Making a Game - Project Big Rip - A Progress Weblog - Part 1

When I graduated from college last spring, I had only a vague idea and plans that never really materialized. I studied music and sound, so I've been poking around freelance work. While I have found no drought of potential jobs, the projects all seemed to fizzle out rather quickly soon after I sign on. This is not something that surprised me though as I've been doing amateur composition and sound production for video games since I was in high school (nearly 10 years now). However when looking for work to put on a resume, having a bunch of failed projects with little to show from is not exactly the best impression. This is when I came to the realization that maybe I should just make my own game, do all the sound/music/graphics myself, release it as freeware, and go from there. I've been tinkering with programs like Game Maker for years. I may not know much coding and am not exactly a math wizard, but what I don't know I can learn. It is very common for a gaming enthusiast to want to make her/his own game. Many do not have the knowledge, focus, time, or tenacity to follow through with their dreams. Though I may share the desire to work in the industry, I would like to prove that I don't share the latter qualities.

Now with that, I had to come up with what kind of game I would make. When I was first tooling around with Game Maker back in 2004 or so, I made an incredibly buggy bullet hell game. I never got passed creating the basic engine, a good chunk of the weapons/powers, and most of the minor enemies. The big reason I stopped then was the code got unwieldy, the collision code was awful, and probably some other reasons I don't want to remember. Regardless I thought that since that genre was one that I've worked in before that perhaps I should revisit it. It's relatively simple and I understand a lot more about coding and general game design now. So that's what I decided on.

NES NTSC Color Palette

This wouldn't just be a remake or even a reimagining of that previous project, but something entirely new. Graphics were never a major strong point of mine, but I know and enjoy making small resolution sprites and decided that I should take that idea and run with it. I wasn't only going to make simple looking graphics but emulate the graphical ability of the NES. This would actually prove to take more research and be much more difficult than expected. The NES had a very limited color palette. Not only that it could only show 25 colors on screen at a time. The resolution is also pretty strange and nonstandard. It's not exactly 4:3 like old televisions, but 256 by 224 pixels. Not only that, but it sprites could either be 8x8 or 8x16 for all sprites of the game. However that particular detail is only that I'm going to ignore. Same with the sprite flicker and such. I don't really want to emulate the mannerisms of the platform so much has the visual and aural aspects. Remember I'm not a programmer. Doing such things as emulating an entire platform is far beyond my abilities.

When it comes to sound and music, this will be one of the most enjoyable parts I expect, but no less difficult. I've made 8-bit music before and it's a lot of fun. There is the program I use called Famitracker. Which basically is used to create 8-bit music and can be used to make sounds as well. I've used it on a couple of my own projects and what I have done so far for this project has turned out really well. (There's this one sound that I made that would be a dead ringer for the firing sound of an enemy from Mega Man 2.)

Okay! So I have a genre and a graphical/audio style/limitation set. Now I need to come up with the narrative of the project. A central idea. A structure to build the logic and explanation for what is going on in the game. Well first I thought what could the genre need. How could I make a game that is unique to the genre? I was watching an episode of the History Channel's "The Universe" when I had an idea. The episode wasn't about what inspired the idea, but rather it reminded me of a different episode of the show which was about how our Universe may come to an end. One theory in particular caught my imagination. One called "The Big Rip." I had a setting. The end of the Universe. Now what sort of mechanics could I gleam from that setting. I figured it would be like the ultimate post-apocalyptic setting. Unlike most of the games that fall into that genre, there would be no world after the events of the Big Rip. So it would not have the cultural depression that many of those games possess. This would be about a civilization at the peek of it's technology trying to escape what's left of a dying reality. Of course there would need to be a villainous force, but let's not go into that now. The goal is for a survival-focused bullet hell game with maybe a bit of a puzzle twist, and this setting allows for that.

With all that out of the way, where I am at now is not all that far into development. Earlier this week I actually deleted large chunks of the game because I was not satisfied with how things were working. I ended up rewriting the entire code for the player object and decided to change how it looked as well. Basically I nearly restarted from the beginning. What I did today was get a solid collision engine working with the help of an example from the Game Maker forums for, of all things, a platformer. So right now all the game is, is an area where you can move your ship around some objects and a mostly bare HUD. While there are bullet and enemy objects in there, they aren't programed to go with the new collision system yet.

I will go more into the mechanics and other elements when I'm further down the development line. The plan with the weblog is to update it roughly every two weeks. Perhaps the next one will even have screenshots! This week I plan to codify most things in a flush out development document. I encourage other people who want to get into the video game industry to try something like this as well. Even though I've only been working on this for about 2 or so weeks, it has proved to be very educational and enlightening!

