Making Conserves in the Weekend

This morning Rilla suggested that we have a bit of a “game jam” at a weekend activity, so we did! We’d been inspired by the speed with which we saw Photon Storm putting together a version of Atari-style breakout so we set out to come up with our own versions of the game to modify it with, based on the generalised idea of it being multiplayer and preferably collaborative. For one reason or another I couldn’t quite get to the collaborative bit, but I did manage to put together a two-player Breakout in an hour or two.

It was pretty liberating trying to just make something extremely simply, and it was a great moment when I realised that the bricks themselves could be controlled by one of the characters. From there, making the game was eerily simple, since Flixel in particular makes a bunch of things very straightforward. Couple of tweaks and there it was, pretty much, with some small decisions about how to handle oddities like the ball weirdly getting pushed off the screen by Flixel’s collision detection and so on. A working game.

Playtested it a tiny bit at Gordon’s place and found out that the bricks were ridiculously overpowered, which is in itself, a hilarious thing to say about Breakout. With the help of Gordon, Rilla, and Tue, decided that the bricks should have the corresponding disadvantage of mass: being slow. That helps a lot in terms of not being able to so easily just sling the ball off at awkward angles at the beginning of the game, while allowing the bricks to be more versatile and speedy toward the end – it turns into Pong where one person’s paddle is dissolving.

The overall experience was interesting because it felt like another odd step into game making “authenticity”. I’m always amazed when people like Terry Cavanagh and Increpare churn out games like nobody’s business, just casually as if they were making a sandwich. So it’s nice to have at least sort of accomplished something along those lines and felt how it can be quite satisfying. It was a welcome distraction from the “larger” project of Epic Sax Game for instance, which still has a ways to go before it’s ready (though hopefully not a huge amount).

I suspect that these little jams might form a more regular part of life. Rilla’s working on a more sophisticated, collaborative multiplayer version of Breakout as well, so will be interesting to see where she takes that.

3 March 2012
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