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I submitted "Restraining Order" to IGF 2010, it failed to get nominated. For your reading pleasure, I present the full, unedited judge feedback. More Cowell than Abdul.

Jim McGinley, Blogger

January 6, 2010

7 Min Read

The Setup

I am sharing the fresh IGF feedback I just received for 2 reasons:
1. A transparent attempt to get more people to play Restraining Order
2. It's priceless, entertaining and fascinating.

I described my submission thusly:
"Black comedy, exhilarating action, burtonesque graphics and an absolutely killer soundtrack."
My only hope was for an audio nomination (or a comedy nomination).
Alas, the competition this year could not be... restrained.

* major spoilers ahead *

The Feedback (highly recommend playing the game before reading the feedback)

1. "hmm execution of this game is quite average and there's nothing really new and original in it. I doubt this game can become a finalist in any category..."


2. "Overall, this game was a pretty good execution of a concept that ultimately wasn't very engaging. However, there were a couple of really stand-out moments for me in the game. One of these moments was when I was being attacked by alternating blue and red cops. The alternating action of avoiding the jumping cops, and then jumping over the others, made me feel like I was in a Russian circus act! (In the best way possible!)

In a future iteration of this game, I would like to experience more moments scripted out in this manner. It made me feel clever and quick on my fingers. For the most part, the rest of the game was very repetitive. It seemed to rest awkwardly between a high-intensity chase like Canabalt, and a more traditional side-scrolling action game."

ironically, there's no need to jump during the alternating blue and red cop stage

3. "It's clear you had a lot of fun making this game, and it shows in the finished game. Despite the constant stop-start of "you were restrained", the core gameplay actually works nicely and you quickly get into tapping through the failure screen and into more continuous play. The chaos in the later levels is quite satisfying, and the soundtrack as arcane as it is entertaining. (Old ST/Amiga track in there, though? Think you might have some copyright problems!)

There's not much I can say about a game like this; it was slightly annoying but had a nice aesthetic, very nicely laid out screen, neat graphics and a simple and solid play concept. It also made me chuckle, which can only be a good thing. Best of luck!"

never a good sign when a judge wishes you luck

4. "I enjoyed the progression in the story between the different levels of play. I fear some may just play one sequence, find the game simple and stop playing and wind up missing the point of the game. There really is a reward for playing through the plot and I feel like there ought to be a slightly better lure or connection between each level to convince people to play on."

my friends & testers (michael, nelson) said the same thing

5. "Frustrating and wholly unsatisfying experience as a player. Never got past a very short part into level 1. Game resets every time you die. You get one chance to avoid objects, then die -- very severe and hardcore consequence. I am am an ex-hardcore player with great reflexes and was not able to pass the first level. The music was repetitive and annoying, the art was sup-par imaginative and polished, and there was no way for me to quit without ctrl/alt/del. Seems to need quite a bit more work if there is indeed a game worth uncovering in later levels. Lastly you should provide one set of controls and instructions -- allow an alternate in an options menu, but don't have the player learn two sets off the bat, it is confusing."

but you can't die, the game is easy, Esc quits and there's only one set of instructions?

6."Smooth art style. Nice audio. Theme is unappealing, to me at least. Badly balanced run and jump game though.

Difficulty ramps too quickly or I am too old or both.... :)"

game dynamically balances difficulty to ensure a great experience - it took forever


This is a somewhat horrifying, always fascinating combination of mechanics and ideas. I'm disgusted by the character you play as, especially when he's chasing after the daughter and the mother is presumably dead. I'm not sure if this was intentional, but the ludicrous comedic treatment kind of makes the theme even more horrifying. I guess my only desire is that the theme is hooked into the experience of playing the game a little bit more.

The sound of two cops hitting each other is exquisite.

I like the way the title changes and the gameplay gets incremented. Played with my notions of game structure a bit, and I dug it.

I don't really see a way to improve what's here; it is what it is. Weird, offbeat, interesting. Engaging. Take it or leave it."


8."Okay, I get the joke!

It was a great moment the first time I realized that I was chasing someone who slowly appeared on the right edge of the screen (a woman carrying a baby). Sort of a little aha moment.

But then you did so many variations on that theme, grinding it into the ground.

I guess you redeem it by taking it totally over the top by the end (where there are streams of police vaulting over you, like in your screen shot). I suppose that is a cool exploration of the extreme edges of your mechanics.

But what is there to redeem? I mean, I don't think it was THAT funny in the first place. And the mechanics, by themselves, are too simple to be interesting (donkey kong, jumping over barrels, but far less challenging than that).

Visual style was nice.

I loved the first moment where I realized that my character was mouthing the words to the song. That was a great moment! But then it happened, over and over, level after level.

Was that WEEN in there? Great music choices, certainly.

So I see this as a piece of concept art, a bit like You Have to Burn the Rope... but imagine that game if it had 5 levels instead of just one. That's what you've done here.

Would be much stronger if it was just the first level, with the big reveal that you're chasing a woman and a baby, and then some funny joke at the end, and that's it. Maybe work all the jumping cops into the end of the first level.

I can sum up: the game is way too long for what it is. Lots of filler, with a few grains of potentially interesting payload."

one man's gameplay is another man's filler

Final Thoughts
Early levels are really a tutorial preparing you for "Grandpa" and "Hell". Once you're prepared, they're the best parts about the game. It takes a new player ~15 minutes to reach them. Unfortunately, it appears some judges played for much less than that. Lesson learned.

I love submitting to the IGF, and will do so again. The judge feedback alone is worth the entry fee, and I hope they continue. I actually like how the judging is done, and love the fact they keep improving it. Let's hope 4th time is a charm.

Final IGF Judge Feedback:
"Restraining Order scored best in: Visual Art"
"Restraining Order scored worst in: Game Design"
I did everything but the graphics :)

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