1 Comments
1 Comments
Posted by D_W

When I graduated from college last spring, I had only a vague idea and plans that never really materialized. I studied music and sound, so I've been poking around freelance work. While I have found no drought of potential jobs, the projects all seemed to fizzle out rather quickly soon after I sign on. This is not something that surprised me though as I've been doing amateur composition and sound production for video games since I was in high school (nearly 10 years now). However when looking for work to put on a resume, having a bunch of failed projects with little to show from is not exactly the best impression. This is when I came to the realization that maybe I should just make my own game, do all the sound/music/graphics myself, release it as freeware, and go from there. I've been tinkering with programs like Game Maker for years. I may not know much coding and am not exactly a math wizard, but what I don't know I can learn. It is very common for a gaming enthusiast to want to make her/his own game. Many do not have the knowledge, focus, time, or tenacity to follow through with their dreams. Though I may share the desire to work in the industry, I would like to prove that I don't share the latter qualities.

Now with that, I had to come up with what kind of game I would make. When I was first tooling around with Game Maker back in 2004 or so, I made an incredibly buggy bullet hell game. I never got passed creating the basic engine, a good chunk of the weapons/powers, and most of the minor enemies. The big reason I stopped then was the code got unwieldy, the collision code was awful, and probably some other reasons I don't want to remember. Regardless I thought that since that genre was one that I've worked in before that perhaps I should revisit it. It's relatively simple and I understand a lot more about coding and general game design now. So that's what I decided on.

NES NTSC Color Palette

This wouldn't just be a remake or even a reimagining of that previous project, but something entirely new. Graphics were never a major strong point of mine, but I know and enjoy making small resolution sprites and decided that I should take that idea and run with it. I wasn't only going to make simple looking graphics but emulate the graphical ability of the NES. This would actually prove to take more research and be much more difficult than expected. The NES had a very limited color palette. Not only that it could only show 25 colors on screen at a time. The resolution is also pretty strange and nonstandard. It's not exactly 4:3 like old televisions, but 256 by 224 pixels. Not only that, but it sprites could either be 8x8 or 8x16 for all sprites of the game. However that particular detail is only that I'm going to ignore. Same with the sprite flicker and such. I don't really want to emulate the mannerisms of the platform so much has the visual and aural aspects. Remember I'm not a programmer. Doing such things as emulating an entire platform is far beyond my abilities.

When it comes to sound and music, this will be one of the most enjoyable parts I expect, but no less difficult. I've made 8-bit music before and it's a lot of fun. There is the program I use called Famitracker. Which basically is used to create 8-bit music and can be used to make sounds as well. I've used it on a couple of my own projects and what I have done so far for this project has turned out really well. (There's this one sound that I made that would be a dead ringer for the firing sound of an enemy from Mega Man 2.)

Okay! So I have a genre and a graphical/audio style/limitation set. Now I need to come up with the narrative of the project. A central idea. A structure to build the logic and explanation for what is going on in the game. Well first I thought what could the genre need. How could I make a game that is unique to the genre? I was watching an episode of the History Channel's "The Universe" when I had an idea. The episode wasn't about what inspired the idea, but rather it reminded me of a different episode of the show which was about how our Universe may come to an end. One theory in particular caught my imagination. One called "The Big Rip." I had a setting. The end of the Universe. Now what sort of mechanics could I gleam from that setting. I figured it would be like the ultimate post-apocalyptic setting. Unlike most of the games that fall into that genre, there would be no world after the events of the Big Rip. So it would not have the cultural depression that many of those games possess. This would be about a civilization at the peek of it's technology trying to escape what's left of a dying reality. Of course there would need to be a villainous force, but let's not go into that now. The goal is for a survival-focused bullet hell game with maybe a bit of a puzzle twist, and this setting allows for that.

With all that out of the way, where I am at now is not all that far into development. Earlier this week I actually deleted large chunks of the game because I was not satisfied with how things were working. I ended up rewriting the entire code for the player object and decided to change how it looked as well. Basically I nearly restarted from the beginning. What I did today was get a solid collision engine working with the help of an example from the Game Maker forums for, of all things, a platformer. So right now all the game is, is an area where you can move your ship around some objects and a mostly bare HUD. While there are bullet and enemy objects in there, they aren't programed to go with the new collision system yet.

I will go more into the mechanics and other elements when I'm further down the development line. The plan with the weblog is to update it roughly every two weeks. Perhaps the next one will even have screenshots! This week I plan to codify most things in a flush out development document. I encourage other people who want to get into the video game industry to try something like this as well. Even though I've only been working on this for about 2 or so weeks, it has proved to be very educational and enlightening!