Learning Agreement

For the Extended Major Project, I will be creating a 2D side-scrolling platform game inspired by the Japanese tradition of Hanami. Around the end of March every year year, it is customary for the Japanese to spend time outside enjoying Sakura or Cherry Blossoms, which bloom and fall within the space of one or two weeks. This period is a social time, where people gather to celebrate in parks and along streets where the cherry blossoms bloom. However, I was inspired by the return to normality which must occur at the end of these celebrations. Does the world feel calm again once the festivities end? Is there a sense of emptiness or loneliness when people return indoors, and the blossoms fall from the trees?

My game will be set in a Japanese themed world, just after a Hanami style celebration. The outside world will be vacant of people, but full of drifting blossoms. The object of the game will be to collect blossoms in order to progress through a series of levels. Levels will be unlocked when the player collects a certain amount of blossoms, and progression will be achieved by finding the pathway. Each level will have its own unique theme and colour-scheme, based around typical Japanese artefacts.

2D platform games prove ever popular with players of all ages. Recent releases such as Limbo, Super Meat Boy and Rayman Origins have all received critical acclaim while portraying the genre uniquely in each case. While each game adheres to the characteristics which result in this genre classification, differences in objectives, physics and visuals set each game apart. I also aim to produce a unique game in this way, with its own game rules and visual style.

The objective of this project is to provide a contemporary game based on more traditional methods of development. Backgrounds will be constructed from tile-sets, which were traditional used when technology was not advanced enough to handle large objects. 2D sprites will be used for characters and game objects, and frame-based animation will be used to make characters and objects move. I will be using a “pixel-art” graphical style for game elements and interfaces, inspired by traditional 8-bit styles. I will be looking to implement typical gameplay characteristics and functions specific to the “platformer” genre. The emphasis of this project will be on “play” and “player experience”, rather than in-depth narratives and complicated dialogue. While visuals are important in communicating the type of game being presented to the player, my main aim is to create an enjoyable game based on the way it is played.

I will produce all concept art for the game, which will mainly be based on hand-drawn sketches and digital paintings. The final game imagery will be created in pixel-art creation software Graphics Gale and Adobe Photoshop. My visual research will focus on found images of Japan, as well as common tile-sets and pixel-art techniques.

The game’s soundtrack and all sound effects will be provided by a separate individual or acquired from the internet. I will be using sites like freesound.org for royalty-free sound effects for the game.

All game elements will be brought together using Game Maker to create an executable for Windows. Within the software, I will be using Matt Thorson’s Grandma Engine, a physics template which has been designed for the development of 2D platformers. I will code all other aspects of the game using Game Maker’s GML (Game Maker Language).

Synopsis of Study- What I’m Doing And Why I’m Doing It

My learning agreement is nearly complete! The main bulk of the learning agreement consists of the Synopsis of Study, which briefly outlines what I’m doing in as much detail as you can fit into a brief statement. It’s helped me clarify some things which have either gone unmentioned or were simply missing- so here’s an informal breakdown.

Character Sprite concept & inspiration from Adventure Time with Finn & Jake: Memory of a Memory. It's nearly relevant.

What I’m doing
The plan is to create a contemporary 2D side-scrolling platform game. This is a very traditional genre, born from the limitations of early game design. My aim is to use the typical characteristics of this style of game to create something new and fun to old-school players who are familiar with the genre. The object of the game is to collect items and progress through levels, which is pretty much the objective of any 2D platformer if you think about it! Platformers usually follow a simple narrative which explains why the character is running from left to right picking up , and my plot is about revolves around the Japanese tradition of Hanami (for me details see the rest of the Blog).

Mario runs from left to right to collect coins and progresses through levels to find the Princess.

Why I’m doing it
The popularity of 2D platformers has wavered throughout the past couple of decades, but with the strong emergence of Indie game developers since about 2008 they’ve risen to popularity again. From a design perspective, it’s an incredibly easy genre to develop, which is probably why small teams of Indie devs picked it up again. There is now potential to incorporate stunning high-resolution graphics into these games, however the retro “pixel-art” style remains ever popular amongst developers and players. I too intend to use implement a retro graphical style into my game, because it’s such an important factor in the history of computer technologies. If you were to ask what made Super Mario Bros so good?” part of the reason would be that its low-res 2D graphics had a sort of “mysterious digital-world magic” to them. 2D platform games and pixel art are almost synonymous with retro. Mario’s original silhouette is still universally recognised by gamers.

You know who it is.

How I’m doing it
I’m going to draw all game assets myself, using a combination of Photoshop and pixel-art drawing program Graphics Gale. The game will be made in Yoyo Game’s Game Maker 8.1, which is almost the perfect tool for creating 2D games of any genre.
John Sandoval:

Game Maker can do anything.
It’s magic.

(from somewhere on The Archer Devlog!)

For a better insight into the game-making possibilities of Game Maker, see this post from a previous Blog. I initially chose to use Game Maker because it was free and very easy to pick-up. In the creation of games, I’m an asset artist before a coder, so it was important for me to use an engine which didn’t require years of programming knowledge to be able to use well. Since I wrote the post on my old Blog, I’ve bought the standard version of Game Maker, which has opened up even more possibilities.
During this project, to help me focus on asset creation rather than using up valuable time on coding, I’m going to use Matt Thorson’s Grandma Engine, which runs in GM and acts as an easily adaptable platformer basis.

To clarify, I’ve prepared a list of things the Grandma Engine does not have in common with the stereotypical grandma:

To highlight the positive features of the engine, I also found it necessary to provide a list of the things the Grandma Engine does have in common with the stereotypical grandma:
Gives you candy

Other features of the Grandma Engine include a custom movement system (meaning it does not use the built-in Game Maker movement system), slopes, jump-through platforms, and an An Untitled Story-style room system.

The image shows the building blocks of the engine, which make up the solid platforms in a platform game! When the game is complete, these black blocks will be invisible to the player, replaced by more aesthetic visuals.
As for sounds, I will be looking to sites like freesound.org for sound effects. For background music, I’m going to keep an eye open for any willing composers, if not I will probably use a few royalty-free tracks.