EMP Countdown Day 4: 4 Days…

I’ve been thinking about what I’ve been writing about these games and wondering if the info I’ve provided will actually be beneficial to my EMP. Obviously, each one of these provides me with an accumulative drive which I need to kick-start this project, and I can learn from each one even if I haven’t made it obvious whilst showcasing them. Over the past four days I’ve been ploughing through Gabriel Verdon’s Devlog on TIGcourse (currently on page 44) and taking pages of notes on the direction of development and the stages he went through, stealing many of his production images to help me with my own. I’m hoping that somewhere between concentrating on these other great games I will end up with a resulting brilliant and solid idea of my own, which is something I’m unfortunately lacking. And the project start is looming…

I think how these games will really help me will be evident when it comes to applying the useful stuff to my own creation. It’s easy to look at how other developers are using sprite sizes and resolutions for example, as well as art direction and the implementation of Game Maker functions in the case of GM made games. So I will probably be constantly referring back to this list during my own development, or that’s the plan.

Today, something slightly different. So far, I’ve looked at a lot of home-made side-scrollers from some really inspirational guys, however Fez by Polytron inspires me in its hugeness and uniqueness.

I’m pretty sure I referred back to this all the time during the specialist project, as this is another game currently in development and its nice to be able to watch it grow. The main reason I like Fez is its art style, a unique application of pixel art into a world of squares and straight lines (even the clouds are made of blocks).

Like Sword & Sworcery EP, Fez adds to the pixel style with anti-aliased shapes and lighting, evident mainly in the gradient across the sky. In his TIGsource devlog, Gabriel Verdon admits to using similar shading techniques in The Archer, especially to add a sense of depth to platforms. What’s mostly interesting about this game is that it is actually 3D, with only 2 dimensions ever appearing on screen at once unless the view is being rotated. It’s the first time something like this has ever really been attempted, which has resulted in an unexpectedly long development time. It would appear through the complex nature of the game that it probably uses large textures rather than tilesets, although tiles appear to have been used on some of the textures as homage to the old games which have inspired its pixel artiness. The main character Gomez also never rotates and always appears in 2D, so it’s probably that he has been animated using frame-based animation, as well as many other animations throughout the game.

The style of imagery works so well in Fez because it is consistent. All object have been made to look very square, and small colour-ranges have been applied to any one scene. Here, the colour scheme uses many bright blues and greens, but in more hostile areas darker colours have been applied. It would seem that commitment to the style entirely is key to gaining recognition.

Links for Fez:
Fez on the Polytron website
Fez on Vimeo
Fez on Indie DB
Creator Phil Fish talks about Fez on Gamasutra

EDIT: I’ve also just discovered that a TIGsource devlog exists for Fez, and I am now more than excited to go through those 145 pages…

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EMP Countdown 3 (5 Days To Go…)

Today’s inspirational indie hero is Dan Fornace, creator of games like Super Smash Land and Blackfoot (among others!).

I discovered Fornace after the release of Super Smash Land a “demake” of the Super Smash Bros series made for Nintendo systems. The Smash bros games take characters from Nintendo games and allow the player to battle them in cross-game setups. Fornace’s game does this in a similar way, however instead of creating state-of-the-art 3D graphics, Fornace decided to use a retro style for his “demake”.

Super Smash Bros Brawl, the latest instalment of the series available on Nintendo Wii.

Super Smash Land by Dan Fornace, available for PC.

The green/grey low-resolution setup is reminiscent of the dot-matrix display from the original black and white Gameboy and various other handheld devices. This gameboy allowed 4 shades of “grey” to define colours, although in reality these were very green and has resulted in this green pixel style. What amazes me (but does not necessarily surprise me) about this game is its ability to appeal to players as well as the original Nintendo series, whilst incorporating this pixel style which is incredibly simplistic. The graphics are inspired by 3D graphics, not the original low-resolution games that the characters are taken from. This is useful to me when thinking about how to convert large concept images into very small low-res images. This example has just handled this wonderfully.

Wikipedia says this about these so-called game demakes:

Although remakes typically aim to adapt a game from a more limited platform to a more advanced one, a rising interest in older platforms has inspired some to do the opposite, adapting modern games to the standards of older platforms, sometimes even programming them for dead hardware.

