August 21st, 2007 by moboid

You have 70 days.

Between now and November 1st, 2007, you have 70 days to create a game with the smallest and/or most irregular aspect ratio you can dream up. And then on November 28th, we’re throwing a giant party for your game, in Montreal.

It is gamma 256.

gamma 256 logo


  1. Your game’s resolution absolutely may not exceed 256×256 pixels maximum.
  2. Your game must run on Windows XP and use an xbox360 controller.


  1. Your game may use any kind of aspect ratio and be as low-res as you want. (ex: 16×256, 64×8, 4×4)
  2. Your game may use as many colors as you would like.
  3. Your game should remain simple, pick-up-and-play.
  4. A single game session should not last more than 5 minutes.
  5. Your game should not rely on audio of any kind (no sound will be fed out of the game at the event).
  6. Single-machine multiplayer is fine/great.
  7. All games will remain the property of their respective creators.

Even though the max resolution is 256 x 256, we bet you can do much better than that. So give us your 8×8, your 128×16, your 23×230. Give us your pixelated masterpiece, your 3D postage stamp, your wink-wink retro homage.

Just give it to us by November 1st.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 21st, 2007 at 9:17 pm and is filed under Announcements, GAMMA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Comments 32

  1. Jim McGinley wrote:

    Exciting, and Strange. I don’t particularily like the constraint, but that won’t prevent me from creating “Light Switch” – the most amazing 1 x 1 pixel game of all.

    2 Things:

    1. What about text?
    At your resolutions, I’m not able to fit any text (limiting), or I’m building my own font (which is a waste of time), or my games won’t have any text (ouch).
    Worth noting that text, even on my C64, Vic 20, and TRS-80 Model III always had higher resolution than graphics.

    2. Rather than squint to see the game, can I use a larger resolutions where each pixel is “bigger”. i.e. A 768 x 768 game where each pixel is 3 x 3 (hence it’s really a zoomed in version of a 256 x 256 game). If people will be playing games on a nice big monitor, it seems a shame to use such a small portion of the screen. What about people trying to watch the game?

    Howzabout a mix of resolutions? 80% of your game must be in a crap resolution (256 x 256), but the rest can be what you want. Imagine the possibilities of a high res character trapped in a low res world. Also solves the text problem.

    Posted 22 Aug 2007 at 3:46 pm
  2. jane wrote:

    yay!! i just need to find someone who can code. :)

    Posted 22 Aug 2007 at 6:18 pm
  3. Jim McGinley wrote:

    2 Other Thoughts:

    1. Here is a sample 256 x 256 version of Frogger.
    (Resize your browser until it’s 256 x 256). Notice how it now sucks, despite the fact the game is the same.
    Increase your browser size, the game is now a lot more fun.

    2. If you do allow larger sized pixels, can we rotate/scroll them smoothly?
    i.e. Move a 3×3 pixel 1 pixel at a time for smooth scrolling.
    You’ll still get the pixel “look”, with irregular aspect ratios, but you’ll also have some decent animation.
    This will be especially important if you’re trying to rotate a sprite. “Snapping” large pixels to the nearest 3×3 grid line would look awful.

    Are these games coming to Toronto as part of Festival Arcadia? I ask because I love, and I’m from Toronto.

    Posted 23 Aug 2007 at 1:10 am
  4. Darius K. wrote:

    This is a fantastic idea for a design festival. It’s a great constraint you’ve picked.

    To Jim: I think the whole point of the constraints is to force you to think about how you can make a fun game without text. Resizing Frogger down to a small resolution is counter-productive as the graphics are not meant to scale. Here’s an example I just put together of Frogger running at 64×64 pixels, although blown up as it might look projected on a wall (which I imagine is how these games will be played).

    It’s recognizable to anyone as Frogger. Yet it’s 64×64. It works because the graphics are iconic and not squashed versions of higher-res stuff.

    So I think you might be barking up the wrong tree when you want to be rotating sprites and whatnot. Although if you can make make it look good in 256×256, go for it! But if you can’t, then that’s just a design constraint and you need to design around it.

    Posted 23 Aug 2007 at 9:15 am
  5. fish wrote:

    Hey darius,

    good to hear from you.
    and yeah, you pretty much got it.
    its partialy about seeing how low you can go before it breaks, and how much of all that HD nonsense is actually useless, gameplay-wise.

    your frogger is a perfect example.

    Posted 23 Aug 2007 at 10:12 am
  6. Darius K. wrote:

    I am planning on attending MiGS, and I wouldn’t miss the gamma party for the world. Hopefully I’ll have a game to submit by the deadline!

    Posted 23 Aug 2007 at 10:58 am
  7. Jayenkai wrote:

    How do we submit entries?

    Posted 26 Aug 2007 at 3:14 pm
  8. moboid wrote:

    Does that mean you are already done with your game? :D

    We’ll have an FTP set up soon, and we will post the info here on a permanent gamma 256 page, let’s say… by the end of this week.

    Posted 26 Aug 2007 at 5:10 pm
  9. Ben wrote:

    I’m all the hell over this.

    Posted 27 Aug 2007 at 7:58 am
  10. fish wrote:

    woot woot.

    Posted 27 Aug 2007 at 1:15 pm
  11. Impossible wrote:

    What type of hardware does this have to run on outside of Windows XP and a 360 controller? Chances are I won’t make anything fancy or hardware intensive (my current plan is really simple), but you never know :).

    Posted 27 Aug 2007 at 4:31 pm
  12. Rob Segal wrote:

    There would be nothing against using hardware acceleration features on a video card right? So for example I can use alpha blending?

