Dev Unplugged – A HTML5 Contest

Hell Boy Game Image

Today, we are announcing (and by that I mean Microsoft) the launch of Dev Unplugged, a contest that challenges web developers to build a Game or Music Experience without the use of plug-ins. That means HTML5, and most importantly it has to work across Chrome Beta, Firefox Beta and IE9

Now the official rules don’t mention testing in Opera. Even though it’s not required by the competition rules, it is always a good thing to do.

If you have not used HTML5 before, I have created a few demo’s that introduce working with Canvas and CSS3.

The Challenge

You can either create a game or a music application, the only real stipulation is that you build something incredible.


Ready to unleash the next great tower defense game? Has your passion for side-scrolling platform games subsided not one bit since the days of Ninja Gaiden? We’re not looking for the most complicated game, but we are definitely looking for games that are fun and addictive.

And if that wasn’t enough to get you excited, Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy, has opened-up up a treasure trove of content for developers to use to create their HTML5 game!


Ok, so maybe you’re more of a music lover. Do you sometimes stare hypnotized for 30 minutes at the music visualizations in your music player? Have an idea for creating an unbelievable HTML5 website for your band? Have you invented a new instrument that’s perfect for the web? Now’s your chance to show everyone what it means to experience music on the web.

And we’ve teamed-up with AWOLNATION and Ra Ra Riot to provide you with their most popular cuts to get started!

5 Top Game Tips from Iain Lob

When I heard we we running a games competition I thought Immediately of Iain Lobb and his session from Flash on the Beach “Zero to Game Designer in 60 Minutes” I emailed him and asked if he’d give you a few pointers to get budding game developers started and he was more than willing to help out, his top 5 tips are below. If you want to hear more from Iain make sure you check out his new Creative Coding Podcast.

Iain LobbMake it fun. This one should be such a no-brainer that it’s not even worth mentioning, but when you’re making games it’s very easy to get side-tracked by the technical aspects of development. You spend so much time worrying about your code framework or particle effects that you forget to focus on making a fun experience for the player. While there’s still time to make changes, put your game in front of players and watch what they do. Build the gameplay around the parts they enjoyed, and streamline the parts they didn’t. Don’t put time into a making re-usable game engine until you have a few games under your belt.

Make it obvious. If you need to have an instructions screen on your game, you’ve already kinda failed. Talk to your players through the language of games and build upon their existing expectations of how control schemes and game mechanics should work. Your game should start out very simply and introduce more complex game mechanics and ideas as it goes. If you are using the keyboard to control your character, make sure the arrow keys and WASD keys both work. Z, X, C, SPACEBAR, CTRL, SHIFT and ALT are the most popular choice of “fire buttons” – but make sure you aren’t interfering with browser shortcuts, and watch out for “sticky keys” on Windows. If you’re using the arrow keys, also watch out for the page scrolling and work to prevent this behaviour.

Stick a face on it. There aren’t many games that can survive without characters, so even if you’re making an abstract physics puzzle, you should be thinking about how you can make it feel human and approachable. As humans we look at each other’s faces to help us empathise with one-another, so make sure your character has a likable face that conveys their emotions. Even if you’re drawing your character from the side, draw their face in a ¾ view so that we can see both eyes. Do an image search for “sprite sheet” and look at how iconic characters are drawn.

Polish it. A well-polished game is more inviting and will give players an impression of quality and professionalism. What is polish? Well, ask yourself these kind of questions: Do you transition between screens and menus by animating, sliding or fading in and out, or do you just abruptly jump from one screen to another? When the player collects an item in the game, does it just disappear, or does it vanish in a burst of sparkling stars with an appealing sound effect? If the player walks into a wall, do they slide along it smoothly, or does the collision detection jerk them out wildly?

Test it. No matter how good your game idea is, if you have too many bugs that affect gameplay, players will become frustrated and come away with a bad impression. Players will happily forgive the odd visual glitch, but if your player gets stuck in a wall, falls through a floor or sees their progress wiped, they’ll start to experience what we in the business like to call “nerd rage”. Although you may be able to unit test some of your game routines, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to do automated testing on gameplay, so there is no substitute for extensive play-testing. So you have as much time as possible to spend coding, see if you can find a volunteer or team-member to do this and report back to you.

To experiment with gameplay ideas, try my interactive game-design sandbox:

The Judges

To find the very best, we have assembled an amazing panel of judges that features experts in HTML5, design and user experience on the web. We will let community votes help us find the top-40 finalists. The panel will then be asked to judge the finalists according to creativity, quality of implementation and fit with the contest theme.


The Prizes

So I hear you… what could you win. Well some pretty amazing things:

  • $40,000 in total prizes including $9,000 for the Grand Prize.
  • Front page exposure on and
  • Cool hardware: laptops and slates from Alienware, HP and ASUS
  • An all-expense paid trip to the Future of Web Apps Las Vegas with “golden ticket” VIP access
  • …and more!


Below are the dates that you should keep an eye on.

  • 1 March  – Contest Open, submit early, so you have plenty of time to get voted up.
  • 5th April – Submission gallery opens to the public and voting begins.
  • 9th of May 4:59 am GMT (8th of May 11:59 EST)   – Submission deadline
  • 12th of May – Top-40 Finalists are announced
  • 23rd of May – Winners are announced.

Published by thebeebs

Thebeebs is a Canadian pop singer, songwriter, actor and HTML5 junkie. Throughout his rise to fame, Thebeebs has been nominated and awarded numerous accolades, winning Artist of the Year at the 2010 American Music Awards, and being nominated for Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album at the 53rd Grammy Awards. Thebeebs is considered a teen idol, and has been subject to acclaim from fans, as well as criticism and controversy from matters concerning his popularity and image.

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