Retro Gone Berserk Day Two – When you can't draw, you improvise

Today I had time to work on the very very basic Flash version of the demo game. I have decided to make it as close to Bersek as possible for this first tech demo.  I currently have a room generated and a player running around the room, controlled with the arrow keys. What I have discovered is that the running animation needs more frames. I copied the two frames from the Atari 800 version and the player just runs like a spaz.

I decide to try the MAME version, but the player looks even more like a spaz in the arcade version of the game. Even though this will only be a tech demo game with very little optimized code and without a cleanly defined object structure, I still want it to look and play pretty well. All of the demo games that we post need to be as complete as possible so you guys can enjoy playing them, and enjoy pulling apart the .flas to see what makes them tick.

I have absolutely no formal art or design training (as you might be able to tell). So, before I ask someone like Marc Manalli (a seasoned, talented artist and animator) to help with a game, I need to at least try to create some good workable sprites of my own. Pixel art should be easy, but I really don’t know where to start with a running character that needs to be able to move up, down. right, left,  and in various diagonal directions. Plus, I need at least a simple illustration in multiple directions of him firing what needs to at least resemble a gun.  Since all of these demos will go in the games section of the site I needed to make something that wouldn’t immediately turn potential players off.

The first thing I tried was to Google ‘How to Draw a Running Man’. Nothing hit on that. I did get a Wikipedia entry for Pitfall. Did you know that the Atari 800 version has a complete separate game in it as an Easter Egg?  On another note, David  Crane, who designed and programmed the original 2600 version, works for a great company called Skyworks. They have created many-a great web game for various companies including my day job employers. He even signed my co-worker’s Atari 800!

Next I searched for ‘How to Draw’ and came up with many hits on good books that I might think about getting some day. What I really need to a way to copy all of the frames of the Intellivision classic running football player. Mattel had a pretty good simple 8-bit character that they used in many games. I visited the official Intellivision site, and they didn’t have what I needed. I’m not going to outright copy any images for any of my games, but an animated running man is a pretty difficult problem tackle for a sub-novice designer, so I need at least something that can act as an inspiration for my game design. 

The internet search under animated GIF was fruitless. There are so many crap sites out there that even if there was a goodx example some place, I’d never find it with that search. Next I decided to try some 2600 games. My thought was that maybe some of them had decent running or walking characters that I could try to view frame by frame. The first game I tried was Donkey Kong. Now, most people give this a bad review on the 2600, but I always like this game. My dad bought my brother this game for helping to move my grandma in 1982. It was the closest thing to the Arcade game at the time. We were always a little disappointed with our 2600 carts. Some were good (Demon Attack, River Raid), but most were just awful. I even remember always wanting something more from Activision games, even though most had the best visuals and game play. There was always something missing. For example, the skiing game on the Intellivision used the jump button for the player to avoid rocks and moguls, but even though Activision Skiing looked and played well, the button wasn’t used for anything, and the player jumped the rocks automatically. Anyway, enough of my digression, the Donkey Kong walking animation was not usable because its animation frames were much too difficult to separate.

Pitfall uses some ingenious animation frames, and the way David Crane made the ability to walk when the stick is pushed once, but run when it is held in a direction is a cool one, and I will try to use it as inspiration for my player animation. What I need is a piece of software that will capture the screen into a video. I know Replay software makes one for about $30.00, but I haven’t even needed the software. I’m trying not to spend much money making these games, so that might be out of the budget zone right now.

I FOUND ONE!!!
I had fun playing the emulated 2600 games, but none of them gave me the animation ideas I needed. I went back to the web and started hunting down other Intellivision sites besides Intellivision.com (a great site by the way).

My search of the internet brought me to an Intellivision Web Ring. On that ring, I stumbled onto a site called Intellivision Exhibition (http://www.hotcom.com/intellivision/). I found I pretty good running animated gif on that site. I hope to use it at least for inspiration. Tomorrow, more of the game demo + It’s my nephew’s 12 birthday. We got him Guitar Hero 2!! I can’t wait to play it.

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