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Competitive reality shows – whether they are about crafting a pirate ship out of red velvet cake or a milk carton out of glass – have become a sensation. They’ve littered our screens with fabricated drama, the same boxy format and an admittedly incredible display of creative talent. It was only a matter of time before someone took a swing at the medium with video games.
Achievement Unblocked, a new show from media and marketing agency United Esports and blockchain nonprofit DFINITY Foundation, is taking the sometimes strenuous process of game development and shaping it into a 13-month-long competition in 2022.
Up to 100 contestants will develop a game over the course of a year while receiving some guidance and funding. Development teams, which can include up to four people, will have to use blockchain technology in some way within their game design.
“The heart of the show is the developers themselves,” Achievement Unblocked executive producer Justin Woychowski said. “Right from the start you’re given funding to start that journey.”
The first video game development competitive reality show
Applications for Achievement Unblocked opened on Jan. 17. Now, showrunners will parse through the pitches to see which ideas stand out to them most before deciding who will be included in the show.
Unlike other shows, Achievement Unblocked won’t be contained within challenges that are only designed for “entertainment,” according to United Esports CEO Felix LaHaye. He says the main goal of the competition will be to build a functional game.
Most other competition shows are relatively bite-sized, where contestants tackle challenges over the course of a few hours. While a theoretical game development competition show could do the same with a game jam format, Achievement Unblocked decided to go for a much bigger scope by including up to 100 developers who will be spread out across the globe.
Competition shows are a dime a dozen, after the format exploded in popularity with The Great British Bake Off. They continue to garner audiences hungry for drama and talented promise, though. The developers who show the most promise within Achievement Unblocked will get the most spotlight on the show.
“We will only be able to focus on some of the top teams,” Woychowski said. “Although we’ll try to give a little limelight to everyone.”
He added that the show will include contestant-shot segments as well as content shot by professional field crews.
The 13-month competition will be divided into three milestones and a panel of three judges will critique projects. The judges will consist of professionals with game industry backgrounds, including experience with game development and blockchain integration.
Games will be critiqued at an early conceptual stage, a midway stage where some programming has been completed and a final stage where developers are working out bugs. Developers who hope to make an appearance on the final episode of the show will need to have launched their game by that point.
Blockchain driving the competition
Blockchain – or a digital network of information that’s near-impossible to change without going through the proper channels – is at the center of Achievement Blocked. The show’s concept came to light while United Esports and DFINITY were in talks about how the two organizations would work together.
“Of course integration with the blockchain is important,” LaHaye said about the game developers being judged on how they integrate blockchain into their product. “I wouldn’t say that we’re looking for a set of auto-win criteria.”
Blockchain technology has grown within the game industry since 2008, although not without a number of issues. Companies that tried to integrate NFT and Blockchain technology have been met with major backlash from players and 72 percent of the 2,700 developers that took part in the Game Developer Conference’s annual industry survey said they were “not interested” in working with the technology.
Considering DFINITY Foundation’s huge stake in blockchain, Achievement Unblocked could also be an effort to encourage developers to work on more types of Blockchain games. There aren’t many hugely successful ones available right now.
It’s all about games
Video games have been the center of reality competition shows like this before, like EA’s take on The Sims. They’ve only been played in many other shows, however. No one has attempted to put game development center stage.
That’s why, according to LaHaye and Woychowski, the show has to be different from almost every other reality show out there. Rather than hold a game jam and film a team for 48 hours, they’re doling out tens of thousands of dollars and having developers – both fresh out of college and seasoned veterans – work on a larger project.
“The main idea behind Achievement Unblocked is to create real games,” Woychowski said.
Achievement Unblocked is set to begin filming development projects in Fall of 2022. However, the answer to whether anyone can actually make a good blockchain game — or if game development works with reality TV — will likely come much later once the show airs.