Dragons! game update and reducing drawImage calls

Dragon gameFor a long time I’ve wanted to create a game with a fire-breathing Dragon. I’d always imagined it would be a big, hulking monster that would stomp around a scrolling level laying waste to anything that came close to it. The more I thought about the idea the more I struggled to think of anything that would work as a decent challenge.

The trouble with hulking great fire-breathing monsters is that they are pretty much invincible. At least that’s where the fun lies. The fact that you can torch anything to the ground ought to be a lot of fun.

I guess there are some mechanics that would work in such a game; time limited destruction, for example, but I really didn’t want that. I generally don’t like games where you are pitched against the clock.

So I stepped back a little and thought of the game as a shoot ’em up (naturally !).
I sketched out some level ideas and realised that for my Dragon I wanted to have the fireballs tumbling down the screen. This I think is more aesthetically pleasing and also serves to reinforce the single finger / thumb control that I aim for in my games.

I started off having this floating, fire-breathing Dragon drifting across the screen. I played with it for a while to try and get a feel for what might be a fun thing to do with such a character.
Note: I generally don’t think in terms of challenges more in terms of what is fun. For me it is always fun to shoot > kill > explode so I aimed for that first off.

Naturally adversaries wouldn’t necessarily explode when hit by a fireball so I adapted the sprite sheet for the knights to include one where they are engulfed in flames.

So the game starts to take shape with the Dragon at the top of this ledge protecting “something” that the knights are clearly after. Just to mix it up a bit I also hurl spears and swords at the player to give him something else to think about.
Finally I introduce the overall aim of the game – collect and defend your treasure.

I have random treasure items bouncing down from the heavens that the Dragon (player) must collect. The advancing knights scaling the rockface are intent on stealing from the treasure chests so it is a constant battle to ensure that your treasure levels are high. Once you have enough treasure (indicated by the gold progress bar – not in the current screen shot) you progress to the next stage.

Something that I’ve done deliberately in this game is to hand over some of the artwork to a static PNG file that forms the CSS backgroundImage of the game screen. Ordinarily I might have been tempted to draw each treasure chest and the treasure icon separately and then animate them. But this just seemed like another 4 un-necessary drawImage calls. As it is I only ever call the function around a dozen times with each pass. This gives me a fairly acceptable performance across all devices.

I hope to have the game finished in the next few days so that I can move on to something new.


Dragon game – update and re-using old sprite graphics

Dragon game screenshotI still can’t think of a decent title for this game. I guess something will spring to mind.
About 10 years ago I worked on a small nGage title called Space Ranger. It was a simple affair of guiding your space hero around a maze with a rocket pack whilst shooting your laser pistol at bizarre cartoon-like aliens and monsters. Great fun and a blast to develop.
Luckily, I kept all the art work that I created for the game on disk and recently dug it all out.

The rocks (with slight Photoshop filtering going on) and grass ledge in the screenshot are from the Ranger game. Everything else I’ve drawn from scratch.
There’s also a snow level with an icy ledge at the top of the rock wall.

As you can see I’ve coded up the collision with the Dragon’s fireballs (which incidentally right now are the alien bombs from Galactians) so that I can hurl the Knights from the rock face in flames.
As with the last game I flash up multi-coloured text boxes to indicate the score for hitting each bad guy.
The other cool thing is the hovering Dragon sprite. The hovering is done in code but the tiny wing flutterings are done in the artwork. I like the effect a lot and hope to build on the spritesheet to include some other frames for celebratory sequences or the losing of a life / chance.

Enjoying developing this one.

Dragon game – worklist

I tend not to deal with design documents. I just like to scribble and sketch ideas and write down what I think would be cool.
Just now in my worklist.txt file I have the following:

> Make the Dragon fly rather than shuffle left and right.
> Increase the fireball fire rate to be more like a shoot ’em up.
> Use swipe movement rather than pin-point x co-ordinates. (Same as Galactians)
> Primary goal of defending treasure.
> When all treasure gone Game Over.
> Falling monsters / knights in flames collide with other assilants and score combo points.
> Change castle setting to a rocky mountain ledge with grass top.
> Arrows fired from assailants – vertical only no x shifting.
> Need to consider an alternative monster style – not just vertical only movement.
> Implement attack waves.

