Dev Diary Entry #1: The Game is Afoot

Note: The following article was published previously in my personal blog. However, in order to fully comply with the DreamBuildPlay 2017 Challenge rules, I decided to create a separated blog for my game “Antimatter Instance”. I can understand the benefit of having a dedicated blog for it: In that way, the audience focuses on articles based on the DBP entry, while other non-related personal posts are kept away. Anyway, without further ado, here is the original article:

When I saw that the DreamBuildPlay 2017 Challenge was announced, I was speechless. It was like the good old days were coming back, but this time re-engineered for a multi-platform approach.

Back in 2011, this very same competition was the one that motivated me to really learn about creating video games, and ever since then I’ve been absorbed by this hobby of mine. I mean, creating games is great, but without a strong motivation, everything I’d done pretty much never went beyond the status of a “doodle”. Ugly doodles, to be honest. Instead, the DBP challenge was the “carrot” that kept me pushing myself to publish the best project I could ever deliver. I got the chance to participate a second time in 2012, and I was really looking forward to the next one. Unfortunately, no new competitions were announced for the next years and, instead, Microsoft announced the “sun-setting process” for the XNA Creator’s Club.

After that, a few contests were announced for specific third-party technologies, but none of them were attractive enough to be a real motivation. Things were really slow for a while until the DreamBuildPlay 2017 Challenge was announced.

The dates are a little bit unforgiving, though: The announcement was in July and the due date is on December, which gives us about 6 months to create an entry. For those who have experience publishing games, we know that this time frame is pretty much the biggest challenge to overcome since usually it takes about a year to create a good, playable game. That said, the most likely strategy that most of us will follow is to grab and “package” several assets in one single prototype, thoroughly test it, certify it as per the Windows Store standards and submit it at least a week prior the due date (Internet bandwidth can be really mischievous during Christmas holidays). The game gallery could be reduced to a list of pretty proof of concepts… unless the contestants have already something to start with.

Here is where one of the biggest advantages of using a game engine comes to play: flexibility. As a developer, if you already have a game published using a flexible game engine, you can create a complete different game by re-configuring this very same engine in such a way that it will perform different tasks. I’m not talking about “re-skinning” an already published game – that would be cheating. What I mean is that the same game engine could be used to create, say, a “Platformer” or a “First-Person Shooter”, depending on how it is configured. Of course, creating two different games still require a lot of effort. However, the basic tasks would be already taken care of.

Most 3D game engines are quite flexible in this regard: Use a different set of animation sequences, configure a different camera angle, then just implement a new game logic and a brand new game is created – all drawing, event handling, asset loading, object caching and even game states are taken care of, automatically.

So, that’s pretty much the strategy I’ve decided to follow: The same game engine that I used for my “Third-Person Shooter” and my “Sports” game, will be the core of a Side Scrolling Brawler that I have titled “Antimatter Instance”.

Here is where things get tricky: under the hood, the biggest difference between these three genres is the massive amount of animation sequences to implement in a fighting game. It’s not just about strikes and combos, but also about hurt animation from different angles, times two (the original and the “mirrored”), times the amount of game characters to implement. Even though I was able to create a working prototype within the last month, the sheer amount of work ahead just in animation sequences will be massive, and could be the factor that could prevent me to deliver on time.

I mean, the main character uses a technique inspired in Taekwondo martial art. The henchman currently running in the prototype has a technique inspired in Boxing (not an Olympic level, that is horrible to look at, but instead inspired a more professional level – thanks YouTube!!!). The character in the current covert art is one of the bosses, so the use of a Bo as a weapon is yet another set of animations to implement… and the list goes on and on.

Now here is a question that most readers are wondering: How come a brawler is named after an astrophysics concept? Well, to answer that, we just need to play the game.