November Levelup Jam - Contest Winners!

"The First 5 Minutes"

For the November Levelup Jam, we challenged members of the Payouts Program to take existing games and enhance the “first five minutes” of play to deliver a clear and compelling first impression.

Why are first impressions so important on a platform like Core?

Core offers a fast way to discover a variety of games. It’s easy to hop from one fun experience to another, exploring new games or following friends. One side effect of this is that a great first experience matters more than ever. If something doesn’t click, it’s easy for players to check out another game. The trick here is designing your game to inspire players to stick around and get the full experience!

Based on game industry best practices, we created five categories to guide design choices around the first five minutes of gameplay:

  • Goals. Setting aspiration and progression targets. “I see something that I want to do.”
  • Clarity. Gameplay mechanics, controls, player feedback. “I know how to win.”
  • Visuals. Graphics, storytelling, environment design, music. “I want to explore further.”
  • Community. Shareability, social virality, friends. “I want to play this with others.”
  • Playability. Easy to play, intriguing design, player choice. “I’m already having fun.”

5th Place

  • SCP offers a simple premise within a gorgeous sci-fi environment - collect the key cards and escape! The mechanics are straightforward and it’s easy to pick this up and start looking for the way out.
  • The minimap in the top left corner is especially useful in guiding the player through this level.
  • For areas of improvement - we did encounter some bugs progressing through the doorways, could collect infinite keycards. Also, a less linear level design would have offered some fun opportunities to explore and see more of the level.


4th Place
Love Letters for the Gone - by Arudo

  • Love Letters For The Gone interweaves a rich, colorful environment with an arcade-style top down collection game loop. The first time tutorial does a great job teaching players the core game loop right off the bat, and the environment works well as a lure to keep you pushing through levels to reach the end.
  • For areas of improvement - the mechanics for combat and weapon progression could be made more player friendly, perhaps adding additional types of weapons or more charges on the magic staff. Also, we ran into some performance hitches while playing.


3rd Place
Hotel Stories - by randomphantom

  • Hotel Stories drops the player into an especially creepy, dimly lit, abandoned hotel with an objective to collect lost pages from horror writers. The experience is primarily single player and takes the player through a series of simple and understandable tasks - collect room keys, collect lost pages, explore the hotel.
  • One of the best and most chilling qualities of the environment design in Hotel Stories is that the rooms are very similar but subtle differences - such as a knocked over object, or lined up chairs - stand out loudly as narrative clues to the unknown backstory of this hotel. It’s easy to get pulled into this mysterious environment and keep looking for more room keys and pages!


2nd Place
Kingdom Fall - by CraterMan

  • Overall, Kingdom Fall excels by efficiently ushering players through goals. The player in Druid Square, a village overflowing with drool inducing, aspirational weapons and a clear cut path to progression. Leave the village, fight bad guys, and get better equipment! There’s also a handy town portal ability to quickly cash in on the loot from battle. The world feels frictionless, open, and full of incentives to return and grind more for better weapons
  • The controls are intuitive and the environment is straightforward to navigate. CraterMan also utilizes a leaderboard to showcase other concurrent players and their level and rebirths. Kingdom Fall really shines by offering a frictionless, open world RPG progression experience with endless goals to keep players coming back.


Overall Winner
Horizon Survival - by Kreation25 and Fuddy

  • The first five minute experience of Horizon Survival really hits all the marks, especially if you recognize the scene from Starship Troopers. You’re thrown into a harsh alien world with one immediate and obvious objective - survive against the inevitable onslaught of nightmarish alien insect creatures.
  • In the categories of “Playability” and “Community”, Horizon Survival particularly excels with a game design which works both as a single player experience and also as a multiplayer cooperative experience. It’s fun alone, but more fun with more players. Games which accommodate this player size fluctuations can be tricky to design, but also rewarding, as they offer a frictionless multiplayer experience.
  • Following a simple tutorial screen, the action starts immediately with a clear HUD display indicating relevant information such as the wave level, concurrent players, and time remaining in that round. It lays out the goal and round mechanics clearly for the players.
  • When other players are active when you join, there’s an additional hook to help them out. Looking around, you can see a variety of aspiration goals ranging from unlocking higher tier weapons, buying turrets, or simply getting to a higher level than other players on your leaderboard. We are really looking forward to future development and improvements for this game!


Cheers again to all the contestants!


Congrats to the winners! Also props to @Bigglebuns_Ryan for his first post :smiley:

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These must be good if they are winners! I've played 2 of them before on Stream with CoreLive and deadlyfishes and I can't wait to try out the other 3 on my own time!

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