Monthly Archives: December 2015

Jetboard Joust Devlog #4 – Enemies and Explosions

When I code I have a tendency to ‘potter’ – that is, I’ll start off with the aim of doing something and end up getting distracted by various side-tasks along the way. Much as one might do when gardening!

So in this case I started off trying to get my first simple enemy done and ended up getting sidetracked into writing a particle generator to handle explosions and other FX in the game.

Consequently my initial enemy is still looking pretty crappy. I’m not happy with it at all actually. God this pixel art stuff is harder than it looks! All I wanted was a simple spinning ‘mine’ type thing that will remain largely static as a dumb target. The first attempt was OK but somehow looked wrong compared to the main character – like I was using too many colours or something, not contrasty enough. So I tried again giving it two ‘eyes’ this time and adding another frame to the animation. Still looks crap and now the animation looks all wrong too, like it’s not really spinning correctly. I know – even with four years at art school I should stick to code!

Anyway, in order to feel as if I was making some progress I decided one of these would do as a placeholder and moved on to implementing a simple ‘enemy’ base class and some basic collision detection for when the board is ‘fired’. Easy.

Next I needed explosions, and as this game is partly ‘Defender’ inspired it seemed some kind of particle-based explosion would be the way to go. I’ve never written a particle generator before so have no idea whether I’m going about this the best way (maybe I should have read up about it first) but am pretty pleased with where I’ve got to so far.

A ‘generator’ is instantiated with a max number of particles and a lifespan and chucks out max_particles/lifespan particles per frame.

Each particle has a velocity, decceleration and lifespan (defined at the generator level), each with a defined amount of variance. there’s also the option to set up a tween on the opacity of each particle. I calculate the tween values in advance.

So not much is being done per particle per frame other than calculate the new velocity and draw it. Thinking about it I could probably calculate the velocities in advance as well if I really needed to but not if I add additional factors like gravity which I plan to do. It should prove a very useful class throughout the game.

Another thing I’ve been a bit stuck on is getting the ‘camera’ on the scrolling world to perform to my satisfaction. Still not there on that one yet, hopefully have it resolved by the next installment!

Dev Time: 1 day
Total Dev Time: approx 7 days

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‘Mine’ Type Enemy Attempt – Rubbish

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Tried Again – Still Hopeless!

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First Draft Particle Explosions – Look Like Fun?
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Jetboard Joust DevLog #3 – Jumping And Thrusting

Another 1.5 days or so in and, surprise surprise, things aren’t going as quickly as I would like. This is mainly due to the art though which always takes me ages. There won’t really be that many main character animations in the game I guess so I might as well make the one’s that are there as good as I can get them (with my limited pixel-pushing ability).

First off the main ‘riding the board’ anim. This looked OK in Photoshop but in-game it didn’t seem to work. Seemed too wobbly and unnatural. Looking at a few vids people stay pretty still on skateboards/surfboards when they’re riding them and only wobble about when they’re going to fall off!

So after much trial and error I decided to ditch any kind of movement when the player is riding the board. I replaced this with three key positions that vary depending on how fast the board is moving. As the board moves quicker the player leans back more. I also added a couple of ‘spring’ frames so that when the board thrusts upwards the player ducks down slightly. The combo of these two things seems to work pretty well – though I’m not sure if the ‘leaning back’ position is too much ‘walk like an egyptian’! Any more animation just looked too ‘wobbly’ (that’s the trouble with having an 18*18 sprite, it’s very hard to do subtle movements).

Next up was the controls themselves. I was quite keen on this being a ‘two button’ only game but using the same button for thrust and reverse (long press for reverse) just wasn’t working. It was too easy to reverse by accident and too natural to expect holding ‘thrust’ to keep thrusting. So I’m moving to a three button system where the button left will be ‘reverse’, bottom right ‘thrust’ and top ‘fire’. This is pretty easy to play on the iPad but I’m a bit worried fat fingers will get in the way of the gameplay on smaller phones (such as the older iPhones which seem tiny now)!

A knock-on effect of this is that thrust now works based on a continual applied force than a single impulse so I had to tweak the various parameters involved until this felt right. I’ve ended up with less thrust being applied as you reach terminal velocity so there’s a kind of curve going on. I’ve no idea whether this follows the laws of physics but it certainly feels nicer form a gameplay perspective.

Last but definitely not least in terms of time was getting the ‘jump’ action correct. A core feature of the game is that your jetboard becomes a weapon when you’re not riding it so this has to look and feel right.

