Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Shush -- The Game

Now with a link to the freebie file folder that comes with my Broadband account -- underneath the links to my books on the right. Some screenshots in the posts below. God knows what would happen if people actually downloaded it in any numbers. I don't know why, as it is a freestanding .exe (name of shush85.exe), but it downloads as a document file. Rename it once downloaded as Shush.exe and it should be ready to go.

So it is a falling blocks arcade puzzle game. I have tried to put some novelty into the control scheme, and some personality in the game as a whole, but its lineage is clear. Hello Tetris, I see you poking your head out there. It has sequential difficulty that isn't yet refined. What it needs is user testing. The plan is that I present a wide open version to my students who will then be able to see (and access) the process of game balancing and what it means to twitch variables, redraw the basic levels and add components. Very year one undergraduate and very introductory. If it doesn't work I will throw it away and rethink, or choose some other middleware. I might even have to see if I can still write proper lines of code.

The second year students get their hands dirty with Unreal 2004 and Source (and I really must try and get playable builds online of the projects from this year, or at least get some gameplay video together), but I think they could have benefitted from more than just Flash and Maya projects, as well as paper design exercises, at an earlier point.

There is a level skip cheat built in so that you can see most of the game without playing from scratch. Hit the Space Bar to go to the next screen. When there are nine coloured worms at the top, three dark grey ones hammering down and the timer bar is zipping at a fair old rate you have seen all there is to see and the game is asking you politely to pack it in.

Raison D'etre

I am very aware of why I have been wary of blogs for so long (which might explain why comments are currently switched firmly off) so this is a very tentative toe in the waters. And I am nervous about more than the whole blogging thing -- I am busy enough, after all, with both young kids and a demanding job -- but with the exposure of practical games things to a wider audience.

So my initial list of disclaimers. This will not be updated as if I have a terminal caffeine twitch and need online adoration. It is a place where I intend to dump screenshots, links and other stuff that will be useful as I get more and more forgetful and my twitch reflexes fall away until I am fit only for Scrabble.

Although I am rather better at Scrabble than twitch games anyway.

The game prototypes I intend to describe are exactly that. I am not an artist. I am certainly not an audio expert. I am not a game designer, or a wannabe game designer who hankers after fame or fortune in a studio. I have no fantasy of creating a commercial game or sitting next to the game gods at a panel at GDC. I am not worthy, etc.. I know where my strengths lie, and they are with academic writing and thinking about games. I am a cultural critic and cultural theorist of games, who happens to teach some practice on an Art and Design degree.

Which then brings me to the things I have already posted and intend to post. I teach some very talented young designers. Most have a real art background and can make me embarrassed by their accomplished use of line and colour. But they haven't ever really encountered code, or the thinking behind variables and arrays and all the gritty ones and zeroes that make the technology of the game actually work. So I need to teach them the basics. And, while my beloved gosub and goto seem to have gone the way of the Dodo (which itself sounds like a Basic command), simple game models and structures seem attractive to me as a teaching resource, which means I need to knock out some games that I can't just talk about and explain but let them fiddle with.

And that is what I intend to do, starting with Shush, which should populate the preceding posts and should be filled out in coming posts as I make some free time. Hopefully it will all make sense as I go along.

Attract Screen

If nothing else, the audio should get people wanting to fiddle with the game. The core mechanic is fully functional from the load, although without a score and if you leave it long enough it will clear all the birds to no effect, but it is kind of restful to watch. Which might defeat the point. I also like the transparency on the buttons a little too much, just as every screen throughout is loaded with particle effects just because I am at the kid with new toy phase of having learned how to do it. Some have a real point, mind, and particularly the sparkles on the buttons and landscape gems as the cursor moves over.

A little way into the game, showing things getting a little more difficult for the poor player. I now notice how poor I am at taking game screenshots, however. Red worm on the right has its blink animation visible, sound is set to off, and the score is zero. Oh well.
High Score Table. Definitely meant for single player, so no names or three letter tag input, but has some little touches to try and reflect player achievement.

Game Difficulty Screen

So, this is what you see when you adjust the difficulty. Basically, it is a level skip that allows you to get over the top of the first few levels.


Just in case this actually works...