Retro Blaster Beta 1.0 is up!

Thanks to everyone who helped me beta test .90.

It has taken me a full year to get to this point. When you work full time and have a wife and young son, it is very difficult to find time to make a game.
Anyway again, thanks to Steve Fulton, Chris Cutler, Ian Legler, Marc Manalli, and Alan Donnelly, as well as a couple folks at Gamerdad.com for looking at the last version. I have incorporated as much of your feed back as possible in this version.

Try Retro Blaster!

 

 

 

Retro Blaster Beta Release!

Jeff sent me a beta release of Retro Blaster and I have posted it.   You can play it right now and start blasting everything in your path.  If only I would tell you what the link is…

 

 

 

 

Free Jigsaw Game Engine (2007)

Free License Game Engine

Wiicade Releases Wiimote/Flash API!

The fine people at wiicade have created an API for Flash that will allow programmers to test for ANY button press on the Wiimote!   The A,B,+,-,1,2, and the direction pad are all available, as well as the pointer from the Wiimote.   To test this API, I took one of my unposted Work In Progress games (code named “Base Shooter”) and retrofitted it to test for all buttons (except the direction pad) to shoot a bullet.   This is just a simple test, but it seems that it might be a very large step in the right direction for homebrew, indie, midnight, etc. developers who want to program simple games for Wii Consumption.  Base Shooter is really rough, but playable.   

The bad news about this is that, even though it uses the wiicade API, it can’t be played outside of Wiicade.com because their API has been specifically designed to work with their servers.   However, they patterned their API after information found here: http://www.quasimondo.com/archives/000638.php#000638 which means, with  little work, this could be used any where…

Atari Haiku: Asteroids 2600

Asteroids 2600

Looking for computers
I see you under the glass
Evil Asteroids

Your brown box taunts me
Sixty-Six variations
Well worth the money

Asteroids float up
Nothing like the arcade game
Asteroids float down

A wave of nausea
Thigh stings from the pain of a
Hole burnt in pocket

Yet, I still play it
Home is not like the arcade
But I can reset

The beat transcends all
Hypnotic flashing space rocks
I give into it

Carded!

OK, so I was at Target on Friday looking for cheap games in the marked-down section (red price-tags!) and I found a copy of “Big Mutha Trickers 2” for $2.49. Since I have a weakness for trucking games, and $2.49 is my ‘buy it now’ price-point, I had to get it. I know it’s a bad game but so what? I wanted to try for myself. I also picked-up a copy of “Little Miss Sunshine” for my sister-in-law for her birthday.

When I went to check-out the cashier scanned “Little Miss sunshine” with no event, and then scanned “Big Mutha Truckers 2.’  Immediately an alarm went off on her register and she requested my I.D., which I gladly gave her. Since “Big Mutha a Truckers 2” is rated “M”, I figured this was their new way to stop selling “M” rated games to the under age kids.   I’m not against that.  There are tons of great games for kids to play that don’t contain mature content.

However, when I left the store, I checked my bag and noticed that “Little Miss Sunshine” is rated “R”…and then I got upset. So it is conceivable that a kid could go to Target and buy the entire “Saw” series, every “80’s” teen sex comedy, and any movie with content that borders just this-side of criminal, BUT, they would only be carded if they supplemented this purchase with an “M” rated game?

Look, I’m all-for ratings and keeping kids from mature content, but when kids can buy movies with some of the most gratuitous sex and torture scenes ever filmed, yet get stopped only when it happens to be a video game that contains : ‘Language, Mature Humor, Suggestive Themes (according the it’s ‘Big Mutha Truckers 2’ ESRB rating), something seems very  wrong to me.  R-Rated movies have gone places and contain content that would make the virtual participants in the “Hot Coffee” mini-game blush and turn away from the screen in horror, yet, seemingly, according to Target anyway, they are O.K. for kids.

Furthermore, The cashier could not simply look at my I.D. she had to physically swipe it through her register so the sale could be made. I don’t even think they do that for alcohol!   In the Target pharmacy, you merely have to request pseudofed from behind the counter.  So from that perspective (if I’m correct), a 13 year-old kid drinking a 6-pack of Miller beer, watching a ‘Porky’s II’/’Hostel’ double feature while mixing a batch of crystal meth in his basement, is actually less threatening to Target than the same kid getting a-hold of a bargain copy of “Big Mutha Truckers 2.”

