Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Starting a New Game

Greetings. Since this is the first blog post, I'll explain what I plan to post here. I am a completely independent hobbyist game developer. That means my team consists only of me. I have a few tools (but I always want more, of course), and I'm poised to rattle off a game.

Since I'm a one-man team, I try to do everything. That includes game design, art assets (3D and 2D), coding (all aspects), sound, music, and marketing. Needless to say, it takes a long time this way. I did manage to get one game on store shelves (packaged with others) back in 1998. It's called Booym. The profits from that have stopped coming in, so I'm working on other projects.

For almost a year, I've been dabbling with one idea, called Captain Disaster. The basic gameplay was teams FPS with a goal other than shooting each other. You had to hunt down three different resources, bring them to processing machines, then take the processed material to another machine. Doing that the fastest would constitute a win. I never did really come up with good win critera... but getting that final machine loaded up was the first step. Each resource had different firepower properties... explosive, long-range, or mischief. That also depended on its "refinement." A few days ago, I decided this might not be the most-fun-to-play game. Not even a kind-of-fun-to-play game. It was taking a lot of work and a long time to get things into prototype phase really. I knew it would take at least a year to finish, and I wanted to finish a game sooner.

That leads us to the title... "starting a new game." The new game is (hopefully) much simpler. The gameplay is similar to the 1990-ish arcade game Rampart. You use tetris-like pieces to build a wall around your castle, place cannons, then fire away on the enemy (boats if single player, another castle if multiplayer). My version of the game will introduce a few new things, as well as a different feel. The theme won't be castles. It's not even going to be modern warfare. I haven't solidified what the theme(s) is going to be, so I won't hint at what it's going to look like yet. It's going to be different enough that Atari won't have grounds to sue me out of my pants. Well, at least not for copying their game.

After about 10 hours worth of work (mostly done Saturday) I already have something close to prototype. You can build walls out of single bricks, place cannons, and fire. This is all done with mouse clicking. This is being done with the Torque Game engine (3D), by the way (GarageGames - Torque). The firing is even fairly accurate. It's not perfect, but it might be good enough. There is a bug, though... there's only a 180-degree arc wherein the cannons fire correctly. Outside of that (I say "behind the cannons") the behavior is erratic... they fire straight up or randomly. So there's a bug in the code somewhere.

Before I fix the aiming, though, I'm going to put in some basic tetris-like pieces to build with (instead of single bricks) and the code to check for a closed-in area. You can only build cannons inside such closed areas, so that's an important step. Once those two things are done, the prototype will be playable, but not complete. I plan to change the controls to keyboard and add 2-players-crammed-together-on-the-same-computer support. That way I can play it with my wife. Then I'll start adding new features and have fun with it.

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