Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ultra Geist Diary # 3

It's important that as I create my enemy types, I don't lose sight of the simple, fast, satisfying, destructive charm of the shmup genre in the first place. I'm dropping my idea for a reverse popcorn unit because I don't want the player to have to scratch their head as to how they're going to beat this particular enemy. I want the player to be able to kill things with ease.

The puzzle aspect, such as it is, is not about figuring out how to play the game, but figuring out how to play the game better.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Ultra Geist Diary # 2

When I'm in the early stages of a project-- or, to be more precise, when I've just finished a project-- I flail around a lot, falling in love with and then abandoning concepts left and right, until I put enough effort into one project or another that I feel like I better see it through. It's awfully annoying for those around me, not to mention those working with me on one or another of these projects, not to mention on me, period.

I've restarted Ultra Geist from the ground up about six times now-- a bad sign for my "quick little game"; I've started three or four completely different concepts for Yo Yo Games's Competition 5, one of which I documented earlier on this blog, four of which were shmups, and put a considerable amount of time into both coding and spriting all the various iterations. And they've all been pretty much tossed away.

My current plan is to take a couple of new ideas for Ultra Geist, combine them with some ideas my recent slew of abandoned shmups have stirred up, and basically make Ultra Geist the competition game I've been meaning to work on. We'll see how that works.

Right now, I'm trying to figure out the various types of non-boss units to populate Ultra Geist.

I definitely want a popcorn unit-- a term I stole from Warren Spector, an enemy that doesn't pose much of a threat to the player and can just be swatted away like a piece of popcorn. Think: a goomba: slow, dumb, easy-to-kill. Get a lot of them on a screen, and now they're more dangerous, but not overwhelmingly so.

Conversely, I want to have a sort of anti-popcorn unit. I'm not talking about a tank or damage sponge, though one of those might be nice, too-- I'm talking about a numerous, dumb, slow, and mostly harmless enemy that can't be killed easily, that can't be harmed directly but only through harming other enemies or causing other things to happen that then cause things to happen to the anti-popcorn unit.

This is because one thing I want to do is create units that interact with each other, a sort of web that the player has to untangle and then exploit. How well I can pull this off in a fast-paced shmup is the million dollar question, especially because I don't want it to devolve into a trial-and-error, figure out what-does-what sort of game. I want it to be intuitive, and I want there to be some strategic depth that's a step above "kill these things to do this".

I want the player to have options, different ways to approach it, different ways to maximize their play-time and different but related mechanisms for the players to exploit. The whole point of the game, again, is gaming the system, is looking for "bugs" and holes, is, well, "cheating".

Saturday, January 2, 2010

YoYo Comp 5 Entry, Behind-the-Scenes No. 1

Yo Yo Games is holding their fifth competition, with the theme of "Design a Hand-held game". Games in this contest have to meet certain technical restrictions, the most daunting of which, for me, is that the controls are restricted to the four arrow keys and one (and only one!) action button. Since even my shmups-- the simplest of my games!-- typically have two if not three action buttons, this posed more of a challenge than the restricted screen size.

My answer, at the moment, is to make a sword-fighting game with a heavy emphasis on blocking-before-counter-attacking, timing, and figuring out patterns. That's right: it's Punch-Out!!, but with swords.

More daunting than the basic coding (which is basically done) and enemy behaviours are the spites-- one for each player attack and block, one for each enemy block, and two for each enemy attack (a "taunt" or "tell" followed by the actual attack). I'd like the game to have more of a "cartoony" feel than an "obvious collection of coloured squares of equal size" feel, and the single-screen action would allow for decently-sized sprites despite the low screen resolution. Maybe 100 pixels tall for the player, 150 for the bosses?

Either way, as you can see from the basic player poses I sketched out below, appealing art isn't exactly my forte-- if anyone would like to volunteer their spriting services, I'd be willing to split the prize money (should, of course, the game win) 50-50 with them. Drop me a line at milos_parker at yahoo dot com if you're interested.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Original Side Saddle featured in "100 Games" Video!

This video, inspired by Paul Eres's "100 Game Maker Games in 10 Minutes" compilation, features 100 games made with Game Maker in 2009. My game Side Saddle is the 47th (the games aren't presented in any ranked order). I am deeply honoured to have my odd little game featured alongside so many other, greater, games, and want to thank Scoz of the Game Maker Blog for including it.

As I'm sure readers of this site are aware, the second Side Saddle came out just a week ago. In that time, it's already surpassed the number of downloads/quick plays of the original on Game Jolt (the original is also available at a few other sites, including Yo Yo Games, whereas Side Saddle 2 is available exclusively at Game Jolt.)

And, since you can never overdose on awesomeness, here's Paul Eres's original "100 Game Maker Games in 10 Minutes" video.