So it's probably pretty clear by now how much I love arcade beat em ups. Another game type I was really fond of as a kid were side scrolling shooters, Contra being the prime example. It was very surprising that I didn't see more of the two combined. I saw firearms present in some beat em ups, like Alien vs Predator, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, and Growl to name a few. Besides Narc, Bucky O'Hare, and MAYBE Alien Storm, I really can't bring any prominent examples to mind that really mixed the two as integral components rather than consumable random (or scripted) pickups.
Also, I don't often see independent shooting and moving, which would really be helpful as seen in the likes of Robotron or Smash TV. I think I was playing the arcade version of Narc at the time when I thought of how much better it would be if the game had separate shoot left and right buttons, kind of like (but not nearly as oddly implemented) the attack forward/backward buttons in Renegade. The thought of an auto-initiated close range attack to push enemies away also popped into my head, and I figured at that point, why not just give them a standard button mash BEU combo in addition to weapons. You'll also have evasive dodges by double tapping direction keys, and of course, an invincible frame possessing panic attack for emergencies. This won't take a bit of your health however, you'll have a special bar that slowly charges based on your actions, like Denjin Makai. I haven't decided yet if dodging will take a bit from it; I'll figure that out in playtesting.
Taking more influence from Alien Storm, I really liked the idea of a kind of mock heroic specialized team that deals with extraordinary enemies. Also, it's always more interesting to me to have a lot of non-human enemies in my beat em ups, which is why I really liked games like Battle Circuit and Guardians. So I did a rough design of a kind of John McClane looking guy and a Southern bell-type girl for the archetypes of strength and speed respectively. They probably won't even be named; I might as well just refer to them as Strength and Speed (hopefully the company that makes my motorcycle jackets doesn't find out and sue). I want their weapons to reflect their archetypes as well, so the guy has a lot of heavy, old, metal weapons while the girl has more lighter, tactical, polymer type weapons.
I have quite a bit of visual assets done; most, if not all of the pickups, both characters' weapons, most of their firing animations, and a few of the in-game tutorials, which will be handled through billboards (I'm pretty proud of myself for that one). I've also got initial sketches and early designs of the player characters, but not much as far as enemies. I also have the basic walking, shooting, and melee fighting engine done. This is the first game I've decided to program in AS3 (and may be the last...) and I'm also loading a lot of info (weapons, stats, enemies) via XML, so I can change game values without re-exporting the game.
Monster Squad is the working title, but it might stick; I was a really big fan of that movie as a kid. The game probably won't be a collection of classic monsters, but I do have at least zombies planned as some basic fodder enemies. Maybe I'll take suggestions for them, still have a while to go before it really becomes a big issue. For now, here's a still of the game thus far. I'm quite happy with the pickup icons, not so happy with the character design just yet. The background itself is for testing; it's from Final Fight 3. I'll have to change a bit of the logic as to how the boundaries work; I'd really like for this to be the first BEU engine I make that allows for vertical scrolling. Should be fun. Unless AS3 kills me first.
From 2002 all the way into early 2005, a small board I was on had created a text-based RPG that most of the members were involved in, called Red Ground. It was the first time I had ever RP'd (in basically any sense) and I think the same was true for a lot of the others involved as well. Due to a lot of us being very inexperienced with this, we took great care not to do anything that might affect each others' characters without a lot of prior planning. There was never really any PVP, certainly not typical RPG PVP with dice rolls. All inter-character PVP was virtually "choreographed" beforehand. It really ended up being more of a collaborative story than anything, and eventually there was kind of a mutual loss of interest.
A few years ago, I started playing around with the idea of making real time strategy games after some discussions at work on the complexities of programming an RTS engine. We had been playing Age of Empires during lunch on occasion, and we had also considered more company games that would function well on mobile devices. I can't quite remember how I got to the idea of using the Red Ground settings and characters; I'd have to look up some chat logs or something. Anyway, I figured I'd kind of treat it like an unlicensed game since I wouldn't have been able to get into contact with most of the people about using their characters and also, I thought that was funny. So character names are shuffled slightly around and there are some notable differences. I was even considering calling the game "Crimson Earth" or something like that.
