Tag Archives: enthusiast

Tools Of The Trade – GameMaker : Studio

indie,Indie,INDIE,game,Game,GAME,gamedev,Gamedev,GameDev,development,Development,tool,tools,80s,80's,90s,90's,animo,Animo,GameMaker,gamemaker,game-maker,game maker,maker,Maker,studio,Studio,STUDIO,2d,2D,platformers,shooters,shmups,shmup,SHMUP,SHMUPS,retro,RETRO,Retro,8bit,8-bit,8 bit,16bit,16-bit,16 bit,16-BIT,16 BIT,16BIT,16-Bit,16 Bit,16Bit,compu,computers,micro,computer,Microcomputer,easy,easier,easiest,old,school,skool,old-skool,cool,cooler,coolness,Cool,COOL,arcade,Arcade,arcades,Arcades,ARCADE,ARCADES,mame,MAME,Mame,snk,Snk,SNK,Sega,SEGA,sega,capcom,Capcom,CAPCOM,Nintendo,NINTENDO,nintendo,jaleco,Jaleco,JALECO,taito,TAITO,Taito,tech,techno,TECH,TECHNO,technology,Technology,technologies,TechnologiesGameMaker first came to my attention around 2006 as a creation tool and engine for 2D games. While I had my doubts of it’s abilities, I was intrigued enough to try it out. I remember first spending a weekend with it, gradually figuring out the basics. While there were some quirks (and still are) of how GameMaker handles a few things, first impressions were rather good.

It didn’t take long to ascertain that GameMaker does exactly what it’s meant to do. Developing games through it’s point and click interface was indeed a reality. Creating something more involved is also possible through it’s scripting language – GML. The long and short of it is that GameMaker is a competent and easy-to-use framework, primarily for 2D game development. However, users proficient in GML have been able to put together some impressive 3D games as well.

Unfortunately there is a degree of prejudice towards using tools such as GameMaker, primarily emanating from quarters of the development community. Various perceptions exist that are not entirely grounded. There’s a tendency to believe that a professional product cannot be crafted with such engines – a false assessment considering the quality of games already delivered using GameMaker.

Personally I do veer on the side that it would be better for developers to create their own custom engines. The reality is that this is just not a cost-effective solution in the long run. Months or even years developing an in-house engine could be better spent working on the actual game. No point in reinventing the wheel when off-the-shelf  engines are capable of tangible results.

Retro-style games are generally not very involved and therefore don’t overwhelm system resources. In fact, adding too many elements will effectively diminish a desirable retro-feel. Keeping a minimalist mindset is thus essential when creating such games. I’m using the latest iteration of GameMaker: Studio and have found that it’s capable of handling a great variety of complex, in-game systems and mechanics. It’s certainly not a package that is limited to crafting the type of indie retro experience that has become popular as of late.

Another area that a tool like GameMaker: Studio comes in handy is for rapid prototyping purposes. Simple ideas may be implemented and tested in a matter of minutes. My hard drive is flooded with a bunch of prototypes and mini-games I’ve put together over the years. A few of those are fun and interesting enough to be turned into commercially viable games. Just requiring a bit more development time and polish to come into their own.

As anyone reading this article can tell by now, my general experiences with GameMaker have been positive. I’ve enjoyed using this package as a hobbyist for several years now. While I’ve always wanted to release games in marketable form, other business and personal commitments made this difficult. A few relevant changes have occurred recently which affords me the opportunity to finally have a go at it.

The games that I will be releasing under the 16-BIT Shock banner will be small in scale, bite-size experiences. Short development cycles will be scheduled for the majority of projects. Longer, ambitious titles are also on the radar but will be determined on how feasible these are. Either way I will strive to ensure that all titles are stylish and gloriously retro.

A Winner Is You!






Bass Cadet 04 – Silpheed

It seems like an eon since last a Bass Cadet article was posted. Finally it’s time to rectify matters with an interesting addition. I gave away a few clues in my previous article, savvy retro heads should have figured it out long before this post went up.

