Tag Archives: Retro

How City Crushers crushed me.

Surprise!  took part in a game jam again! That’s a surprise because I didn’t see it coming. However: I’m impulsive so when someone tweeted about looking for an artist for Gameboy Jam I signed up in an instant. The good news: It became my best jam to date. The bad news: for the first time in my life I physically experienced stress from my hobby.

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Gameboy Jam is where you make a game in a short amount of time with the restriction that it has to feel like a Gameboy game. For me that comes down to using only 4 shades of green to do ALL your art with. I’ve been spying on retro Gameboy projects from the shadows and I love the challenge and look of Gameboy’s small palette. It felt like a natural thing to do after making some Mutant Gangland pieces which were already low on colour. Mostly this piece.

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I proposed to do something with that big robot. I scaled it down to Gameboy size and figured it would look cool as the basis for a robot customisation screen. Then Laurent (my new buddy) said he’d see the robot doing some buildings wrecking and basically that was the game’s concept. Wreck buildings with robot. get money. Tweak robot with cash and repeat. We both knew that was a bit too ambitious for a 10 day game project but that was the plan.

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First we needed mockups. The Gameboy’s screen is so small that you can’t actually fit a lot of words on a single screen and that posed a problem in the customisation screen. I had to fit in buttons and words like ‘price’, ‘effect’ and ‘confirm’. It was a wreck of a puzzle and just before I figured out it was time to rush to another area. I hadn’t even got the crushing city bit designed!

For this part the robot had to be even smaller. We shrunk it to half-size and it looked like a scribbly mess.  I tried rebuilding a new one from scratch. The original was designed as a walking tank but City Crushers needed more of a construction/demolition vehicle vibe. I made some doodles (no time for details!) and tried pixeling. The result was unpleasant. I went back to the old scribbly one and decided to clean it. This means removing pixels that make it look messy.  Then I added giants fists to emphasise the robot’s primary function. I’m going on so long about the robot because it fills 25% of the screen.

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Now for the city. This consisted of buildings you could smash and tiles for the background. The floor. I made some mockups but something was amiss: The foreground and background blended too much. I used the colours all wrong! There was too much dark in the player and building and too much light in the tiles. Noticed that glare on the floor tiles? That’s a problem. So I had to go back and recolour the sprites so the front used the 2 lightest colours and the back used the 2 darkest.

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Time flies when you do a game jam and with only 2 days to go I still had to make all the animations and design the city’s floor plan. This was such a big task that we started worrying wether we’d even have time to put in the customisation part. The idea that started this jam in the first place. We just couldn’t pull it off. We dropped it. As we so often drop really cool things in order to get the boat floating.

From here on it was just a game where you could crush a city in a time limit. I worked my butt of to get the remaining work done and somehow Laurent managed to put it all in. Then came the game’s saving grace: Global highscore leaderboards. We stayed up until 3 in the night sending back and forth emails with assets. We managed to send a build before the jam’s deadline and went straight to bed. And I felt very very relieved. It wasn’t what we envisioned but it felt game-y. This also because Joonas Turner joined in to make neat music and sound effects. On his holiday!

The next day and played the game again. I liked it. I still do because the end product transcends the feeling I fantasised a week before. I often get overwhelmed by vibes when I listen to music through my headphones. It’s where I get most of my creative charges from. It’s hard to transport those vibes to another medium but City Crushers did that. Some people even played it and battled each other on the high score chart.

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I have a good feeling about this jam. Not just because of the game. Also because working with Laurent went extremely well. Game jams are sometimes made to look like fun and spontaneous endeavours but I find the very hard to do right. Truth is that a lot of people don’t click well with each other when they jam. This can be rooted in personality, project approach or thinking patterns. For me the latter is the biggest factor. Ultimately I want me and my buddy to be able to finish each other’s sentences. There’s jam people that say “Let’s put a banana in there” and their buddy goed ‘Uhh yeah! So random!” but I can’t be that person because I would shout “No! Banana was NOT in the vision!”. I had to trace back our email correspondence to check who came up with what ideas and that’s a good sign. We were on the same thinking page and that’s very rare.

But then in the evening I felt a pain in my chest. Like it was very hard to breathe and when I talked it became even harder. Like you’re constantly at the end of a long sentence. After some Googling I found out it was something I never had before: stress. I probably worked too hard and it took hold of me. It was a terrible feeling and I couldn’t believe it was stress because I had a blast of a time.

Seems you can be entertained and motivated and still get crushed if you work for too long.  I’ll take it as a sign to do less long nights. My sister once told me something that always stuck with me: When your generation goes past age 30 your it walks into a minefield. People around you go down. You can go down. It’s just whoever death picks and I can feel it. My small pains and ills don’t heal like they used to anymore.

The problem is that most creative people cannot feel comfortable doing nothing and never want to disappoint their peers. Joonas offered to make sound and music at the start of his holiday. Laurent worked until 03:00 while he had to wake up for work at o7:30. That’s crazy and I would’ve done exactly the same. Creative people say ‘yes’ to something in an impulse and it always ends up being more work then expected because they just won’t accept showing an ‘acceptable’ product. We want to impress and entertain people. That is a curse that will stick with us for the rest of our lives and the best we can do is damage control on how much time we spend on our work. For it will never ever be finished.

ANYWAY: You can play and vote for City Crushers to win the jam here.

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Mutant Gangland So Far

Mutant Gangland, Our uncomplicated turn-based strategy game that just hit Alpha. It’s set amid a future gangwar between robots and mutants. I will now tell you about this game’s past, present, and future.