So anyway, I wanted to make something of smaller scale, "lite" RTS game with RPG elements. All of your available characters would be specialized heroes from the Red Ground RPG, and you'd have a maximum party size of 6 members. Each hero is unique and has their own stats, weapons (and accompanying attack types), and skills. The skills could be anything from an immediate area attack, a projectile spell, a team buff, or the like. I haven't settled on skills using MP or relying solely on cooldown yet. I don't quite want it to be a practice in making sure everyone's skills are always in cooldown, so I'm kind of leaning towards MP pools that regenerate slowly.
The entirety of the game can be played with the mouse, but there will also be keyboard shortcuts for selecting units, using skills, changing attack types, etc. Whatever character you have selected will be manually controlled. The remaining party members will be AI controlled until overridden by manual control. Their AI will be very limited, pretty much to the point of simply attacking any enemy that encroaches upon their small automated range and only with basic attacks of their currently equipped weapon. One or two of the available party members might have automated support modes though, if they're more focused on that sort of thing.
The game will almost certainly be mission-based, with each mission being separated by planning screens. You'll pick your party from the Tavern, which will expand as the game goes on, probably in the same order the characters entered in the original RPG. You'll also be able to upgrade party members on this screen as well, unlocking and upgrading skills. I might do a few different mission objective templates, but the most obvious one as of now is defeating all the enemies in the level. I don't want the stages to be too complex; not more than a few screen lengths horizontally, and there probably won't be any vertical scrolling at all. I want most of the focus to be on the combat; nothing in the way of exploring or resource gathering.
So I have a lot of the characters skills figured out, as well as how their stats will carry over into the game. Don't have too much of the engine done yet, just a very basic RTS point and click character controller, no pathfinding yet. Here's a picture of the basic preview with some preliminary artwork. I quite like the style though, I'll probably keep a lot of it. The field sprites at least, I think are perfect; not quite so happy with the faces. If this were a flash embed rather than an image, you'd be able to click around on the characters and play with their weapons and skills.
I was supposed to post this one a short time after the first one.
..... oops. Anyway...
Not as big a history lesson on this one. Here's a game I started back in 2007. I guess maybe I was playing a lot of Alien Soldier as well as a few other games and I started getting ideas for characters. I wanted to put these characters in a game where they fought each other in highlighted matches, but not as a one-on-one fighting game. I still wanted it to be a side-scrolling action game with some adventure aspects to it, but like Alien Soldier, the real meat of the game was going to be the boss battles.
Although a lot of these modern "retro-throwback" style games have been getting on my nerves recently, at the time, I decided to intentionally make the story-line and writing of this game campy; reminiscent of a games I would have played in the late 80's and early 90's. I still plan on doing this, so I guess a good taste of that would be the story set-up. Although it may sound like it, I didn't write this as a spoof on Avatar; the general story was written around 2006. All similarities are purely coincidental, I actually still haven't seen Avatar.
In a possible future, with space travel and aliens and all that sci-fi goodness, a material is discovered on a small, war-torn planet. This substance is found to be an extremely effective yet perfectly clean-burning energy source. It's also high in protein and tastes great on toast. Scientists label this material Perfectium and quickly, the galaxy's largest governments scramble to section off zones of the planet for harvesting. The constant civil wars amongst the planet's hostile denizens and competing warlords of the region complicate matters for all parties, resulting in an emergency meeting of the Third Galactic Coalition (3GC). Through this, the Hell-Razors were born: a secret branch of highly trained agents, kept so confidential that they are isolated from each other. Their only exposure to their fellow Hell-Razors comes from a leaderboard, ranking the highest rated agents by their overall career efficiencies. Through their clandestine operations, key areas of the planet were kept stable enough for mining operations to resume.
