As a game designer (of sorts), there are many ideas that one makes and then never get through. I thought I’d post some of mine.
the cat harvests the stars
This was a game based on Asteroids and a shareware game from the ninties, called Asterax- which only really added power-ups to the very well known “shoot space rocks” formula of Asteroids. You played as a cat in a spaceship (hence “the cat” in the title), shot asteroids, and collected little orbs to gain power and money.
Unlike Asteroids, your ship had “moxie,” which was equivalent to hit points- hitting larger asteroids would cause more damage and be more likely to kill you. The “threat” level of each asteroid was, like several animals in the real world, displayed via color- white asteroids were the slowest, followed by yellow, and red the fastest (and therefore more dangerous). You could regain moxie by collecting orbs-
There were something like 10 different colors of orbs, each which were worth a different value. After completing the level,
you got stats telling you how many orbs you collected and the average value, and could go to the next level or the store.
Most items in the shop were automatically equipped and used, and a few (bonbs [yes, that is not a typo] and missiles) were triggered by a control on the play screen. After playing 3-5 levels per “area,” you’d fight a boss of some sort.
Apparently, in this case, the moon. Eventually, you’d clear all the areas, and…win.
So why wasn’t this game released?
For starters, the controls. The game was planned for the iPhone, and, if you keenly looked at the above screenshots, you have probably noticed the problem. Because iPhones only have two reliable input sources, the touch screen or the accelerometer, you must make sure that the control scheme is simple to use, responsive to input, and doesn’t obfuscate the gameplay or otherwise inconvenience the player. Which sounds like accelerometer would be a perfect fit for the game- but for a very good reason. If you’ve ever watched someone (usually children) play a console/handheld racing game (or other games like Locoroco), you will probably see them tilt their heads or controller as if it would control the action on screen. The problem lies within the disconnect from the real controls and the perceived/enacted control by moving the player’s body, where players would lean more if they wanted their character to make sharper turns. If you devise a game to use an accelerometer (built into the screen of the device, no less), there will likely cause a disconnect between what the player thinks will happen when they tilt the device, what the device registers, and how the game handles the input. For a game like this (and other SCHMUPS), where precision is necessary, an accelerometer is an inelegant solution.
Which then leaves us with on-screen controls, which in many games, isn’t much of a problem. However, if the game has fast moving dangerous objects, in this case the asteroids, that screen real estate becomes very valuable. As the game was in its last inception, the joystick in the lower left controlled movement and attacks (firing shots, missiles or bombs) were placed on the right, which just ate up too much screen. While there are a few ways to remedy this problem (smaller controls; camera locking the player to the middle of the screen and noting threats; shrinking the gameplay area; changing the rotation of the device and placing the controls below the action), several of the ways were unacceptable, others changed the gameplay, and finally, development stopped before any could be implemented.
You’ll notice the awesome graphical quality of the game as well- or lack thereof. The engine the game was built on has/had literally no effects engine aside from particles, which means that the game’s graphical prowess where completely limited to me, unless I wanted to pay out to a designer. The graphics, while passable for me, never really got to where I wanted them to be.
You know, now that I think about it, the second biggest reason this game wasn’t released is because a later build which was over 95% finished, got destroyed somehow, and the latest version on backup (as seen here) was probably under 70% finished. All the bosses had been implemented, the music was in the game, the scenarios were completed, menu and save worked flawlessly. Only a little bit of balancing was necessary to get it out the door (and maybe a fresh coat of paint). The final nail in the coffin was abandoning the engine and moving to programming via C / objective-C- a move that allowed me to program how I wanted to, so I left this game to start on my more ambitious ideas.
So there we go. Playing through it today to grab these screen shots made me want to go back and finish it, but as I have other projects on the burner actively cooking, this will be moved to my freezer.