Tag Archives: shooting game

Prototyping And Arcade Presentation

Recently I started working on a brand new prototype in order to test out some left-field ideas I’ve had in mind. Still sticking with a core shooting play mechanic and building upon a framework I’ve developed with Project MSG. However, this time the view point is from the side with completely different enemies and patterns. I wanted to explore a more disruptive science fiction theme than what would have been possible in Project MSG.

The prototype is interesting to say the least but is currently in a state that is comprised predominantly of place holder graphics. I’ll be starting soon on fresh assets and gradually polishing it up into a finished game. People that have been looking forward to Project MSG, will now have something extra to be excited about. There is a common thread and style running through both projects. I’m certain that if someone enjoys the one game, it’s quite likely that they will also enjoy the other.

Another issue that is close to my heart is that of game packaging, and how best to go about it. I’ve always felt that how a game is presented to the consumer is almost as important as the actual game itself. The reason why I believe this, is that we all start playing the game in our heads long before we actually do. It could start with some screenshots, a preview, an advertisement or any marketing materials of a particular game we’re excited about. On a subconscious level they just seem to infiltrate our head space, creating a mental play through and sometimes raising expectations to unrealistic levels.

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Sega’s Quartet is a cool game with a stunning arcade cab, Lee’s mustache makes everything better

If we’re purchasing a game that is available physically, usually the type and quality of the box art will serve a similar purpose. Owning a game with cool cover art helps to elevate it in most game collections, unless it’s a stinker. Of course we’re gradually moving in a direction where optical drives will go the way of the dodo, thus rendering games in physical form redundant. Already sales of physical games are in decline, while digital downloads are ever-increasing. There may be a market for physical games in the distant future, aimed directly at the core enthusiast. It may resemble that of vinyl limited edition runs, popular with music aficionados.

Unless there’s reasonable demand, I won’t be releasing any of my upcoming games in physical form. As a huge game fan, I prefer owning physical copies of my games versus digital. Reality and market trends dictate otherwise and it’s best to flow with the tide rather than against it. This creates a challenge on how best to ‘package’ a digital product that will generate similar emotions within it’s potential audience. For that I had to go back to my arcade gaming roots, where the logo, marquee, controller inserts and side artwork would be the first noticeable elements.

A cornucopia of bright, colourful graphic work, brilliantly combining marketing with play instructions. How arcade cabinets were adorned was a masterstroke to say the least, inevitably they still are in Japan where arcades remain relevant. While I wouldn’t fathom of packaging a digitally downloadable game as an arcade cab, the gist of it is similar. A visually powerful method to communicate what the game is about, and to quickly instruct the gamer how it’s played for their enjoyment.

 

 

 

 

 

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Simplicity

Taito is a game company I’ve always had a soft spot for. We don’t hear much from them these days but they are still around. I believe they were bought by Square Enix as of 1995 and the rest as they say, is history. Sadly, it seems that Taito is now a shell of it’s former self – an arcade heavyweight with an enviable back catalogue.

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Taito’s older company logo

Responsible for a prolific assortment of hits such as Arkanoid, Arkanoid – Revenge of Doh, Bubble Bobble,  Buggy Challenge, Chase H.Q., Darius, Elevator Action, Exerion, Gun Frontier, Gyrodine, KiKi KaiKai, Layer Section, Operation Wolf, Operation Thunderbolt, Rastan, Runark, Slap Fight, Space Invaders, The Legend of Kage,  The New Zealand Story, The Ninja Warriors, Volfied – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty more that I have missed, excluding games Taito published from the likes of Toaplan & Technos Japan Corp.

The majority of titles mentioned above are lauded enthusiastically by retro game fans, worldwide. Certainly Taito provided the good times, leaving many of us with fond memories. Simple games, stylish games, colourful games with straightforward missions and game play. Hundred percent arcade experiences with no false pretense of attempting to be anything other.

I guess one of the charms of a Taito game is in it’s pure simplicity. No unnecessary bells and whistles to cloud proceedings. Leaving us with nothing more but a video game in it’s utmost sincerest form. Arkanoid and it’s sequel – Revenge of Doh, exemplifies this splendidly. While essentially a Breakout clone at it’s core, Arkanoid bends a few rules and eventually comes into it’s own. Power-up capsules, enemy ships and cleverly laid out brick formations helped to elevate it above Breakout and other similar clones.

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A stylish logo for a stylish game

Nevertheless, even with those few additions, Arkanoid and Revenge of Doh are amazingly simple and addictive games. And I never tire returning for another go. They hold up well to this very day, still exuding a fine and dapper air while never having lost the fun factor. Everyone with even a passing interest in games should experience both at some point in their lives.

From a game developer’s standpoint, much can be garnered from Taito’s past output. I won’t hide that there is some influence on my project. Maybe it was inevitable, having played so many of their games since my youth. Fortunately it’s a positive influence and that can only be helpful in the end. The process of developing my game has gradually taught me to keep things simple. Complicated and bloated concepts are stripped away but keeping the fun close by.

 

 

 

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.