Getting the basic movement was pretty easy – pressing fire causes an impulse which make the jetboard fly dead straight for a certain distance (so it’s easier to aim). Getting the player to jump and return to the board was also very straightforward (there’s a bunch of scenarios you have to think about but none of them present and major issues).

What wasn’t so simple was getting the ‘jump’ animation for the player to work. As the jump movement is done in code it’s very hard to preview this in Photoshop so I felt I was kind of working blindly. My first effort (which took ages) wasn’t too awful but felt more like a weird mid-air run than a jump. In the end I had to make the animation sequence fairly complex – we start with a kind of ‘run’ movement which is played again in part as the player reaches the zenith of the jump, the anim then transitions to a ‘descent’ position which is held until the player lands back on the board. When he lands a short ‘spring’ animation is played.

I’m pleased with the way this works now though I’m sure it could still be better and will gladly take any comments! I messed around with the frame timings a lot. Will probably come back to it but it’s time to move on.

Next up – probably adding some really simple enemies to test targeting and a simple lose life/new life loop.

Dev Time: 1.5 days
Total Dev Time: approx 6 days

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Board Like An Egyptian?

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Riding The Board Sprite Sheet

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Jump Anim – First Attempt (Ministry Of Silly Walks)?

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Jump To It!

Jetboard Joust DevLog #2 – Player Movement and Gameplay

Been working on the initial player movement for ‘Jetboard Joust‘ (my ‘Skateboard Joust‘ sequel) this week which, of course, also entails thinking about how the gameplay is going to work.

And the more I think about it the more I’m convinced that there’s enough ‘endless runners/jumpers/droppers/flappers/flyers/hoppers’ etc out there and I should really do something different.

So I fancy making the gameplay similar to, possibly the greatest arcade game of all time, Williams ‘Defender‘. A scrolling world that loops back on itself with a set number of enemies to destroy per level. It’s a format that doesn’t get much love nowadays but I have such strong memories of being huddled in awe around a ‘Defender‘ cabinet after going swimming on a Saturday as a kid that I think I should pay some kind of tribute to it.

Maybe the reason the format doesn’t see much action on mobile is that it requires a much greater degree of control than an ‘endless runner’. ‘Defender‘ had what seemed like a bewildering set of controls for an arcade game in it’s day. Of course, we’re all used to multi-button controllers nowadays but, as I wrote in a previous post, an iPad is most definitely NOT a gamepad so there’s no way I’m going to go down the fundamentally flawed ‘onscreen gamepad’ route.

For the mobile version I want to keep the controls as simple as possible and control everything via tapping either on the left or right of the screen. After running a few tests I think I can get this to work – tap on one side to thrust, tap and hold to reverse direction. Tap on the other side to fire (hold to repeat fire for weapons that support it).

This method means you’re almost always moving at a constant velocity left/right (unless turning) but in initial tests it seems to work OK and feel pretty intuitive. Much of the work is in getting the ‘bounce’ of the thrust action to feel right – more on that later…

Oh yeah – check out the parallax scrolling too! And I know the main character anims not working!

Dev Time: 2 days (including project setup)
Total Dev Time: approx 4.5 days

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Don’t Remember Her At The Swimming Baths

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First Stab At Player Movement And Parallax


I Could Never Last More Than About Two Minutes

Jetboard Joust Devlog #1 – Overall Art Style

Looking back at my (frankly rather awful) ZX Spectrum title ‘Skateboard Joust‘ reminded me that there was always something pretty decent in the core gameplay concept of using your flying skateboard as a weapon when mid-jump.

As I need something else to work on whilst development on ‘Attack of Giant Jumping Man‘ slows down (hopefully temporarily) I thought about revisiting ‘Skateboard Joust‘ – almost as a penance for my sins in bringing such a dreadful game into the world into the first place! Maybe I can make a half-decent sequel and bring my gaming karma into alignment somehow?

I think I could get this mechanic to work as a simple two-button ‘endless scroller’ which might be nice for mobile and possibly even PC so I’ve been working on some visuals for the game with a view to making a prototype at least.

I’ve been going for a retro look in keeping with the game’s heritage, but rather than going for a full-on Spectrum emulation I’ve decided to keep to simple, restricted Gameboy-ish colour palette which I may change as the game progresses. The result is somewhere between Gameboy and Spectrum.

Game art is not my strongest suit and always takes me ages. I’d much rather be working with @PVBroadz but it this instance I need something I can crank out on my own. Pretty pleased with the result so far though – feel free to tell me what you think.

Dev Time: 2.5 days.

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Have I Got Any Better At Pixel Art In The Last 30 yrs?


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Test Animation For The Main Character


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Retro Revenge – Click For A Closer Look