A short time later, the planet is declared fully harvested and all mining crews are pulled. The Hell-Razor unit is disbanded and all records of their existence seemingly destroyed. Many disappear entirely, wary of how thorough the 3GC wished to be with their cover-up. Some seek similar positions amongst the 3GC's special forces. Many still find employment amongst the many remaining warlords as personal assassins; the discovery of Perfectium only increasing their bloodlust, unaware of their planet being mined dry of it. Gun-Shy, the only Hell-Razor to maintain a 100% mission efficiency rating when the team was disbanded, finds himself abandoned on the hostile world. With no desire to rejoin the 3GC, and even less to sell his skills to the native warlords, he attempts to find his way off the planet and into a quiet civilian life. However, he quickly learns that not all the Hell-Razor records were properly destroyed, and his status as top-dog is about to make him popular with all the wrong people.
So anyway, players assume the role of Gun-Shy, a former Hell-Razor on a planet teeming with belligerent locals, trigger-happy militia, dangerous beasts, and worst of all, other newly-employed former Hell-Razors. The game itself is styled after action-heavy side-scrollers like Contra, Gun-Star Heroes, Alien Soldier, Mega-Man, etc. Combat will be a mix of shooting, hand-to-hand, melee weapons, and more. Gun use is limited to a recharging ammo-supply, so while players will always have the gun available to them, it will have to be supplemented with various forms of combat. Levels will be mostly linear with some exploration giving way to more items and better upgrades. The player will progress through the storyline, battling legions of smaller enemies until they reach one of many boss battles. These typically will be other Hell-Razors, but may sometimes be other types of large enemies.
One of the major features of Hell-Razor's combat is Drive. On the HUD, in a speedometer-like display is Gun-Shy's Drive. Drive is built by successfully dodging attacks with the "defend" button. When it is pressed, Gun-Shy performs a quick evasive action that, when timed properly with an enemy attack, totally averts damage. The total damage prevented will be added to his Drive, and the more Drive built up, the easier consecutive attacks will be to dodge. Nearly every attack in the game will be dodgeable with possible exceptions being things like explosive-generated splash damage. When Drive is stored, pressing the attack button will result in a powerful single Counter-Attack that is capable of stunning opponents. The more drive stored, the stronger the attack. The Drive bar is also capable of being upgraded, allowing multiple levels of drive to be stored. With each new level, a stronger Counter-Attack is unlocked. Drive cannot be stored indefinitely; when drive is accrued, it persists for several seconds before draining quickly. This stops the player from maxing it out and unleashing it on the next boss at the beginning of the fight. It also keeps the combat quick and exciting, allowing the player the choice between burning their Drive on a Counter-Attack, or hoping they can keep it filled by dodging following attacks. A single Counter-Attack (or being hit) completely drains the Drive bar.
There will be an item slot where players can select one of their two carried items. They will always carry one permanent melee item and one consumable item. When picking up a new item, that item will replace the existing item of the same type. So if Gun-Shy has 5 throwing knives left and picks up grenades, he will drop the remaining throwing knives in place of the grenades, for possible later use. The player can switch between their permanent or consumable item at will. While Gun-Shy can swap out varying items during the game, his firearm will always be with him. During the course of the game, it will be upgraded several times. I've not yet nailed down which of these upgrades will be mandatory story upgrades, and which will be the result of exploration and puzzle-solving, but it will definitely be a mix of the two.
So basically, the main draw of the game as far as I'm concerned will be the wackiness of the characters that make up the many boss battles. I'm pretty set on having full-voice acting for all the in-game cutscenes, and I'm excited to record much of the game's dialogue. Anyway, as most of the game in its current form exists under the surface, here's a collage of concept art and sketches.
