Xerra's Blog

Drunken coder ramblings

Syntax Bomb competition 10 – Reboot —

I’m going back a couple of years here, right back to pretty much where we were in the height of the Covid lockdown, as I recall. At the time I started work on Validius, it was around 4 weeks into the Reboot competition and I’d been toying with an idea about creating a simulated cluedo-style game using the old Bah,Humbug! framework with a theme of murder in an office. It was quite an ambitious game idea, and i’m still not done with it yet, but i’ll talk more about that another day.

So, Covid was in full-force at the time, and i had been working from home for a couple of months, so realistically had more time available to do something good for that competition, as travel to work and a lot of other distractions were not a problem. However, tinkering with that concept had taken me half the time we had until deadline day, so I knew i still needed to do something that was achievable pretty quickly.

The reboot theme of the competition meant you had to pick a game from previous competitions and then reboot it. Any game that had previously been entered was fair game, and you could even use one of your own. I had been tinkering with the un-named game (I had a name in mind but will probably reuse it if i ever resurrect it, so i’ll keep it under my hat for now) based on one of my own games but decided to drop that idea completely and just went for rebooting on the theme of the first ever competition, which was Asteroids.

This possibly seems a bit of a cop out but it actually ended up being a fair bit of work because i upped up the presentation side of the game a fair bit this time, and made the game a lot more than just asteroids itself. As anyone interested enough to read this post will know, the game did end up winning the competition in the end, which shocked even me, as there were some really good entries submitted by deadline day.

Here’s the competition results page on the Syntax Bomb forums:

Winners of our 10th game comp – REBOOT – Mar 10th to May 10th 2020 (syntaxbomb.com)

When i look back at it now – and i reread all the message board threads on the competition and feedback for the game again before starting this post – I think i can see why it did better than some of my previous games. Asteroids had a very good control system which, once mastered, gave you a significant advantage in playing the game well, and actually practising getting good at that was part of the addictive nature of the game itself. On reflection, i did a pretty poor job in giving it decent keyboard controls, even though i did have two different ways to play it like that. What I did get right this time was implementing gamepad controls for the first time in any game i’d written.

Aaron had been tinkering for a while on some self contained framework code for game stuff that could be re-used across games. Stuff like starfield generators, file-i/o functions for save games and profiles and a few other bits. He’d also written a pretty solid gamepad control system which improved massively on the stuff built into gamemaker 2 and he wanted me to use it for my current game as a test run because he wasn’t working on a game of his own at the time.

I implemented the system into Validius pretty early on and also took the opportunity to use a new custom star field system that he had been working on as well. The results of that are used throughout the title screen and credits sequence to give an appearance of proper 3d starfield zooming and really helped give the game the visual look i wanted. Implementing the gamepad framework allowed me to set up Validius to use both Xbox and PS4 controllers, so I got one set up on my Mac for the first time and got the game working on twin-stick controls pretty easily.

Reading through the comments about the game , it’s pretty obvious that a lot of votes came my way just because of this so i’m going to always do this going forward. As i only ever played games on the computer with mouse or keyboard previously, and never used a gamepad outside of on the PlayStation, i’d just never thought it would be much of a game enhancer as other computer game players are just like me, right? Right? Yeah, lesson learned.

So, Validius took shape pretty rapidly, as i had a pretty good idea how i wanted it to play as soon as i started the project. Bonus weapons (Yes, i should have added more, but timeframes and all that), score bonus tokens, autofire, better enemy AI (which ended up coming out much better than i had dared hope) and crunchy sound effects that wouldn’t piss everyone off after a couple of minutes. I got in some nice, simple particle dust effects for asteroid/laser impacts and made it a little harder than most of the games i’ve ever written, too, because some people really do like that. Still kept the 3 levels option, though, because i’m not a complete bastard, yeah?

As a bonus i managed to find a couple of decent music tracks that were free to use and really suited the game, so, once again i’d managed to get a game out of the door without having to put my hand in my pocket for assets, especially artwork. My first three games all cost a few quid in graphics but i’ve made a few friends who help out with stuff since then to make things a lot cheaper. Remember, Bah, Humbug cost me around £150 in custom room artwork, although that was negated thanks to winning that competition and getting £250 for it.

On June 2nd, 2020 it was announced that Validius won the reboot competition and that victory felt even better than the first time I won a competition because this time there were a lot more than three entries.


Categorised as: Competition | Development | Game Studio 2 | Syntax Bomb | Validius



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