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Defender – in search of Space Monsters

Friday fun – Midway arcade on AppStore

I must confess I have been waiting since day one of owning an iPad to be able to play the likes of Spy Hunter, Joust, Defender and Gauntlet on it. These are the titles that thrilled me as a young teenager in the early 1980s and basically thrust me in to a world of game development.
I remember fondly sitting in the back of my Dad’s car on a family holiday to Scotland sketching out my own designs for a Spy Hunter style game. Having played the real thing in the arcades I was convinced that there could be no finer gaming thrill than gunning down bad guys at high speed.

Gauntlet is a game I’ve written a lot about on here and my previous game development blog. To be able to play it on iPad is a huge thrill. It’s possibly let down by not (for obvious reasons) capturing the raw thrills of 4 friends huddled around the arcade machine but to relive hacking and slashing your way through endless dungeons is just fantastic. The graphics in Gauntlet continue to inspire my own games to this day.

I heartily recommend you nip over to the app store and grab Midway’s Arcade for iPhone and iPad.
Here is the blurb direct from the app store’s description.

Limited time Launch Sale for Midway Arcade! Only $.99USD – Includes 10 games!!! Spy Hunter, Rampage, Joust, Root Beer Tapper, Defender, and Arch Rivals. Plus 4 Arcade favorites: Air Hockey, Arcade Basketball, Pool, and Roll Ball.

All your favorite arcade hits in the palm of your hand! Lose yourself in this virtual arcade experience featuring 12 popular arcade games from Midway presented in their original cabinet. There’s even a jukebox that lets users play music from their iTunes library and a virtual prize redemption center!

Additional Arcade Hits are available for purchase as game packs.

Game Pack 1 includes:
– Total Carnage

Game Pack 2 includes:
– Gauntlet
– Gauntlet II
– Wizard of Wor

Note: if you are on iPad 1 you may experience a problem with the game crashing at the Warner title screen. To get around this I disabled WiFi – go in to Airplane mode – and then re-enabled it once the arcade was visible.

Atari800XL Dropzone

Dropzone screenshotWhen inspiration dries up I turn to the games of my youth. There’s something quite thrilling and romantic about delving back nearly 30 years to play some of the games that defined my desire to become a game designer.

As a 14 year old boy I was mesmerised by Dropzone. I’d quite a collection of games by this point and played them all. But Dropzone seemed quite different to the other games. It actually felt like an arcade game, not just a simple home computer game.

It did of course emulate in many respects the daddy of all arcade games – Defender. Where Defender had action, lasers, explosions and pace Dropzone doubled it up with style.

Dropzone screenshot

I think it was the artistic style of Dropzone that did it for me. The simple yet highly illustrative graphics worked and worked well. The title screen has great balance with its chunky 3D title graphic and text/sprite display laid out beneath.
In game the graphics were split beautifully. The scrolling terrain and detailed scanner occupied around 1/3 the whole screen and the rest was taken up by pure action.

Like Defender Dropzone was a tricky, fiddly affair. Often you’d find yourself frantically spunking lasers across the screen but to no avail. The alien probes seem perfect at dodging your stream. But once you achieve the necessary fine-tuned control skills and actually enjoy swinging your jetpack guy around the screen there’s some real thrills to be had. Is there another game out there where the firing of lasers is so satisfying ?

I could write forever about the action / rewards at play in Dropzone. The game epitomises for me what perfect balance in arcade game design is all about.

If you have an emulator grab yourself the Dropzone ROM and see for yourself what I’m talking about.
If you need an emulator try Atari800WinPlus.

New HTML5 game in development based on The Empire Strikes Back

I wanted to follow up on Danger Ranger pretty quickly with an idea I’d had for a while.
Before I started dabbling with Canvas and HTML5 I spent some time crafting an homage to one of my favourite films The Empire Strikes Back. It is called Hoth Strike and you can play it on the desktop here – Hoth Strike.

hoth gameThe point of the exercise for me was to create a Defender style game in the Star Wars style. I’d originally created the AT-AT as a Photoshop image that I’d intended to animate but sadly my animation skills didn’t stretch that far. So I buried the AT-AT in the snow as part of the landscape and altered the theme of the game.

I’m now re-using the game’s assets and creating something for the mobile phone.
My intention is to present the game in a portrait orientation and have the player flick the screen to move the snowspeeder up and down. The laser cannon will fire repeatedly.
The object of the (as yet untitled although I rather like Return to Hoth) game is to rescue your fallen rebel comrades from the snowy surface whilst avoiding probes and aliens. The more you rescue and the more aliens you shoot the greater your end of level bonus.

The scrolling backdrop is fixed and wraps Scooby-Doo style. i.e. there is no flying left and right. Only right.

I’m keen to have this finished in the next week or so. Will update more when I have more.

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