I've made little games before in Director and the like for school projects/fun, worked on HL mods, created card-based games, but this is the first "real" game I've ever started, as much sense as that makes. I loved beat-em ups growing up and I always imagined making one with an intricate combat system as well as RPG stats, similar to the old DnD Capcom BEU games, but more robust. I had just started using flash purely for animation, and while I've never been good at illustration, I had been getting pretty good at animating. I began animating sprites for the characters from a collaborative fanfic project a friend started for use in a beat em up game, with little to no knowledge on how I would ever program it. With at least a basic idea of what I would need in terms of graphics, I went about creating animations for different player and enemy characters. I figured once I learned how to program, most of the artwork would be there already.
It wasn't until about a year and a half later when I decided to seriously pursue turning this collection of animations into a game. I made it my senior thesis, citing the challenge of working with other people's character designs as good practice for a real game production job. With a very limited grasp on Actionscript, (I had made one website and one simple database) I went about attempting the creation of a game engine. I didn't get very far. After reading a large part of Flash MX 2004 Game Design Demystified, which became my programming bible, I contacted another Newgrounds artist, gavD and asked for some help. A few emails later, he set me up with a very basic controller and I was able to move a character around with keyboard input. The code still looked like an alien language to me, and I approached a professor who had Flash experience to help me decipher it. After a few short sessions, I now had the ability to program combinations of attacks as I had planned. This was where I learned that there was a difference between = and ==.This engine has since undergone countless recreations, and even in its latest state, it's very primitive compared to my new BEU engine I'm working on.
At this point, I'm just going to finish the game as I originally conceived it; as a three level demo featuring four playable characters from the start. If I ever continue the full game, it's definitely going to be different from how I originally planned it, and it's going to use a new engine. This entire process has been a huge learning experience; both in production habits as well as execution of concepts. I realized after testing why most BEU games featured one basic attack button. Or at least, why they didn't feature FOUR different basic attack buttons with a separate block and magic button. I wanted a much more in-depth battle system, and so rather than make the combos a sequence of mashing the same button, I made the combinations work based off button sequences. The sequences were the same for each character, but the timing differed. I also experienced my first frustrations of people skipping the clearly labeled tutorial, and then complaining about not being able to perform combos. For the final game, I intended to create a practice mode which walked players through combinations, but I might just settle for significantly reducing the amount of tutorial screens. I guess I had that old NES game design in mind, as I effectively created an entire detailed booklet of instructions.
Concerning the actual game itself and what you can expect... while not the genre-redefining combat I imagined, there will still be plenty of fully-animated attack animations with different strengths and effects for four different playable characters (and perhaps some unlockable characters). There are also around 6-7 enemies from Secret of Mana including a boss enemy at the end. As I mentioned earlier, each character has four basic attacks: quick "A" style, strong "A" style, quick "B" style, strong "B" style. Depending on your character, A style attacks might be punches while B are kicks, or A could be stabs and slashes while B are hacks and bashes, etc. There are also several combo types, each branching off either a quick or strong attack of either style. The typical combo proceeds as follows: Quick, Strong, Strong with either forward or up held down. These can be performed with either A or B style attacks (with the exception of projectile characters, whose A set is simply ranged attacks). The forward finisher is more powerful and knocks foes back while the upward finisher knocks them down, giving you more time before they attack again. The other main combo is Strong, Quick, Quick. This is mostly meant as a quick follow-up to a strong attack, as it doesn't knock the enemy down, but it can close up the opening presented after landing a strong attack.
I also felt as though a defensive option would further deepen combat. I've found more success with this addition than my combos, where each character seems to have that one combo that's just better than the others. The block feature has worked out quite well in testing, which deflects most attacks with a large damage reduction. I will probably not include dodging in the final demo unless I find it works without too much tweaking. I originally planned to include a dodge that could only be performed in the split second or two after blocking an attack. This would totally negate the damage rather than reduce it, and allow for a quick follow up riposte attack, performed automatically when finishing the dodge if an attack key was pressed. It seems a very odd system and I'm not sure why I imagined it working this way rather than always allowing the player to dodge. Oh well... my decision to include it will be solely based on the difficulty of implementing it; if it turns out poorly, I'll just eat it with the rest of my design choices that didn't turn as I expected. At this point, I just want to put this project to bed.
