Sunday, February 28, 2010

Making Space Station Defence

The Space Station Defence game that has just been posted on Blazing Games is not the game that I planned to release in March. I was actually planning on releasing another episode of Dozen Days of Words, possibly both of the final episodes. After just starting work on episode 11, I came up with a concept for an arcade game. I figured I would take a few hours and build a quick prototype of this game. While assembling the prototype, I realized that the game would simply not be fun. Before dropping my prototype, I went for a walk as in the Okanagan Valley we are having an unusually warm winter with all our snow melted already. While some people may blame our warm weather on global warming, I know that the real reason is because I bought a bunch of exercise games for my Wii. While I have lost a lot of weight, I still have a way to go. My own long history of dieting has taught me that the only way I can lose weight and keep it off is by exercising. Now that I have audiobooks and podcasts to listen to while walking, I have drastically increased the amount of exercise I do. While this might not seem to have anything to do with game development, walking helps my mind sort through it's myriad of thoughts. A simple change turned a dead prototype into a released game.

The original concept was a shield game. The player would have a shield around their space station. This shield would slowly recover but could be rotated. As the player took damage, they would simply rotate the shield. In theory this sounds interesting. The problem is that actual game-play isn't much fun.

During my walk, I came up with two different solutions. The first would be to have a non-destructible shield but one that only protected a small portion of the space station. The other method was to slow down shield recharging and give the player missiles to shoot back. As the later idea sounded more fun I went with that. The game lasted too long with recharging shields, so in fine tuning I removed that feature. As I already had three different shield levels, I also opted to have three different difficulty levels. I think another pass or two would have been nice, but I simply have not had the time.

Does this mean that the eleventh episode of Dozen Days of Words is going to be released in April? To be honest, I don't know. I do want to start experimenting with HTML5 so I hope to have a game that takes advantage of the canvas element. This feature is already supported by most browsers, and there is a JavaScript library that adds canvas support to Internet Explorer. Microsoft seems to be exceedingly slow at adding HTML5 features to their browser. I suspect they are trying to shove Silverlight down everyone's throat. HTML5 would make Silverlight mostly irrelevant. To be honest, I am starting on my HTML5 migration much sooner than I ever anticipated largely due to Mozilla, Google and Apple's push for HTML5 features.

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