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The good old days

About two decades ago, in the stone age of computers, there were the real game programmers. These guys were the whizz kids. They tried to take the thrill of pacman and space invaders from the arcade into their homes. So they sat down with the green glow of their microcomputers on their bespectacled faces and typed away in the night, creating something... something..., whatever it was, it was awesome.

Of course, it wasn't easy. You needed to know everything about the hardware. But in those days, you could still make fame and money with arcade games. The hardware limitations were in the advantage of the independant game programmer. Since there weren't a lot of possibilities with the graphics, instead they had to focus on gameplay.

These days are long gone. Nowadays you need a small army of artists and developers working in permanent crunch-mode for a year or more. Skill and fun are no longer important, only money.

And what happened to our hero, the lone game programmer? Does he have to sit at home, sad, depressed and obsolete? Can he ever compete by himself with those sweatshops? Is anybody still interested in 2D graphics? Do hacking skills still matter? Does fun still matter?

Yes, it does! Because here is TINS, a 72 hour game programming competition where you can match your game programming skills against other fellow game programmers all around the world. You can finally get your ideas out, get your game played. It is intense, but it is a lot of fun!

So what this is all about

As stated before, TINS is a 72 hour game programming competition. That means that you have to write a complete computer game from scratch in just one weekend! Sounds like fun, doesn't it? In fact, this is a very good way to learn a lot more about game programming. Because you have to focus and work in such a short time span, you'll be able to finally actually finish one of your projects. Indeed, this is the experience of many participants of previous competitions.

This is not the first game programming competition for the allegro community. In fact, there is a long history of these kind of wacky competitions. "Speedhack" is one of the longest running annual competitions. Some people found however, that one speedhack per year is not enough. That is why TINS came into existence, it is basically an annual copy of the Speedhack event. This also explains the name: TINS is an acronym for "TINS Is Not Speedhack". It is, however, very much like Speedhack.

Here is the catch: there are a couple of additional rules that are not announced until the moment that the competition starts. In fact, these rules are picked at random by a device called the rule-o-matic, so not even the organizers know on beforehand what they are going to be. These rules may set limits on the genre of the game, require the implementation of a certain technical feat, or perhaps require something on the artistic side. You have to be prepared for anything! These extra rules are a safeguard to make sure nobody tries to cheat by working ahead before the start of the competition. One good strategy to deal with this is to plan a couple of small games that you would make, and select one of those ideas based on the additional rules.

There is one other thing you should know from the start: You have to use the allegro game programming library, because this event is organized by and for the allegro community. However, don't let this stop you if you don't know about Allegro! Allegro is really easy to learn, as it is designed to let you get straight away to the fun part of game programming.

There are some other important rules, such as a size limit and the requirement to publish source. See the rules page for each competition for details.

Please let it be known that we welcome newbies in all shapes and sizes. Many newcomers are disheartened by the short time span and the quality of previous Speedhack entries. But don't be put off! You may not win the competition if you try for the first time, but you have to start somewhere. And I guarantee you'll have a lot of fun, and learn a lot too! Your game will be seen and reviewed by many members of the allegro community.

Please go to the registration page if you want to join. Contact me at amarillion@yahoo.com if you have any questions.

About the organizers

TINS is organized by Amarillion. Amarillion has been organizing game programming competitions almost yearly since 2001.