The Asteroids Evolution to Retro Blaster

My first video game true love was Asteroids. I think the game must have satisfied some internal, mental need to keep things cleaned up. The Sisyphusian nature of this electronic task was enough to make me pour quarter after quarter into the machine in an attempt to just earn one extra ship at 10,000 points. I was never very good at the game, but I would always have a go at the machine if I found it in an arcade, laundromat, grocery store, or liquor store. It’s funny that as kids we thought nothing of spending copious amounts of time in a liquor store playing video games, buying packs of Star Wars cards, and guzzling Bubble Up and Root Beer. We would even tell our parents that we were going to the liquor store. Now-a-days we probably would have been put in a youth home for just stepping into a liquor store at age 11. Back then, the local liquor store was the hub of teen and pre-teen activity. We weren’t there for the alcohol (I guess some kids must have been, but we weren’t). It was our local carnival with games, candy, soda, adventure.

Anyway, after Asteroids, I poured quarters into Asteroids Deluxe, Space Duel, and to some extent Sinistar and Blasteroids. I remember going to a Savon Drug store and purchasing Asteroids for the 2600 and playing it non-stop for weeks on end. I also had a version for the Atari 800. It was similar to the 2600 version but with slightly better sounds, visuals and game play. Asteroids for the Atari 7800 was an absolutely awesome version that few have played. Probably my favorite classic version was a game called Megaroids. It a demo game that came with Megamax C for the Atari ST. A version was also created for the PC and Amiga. It was the a great version of the arcade game and a nearly perfect adaptation with more colors. When the PC arrived to prominence, I was one of the first on the block to buy Micorsoft Windows Arcade with Asteroids included, and of course I found a definitive version on Mame. The later Harbro Atari games for the PC and Consoles was decent, and I own a copy for both PC, and Playstation, but it never held my interest as much as the original incarnations.

I have wanted to make an Asteroids game of own every since I borrowed graph paper from my dad in 1979 and started to plot out the worlds of wonder in my 9 year old head. My first attempt was on the Atari 800 in Basic and it was a complete failure. The lack of suitable math skills for object rotation and vectors left me with a pretty putrid piece of pre-novice game programming. I left Asteroids type games behind and created puzzle and classic board games for years until STOS on the Atari ST enabled me to think about trying my hand at action games once again. I was in college at the time and besides producing yet another fully realized Yhatzee style game (Zambool Atari ST), I never found the time back then to delve deeply enough into the inter workings and create a good Asteroids clone.

After many false starts with a number of programming languages (Java, Dark basic, Game Creator, Game Maker, C++), I finally decided to throw the gauntlet at Flash and see with I could come up with. With help from books By Jobe Makar, and other game programming masters, the first game I came up with was a semi-polished version called Zeno Fighter. It is currently in the Work In Progress section of the site and I might go back some time and finish it off. properly. This one uses Steve’s Particle engine for explosions, and I copied the Asteroids “Jaws” music straight from the MAME version of the game. I was attempting to do CIRCLE math collision detection on the blobs (rocks), and if you try this WIP, you will see that sometimes the shots go through the edges.

I moved from this version to a more ambitious version called Pixel War. In this game I threw out all of the Asteroids vector graphics and decided to create pixel art for all of the game elements. I also wanted many more things on the screen to shoot at, weapon upgrades, and other enhancements. In creating this game I discovered the need for many new OOP building blocks for my games. These include objects to handle basic sprite properties, depth mangers and clean up routines, in game text display classes, and more. All of this code and animation started to slow the game down. Because of this, I dropped development of this game and started some basic animated sprite reel bitmap caching routines. The basic idea behind this was to cache every frame of animation for a sprite in a bitmap object and flip through them like cell animation in an interval. The interval is controlled by the game loop and this gives the programmer great control over the display of each individual frame of animation for an object.

Retro Blaster is the game that sprouted from this. It will be available on the site shortly.

My First Breakout-Style Game

Creating Brickbasher (just added a few days ago, but programmed in 2004) was one of my first eye-opening experiences programming small garage games. I have been a fan of Breakout style games since the age of 8 (read about the story here) when I first sampled the classic Atari 2600 version. What seemed like a relatively easy game to create became an exercise in frustration and a very humbling experience.