    Posted 28 Aug 2007 at 9:12 am
  13. fish wrote:

    i suppose you can. we should be running fairly decent machines, and considering the maximum size of any given game…we should be able to handle pretty much anything reasonable.

    Posted 28 Aug 2007 at 2:30 pm
  14. Albert D wrote:

    Will the 360 controller be wired or wireless? Are we allowed to have more inputs into the game (e.g., hacking the controller, camera, mic, accelerometer, etc). Hopefully I can free up some time to work on this, but it looks like it will be fun for sure. Thanks.

    Posted 29 Aug 2007 at 10:57 am
  15. fish wrote:

    controllers will be wired.
    you pretty much have to use that.
    we need some sort of standardization.

    Posted 29 Aug 2007 at 1:26 pm
  16. bunny wrote:

    how much agr can be implemented?

    Posted 29 Aug 2007 at 11:49 pm
  17. moboid wrote:

    Hi Albert,

    The main problem with hacking the controller is that we will have a public event where all the games need to run. If we used controllers with hacks (which we love in theory) this would set us up for a world of hurt when the game was submitted and needed to be tested, then played at a big open chaotic event.

    And the reason to go with wired controllers is manyfold. First, wired is required for certain development environments. Second, we won’t ever have to worry about batteries in the middle of our event. And third, it’s a lot harder for someone to walk away with it. :)

    All that said, anything you can accomplish with a standard wired controller is permitted.

    Posted 30 Aug 2007 at 4:28 am
  18. fish wrote:

    whats AGR?

    Posted 30 Aug 2007 at 2:46 pm
  19. Rob Segal wrote:

    Based on what I have read through of the rules so far is it conceivable I could think of this challenge as a grid based game? So lets say I have a grid where each pixel would be something like 10×10 and the resolution of the screen is 640×480. As I understand it this would be fine to do?

    Would it then be allowed that I could have a bitmap displayed on each of the squares in my grid making mini 10×10 images? Or would this be breaking the rules of the competition?

    Posted 31 Aug 2007 at 12:27 pm
  20. Nolan wrote:

    November 28th?

    Why a Wednesday? If it was a weekend I would think about coming, but that’s just terrible timing.

    Posted 05 Sep 2007 at 7:04 pm
  21. Realm wrote:

    The event is on a Wednesday? I’d be missing a lot of school taking that trip…

    Posted 05 Sep 2007 at 7:07 pm
  22. fish wrote:

    sadly, wednesday it is,
    see, as gamma is a joint venture between kokoromi and the montreal international game summit, it has to happen during the summit, which happens to take place on tuesday and wednesday.

    i know…

    Posted 05 Sep 2007 at 8:29 pm
  23. ideAb wrote:

    Hi all!

    How many entries per contestant?

    Great idea, hope we all have some fun :)

    Posted 06 Sep 2007 at 9:21 am
  24. fish wrote:

    no limit.

    Posted 06 Sep 2007 at 12:57 pm
  25. ideAb wrote:

    And last question. Will it be some kind of “external” text explaining how to play the game?
    Cause if your game is 10×10 (for example), you cant have any instructions on how to play the game…

    Posted 07 Sep 2007 at 2:45 am
  26. fish wrote:

    yes, each game should have a little plaque of some sort, crediting the creator and explaining the game.

    Posted 07 Sep 2007 at 5:27 am
  27. moboid wrote:

    But remember they should be simple enough that hardly any written instructions are needed. We had info sheets at GAMMA 01 and no one looked at them for help. People just figured it out, and then taught each other how to play. It’s much nicer and more social that way!

    Posted 07 Sep 2007 at 6:08 am
  28. Sasha Liu wrote:

    Ohaiyo! I plan on making my game using Flash on a Mac and exporting it as an SWF file… which leads me to two questions: 1) Will the Windows XP machine be able to run SWF files? Alternatively… 2) Can the game run from a website?

    Posted 11 Sep 2007 at 5:59 am
  29. moboid wrote:

    Hi Sasha,
    Nice site/reel! Cyborg bunnies, wow.
    Send us a standalone SWF file and we’ll test it out on a target system. If that doesn’t work we’ll try it from a website.

    Posted 11 Sep 2007 at 8:40 pm
  30. Bresson wrote:

    This is an interesting contest, but I believe the limitations should be harsher. Thousands and thousands of games have been made with smaller resolutions: all mobile games, old consoles (NES) games, etc, even DS is 256X192. This should start at 64X64 or even 32X32 to be really challenging, because at 256X256, any game can be made easily and then it becomes just a regular game design challenge, the current limitation is not really one.

    Posted 12 Sep 2007 at 6:17 am
  31. fish wrote:

    256×256 is the maximum allowed. you can always impose a stricter limitation on yourself if you want.

    Posted 12 Sep 2007 at 6:43 am
  32. Andy wrote:

    If you use SDL for setting up the screen, you can use an arbitrary resolution and it will work fullscreen or windowed (achieveable by setting a simple flag in your code). I just tested out 243×51 and it worked fine.

    Using fullscreen mode will allow you to get around the problems with size on screen, I think. There was not any mention of a fullscreen mode ban.

    Either that or you can just set your desktop resolution as low as possible or use a tool to zoom in on the game window :)

    By the way, I recommend SDL as it is really easy to set up a window for drawing to, and setting up 3d with OpenGL is also a piece of cake, though personally I am going to try and write my own very simple 3d renderer because a. I think OpenGL windows may have more restrictions and b. you can do all kinds of cool things with your screen data in software that is much harder to do with OpenGL.

    SDL also supports controllers, sound (with SDL_mixer, image loading (SDL_image, though BMP support is built in) and is multi-platform so you can easily port your game to linux or whatever after the contest.

    Posted 22 Sep 2007 at 4:38 am

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