Category Archives: Introduction

Top 10 Articles Of 2014

We’re almost a fortnight into 2015 and I hope it’s been going great for everyone. Here at 16-BIT Shock HQ, things are moving along at a brisk pace. Work on game projects resumed early last week, after a short holiday break.

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Before moving on with fresh content for the new year, let’s take this opportunity for a brief recap of top posts on this blog. Several articles proved to be quite popular with readers and it would be great to showcase them again. Particularly for those who discovered this blog, only recently. The following list features a quick rundown of those posts truly, resonating with folks during 2014, and my personal viewpoint of why that is the case.

Just click on the relative heading and you will be taken directly to the article:

  1. Tools Of The Trade – GameMaker : Studio – Certainly the most read article on this site by a large margin, and quite understandably so. With the explosion of indie game development in recent years, everyone is looking around for the best ways to make games. This article gives a brief overview of one of the most popular game engines in existence today.
  2. Project MSG – Early Development – The game project I’ve been working on and has fortunately excited a few people. It’s a 2D retro-style shooting game with a top-down view perspective set within a cyberpunk universe. Many folks loved the logo and the pixel-art style, and in turn generated some interesting conversation between us. I appreciate all the input I’ve received and will be sharing more about this project in the near future.
  3. Developing For Vintage Hardware – It’s a no-brainer why this post struck a nerve, after all the number of retro gaming and computer aficionados keeps growing. Homebrew development is both intriguing and reinvigorating within the game development scene. Vintage consoles and computer systems, with their limited capabilities offer alternative, frankly more interesting roads for creative expression.
  4. Cybermanga – I’m a huge fan of anime & manga, particularly from the 80’s – 90’s. And it seems so are plenty of people visiting this site, even attracting significant traffic from Japan. The influence of these art forms play a big part in my own creative path and this post gives a brief overview.
  5. This Is For Retro Lovers – On the 2nd of June 2014, I wrote this blog’s very first post. Short, sweet and straight to the point – ultimately setting the general tone for future articles. Surprisingly it attracted a far larger audience than I was expecting, considering it was very early days for the blog.
  6. The 16-BIT Shock Design Philosophy – Probably one of the more important articles I’ve written here. The goal was to convey the direction that my game development projects were to take. Worth a read for recent visitors.
  7. Prototyping And Arcade Presentation – A fairly recent article, managing to gain far more traction than I was expecting. I covered an issue in games that I feel should gain more attention, and that’s the matter of how they are presented. Arcade games in particular are a great example of how this could be done.
  8. Anti-Establishment – Another one of those articles that had a significant impact with readers. Further reiterating key points from the 16-BIT Shock Design Philosophy article. Perhaps a tad more cheeky, but still attracting small trickles of traffic several months after it was published.
  9. Tools Of The Trade – GraphicsGale – At one point, pixel art seemed like it was a dying art form. Fortunately it has been rejuvenated recently with all the interest in retro and indie gaming. One of the better, if not the best pixel art editor is GraphicsGale. A personal favourite of mine which I go into more detail in this post.
  10. FM Synthesis & Video Games: Kick Drums & Toms – Last but not least, is this excellent article by Joe Giliver from Ocular Audio. Joe’s vast knowledge in music composition and FM synthesis is a great help in understanding what is substantially niche subject matter. Lately FM synthesis, is enjoying growing interest which is in line with the resurgence of retro gaming, computing and 80’s synthesizer music.

Plenty of reading there, great way to start the new year I would think. Future articles will tread similar ground for the most part. However, there will be a shift in focus around the periods when I’ll be releasing my game projects. Naturally there will be greater emphasis on these as should be expected.

 

 

 

 

Introducing Project MSG

It’s finally time to start revealing a little more about the project I’ve been working on. This is a game I’m co-developing with Hadokoa  – an iOS app development specialist. 16-BIT Shock focuses on conceptualizing, prototyping and developing the game for PC. Hadokoa on the other hand, tests and fine tunes my builds and ports to the iOS devices. Both 16-BIT Shock and Hadokoa will make a combined effort in promoting and marketing the game for maximum reach.

