Thursday, February 23, 2012

Miracles Do Indeed Occur (Under the Right Circumstances)

It has been about a month since I have last posted. During this interlude I have accomplished quite a bit of work.

First, the prototype I ended up building for the game I had last spoke of did not work out, unfortunately. The design was to simple and the only interesting ideas would require me to develop all of the level designs to explore. Even though the platforming worked fine and there where no technical problems, I came to a startlingly (not) conclusion. Platformers are not very interesting anymore. Every indie dude has made one, and while I will not make the ludicrous claim that all the ideas for them have already been used up, any game that tries to sell itself solely on the basics of the genre will drown in a sea of mediocrity. There is nothing novel about two dimensional platformers anymore, since in the past four years both the independent and AAA markets have become more accepting of them again.

With my inspiration for that project dried up by the harsh sun, I moved on to a project that was inspired by a very unique and arcade-y top down shooter called Robotz DX. This game is crazy good nostalgia fuel and has a brilliant control scheme that I have never seen used anywhere else (probably in lost games of the past that I will never encounter). I basically wanted to take the core mechanics and enemy AI from this game and expand it, though I would probably keep the arcade like nature in for my poor, poor sake. I was able to recreate the player movement and control perfectly, but I have yet to tackle the AI. To this game I will return.

So, in the meantime, a miracle has happened. I made a game. I sat down and developed a complete game, from concept to .zip archive. It is called Vacuum and Force (a terrible name, even by my standards, but for some unexplainable reason I am too lazy to change it). Yes, I guess you could conjure some sort of innuendo for that, but let us both admit that it would not be that funny in the end. Did I seriously just write in the second person?

Anyways, this game was made as a project for the physics course I am currently taking. Turns out that physics is a very important component of many games, especially video games (sports too though, and 52 pick-up). I sat down on a lazy Saturday and from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM churned this game out. And now it is done. I still don't know if my soul can handle the absurdity of such a prospect, but I believe it has gone through worse, so I'll probably be fine. The fact that this project was necessary to school is probably the source of my motivation. I am one of those horrible people who will do whatever evils it takes to make sure that my academic status is as satisfactory as possible. During the development I was also following Mojang and their Mojam, which also provided some inspiration. The Swedish people are amazing and I am sure this also had a sort of psychology affect on me.

To describe the game and its relation to physics, let me present the small report I did on it for the class:
Throughout the game Vacuum and Force, the player is tasked with the job of controlling a spaceship with thrusters along a two-dimensional plane towards the finish line avoiding obstacles and hazards along the way. At first, players are meticulous with their control over the thrust of the ship, always seeking shelter in the stability of equilibrium, but over time they develop the skill, understanding, and boundaries needed to finesse their way through each of the obstacle courses with speed and accuracy. Subconsciously the player’s mind familiarizes itself with the physical nature of the game’s reality through repeated play. Velocity, acceleration, and inertia all take roles in defining what happens in the vacuum of the game space. Not only does the player simply witness the results of these concepts of physics in action, but they interact with and control them. This is the power of displaying and experimenting with these ideas in a game; the audience explores the nature of physics through exploring the space of physical possibility. As the player holds down a key to turn on a thruster, they are causing a constant acceleration in the respective direction, and when they let go, they remove the acceleration. Adding, removing, and changing acceleration allows for an indirect control of velocity. This indirect control over motion lends to the game challenge. And with inertia, which causes the spaceship to tend to move in the current direction and speed, balancing the many accelerations and velocities becomes vital to the player accomplishing their goal.

Finally, I leave some screenshots. And, oh yes, a download link:
Vacuum and Force v1.0

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