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Unfinished Business — Highlights from the latest Crayta Mega Game Jam

In November 2022, Crayta ran its latest Mega Game Jam. Featuring a huge $200,000 prize pool, the Jam was the centrepiece of the Crayta Creative program for the second half of 2022.

The theme of the jam was “Unfinished Business” and we wanted games that excelled in retention mechanics. Games that left every player with exactly that sense of unfinished business that they needed to return to again and again.

We see this sort of thing in many of our favourite mobile games, but that has so far been less common in Crayta games, which often focus on short-to-medium term goals and quick bursts of fun.

That said, Crayta has some top-tier tycoon games with weeks and months of daily engagement built into them and we wanted to extend this sort of long-term engagement into more genres of games than just business-sims. Let’s see how action games and puzzle games can get the same insistent stickiness!

A Tricky Explanation

Building highly sticky games with excellent retention is an important part of maintaining a healthy, growing player ecosystem, and we (the Crayta publishing team) found that explaining it to each other was pretty straightforward. But when we tried to sum the idea up in a neat, catchy theme title (rather than a long, rambling paragraph) we found that it was trickier than we expected. Crucially, we needed the theme to be accessible to an international audience of creators who might not have the same understanding or interpretation of game-dev jargon as we do.

But after much brainstorming and head-wracking we settled on the theme name “Unfinished Business” as the best way to sum up what we wanted. On launch day the Crayta publishing team made sure that they spent a lot of time speaking to the community and answering questions about the Jam on our Discord and FB Group. The response was definitely favourable, although some creators had very pertinent questions, and we found that we needed to help clarify some parts of the concept — as well as calm a few worries. This is a natural part of the Jam process and one that the Crayta publishing team has become extremely proficient at.

Prize Structure

It’s worth spending a moment talking about the prize structure in the Mega Jam. There were 5 “Winner” awards. These are all equal first place, which allows us to reward radically different games with the big prize.

We also had 8 special awards for various categories such as best visuals, best retention in an action game, magic moments and so on. The prizes were rounded out with 16 honourable mentions and one “Judges Choice” which rewarded a game that didn’t quite hit the dizzying heights of the big winners — but that still has something special that made us excited to play.

So, that’s the background. Let’s take a look at just a few of the highlights from the winning games.

Contract Assassins — Top 5 Winner — $20,000

From the awesome creative power of community stalwarts, Slaterbburn and Daigoro, comes one of the most intense games that Crayta has yet seen. Contract Assassins is deceptively simple, the player is an assassin stalking a sequence of targets around a bright and cheerful seaside town. The stroke of genius is that you don’t know exactly who your target actually is. Instead, you get a series of hints telling you which shop or town area the target has entered or left, plus a proximity meter that helps you pick out your target from amongst the crowd.

It. Is. Intense.

See the person in the clown costume? That’s me. See that guy sitting opposite me? Let’s just say that their days are numbered…

Imagine this, you are sitting quietly in a small seaside cafe, a message telling you that your target is surely on one of the neighbouring tables. You’ll need to wait for one of them to get up and leave, then watch for notification that your target has changed location — that should help to confirm your suspicions.

What we loved about this game is that it turned the tables on the stealth assassin genre and dropped all the complex mechanics and multi-button controls and just kept the tension. No lurking in shadows, no avoiding vision cones and definitely no gruesome takedowns. This is a game where you can sit quietly next to your target, biding your time until they walk to somewhere a little less crowded so that your business really can be finished. And all this without raising the attention of the armed agents who do not take kindly to your activities.

In Contract Assassins, don’t attack anyone whilst an armed agent is nearby. Find somewhere quiet…

As you play and take down more and more targets, your earnings can be spent on more and better weapons so you need to play the long game, be patient, and don’t get caught. The bright costumes that everyone is wearing and the party music playing in each shop or cafe around the harbour really serve to hammer home the wild juxtaposition between the game’s idyllic setting and the dark actions you have to take as a player.

Gripping stuff! Play it now using this link…

Lost Region — Player’s Journey Award — $10,000

Another of our favourite games from the Jam was this excellent survival/crafting game from Kay and Rosie. Starting with a near-empty beach settlement, the player can create their own little corner of paradise — but it’s not going to be easy.

Although the player starts with a generous amount of health, their first need is to get some food — and you do this by building a Hunting Lodge, which means you need a building blueprint which means you need a crafting table and for that you need raw materials and a multitool… And so it all stacks up.

The Lost Region crafting menu is a work of art in itself.

Thankfully it is all beautifully packaged up in a rich, inviting world design with plenty of hints to help you on your way. Most of the basic resources are readily available — and the more exotic materials can also be gathered in sufficient numbers if you are prepared to venture through the portals into some of the dangerous, adventure areas. But you will be fighting against pirates and brigands as you go deeper and deeper into enemy territory in search of rare ores and foodstuffs.

Adventures in Lost Region can be dramatic affairs with some incredible vistas.

What we loved about Lost Region is the constant level of activity that keeps things interesting. Whether you are gathering a few basic resources in your home camp, planning a specific new build — or even cooking up some exotic new food to keep you alive for longer in the more dangerous adventure areas there is always something interesting to do.

After your first few adventures, the game becomes very focused on the player’s own decisions and motivations. Do you want to fully fit out your home and even put up some seasonal decorations? Or just become an adventurer and go hunting for the final boss? The game gives you a wonderful range of ways to play in and enjoy the luscious world of Lost Region.