One feature I am a bit proud of to this day is the working RPG and statistics system. Each character has their own stat breakdown falling into these categories:
- Maximum HP and health recovery effectiveness.
- Damage dealt and general strength.
- Damage taken and ability to defend attacks.
- Movement speed and quickness of attacks.
- A number of smaller aspects like crit chance, hit boxes, ability to escape holds.
- Maximum MP and general spell effectiveness.
- Defense against magic.
Although there won't be the opportunity to grind in the demo and every character will essentially accrue the exact same XP by the end of the game, I still have them set up to scale uniquely with each character depending on their starting stats. These stats also come into play with the engine, applying modifiers to damage done, damage taken, life increased on item pickup, movement speed, etc. Another feature from the actual SoM game that I've incorporated is the charging special technique system, performed in this game by holding down Strong A until your bar fills up. Releasing it will unleash a powerful attack dependent on how many levels were charged up. This can be upgraded with the character's weapon which also updates the appearance of the weapon; however for the demo, I'm probably limiting it to one weapon level.
As far as the storyline goes, I decided not to really get into it for the demo, as the full game was going to feature a unique path and story for each character. The story the game is based off of, however, takes place 10 years after the events of Secret of Mana, with the unexpected reemergence of mana. The Elemental Spirits choose a collection of new heroes to stand against an old enemy. With the help of Randi, Sage Luka, Purim, and others, they may be able to prevent cataclysm once more.
So that's basically everything there is to know without actually playing the game. I'm happy to say I think my drawing ability has improved quite a lot since this game, which isn't saying an awful lot. I'm still pretty happy with a lot of the animation in it though. I also wish things like layout and design didn't elude me. That being said, here, have some screenshots.
Edit: Wasn't aware it was gonna mash the image down to that shit size. Click the links for larger screens.
I began playing with Flash in 2003, finishing my first full animation that year; my mock trailer for the then in-production Star Fox: Assault (simply Star Fox 2 or Armada) which I submitted here a number of months later. Since then, I have had great aspirations of full-sized games and entire animation series, most of which I've done a considerable amount of work on. I finished a second full-length animation a year later which I have not and will not post here. In 2006, I graduated Marist College and began working as a Flash programmer and animator at a very small media company with 4 other employees at the time. During this time, I've built dozens of flash-based web games and e-learning courses for dozens of clients. We've also produced a number of animations amongst ourselves for various contests. We are now at +50 employees, and we've recently released our first in-company game; Roll: Boulder Smash, for iPhone/iPad and Android devices. Check out the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fo_EqMzdqog.
Anyway, my point is, growing with this company for nearly 7 years has had its advantages and disadvantages. Obviously, as a small company, we've had to work harder than everyone else to get where we are now. This, coupled with me, well... not being very talented, means that I, as well as all of us at work, have to dedicate a large portion of our time to staying educated, staying skilled, staying relevant in our fields, and making sure we produce the same quality of work that's put us where we are now. On the other hand, I've learned (and continue to learn) new things almost every day since I started; things that most of my planned projects would be impossible without.
Of course, this is also a double-edged sword. With every day, my aging projects look like they could use more and more of my current knowledge, and many have received countless workovers. On top of that, I've fallen into the trap many artists here probably know well: starting too many new projects before finishing old ones. As bad of an illustration artist I am and as mediocre a programmer, I can't stop coming up with ideas I want to see realized. Earlier this year, I made a list of my current games. I narrowed this list down based on several criteria.
