasy.

    Suggestions aside, I quite like this. I think this type of game has really immense potential. I would love a larger, more polished game with this style of play.