Thursday, May 31, 2012

Twelve Months of Doomsday episode 5: Asteroid Attack

Episode 5 of my TMoD series has been released on Blazing Games so this fortnight I will discuss some of the design decisions that went into the development of this game. While this game is clearly inspired by the classic arcade game Asteroids, it is much more inspired by one of my favourite movies: The Empire Strikes Back. While Asteroids had aliens in it, they were more of an afterthought. I wanted my game to focus on battling aliens not on shooting asteroids. To do this, I made the asteroid field much bigger so the player would actually have to navigate through it and I made the rocks much harder to destroy.

The big problem with making asteroids hard to destroy is the basic fact that navigating using momentum based movement like the game uses makes rapid dodging difficult. To address this problem, I decided that giving lasers some form of impact value would be a good way of solving this problem. Shooting an asteroid will then either alter the course of the asteroid or cause it to break apart.

One of the great aspects of being a game developer/programmer is that you control the laws of physics. I based the amount of impact that a laser has based on the radius of the asteroid instead of the mass of the asteroid so lasers will have a much greater effect on larger asteroids than they should. This decision was made largely based on intangible factor: the feel of the game. This is actually one big advantage of doing small games. You are able to finish the game while the game is still enjoyable so playing the game yourself actually gives you meaningful feedback. When you are spending years working on a game, unless the game is one of those rare exceptions, you will be sick of the game as you reach later stages of it's development.

Originally the game was going to give the player a limited number of lives and the player would not re-appear until the coast was clear. That really didn't fit well with the story, so I decided that the player would only have a single life but would have a shield that would flash when they were hit with a limited amount of shield. This also allowed me to make it less damaging to bounce off an asteroid than to be hit by an alien laser.

Aliens were a lot more dangerous in earlier builds of the game as they would home in on the player and would start shooting at a fair distance away from the player. This difficulty was reduced by making the aliens wander randomly while trying to keep away from asteroids and not shooting at the player until they were fairly close to the player.

While I am sure there are a lot of people who disagree with me, I was quite happy with the way the game turned out.

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