History:
First of all this game is made by a core crew of three people who never met each other in real life. Bacioiu is from Romania, Grace from England, and I’m from The Netherlands. How did we meet? On Twitter. I’ll call Bacioiu ‘Zapa’ from now on. Zapa loves strategy games. To be even more specific he loves the TBS* Advance Wars. About a year ago he started coding and playing around with his long brooding idea of making a turn based strategy game like Advance Wars but even shorter battles. Or a coffee-break TBS as he called it. *Turn-Based Strategy game. Where players take turns.

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Being my friend he asked me if I could make some temporary art he could use until he found a final artist. I liked the idea of the game and I offered to be that final artist myself UNDER ONE CONDITION!: I got the to make up a theme and setting for the game. Being a supporter of creative freedom, Zapa said “Yes, Whatever”. Great! So? Where to start? I wanted to do something with masks. And then came the robots and then the mutants and the concept was born. A futuristic wasteland where gangs of robots and mutants fight over turfs of land. We figured it would take us about a few weeks to make it.

Five months later and we’re are all still working behind our desks. All in different parts of the Europe We promised the world a release for January 28. Of course nobody in the world really cares for that but we feel it. It looms over our shoulder as there are but hours to go. Zapa is smoking, cursing, and coding, I myself am destroying my only hand over attack animations that I by now see even when I sleep, and Grace is chained to her headphones as she forges the final pieces of sound and music. It’s hard and it’s tense but on January 28 we did deliver Mutant Gangland Alpha 1 to the world. Clap.

Present:
It’s our first personal release. We put it up own Itch.io along with an amazing trailer. So far we sold 60 units.  I suspect most of them are Twitter friends that humour us along with some family. That’s all part of the plan. Before we go really large we waited for big bugs or mistakes to arise out of the initial feedback. Some useful mails were written to us and we took a few days to adress most of those. Even add some smart interface touches. We now have that new version up for download.

Future:
From here on we are going to sit back and analyse the response. We’ll mix that with our own idea with what we like to see in the game. Fierce discussions will be had because Zapa and I are two different sides of the same coin. Where he has a giant legacy of played games I have the intentional view of an oblivious newcomer. When I stare at a small corner of a painting Zapa sees all of the gallery as a whole. He is coffee, I am tea. There will be blood and when the dust clears there will stand a box for all of you to open. Mutant Gangland Alpha 2.

No release day yet.

 

 

 

 

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I hate zombies but I hate vampires even more.

So I’m doing this game jam where you are supposed to make a game you normally hate. I also told how I love robots and how I was going to put robots in my game…

Sounds like someone wasn’t thinking enough.

When Fill this Jam was set up they probably mostly had hate for game design in mind. I think it can apply to art just as well. Took me a while to figure it out though. I was talking to my friend Zapa and when he mentioned something about zombies. I thought “no man, I hate…” And it was too late. Maybe it’s not how this jam was intended but I felt guilty because I don’t really hate turn-based dungeon rogue likes. I find them intimidating. So I had to pick up something. Zombies it would be.

It gets worse.

I told my girlfriend that I was going to change the theme from robots to zombies because hating tropes was all this jam was about. She stopped me and said “but you don’t hate zombies. You are just tired of them. What you really hate is vampires”

That’s when I sunk further. By now I have accepted my fate but I hate vampires so much that I wouldn’t even want to jam with them. I know I have to and I will. But only on my terms! Here is how my vampires are going to behave:

No hissing:
I see it in movies all the time. It’s supposed to impress me but it doesn’t : A vampire shows up. Opens its mouth for a while and makes some hissing sound. My cat does that too and I’m not afraid of my cat. Either keep your mouth shut or keep your mouth open.

No tilting the head:
If hissing won’t scare you they can always use that slightly tilt of the head to make it even more “psycho”. Thing is I’ve seen too many deathmetal videos and it just reminds me of failed attempts at larp or gothic. My vampires won’t do that. No tilting. It’s silly. stop it. stop.

No prettiness:
I almost vomit at the thought of the vampire mythos’ sexual subtext. I never thought anything about them to be sensual . Not their power, Not their eternal life. When I see a film and some hot dude or chick does something that’s supposed to be sexy I just feel embarrassed. It’s like I’m watching a comedian that nobody finds funny. My vampires won’t be hot. Or even slightly bearable. They will be stone cold hideous. They’re MONSTERS remember?

No talking:
9 out of 10 times when a vampire talks it’s an attempt to be cool by saying something witty or dark. “Your flesh will taste delicious tonight” or “don’t worry. I will make it quick”. I don’t care about such one-liners. You will never match “yippee ki yay” or “Cowabunga”. To prevent my vampires from sounding like self-obesessed jerks I took their ability to talk. They don’t talk. Ever.

Not just two teeth:
When a vampire opens its mouth and there’s just two sharp teeth I think “somebody went to a carnival shop with only 50 cents” The same suspicion of laziness comes to mind when I see a new alien in Star Trek and they’re clearly actors with some random putty on their forehead. Two slightly longer teeth? Is that how you “transform” ? Oh you have red eyes too? whoa! I guess you doubled your effort to look convincing! My vampires won’t do with just 2 teeth. There will be sharp teeth all the way.

When I sum that up I get something like this:

They are the three different enemy types we have so far. Arranged by power. I made these and to be honest I had a lot of fun doing so!

There already is a vampire that has all the things i seek for: Nosferatu.
The one from the film named after him. Coolest vampire ever. No talking, no pretty face, no glitter or mixed feelings. No tilting the head or silly hissing. Just a all-in scary-teeth-all-over-quiet-scary-staring blood-sucker. Similar dudes can be found in other movies as well. But for this jam Nosferatu is my guide.

The theme will be vampires and it pisses me off.

Disclaimer: If you want to tell me about how I look past the virtue of subtlety and subtext and power of the vampire: I know all about the virtue, subtlety and subtext and I wipe my butt with it.

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