The working title for the game is – ‘Project MSG’. This is a tentative title and subject to change before release, whereby the real title will be revealed.

As mentioned in my Cybermanga post, this is a retro-style 2D shooting game based in a cyberpunk universe. To elaborate further, it’s a single player experience with a strong focus on the main hero character. Unfortunately I cannot reveal the name of the hero, as that would give the actual game title away. Suffice to say the hero is a cyborg who is tasked with the unenviable job of dealing with some pretty nasty terrorists.

This brings us to the game’s difficulty. Given the backdrop of a singular man-machine against a legion of mechanical and bio-mechanical enemies. Our hero is hugely outnumbered and outgunned. It should come as no surprise that the prognosis for survival is far from high. Project MSG is destined to provide the ultimate balls to the wall shooting escapade and white knuckle ride.

Restrictions have also intentionally been applied to further aggravate eventualities. Limitations are set on movement, creating a somewhat claustrophobic play style. Avoiding enemy fire will be the preserve of the dedicated, skilled player. All enemy patterns and stages are carefully handcrafted and absolutely nothing is procedurally generated, as seems to be the trend with the current crop of indie games.

End of level bosses will also be present. What would any good arcade shooter be without a tough as nails boss at the end of each stage? Nothing seals the deal of accomplishment once the end level guardian has been brought to it’s knees. Bosses will also play an integral part in the story while sporting some wickedly cool antagonism.

The general direction of the story is headed toward transhumanist territory. This too, should not surprise, given the cyberpunk leanings of the project. The hero of the game will be dealing with his posthuman reality as the story unfolds. Likewise, his enemies face a similar predicament as they too are cyborgs. But that’s as far as I’m going to go on about the story for now. In fact, story updates will be kept to an absolute minimum right through to release of the game. This is done to avoid spoilers.

16-BIT Shock Blows My Fucking Mind
Screenshots in 2 weeks time?! My mind is blown!!

Now to conclude with the most important bit of information in this post. The first screenshots of Project MSG will be released on the 30th of July 2014. These will consist of 4 screen grabs initially but more will be added to the upcoming gallery as the game nears completion. In two weeks from now – prepare for the first barrage of cyborg shooting madness!!

 

 

 

 

An Introduction to FM Synthesis & Ocular Audio

As someone that grew up with arcade games and 80’s synthpop music, I cannot hide my fondness for FM Synthesis. This was the sound of the future and in a somewhat mystical way, still is.

It can sound tinny, aggravatingly metallic or warm and bass-heavy. Aural landscapes that are representative of both happy, fuzzy worlds and those that are dystopian. Light and darkness all produced in an embedded range of chips manufactured by Yamaha. These chips would find a home in Yamaha’s famous DX7 digital synthesizers, arcade boards and PC sound cards from AdLib and Creative Lab’s early Sound Blaster range.

Yamaha's DX7 - The Workhorse Of Many Hit Songs
Yamaha’s DX7 – The workhorse of many hit songs

Enough can’t be said about all the sounds that were coming out of all these synthesizers, arcade cabinets and sound cards. Sounding incredibly synthetic, plastic even. And somehow they became relevant in a sea of naysayers. Melodies were supposed to be the preserve of the musician who could actually play real instruments, not some midi punk.

In a sense, keyboard players and sound coders were in all likelihood working harder than the average traditional musician. Many electro/synthpop bands were notorious for spending hours on end, tweaking the settings on their synthesizers to get a unique sound- they could call their own.

At the other camp, programmers would often hand code sound routines in assembly in order to fit in the music. Given the memory limitations of home computers, consoles and arcade systems during that time period, this was not exactly an easy task to achieve. Not to mention that FM synthesis is known for it’s quirks and complexity.

Over the past few months I’ve come into contact with a composer that specializes in audio production for games and film. Joe Gilliver – BA Hons of Ocular Audio has been kind enough to write the next article for my blog, which will cover FM synthesis deeper. Joe is based in the UK and is currently working on a project called Black Shuck.

Apart from demystifying FM synthesis, Joe has also written this article which gives greater insight of his current project at Gamedev.net.