I also created a new attacking Knight sprite. Attacking in the sense that the Knight will scale the wall to steal the Dragon’s treasure.

Knight sprite

It’s nice to be playing with a fantasy theme for a change.
Incidentally the game doesn’t have a proper title yet – hence “Dragon Game” :-)

Area 51 – adding some nice touches


15 – 20 years ago I devoured games such as Wolfenstein, DOOM and of course the 15 year old genius that is Quake. What I loved about those games was so much more than the pleasure of blasting monsters – for me was all about the neat little extras that the developer threw in.


Most notably the muzzleflash and weapon recoil when the trigger button was pressed. This lit Quake up beautifully. In fact before OpenGL changed the look of the game you could pretty much light your way along a gloomy corridor with a few rounds from the shotgun / nailgun or with a single shot from the rocket launcher. I can’t tell you how many times I did that and enjoyed it.

For Area 51 I wanted to achieve my own very stripped down version of this super satisfying sensation.
To achieve the muzzleflash I simply re-rendered the wall overlays to include a touch of Photoshop light rendering. I aimed the cursor to the right of the weapon area so that it pretty much just lit up the right hand corridor wall. If you look you can see it slightly illuminates the darker corridor in the distance. The effect was satisfying enough but empty without the recoil of the weapon in hand.

I set a .nextthink attribute on the weapon object and depending on the weapon it would be anything from 4 game ticks to 10 for the slower non-auto weapons.
During this period I would flash the walls and recoil the gun. Better yet I lifted the already written blood spurting code and created a white version that spat from the gun with every round. Almost like bullet cases being shed when unloading an automatic rifle.

You can see the muzzleflash in the above right image compared to the left side.

Finally I got around to iconising the weapons for display in the HUD. You can tap each unlocked weapon to use it. The first three weapons will unlock fairly quick but the last two might just be beyond level 20. That’s when the aliens and hideous experiments start to come at you :-)

Hugely entertaining to develop this. Loving making games again.

Incidentally the text in the green console is dynamic. I intend to write meaningful things in there during each mission to assist the player. As yet I haven’t thought of anything to say in there.

A new game in development – “Area 51”

Nearly 10 years ago when I was a young video game artist working for Software Creations in Manchester I firmly believed that I could set the world of gaming alight. Back then we were developing fairly average GameBoy Advance games for Acclaim so a number of us had side projects.

area51 title screen Area51 screenshot

A coder friend and I had read with interest that the original plans for DOOM were to have military scenarios over-run with mutants and all manner of toxic monstrosities, and you as the hero had to dispatch them to escape. Carmack had put the kibosh on the idea claiming it was far too stereotyped and predictable – far better to have hell crawling out from some otherworldy place and eventually finding its way back to Earth. That story is the stuff of video gaming legend.
But we were fairly intrigued by the initial idea and I started coming up with some artwork and animations. Fortunately I kept the artwork from back then on CDs and having just moved house found them all in a box. So I dug them out, restructured them and started building a game. I call it Area 51 just now since a decent title hasn’t struck me yet :-)

The premise is fairly simple, the crap hits the fan deep inside a secret military installation and all the “projects” are released in to the corridors. You start with a pistol and shoot your way out finding more complex experimental weapons as you go. Naturally the monsters become more complex and deadly and there in itself is a game.

But I want to add a bit more to it. I want the played to deal with mutants in waves. At the end of each wave the player finds the exit and is presented with a choice – left, right or straight ahead. I construct the map up front and the player picks his route. There’s no keys to find or passcodes for unlocking doors – it’s all just run, gun and get out.

I intend to have shootable powerups and other such goodies but for now it’s all about getting the feel of the action right. To that end I’ve successfully managed to scale the mutants and render appropriately sized blood droplets. I’ve also managed to jolt the gun and plan on firing off empty shells with each round. The gun is controlled from the green touch area at the base of the game. With every stroke of the finger the crosshair moves in the main game area and shoots. If a mutant is in the way it is shot, loses HP and ultimately falls defeated.

I’m super excited to be creating a game that isn’t my normal sort of game. I’m also excited to be using some graphics that are from a time I absolutely adored sitting and pixeling in Photoshop. I hope to show quite a bit more in the coming weeks.

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