1. Games I actually would want to play.
2. Games I believe I currently have the ability to finish from a programming standpoint.
3. Games I have made actual progress on besides concepts.
When I was done, I was still left with 23 games. Flash-games alone; not counting planned Unity projects, or console-based games. Twenty-three flash games. As my activity here is proof, I am one of many artists who has trouble finishing things they start. Once I get a good way through a project, I begin to think that I could do much better, and I just start getting ideas. It has to stop at some point, and I've decided to take a number of measures to see these projects through. Besides this list, I've also begun creating schedules and assigning priority to certain projects.
I have a few things I'm doing for friends right now, but once they are done, I plan to finish the first game I ever started. I believe this will help get the ball rolling, and I really feel like with each game finished, things will go exponentially faster. I don't intend to finish these projects in the order they were conceived, as I tended to plan things well beyond my abilities early on; things quite ambitious even for Flash standards today. I also think that finally making my projects known to more than just the few people I talk to will help give me greater motivation towards finishing them, and that's what this process is all about. In the next few posts, I'll be highlighting a single game per post; not all of them, just a choice few that I've either got a larger amount of visual work done on, or I'm exceptionally excited about. As I've mentioned before, my skill-set lies more on the programming and animating side, so most of what I'll be showing will be more conceptual. Many of the games I've started are still using temporary visual assets with the majority of the work done on the engine itself. All of the games I'm currently working on, (all 23) have extensive and detailed design documents with a mostly clear view on how I expect gameplay to flow.
One of my fears has always been revealing ideas before I've a finished product. I'm always afraid of coming up with something and someone with more ability deciding to do it first. It may seem egotistical, but it has happened to me before, both by coincidence and intentionally. I think I can put this fear to bed with my flash games however. After all, who's going to steal my stupid ideas when there are probably a lot of people who, like me, barely have enough time for their own ideas? In the unlikely occurrence someone does steal one though... I'm still going to try to finish all of these games. I mean... they're free flash games. What are they going to do, sue me for not making any money on a game they stole from me in the first place? Whatever, the possibility is better than me taking all these ideas to the grave with me.
Anyway... here's the majority of that list I mentioned, with even more truncated descriptions, as well as the year it was started in. Many of these obviously are not final titles.
- Remake of the Commodore 64 game. Staying as faithful as possible.
- Side scrolling puzzle platformer featuring comedic and nonsensical characters.
- Side scrolling shooter/beat em up, featuring many unique boss battles in a similar fashion to Alien Soldier.
- Beat em up starring myself and someone from work. Ego-trip? Perhaps.
- Side scrolling run and gun game using mouse and keyboard controls.
- Beat em up mixed with shooter, something like Narc meets Final Fight.
- One on one fighting game inspired by games like Best of the Best (NES) and Star Rank Boxing 2 (C64).
- Secret of Mana based beat em up. Also the first real Flash game I ever started.
- Small scale RTS game with RPG system.
- Side scrolling adventure game focused on navigation, stealth, platforming, and puzzle solving. Inspired by games like Prince of Persia.
- Mission-based side scrolling shooter with a heavy focus on stealth and cover-based combat.
- Third person shooter with mock-3d perspective. Same game as the one above but with an entirely different play-style. Something of an experiment in doing one game in two different styles.
- Side scrolling hack and slash featuring characters with transformative special abilities unique to each other.
- One-on-one fighting game based on an old SSB fanfic I used to write, featuring an original take on Stamina mode.
- Side scrolling survival horror with experimental play style.
- Vertical top down shooter in the style of Xevious, featuring classic Star Fox mechanics augmented to fit the style of a vTDS game.
- Side-scrolling flying shoot-em-up similar to Super R-Type with customizable weapon load-outs.
- A turn-based strategy RPG game, similar to the Shining Force games. Based on a console game idea that came to me in a dream around 2002.
- Beat em up with a non-linear, dungeon-like navigation system.
Maybe in another 30 years, I'll release them all as a collection.