Wednesday, September 22, 2010


When I write fiction, I can't skip around. If I'm stuck on a sentence-- a telling detail, perhaps, or a wisp of dialogue, or a character's name, or a macguffin-- I can't just skip ahead to another scene or sentence. I am completely stymied until I resolve the road block that I've made for myself.

I have the same problem in game design. If I know that this section requires the player to solve a couple of puzzles, and that section requires them to fight a boss, I can't skip ahead to designing the boss even if I'm absolutely stuck with regards to coming up with said puzzles. It's an irritating and counter-productive quirk, especially on an ostensibly non-linear game like Seq.Breaker.

But stuck I am, and of all things, I'm stuck on a sprite. Remember, I switched over to the current ultra-pixel-y style-- each sprite is comprised of 4x4 pixel monochromatic blocks with one pixel gaps in-between-- in order to avoid these kind of blockages and delays. But that very same style is actually part of the problem.

See, I want to confront the player with some circular saw blades that move up and down (and left and right) along a track. In a level partially populated by lumberjacks, a saw blade makes some kind of sense. It's also a concept a player can grasp pretty readily, as ingrained in their vocabulary as pits of spikes and fireball-spewing lava. Player sees a circular saw blade moving along a track, and the first thing they think is: alright, that's dangerous, I'm gonna stay away from it.

The problem is, it's very hard to render a circle in 4x4 monochromatic blocks with 1 pixel gaps, and even harder to put teeth on said circle in said method, and especially hard to get this to fit in a nice 32x32 pixel space-- or, to be more accurate, given the art style, in 11x11 monochromatic blocks.

Another problem is, if you look at any reasonably threatening saw blade, 2-D or otherwise, it's not the teeth that are scary, but the blur, the very speed with which the blade rotates. And this art style isn't one that blurs particularly well; in fact, the protagonist's walk animation looks appealing because it's been slowed down to the point that it cautiously emphasizes each frame.

I suppose the thing to do is to find something else that serves the same function, something that isn't so resistant to the art style I've grown rather fond of, but that would still make sense environmentally and be easily "read" as dangerous. But rack my brains as I do, I can't really come up with anything. I am, at the moment, really and truly stuck, and it's caused work on the game to grind to a terrifying halt.

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