As well as this backwards development process, Dan Fornace manages to apply some very advanced GUI into his games (generally created using Game Maker software…) which a lot of bedroom-coded games fail to do so successfully. His menu systems work well and are graphically well-designed. Blackfoot, a side-scrolling platformer about weasels, uses this menu to demonstrate level and character progress within the game:

GUI (Graphical User Interface) and HUD (Heads Up Display) design were pretty non-existent in my last project, but I would definitely like to apply them more efficiently from now on as a way of using some of the graphic design skills I’ve picked up over the last couple of years. It’s always beneficial to the player to see important info as they are playing and to be able to change settings etc. by accessing a pause menu.
Dan Fornace has made a selection of really great pixel-art games, but Blackfoot is one of my favourites as the concept is just so weird. You can check out the stuff he does at his website here.

links for Dan Fornace:
Fornace’s online Portfolio & Website
Fornace’s Yoyo Games Profile
Official Super Smash Land Website
Super Smash Land on IndieGames The Weblog

EMP Countdown Day 2

The Archer Gabriel Verdon

This is another persistent source of inspiration for me for several reasons. For a start, the game is currently in development and it just keeps getting better. The reason I can make comments like this is because the creator of the game, Gabriel Verdon, has been keeping a constant online development log since the very beginning. Even if the game turned out to be awful, this 77 page backlog of development is a pretty good tool for someone like me who is still working on finding the perfect game design structure. As a bonus, the game is being made in Yoyo Game Maker 8.0, so most of the development is really relevant to me. As well as a constant update on how things are going, Verdon has found the time to produce several devlog videos which really show how the game is coming along…

From these videos, you can see the full scale of this project. The game must really push the limits of the software in terms of graphics, although I believe the physics are fairly basic for the most part. The development log for The Archer introduced me to a Game Maker document called the Grandma Engine, which works as a 2D platformer engine within Game Maker. The document comes with a simple range of assets and physics, ready for the developer to add graphics and music etc. This is great for non-coders, but has been made in a way that the settings can easily be tampered with to make slight changes.

These images show really early development of The Archer, using the provided assets from the Grandma Engine and a custom playable character. Later, custom graphics are added to the level design and the solid black blocks are set to invisible. So although I really like where this game is heading in terms of inventive gameplay and a lovely pixel-art visual style, what makes this really inspirational to me is its devlog and again, for providing a showcase of software capabilities and possibilities. It looks likely that I will implement something like the Grandma Engine into my next project, especially if it takes the form of a side-scrolling platformer.

Links for The Archer:
The Archer Official Website
The Archer on Indie DB
Online Development Blog on Tigsource
Gabriel Verdon’s Blog

EMP Countdown… 7 Days 7 Games

Unfortunately, the “EMP countdown” is not nearly as epic as it sounds. But perhaps it is as ominous and suggests a certain impending doom. The briefing for the Extended Major Project is exactly one week away, so I’m using each day of that week to break down 7 of the most influential games/games developers in my life right now. The product of this project will be a culmination of the inspiration I’ve taken from these titles and the people who made them, so I think it’s important before going into any development of my own to take a few steps back, play some games and scribble down everything which I feel makes them great. The panic begins in a week’s time.

I’m beginning this list of greatness in a similar way to the previous Specialist Project, with my ultimate multimedia hero Craig D Adams, creator of the visuals for Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP for iOS. I focused a lot on this game for the Specialist Project, so for now I’ll talk a little about one of his lesser known side-projects.

Alpinist

This game is currently vague and segmented, existing only in little pieces all over the internet (as far as I can tell!). I’m not entirely sure if it’s a genuine project or simply a part of something which has now passed, but all this cryptic-ness (which can only be expected from creator Craig Adams…) is one of the things that got me really interested in this project. The game takes the form of a traditional side-scrolling platformer, where the player must climb a mountain through a blizzard. These screenshots are scale representations of some of the game rooms, taking on an unusual widescreen shape which complements the long stretches of horizontal gameplay:

Like most of Adams’ creations, Alpinist is slow-paced and blocky, yet pleasing to the eye. The game incorporates his trademark illustrative style, which in this case is very minimalist and un-cluttered. The gameplay also takes on a type of minimalism; to reach the goal the player must either run or jump to avoid obstacles. Despite the games ultimate simplicity, I’ve chosen this game as the starting point for my EMP because unlike S:S&S EP which was coded by professionals, Alpinist was created by Adams himself using Yoyo Game Maker. For me, this acts as an insight into the possibilities of the software and its diversity. Even with my limited experience of the software, straight from the start I can see moving backgrounds, custom room transitions and foreground layers in place. Though I know these things exist, watching them in a game made by some one else helps me see how I can better utilise these functions!

It is obvious that the game is meant to be a visual delight rather than a demanding challenge for core gamers, and it’s good to know that this is achievable and works successfully with the software I also plan to use over the next project. My real focus will be on getting the visual style and feel right, and in a way which suits the game.

Links for Alpinist:
Alpinist Download from TOJam.com
Alpinist insight from Offworld
More from Offworld
About Superbrothers