Dev Diary–Retrospective

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Development diaries for independents are a funny old thing. A lot of people do them and they can provide a terrific source of information to other like minded developers. I always thought I’d write one should I ever do something I felt was interesting enough, but at the time I always thought everything I had done was pretty mundane.

However, recently I’ve had cause to reflect over what I’ve done the past year, to consider what I’ve actually achieved versus what I was “gunna” do. And as such I think some of what I experienced might actually be worthy of mention. So I figured I might write up some ‘retrospective’ dev diaries and hit some of the high points from the last year as well having a laugh at some of the low points.

Back at the start of ‘11 I was just finishing up in my current gig as the Systems Development Manager at a tertiary college. In gamedev terms I had trodden the usual noob path. I had come across XNA game studio late in ‘08 and was dabbling in it as a fun way of maintaining my C# skills while working in management. I had done a bunch of tutorials. I’d written clones of games like Pong, Tetris, Space Invaders and Yahtzee. Heh, when I did the Pong clone, I called it “Stink”! Get it? Yep, I’m here all week, try the veal.

So I figured the time was right to try something a little more creative.

One early piece of advice I remember getting was “write the type of games you like to play”. This makes a bunch of sense, how else would you know what’s fun and what’s crap? Trouble was the games I like to play are strategy and simulation type games. Pretty complex and at this stage of proceedings I knew anything like that was well beyond me. I’ll talk about how I came to that realisation in a future post. It’s a wacky adventure chock full of typical noob assumptions.

Back in the 80’s, Galaxian and then Galaga were my favourite games. Later on I got into the vertical shooters like 1942 and the subsequent clones. In 1990 when I first joined the Air Force, we had a vertical shooter video game in our barracks rec room. It was essentially a space themed clone of 1942 and I’ll be dammed if I can remember the name of it, but all of us pumped plenty of 20c coins into it. Apart from the usual collectables for weapon power ups, shields, bombs and 1ups, this game also would release a weapon changer collectable. This item would pulse between the colours red, blue, yellow and green, with each colour relating to a style of weapon. So it required an element of tactics by the player to time their collection of the item to gain a preferred weapon. The weapons were normal bullets, spread shot, explosives and lasers, each with their strengths and weaknesses.

So I decided that the first “proper game” that I would write would be based on Galaxian while incorporating the power up collectable features of vertical shooters.

And I’ll talk more about the design of that game in the next post. Smile