To start programming the game, I looked back and read a bit about how Brad Stewart, programmer of the Atari 2600 version created his masterpiece. The most notable thing I read was that Mr. Stewart divided the paddle into eight sections, so when the ball hit one of those sections, it would be sent in the proper direction. This seemed easy enough for me. In Flash, I created 8 separate hit areas on the paddle. Whenever the ball would hit one of them it would recalculate a new direction and update the ball to move in the direction. Easy huh? But I soon realized that there were not just “8” directions in which the ball could be moving. I also needed to calculate from which direction the ball hit the paddle. For instance, if the ball hits the left-most edge coming in from the left, it should send the ball back off to the left. However, if the ball hits the left most edge coming in from the right, it should have the same effect. However, with my simplified system, this did not always happen. coming in from the right and hitting the left-most section sometimes sent the ball back to the right, which looks and plays weird.

I also made another mistake programming this game that was much more costly. In 2004, Flash MX with Actionscript 1 was not a fully object-oriented language. However, I tried to treat it like one and thought I would be all fancy and program this game using design patterns. The Singleton and Subscriber models seemed like they would work very well with a game. Singleton is a pattern that makes sure you only have one object of a certain type created while you program is running. Subscriber uses a messaging model and has objects publish/subscribe to events of each other. Singleton worked fine, and I would still use it in any project where it was required. However, Subscriber was a disaster, at least how I implemented it. First of all, the messaging was slow. Much slower than just having my main game loop call functions of objects in an array. Secondly, I made the mistake of having each individual object run on it’s own interval. For instance, every brick on the screen checks for a hit with the ball on every frame. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

When I went back in 2006 to re-skin the game for Brick Basher Under Attack: No Way Out I was devastated that I had created such inefficient and ugly code. I started to re-write the whole mess, and I’m still in the process of doing that for the forthcoming “Brickbasher 2.0”. However I learned some very important lessons from the experience. First, nothing is “easy”, not matter what you think. Secondly, the latest and greatest programming “fads” do not necessarily make fast running, good games. I’m sure I will always make mistakes while trying create new games, but the real mistake would be not learning from them. That is why I posted these two games. They are not perfect, but they are part of an evolution. This site is not just about the games, but also about the process of making them. I will never be able to learn from my mistakes unless I can acknowledge having made them in the first place.

 

Atari Haiku: Baptism By Pixel

Baptism By Pixel

 

The back of the store

1977

Right of the housewares

 

Next to the fire door

Heavy Sixer with Combat!

Two wide-eyed kids

 

Thumbs on the buttons

CX-40s in our palms

Hands and eyes in-sync

 

“This f-ing rules man!”

“cool-ass games on a TV!”

“Much better than Pong!”

 

Tanks, bi-planes and jets

Bouncing shots, racking-up scores

We play while mom shops

 

“This aint no arcade”

Yells the TV salesman in

The C&R suit

 

He says “That’s it boys”

He then hits the power switch

“Not get outta here!”

 

We skulk away

From the TV section, but

We will be back soon

Balloon Pop!

So, if you have looked at our Work In Progress page you will notice that we have a lot of half-finished games and ideas that we plan to someday come back to.   To be honest, the list on that page really only scratches the surface.  I probably have 2 dozen more games to add on that page.  I plan to to start adding more as soon as possible, but there are so many that it cuts into my time to develop and finish ideas.

One of the games on that page is simply named Balloon .   It can’t recall exactly why I started to make it, but I’m sure it was for some type of game related to a girl’s toy in 2001.   At the time it seemed like a no-brainer:  who doesn’t like the the satisfying feeling of popping balloons?  (my wife, it turns out, but that’s another story)   However, after getting the rudimentary code finished that would allow the balloons to be randomly created and a mouse roll-over to pop them, I quit.   I still like the concept thouugh,  I think it will work especially well for Nintendo Wii focused browser games.

So, my first step was to take a look at the balloon.fla file to see what I was thinking 6 years ago.   Apparently, I was not thinking of much because the Flash 5 Actionscript programming was terrible.  Code on all sorts of layers, embedded in movie clips, embedded ON movie clips.   I decided to salvage the graphics only, and move on.    I have begun a new version named Balloon Pop based on the Fireworks Blast engine.    It is mostly object oriented at uses Actionscript 2.0 code, and has some physics and trig routines already built-in, which will help speed development.

The first real decison I have to make is how to handle the controls.  For a Web Flash Game, shooting ballons Pooyan style seems fun, but the for the Wii, this might pose a problem.  You can’t click the button fast enough (at least in my tests) to make a playable game that requires fast mouse clicks.    I might have to re-too la Wii version that relies on roll-over.  Hmm…

 

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