The Tournament Hub is a launcher interface for Compo4All. You all remember Compo4All, right? It’s the thing that enables online high score competition for old arcade games? Yeah, that one. Well, basically The Tournament Hub makes launching a supported game very pretty and neat, and certainly more fun and more retro looking. Everything works quite well in the latest version. Let’s not come back on my criticism concerning the lack of proper testing before release, since this is something of the past. Now, what do you get, actually? Well, nothing happens much unless you are online, and at launch it will almost always look like that, for a while: A nice, colorful, spider-webby, background. Someone hasn’t cleaned up that place for a while. It does feel like retro, in a “the arcade just closed its doors for good” kind of way. And you get nothing much else apart from a short music looping from the stereo speakers. Unless you are very patient, you may wonder if it didn’t crash or anything. Mmm. Actually it is syncing stuff in the background and at the first launch; it fetches the artwork for the supported games from the server. Too bad it doesn’t tell you that anywhere. I feel like jumping around like Balmer and his “Developers, Developers, Developers!” moment, but I’d rather scream “User Feedback, User Feedback, User Feedback!”. – Tell people what’s happening if it’s not happening on screen. Then, you get the nice, cool stuff: And then you can click on one of the launchers – you get the following page, for example for Pandora Nub Nub (and you notice my excellent score, hehe – good luck beating that one! And _wb_, well, it doesn’t count, he had months to practice before launching his game!). And then you can launch the stuff or go back in the menu to launch another game. Simple and straightforward, really, just like you would expect a launcher to be. The action buttons are used well, but somehow I feel that the mapping was better in PNDManager… I always feel that B should be the launcher button, not X. But whatever, that’s just my taste and I like natto if that says something about me. You get a few more options there in the menu to adjust some settings. Some may be relevant for the network connection to work properly if you have issues syncing scores. All in all, it works relatively well in pair with Compo4All or the other games supported. That’s a fine job. But you know, nothing is perfect in this world, we always want more and I’ll definitely add a few comments, suggestions and requests for valuable features, if I may.
- The intro is cool, but when you exit the screen abruptly goes back to desktop, without transition. Having a “closing curtain” effect would have been more appropriate.
- When you start the application it loads up the previous scores from the server and it takes some time. During that time there is nothing on screen apart from the music playing in the background. Why not have a progress bar or something? Oh, did I already complain about that? I’m getting old.
- After quitting a game and coming back in the launcher (cool stuff, by the way… automatically coming back in the same interface), it takes a SUPER LONG TIME for the scores you just achieved to be displayed. That’s unacceptable in this real-time, 21st century, Minority-Report world we live in. OK, I’m exaggerating but a faster sync would be great, or at least a MESSAGE on screen saying “please wait, still syncing and I take my sweet own time. Why don’t you go for a walk? It’s such a nice day outside”. I’m a big proponent of computers talking to us like humans. I’d like the computer to insult me when I make the same mistake twice. Wouldn’t that be fun?
- It looks great on the menu itself, but once you click on a game the screen is not so cool. The faded background looks cheap & dirty, and the buttons look very ugly. and amateurish (in a bad way). It gives a very different impression from the polished menu, and it could be improved to be more consistent.
- Not sure if it’s only me, but when I start a game that requires MAME, it loads up C4A first, and then C4E is basically waiting for me to… select and launch the game itself again. Maybe C4A needs to be modified to allow for seamless launching of the game from The Tournament Hub.
- I would certainly like to see the software giving me a sense of what changed when it’s finished syncing. A kind of summary. For example, since I last logged in, my score on X game was beaten by X, 2 days ago, or something like that. You could have this kind of messages on the side, or as a scrolling at the top or bottom. This should be easy to do, comparing the previous records saved locally with the new update available after syncing. And it’s a must-have feature, I think, if you want to do bench-marking vs other players and enhance competition. And it’s not called “The Tournament Hub” for nothing, right? 🙂
- For modes comprised in the same game, it would be more beneficial to have groups management. For example: Super Hexagon currently had 5 or 6 modes and takes most of the screen space, for nothing. So like if the next game we add has 20 modes, we have to scroll 4 screens before finding another game? Seriously ? Why not have a single Super Hexagon screen, and once you click on it you get the choice of the different Super Hexagon modes you want to play on.
- The Y button, to make a game a favorite, doesn’t work too well sometimes. If you are on the extreme right in the menu and push Y, the said game moves to the first position on the left but the “camera” remains on the right, leaving you in the black, wondering what just happened. Odd behavior.
- When on the individual game screen, I would also like to see the “best scores ever” by using the shoulder buttons for example. Since the data is available on the server it should be easy to implement.
- Extra feature, but always cool to have: “Last Players active” based on a kind of rule (if the score is less than 15 or 30 minutes old -> post player name as “last seen active on X game”).
- Add self profile information and Introduce trophies / gamification engine. May or may not require modification of C4A itself. “Highest score on X game in Y month”, “Got top 5 score in 4 games”, etc…
Yeah, I know what you are going to say. “Ekianjo is a pain in the ass. Not only he annoys everyone on the boards, but on top of that he has a blog where he says shit about people’s creations and stuff”. Well, there’s certainly some truth in that, but don’t take it the wrong way. The Tournament Hub is really great, but it’s still very early in development. I have my own ideas on where and how it should change and evolve, but I’m not coding this and I can just give you my thoughts on this. Take it or leave it, but don’t forget one thing about me: If I didn’t care at all about this application, I wouldn’t even bother writing anything about it in the first place. Till next time. And I got the best score on Mini Slug. The Game is ON.