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:
Old
Slow

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.

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