Sierra On-Line were one of my fave game development houses back in the 80’s with their strong line-up of adventure titles. A noteworthy developer, particularly on the PC. They had a knack for quality games and amazing packaging with killer cover art. Probably the end result of, a genuinely inspired passion for what gaming, was truly all about.

However, Sierra were not just a developer but also a publisher that established ties with one of their counterparts in Japan. This was none other than the equally proficient – Game Arts. Famous for releasing hit games such as Thexder, Silpheed, Zeliard and later on the Lunar and Grandia series of rpg’s. 

Game Arts started out developing for home computer platforms such as the MSX and NEC PC-8801. Both of which were hugely popular in Japan. Sierra On-Line ported and published Game Art’s earlier titles over to the west, with great success.

While Thexder remains a firm favourite of mine, and still enjoy to play it periodically. I have fond memories of Silpheed for a reason. This game came packed in with my very first sound card – Creative Labs’ Game Blaster. Finally I could enjoy arcade-quality FM tunes on my home PC and Silpheed would be my first foray.

I’ll be honest, Silpheed is not a particularly great game – it’s not terrible by any stretch either. Technically it’s impressive for it’s time, but rather bland. None the less, control is great and a space opera ambiance is conveyed rather competently. The music plays a big part in this, managing to cover cheerful, heroic and melancholic melodies. As the player, one does get a sense of partaking in an interstellar dog fighting scenario.

Silpheed’s BGM is composed by Hibiki Godai which just happens to be an alias. The real artist’s name is  Kohei Ikeda for the sound team known as Mecano Associates. Above is the soundtrack of the original version of the game when it debuted on the NEC PC-8801 on the 5th of December, 1986.

Project MSG – The Retro-Punk Experience

Last month I was able to reveal a little about the game project that I’ve been working on. Shares, retweets, favourites, +1’s and feedback via messages and email from many of you has been both positive and very encouraging – thank you!

It seems that the ‘Project MSG’ logo made a strong impact. The response that I received, while not entirely unexpected, was rather more enthusiastic than anticipated. While I do concur that it’s a cool looking logo. And as the creator of this logo I would like to add that I do so in a humble and non-boisterous manner. What matters is that you love it!

I should consider taking t-shirt orders 🙂

The logo has managed to convey and stir up strong nostalgic feelings of 8-bit & 16-bit gaming memories for you lot. As if the mid-80’s or even early 90’s were no longer some forgotten bygone era. I have no intention in ruining those feelings and you can all rest assured that the official logo will still retain this flavour.

Fortunately, you didn’t just like the logo. There was a single screenshot of ‘stage 1-1’ of the game which managed to attain significant attention. Plus a fair amount in the twittersphere. Detailed pixel art graphics are gladly still welcome among retro game fans. This singular shot only gives a small glimpse of the game, but it’s enough to give a basic idea of the styling and gameplay.

Defining this project becomes easier as work progresses. While the initial brief described it as 2D shooting game with a cyberpunk theme. This is still true for the project today. However, newer aspects start to surface that were faintly observed in the initial stages of development.  Comparatively to, an alter ego of some kind, quietly hiding within the shadows of the dominant personality. Only to make itself known at a later date.

Perhaps it all boils down to the aesthetic choices. The clashing of pixel art and FM-synth generated music, while a natural fit gives out a far more raw electronic feel. Due to modern development techniques and increased processing power, we have become accustomed to games that are incredibly slick and shiny. Nothing wrong with this intrinsically. After all, I’m all for high production values and polish in the creation of video games. It’s just that this added fidelity often constitutes in a loss of a raw edge.

This rawness is ultimately part of the charm. It’s not just a retro-centric attribute that I’m pointing out here. It’s inherently punk in nature. Sticking out like a sore thumb, provoking the player that it’s nothing like those big-budget, overproduced but somehow sterile games. Project MSG wants to get dirty!