8bitrocket Diatribe July 20, 2008: A game in a day…

Or there abouts. I have been thinking a lot lately about how I am going to have time to create viral, ad supported games when my second child is born in a couple weeks. I have been through this before and the time schedules for the entire house will be completely boondoggled into a spaghetti mess when the boy comes out in early August. I have not been mass producing games lately anyway, as creative blockage, illness, day jobs, and various other life problems have taken a huge byte (sic) out of my time at 8bitrocket towers. Besides making games, I also want to keep up a steady flow of tutorials to give something back to the community I have come to really like. Material suitable for posting takes a lot longer than I would like, as even the smallest tutorial needs a fair bit of proofreading and re-writes (not that you can tell by some of the garbage we have posted, while we do try to edit them, time is fleeting…).

In any case, I was thinking about tackling this is a whole new way. I have been playing a lot of emulated Atari 2600 games lately, and I notice that most of the early efforts are really quite simple yet very fun and playable. They were by no means easy to code on the 2600 with its 128 bytes (not Kbytes) of ram, scan-line based screen updates, and lackluster sprite system. I was thinking that I could build a simple game loop engine and the repeatedly populate it with games built in 24 hours of Flash AS3 programming time (not one day, but 24 hours). Those hours might be spread over 2 weeks, but in the end I would have a nice set of new games (based on 2600 style games) that can be added to the site, put on game Jacket or Mochi, or maybe combined into a much larger game.

I would give myself a schedule something like :

2 Hours to research and plan
4 Hours to build simple sprite, sprite sheets, etc
10 Hours on the game engine
4 Hours to fit all of my graphics into the game engine
4 Hours of clean-up, Mochi Bot, Mochi/GameJacket

That would be roughly 24 hours to make a simple game. It wouldn’t necessarily have to be a clone of a 2600 game, but using an existing game as inspiration, I would attempt to create something just as addictive and simple. This is probably not going to be a easy task, as simple and addictive are things we always strive for, but I would really need to stick to the plan to get something decent completed. I like to optimize and code and re-code things and play with new ways of doing the same thing. This causes my game dev time to take much longer than it should some times. So, in the case of these games, I would NOT do those things until the NEXT game. I would need to keep careful notes of what changes and optimizations I want for the next game while creating the current game and be disciplined not to monkey with something that works in favor of repeated optimizations. I also need to build up a new entity framework, and game loop that has all of the basic game sprite functions built in for blitting. If I don’t have time for that, since none of these games will have too many objects on the screen anyway, I might use some built-in Flash rendering techniques (who said that?). Anyway, it will be a learning experience and after I complete a game, I will write a tutorial on some aspect of the game development, or maybe one on how to create that type of game quickly in Flash.

So, after looking as the launch titles for the Atari 2600, I have decided to start with a classic that I played with Steve at Target (or was it Fedmart or TwoGuys then?) – Air Sea battle.

Image Courtesy of Atariage.com

I don’t think I will have two players and it looks relatively simple. I want it to be fun though, so I will need to dig deep into the game play variations and options to find enough fun stuff to do. These early Atari games always had a huge number of interesting variations. In my next diatribe, I will discuss my findings on this game and how I intend to proceed.

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