Sushi Get

Inspired be the healing properties of sushi, I’ve decided to use these various types of sushi as the health items in Hanami. Eating food to restore health in video games is quite a traditional system. For some reason, eating chicken found on the rough streets of Streets of Rage was perfectly acceptable, and in fact, good for your health. Here’s Axel, eyeing up a yummy looking apple in Streets of Rage 2:

What’s more, finding a fully cooked roast chicken in a barrel was nothing out of ordinary. It’s not really a gaming aspect that has survived, for whatever reason…

Trying to place tiny little pieces of sushi in a game where the character is only 16 pixels tall isn’t without its complications. I started off trying to draw sushi into 8×8 squares so that they wouldn’t look unnaturally out of proportion. Although proportionally this worked, I wasn’t happy with the limitation of how much detail I could put into each item.

These tiny little pieces were also very difficult to place into the game. Either they stood out immensely, mainly because of the colour differences, or they were completely lost in amongst the scenery. So, instead of having somehow healthy pieces sushi just lying around the place, I decided to give them a container. This is the equivalent to chests in adventure games, or the item boxes in games like Crash Bandicoot and Super Mario. Open the box, get an item! It’s a simple concept.

I think if you were to buy sushi in a box, it would probably be a sort of takeaway bento, which unfortunately for me isn’t very distinctive. So, for now atleast, I’ve decided to cheat with this takeaway noodle box. This is much more recognisable, and at least its contents are expected to be food… For those who recognise Japanese kanji in pixel form, I’ve managed to squeeze in the symbol for “life” onto the front of the box.

The idea is that when the player approaches the box and presses the “x” key, the box reveals its contents and that type of sushi is added to the inventory, which I’m currently in the process of making. I’ve decided to use a similar system to the one used for collecting mushrooms in Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. You can’t see it well in this image, but there is a collectable mushroom on the right hand side of this image:

In S:S&S EP, mushrooms can be found which allow the player to see spirit beings, but eating a mushroom will also restore the player’s health. When a mushroom is collected, a mushroom icon appears at the top of the screen which indicates to the player that they are now carrying a mushroom. When a second mushroom is collected, the same thing happens but a quantity is added, so the number 2 will appear next to the mushroom icon. The player can only hold three mushrooms at once, which is annoying as most of the way through the game the player has five hit points, coincidentally the same amount as Hana in Hanami.

So now I have two items, one container item which contains one sprite image of the noodle box. The other is a “sushi” item, which contains 4 16×16 subimages of the various sushi/onigiri. I’m infinitely more happy about being able to draw larger sushi sprites with that added amount of detail.

When a noodle box is acquired, one of these images is called at random to the top of the screen. This indicates to the player that they have acquired a piece of sushi from the box! Calling a random image saves me the time and pointless effort of assigning a specific subimage to each individual instance of the sushi box, but ultimately makes no difference to the player as each item has the same effect.

Looking at this screenshot now, I feel like I could perhaps create extra HUD space to act as a background for the sushi so it stands out a little more? As I currently don’t have an inventory to place the item into, the item disappears after a few seconds never to be seen again. I’ve spent a little time practising making inventory screens and think I know the system I’m going to implement. There are ultimately two methods of creating an inventory in Game Maker- one is have a designated room where all the inventory information is held, and the other is to call an inventory object which sits above the imagery on-screen. I will be using an object, as I feel this won’t interfere with persistent room settings etc. which could get quite complicated. I’m also familiar with temporarily disabling on-screen activity for pause menus, so I kind of know what I’m doing! Before I can really get started, I need an inventory design (or atleast template) which I can work to. I’ve got a few designs in mind, I just need to work out some layout issues mainly.

“What About Japan Inspires You?”

Be Bamboo My Friend
Japan is a great source of inspiration for creatives, geeks, gamers and dreamers (among others!). When I first got my Playstation, I could see that there was a difference between Japanese and Western games. The Western games I played, including Tomb Raider, Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, were all very fun and had me playing for hours. But it was games like Final Fantasy VII and Tekken 2 that I started to get really immersed into. I felt connected to the characters and in tune with their back-stories, and noticed how relevant narrative was in gaming. Graphically, Japanese games seemed to concentrate a lot more on small background details in order to define the setting of the game. The graphics in FFVII didn’t push the limits of the hardware by any means, but as a player you could tell that each background detail had been individually placed in order to tell a story about its location. And while the game-world was set in a fantasy location, to me it had a unique feel which set it apart from games based on Western fantasy.

The insight into Japanese gaming led to a little insight into Japanese culture. Which over the years has become an understanding of Japanese culture, and a real appreciation for how it has affected Japanese games, films and other media. One of my sincerest dreams is to visit there- I’ve already planned out a few of the locations I would visit including the Square Enix store which sells Final Fantasy merchandise, the Studio Ghibli museum and the island of Izu Oshima which is famous for its volcano suicides and played a huge role in the Japanese novel Ring. For me, I think creating a game set in a Japan-inspired location is a way of bringing the locations and culture a little closer. Games create a virtual reality which the player immerses themselves into by taking control of a character within that virtual world.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been scribbling down little character ideas as and when they come to me, but as I’m still not sure how the game will look or feel, I never settled for anything. Because my game setting was inspired by Japan, I looked to Japanese character design in games and manga for a design solution.

I tried to think what a Japanese character might look like, and chose a female protagonist based on the slightly feminine game concept. The Chibi style is simply a Japanese drawing technique which doesn’t involve placing a lot of detail, so for initial designs I thought it was very appropriate.
However, in a real lightbulb moment of inspiration, I realised that this was no appropriate at all. I would like to keep a female protagonist as the main playable character in my game- as a developer I would like to reach out to female players. It occurred to me that the main character should be an outsider, someone who is unfamiliar with the environment, the customs of the people and their lifestyle. This makes the character more relatable to the player, who is also immersing themselves into the unfamiliar setting. The thoughts and feelings of the character should reflect the feelings of a tourist, slightly confused and nervous, but willing to step into an unknown world. It’s also one step closer for anyone who has ever wanted to experience what it’s like to visit Japan ^_^

At the beginning of his Lessons From Bamboo presentation, Garr Reynolds asks “What about Japan inspires you?” I discovered this slideshow on another blog, and immediately felt peaceful while scrolling through the amazing photography. This is just one side of Japan, in contrast to its big city lights, but its one which I hope to represent as well as I possibly can, down to the smallest detail.

You can watch the video of the presentation here, which makes explains a nice little metaphor about bamboo!

be flexible, tough, adaptable and able to recover with even more strength, like bamboo.