Retrowars kind of came about by a happy accident. I have lots of little projects that I had started but never finished and never really did anything with. There was the beginnings of a platform game where I had been toying with the mechanics of one way platforms, a nice little colour scrolling routine (as commonly seen on the 8-bit Atari computers), and a flappy bird type affair amongst others.
Corona Labs had just added the functionality to their SDK to publish to HTML5, and I had the idea to take some of these projects, tidy them up a bit and publish them on the net just as little tech demos for people to play about with in their browser. One of these demos was a very basic framework for an Asteroids clone with just the players ship flying around the screen and being able to fire bullets. As it was to be playable in a desktop browser I removed the onscreen touch controls and added keyboard support for the player which made it actually quite fun to play with.
It was while I was showing this bit of code to a friend that he said how cool it would be if there was another ship so that two players could shoot each other. This was pretty easy to implement and turned out to be great fun to play about with.
It reminded me of some of my earliest gaming memories, sat next door with my best mate Robbie, playing Combat on his Atari VCS. The fun we had driving our ‘tanks’ around the screen trying to blast each other, was just awesome. It got me thinking that this is what proper multiplayer gaming should be about. Now I’m sure that sitting in front of your 300 inch 20k MegaHD telly slab with a headset on playing Call Of Battlefield 2039 against whiney little pissants on the other side of the world is really great fun, but really, the best multiplayer experiences are when the person you are playing against is sat right next to you within punching distance. You’re playing on the same screen, using the same keyboard. It’s a great way to discover just how bloody nasty your mates can be.
So anyway, a good friend who also happens to be a graphic designer kindly offered to design the title screen for me. After giving him a design brief that I wanted something sci-fi/retro/50’s B-Movie away he went to work his magic and what he came up with was exactly what I asked for, but, having worked with it for a while realised that what I asked for wasn’t actually what I wanted.
The only problem was that i wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted and so over time the title screen has changed more times than I care to remember.
Having watched the awesome film Iron Sky one evening I was talking to a work colleague about it the next day and was trying to explain about the visual aesthetics that were created in such a way as to look like a low budget 1950’s B-Movie but still nice and crisp and up to date (I don’t know if that description makes any sense to anybody but me) and it hit me that that was what I wanted for the game. It should look nice and modern and crisp but still look like an old 8-bit game from the early 80’s and so that is what I have gone for.
As for the game itself I would say that perhaps it is about 70ish% done. The basic gameplay is all there and it works and feels good when you’re playing it. I’d like the finished item to have lots of different game options like a lot of the old Atari VCS games did, such as:
– Choice of open play area or an arena with walls to hide behind.
– Choice of having a wrap around screen ( like Asteroids) or a wall around the edge.
– Rubber bullets that ricochet off walls.
– A gravity well that draws objects in if they get too close.
These are just the ones that I have already implemented but I have many more ideas.
Of course all of this is well and good but for a few ‘minor’ issues. First of all is that I am not a good programmer. I often struggle with fairly basic things (especially if maths related) and so progress has been slow. My computer at home is also very old (2009 iMac) and is really showing its age, and I also have to juggle a family life with working long hours. Getting distracted is a long term favourite pastime of mine which probably explains why I’ve spent far longer on the title/menu screen than I have on the actual game, and I am also a master at procrastination. All of this may just sound like excuses, which of course they are, but they are also part of the reason that I’m writing this blog. If people know about the game, and quite a few already do, it gives me more of a push to actually get it finished.
So there we have it. It’s out there now and I have to get it finished. I will try to post regular updates here along with screen shots and maybe even a video or two so please pop back every now and then to see how things are progressing.
Thanks for reading.