Kingdom Fights — Top 5 Winner — $20,000

When people ask what it takes to be a Crayta Mega Game Jam winner, taking a look at Kingdom Fights would be a great place to start looking for the answer. Created by the incredible SylGames collective (AsTiger, Denior, Hisokan, Raidani and Unairf), the game not only plays incredibly well, but oozes polish and professional production value.

Kingdom Fights combines deck building with real-time tower defence — and does so with enormous success.

The game mechanics are simple — deploy your forces on the field and let them take care of business.

The game is simple to play — simply drag a card from your hand and place the resulting unit or effect into the world. Units begin to attack your opponent’s towers, effect cards can be used to rain arrows over enemy attackers and several other valuable spells. Naturally, the depth lies in the strategy. As a 1:1 PvP game, you need to have well organised defence in addition to attacking strategies.

The card gallery is an excellent example of custom UI design.

Each time you play, your cards earn experience points that eventually lead to upgrades — upgrades that need to be paid for in coins that you earn each time you log in. This makes the game incredibly compulsive as well as huge fun. Kingdom Fights really captured the essence of the Unfinished Business Mega Game Jam.

Critter Catchers — Top 5 Winner — $20,000

One of the great aspects of the Crayta Mega Game Jams is the huge increase in ambition that we see in many of the games. Critter Catchers, by long standing creative team Cereal and Drycoast, takes this to a new level by creating a version of one of the most popular games on the planet. We’ll just say that catching them all is strongly encouraged. And naturally, “them” are a range of cute (and not so cute) tiny critters. And of course, the way to catch more critters is to use the critters you already have in turn-based combat. Keep battling to upgrade your critters while you build your roster ready to head into more distant and more dangerous corners of the world

The combat interface is clean and easy to read. The artwork is gorgeous.

Featuring original 2D art of the critters, the game blends Crayta’s strengths as a character and system engine, and adds a well implemented combat menu. Combat can be tense, tactical affairs as you select suitable critters and choose physical or status attacks — and then pick your moment to try and capture the opponent critter.

What impressed us most about Critter Catchers was the ambition it showed in dropping a 2D turn based combat game on top of our 3D world engine. Getting it working at all is impressive enough but getting it all working in just 15 days is just incredible.

Abadon’s Quest — Honourable Mention — $1,000

This blog would be a lot longer if Abadon’s Quest didn’t exist. But, we did ask for compulsive games that used retention mechanics in all sorts of game genres. Creators Czinczar and Lakwaai decided that the ideal expression of “Unfinished Business” was a surreal top-down bullet hell shooter set in hell itself.

Combining the DNA of a 2D shooter with the progression of a dungeon crawler, Abadon’s Quest is both instantly gratifying and extremely insistent that you come back for more punishment.

Crayta plus a particularly wild imagination can have startling results.

But those repeated plays bring their rewards as you collect souls to trade for upgrades. Fill your Soul Meter for more health to go deeper into the dungeon (or up the dungeon… you start in the bowels of hells and try to head up!)

In some respects, this is a deeply weird game, but with excellent controls, startling visuals and compulsive game loop it can easily turn into something of an obsession.

A World of Winners

These are just a handful of our favourite games from the Jam. We could easily go on all night, but here’s a handful of other games that we wanted to mention.

Ranchy Slime — A simple, elegant farm and garden sim from Little Creator that snagged the “Sharing the World” award. Collect stars, hatch Globy eggs and buy more adorable, happy, bouncing Globys. Decorate your garden, trade with other players and generally just enjoy this relaxing, simple gaming experience.

There’s something extremely beautiful and relaxing about the world of Ranchy Slime

Idle Armies — Winner of the “Simple Clicks” award for elegant, stripped-down controls. Idle Armies, by Korpik1212 is a simple auto-battler with a massively compelling game loop. Start off by sending a single underpowered troop to his doom in a small combat arena populated by AI enemies and those sent in by other players.

Earn coins and mana for each enemy you eventually defeat and use the winnings to upgrade your troops and rate of income until your troops can be deployed in all-powerful platoons! Simple, fun and enormously compelling.

In Idle Armies, your troops run into combat and take care of themselves.

Solar Farm — Idle Tycoon — We encouraged our creators to steer clear of traditional tycoons for this game jam (we already have several amazing ones and wanted to see similar tricks employed in different genres) but this simple, surprisingly engaging background game by Plasma brought something new to the genre. Buying solar panels, adding new arrays, keeping everything aligned to the sun and wishing that there was more than nine and a half hours of daylight has given us a whole new appreciation for the challenges faced by solar farmers. (Thankfully we didn’t need to deal with terrible, British-style weather but we suppose that could make an appearance in future updates.)

Buy a new panel while it’s still daylight!

Endless Enjoyment

These are just a small sample of the dozens of games that were completed as part of the Unfinished Business Mega Game Jam. Of course there’s a huge range of other terrific games that we just didn’t have room to include here. Every one brought something incredible to the Crayta platform and the creators deserve the prizes — and the praise from the community.

It’s almost unfair to miss out so many great games so check out the Unfinished Business Mega Jam Winners video below for a comprehensive trip through every game that snagged a prize.

And of course, over on Crayta there’s an enormous amount of amazing games suitable for everyone. And these come not just from our Game Jams but from the ongoing efforts of the Crayta community to fill the platform with some of the most diverse, compelling and downright fun games on any UGC platform.

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Posts by Unit 2 Games staff, mostly about Crayta

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Jonathan Evans

Game designer and writer. Part of the publishing team for Crayta. Primary skills are making things up that people seem to enjoy!