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.

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Staying “Retro”

Things have changed.
The way we buy and play games has evolved and old aspects of gaming have been replaced by their modern equivalents. With the recent retro resurgence, things have changed again. Incorporating “retro” into games doesn’t mean that games are purchased from shops on cartridges as they once were, it’s more about implying retro through audio/visual aspects.

One of my objectives for this project is to recreate other aspects of “retro” as well as the graphical style I have chosen to use. I’ve mentioned this in my learning agreement but haven’t talked about how I’m going to do this much yet, so firstly here’s a little look into why

What I loved about old games…
…back when they were new games, of course!

1. Cover Art
The cover art of a game was often a selling point for me. Games were placed cover forward in shops and if a cover caught my eye, I would read the synopsis on the back of the case. I was always a fan of Japanese RPGs, so any anime character on a game box would usually get me interested… So, take Breath of Fire IV for Playstation as an example. This game had used a very striking anime art style on the cover to represent the game.


This image told the viewer a lot about what to expect from the game, even if they hadn’t played any of the previous Breath of Fire instalments (I hadn’t at the time!). But obviously, this said nothing about the actual in-game graphics, except that the characters were based on a similar anime style. The point of the “art” on the box was to sell the game in a way that the actual graphics couldn’t.


With the help of box art, I think developers could give a better impression of how they saw the game.

2. Game Manuals
I confess, I LOVE game manuals. When I was younger, I would read the entire manual before playing most games, simply because I loved getting to know the game world and back-story in a way that was often summarised in the manual. This seemed to shorten the length of time between Saturday shopping with my parents and finally getting home and actually playing the game!

As well as game info and instructions, the manual was normally very well designed and stylised, and also included bits of concept art. The Final Fantasy series was particularly good at showcasing its art, worlds and characters in the manual.


I especially loved reading pointless information about each character, including birthdays (which I remember marking on my calendar at one point :S), age and height. This sort of stuff was never mentioned in the game- probably because if was completely irrelevant… It just seemed like a bonus chunk of knowledge. Obviously, the main point of the manual was to relay instructions on how to play the game, which was obviously very useful…

3. The Game Disk
Or whatever storage your game happened to be on. I started gaming on PC and moved to console gaming via Playstation and didn’t actually acquire my SNES until after the PS2 was out! So to me, games generally came on CDs or the occasional floppy. In any case, the storage device containing the game was another piece of artwork…generally. And even if it wasn’t, the hard copy of the game to me was a testament to how much pride I had in owning a game. If I liked a game enough to part with my hard-earned pocket-money for it, it was worth keeping in good condition. This applied to the case and manual too. If I loved a game, I would keep it pristine. It was like a pet or a younger sibling, I felt a responsibility to make sure it was always comfortable.

What’s changed since then…

1. Cover Art
Obviously, games still have cover art. They still try to catch customers’ attention in shop displays etc. However, game graphics have improved immensely since I bought Breath of Fire IV. Not only game graphics, but the ability to create high quality 3D models in general has resulted in CG being used more and more in cover art on games. The point of the cover seems to emphasise the technological achievement of the game, rather than represent it through a piece of “art”. This is the game’s selling point, the game’s attention grabber.


Take Uncharted 3 as an example, which I bought last year. The cover art consists of a CG representation of a scene from the game. This scene was used as the main promotional image for the game as it separated this instalment from previous Uncharted titles, and emphasised its differences as well as a few similarities. It’s a good showcase of the in-game graphics and shows the potential buyer a little of what to expect from the game, but it’s not art. I rarely get excited because I may have found the next greatest undiscovered Japanese RPG when I see box art.

2. Game Manuals
It’s a common belief that the instruction manual has been replaced by lengthy tutorial levels in game. The player learns by doing, rather than reading through pages and pages and later trying to relate what they’ve learned to the game, so I guess this is understandable. People don’t expect to have to read instructions for games any more, and as a result, the instruction manual for most games has shrunk and decreased. One franchise notorious for its painstaking tutorial levels is the Call of Duty series. Here’s a section of a page of the CoD: Black Ops instruction manual (which is the most recent instalment that I’ve actually played…)


I haven’t cut anything off- the rest of the page is blank. There are no images, no extra bits of information… Nothing but instructions. It’s straight and to the point, but so, so very boring.

3. The Game Disk
Obviously, game distribution has been infinitely easier for developers as digital copies of games can be purchased via the internet. I’m not complaining about this at all, as this means that gamers have access to hundreds of game whenever they want them. If I am to be distributing my game, it will be digitally, as its convenient for me and whoever decides to download it. But this method of distributing and purchasing games means that none of the physical aspects mentioned above apply any more. At least this eliminates the possibility of poor design!

What can be done to stay true

1. Paper made of PDF…
When I looked into recent awesome game Out There Somewhere which keeps cropping up in my blog posts, I noticed that a lot of effort was put into portraying the game through digital artwork. This can be seen throughout the game’s Devlog and on the MiniBoss website.


Not only does the game contain a lot of assets based on digital concept art, but the same style has been used to create a retro cover for the game. The game will be distributed digitally only (as far as I’m aware), and so the cover is not necessary but is a nice finishing touch. The game uses a pixel-art style, and the cover gives the player a good impression of what is represented by the tiny pixel sprites. Little homages to retro have been dotted around, like the cover’s similarity to the box art for old Sega Master System games…


The pre-order version of the game also comes with a PDF hint manual, which to me sounds very intriguing!

2. Paper made of…paper
My old favourite Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP has recently re-marketed its soundtrack (and in a way, the game itself) by releasing a range of goodies for buyers. The soundtrack can be purchased digitally through Bandcamp, but buyers now have the option to also purchase a vinyl and cassette version of OST, in keeping with retro formats.


This to me is the ultimate revival of everything I loved about old games. It includes obsolete formats which need to be taken good care of and beautifully designed cover art and inlays, as well as a bonus poster designed by Pendleton Ward! Although the game itself has no cover art, manual or hard copy as it downloaded only, this is the perfect accompaniment for fans of the game and fans of “retro”. It’s something you can hold in your hand and love- something which just can’t be said about games any more.

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