Hello James, I have some discussion for the awards, and how it pertained to Venture Reloaded.
A year ago I started creating Venture Reloaded with a goal of having a finished game ready for the awards competition. Venture Reloaded was originally a homebrew which was developed to the point of having a Treasure Screen and a new Goblin Room screen. At that stage it was apparent that I would not be able to finish the game in time for the competition. I made a difficult choice to change course and do a hack instead, because it allowed me to finish the game in time and reach my goal.
A lot of people have made comparisons of Venture Reloaded to a homebrew. Let me say this. Venture Reloaded is a hack. It was always be a hack, and there should be no discussion that it is not a hack. Please understand this though. Hacks can be great. They can be things that people enjoy, and they can transform a game's experience. Hacks can certainly reach the quality level of homebrews. It is even possible for hacks to be in a conversation about some of the best releases of the year. Overall hacks are still games, and from a games perspective they should be part of any awards ceremony that celebrates the very best of games for the year.
Quite honestly, I have poured my heart and soul into creating Venture Reloaded. Words can not describe my disappointment of learning at the end of November that the Hacks category was not only removed, but that my game would not be allowed to compete in any category. That information would have been most useful back in March. That would have given me a chance to make Plan C whatever that might have been. Still though, I could not help but wonder why hacks were not allowed in categories like best graphics, best music, best packaging, and so on... These categories seem like natural fits.
For Venture Reloaded let me say this. If a game is compelling enough to be an instant must-buy at release, but can not enter a competition that celebrates the best of games for the year, than something is broken. I am proud of my game. Hey, it is the only port of Venture that has scaling rooms, and that's on the 2600 of all systems! The music too is pretty good for TIA and it was challenging. I spent weeks just on that part. It would have been great if Venture Reloaded had been allowed to compete in best graphics and best music. It would have been amazing if Venture Reloaded had been allowed to compete in an unconditional game of the year. It wouldn't have won, but that would've felt right. The quality of this game is there. This is not a simple 5 minute hack. This is literally hundreds and hundreds of hours of work. This is my blood, sweat, and tears. I worked harder on this than anything else I've ever done on the 2600, and I've done a lot. I feel this has raised the bar for hacks. It deserved a chance. That's all one can wish for.
Now though… I'm just trying to move on. I've been angry and upset at this for so long that its made me sick. It's ironic when something created for a purpose is not allowed to fulfill that purpose. I just have to accept that Venture Reloaded will never have a Hack of the Year distinction as voted for by the people, because there was none. When people look back to the best of lists for 2600 games for 2019, this game is missing. It's almost like vaporware, and this feels awfully, awfully bad.
Hacks have always been a staple of AtariAge ever since its inception, were featured in Stan's Awards, and were on the ZPH awards last year. Unlike demos there is no other place that is covering them or picking them for awards, and certainly none at the level of ZPH, which is the premier event of the year. Removing them was completely unexpected and finding out at the end of the year came quite frankly as a blindside.
Honestly though, I mean no hostility here. I am not posting this to crap on the awards. If any of this is coming out harsh than I apologize, truly. I am trying offer feedback as best as I can. It's just really hard to find the right words with how everything went down, and I'm doing my best. I sincerely hope you put hacks back in for next year. They should belong. Venture Reloaded is done and gone, but I hope that I've made the case for hacks having inclusion.
The awards show itself is great, and is the premier event of Atari games awards. You and your team did a great job this year, truly. It was very professional. I feel these awards deserve games like Venture Reloaded just as much as games like Venture Reloaded deserve to be a part of the awards. I believe a path forward does exist, and it can be a beautiful one, which only gets better.
Thank you for reading. Please give it some thought.