blog.quantumrain
Like many of the modes in GW2, Sequence used to have a gimmick; in this case it was my play on using the Ikaruga colour switch mechanic in Geometry Wars.
The colour switch was represented as a flipping of the grid. You played on either the top, or bottom; pressing the trigger on the joypad would instantaneously “flip” the grid over and place you on the other side. You could see the enemies on both sides of the grid at all times, although the other side would appear greyed out and darker.
Enemies always spawned on the side of the grid you were on, so you could use this flip to spread enemies out between either side; also as you would only collide with enemies on your side, this allowed you to escape particularly difficult situations.
As Sequence had designed levels this meant I could play with creating particularly difficult situations for the player, forcing them to switch sides when I wanted, or even feigning them into switching, only to have a spawn they previously switch away from be thundering right towards them as they emerged on the other side.
It created some interesting play styles too, such as double tapping the flip button to momentarily shift from one side of the grid to the other to avoid an incoming wave of enemies, and allowed the creation of enemies that interacted with the player on both sides of the grid (such as an enemy that can only be destroyed from the opposing side to which it spawned from).
Of course, anyone who has played Sequence probably knows the mode is pretty hectic. I wanted the mode to be constantly throwing new situations at the player, so they’d have something to learn with each additional level they reached; but also feel a little retro in that if you die, you do have to start from scratch. Hopefully each time through the player would learn a little more, get a little further and see something new.
But while the mode that exists in the game today is hard, Sequence with the grid flip was BRAIN MELTINGLY HARD! You basically had to keep track of two games running simultaneously on either side of the grid, so that if you needed to flip, you wouldn’t emerge inside an enemy. Plus, as the mode was designed to force you to flip on occasion, you had no choice but to try and wrap your mind around it.
To hammer additional nails in the coffin, it was also very difficult to explain what was going on to new players and due to the dependency on the side the player was currently on for spawning, didn’t work well with multiple players.
So with regret, I cut the flip and gave the players bombs instead!

Like many of the modes in GW2, Sequence used to have a gimmick; in this case it was my play on using the Ikaruga colour switch mechanic in Geometry Wars.

The colour switch was represented as a flipping of the grid. You played on either the top, or bottom; pressing the trigger on the joypad would instantaneously “flip” the grid over and place you on the other side. You could see the enemies on both sides of the grid at all times, although the other side would appear greyed out and darker.

Enemies always spawned on the side of the grid you were on, so you could use this flip to spread enemies out between either side; also as you would only collide with enemies on your side, this allowed you to escape particularly difficult situations.

As Sequence had designed levels this meant I could play with creating particularly difficult situations for the player, forcing them to switch sides when I wanted, or even feigning them into switching, only to have a spawn they previously switch away from be thundering right towards them as they emerged on the other side.

It created some interesting play styles too, such as double tapping the flip button to momentarily shift from one side of the grid to the other to avoid an incoming wave of enemies, and allowed the creation of enemies that interacted with the player on both sides of the grid (such as an enemy that can only be destroyed from the opposing side to which it spawned from).

Of course, anyone who has played Sequence probably knows the mode is pretty hectic. I wanted the mode to be constantly throwing new situations at the player, so they’d have something to learn with each additional level they reached; but also feel a little retro in that if you die, you do have to start from scratch. Hopefully each time through the player would learn a little more, get a little further and see something new.

But while the mode that exists in the game today is hard, Sequence with the grid flip was BRAIN MELTINGLY HARD! You basically had to keep track of two games running simultaneously on either side of the grid, so that if you needed to flip, you wouldn’t emerge inside an enemy. Plus, as the mode was designed to force you to flip on occasion, you had no choice but to try and wrap your mind around it.

To hammer additional nails in the coffin, it was also very difficult to explain what was going on to new players and due to the dependency on the side the player was currently on for spawning, didn’t work well with multiple players.

So with regret, I cut the flip and gave the players bombs instead!

Postmortem Wars: The Grid

Writing about technical subjects to a quality I’m willing to post has proven to take more time than I have to spend right now; so I thought I’d take the easy route and throw together a few posts about Geometry Wars, as I can easily babble about that all day!

I thought I would start by talking about the grid, as it was one of the more iconic features of Geometry Wars when it shipped on XBLA.

So to give a little bit of background on where the grid came from we need to rewind all the way back to 2003 when Bizarre was developing PGR2. Back then pretty much everyone in the office worked on 4:3 televisions, there were a handful of people who had 16:9 TVs, but I wasn’t one of them!

So the original Geometry Wars (before it was named Geometry Wars) and subsequently the easter egg that appeared in PGR2 were developed in their entirety on 4:3 televisions. Now, the problem with this is that the graphics were horribly stretched when displayed on 16:9 TVs! So the obvious solution was to expand the play area to take into account the extra space… But this proved to be a disaster!

It turns out it was a lot easier to play the game in a larger arena, so people with 16:9 TVs were destroying people who only had a measly 4:3! As I only had a week to take the game from its original form to the game that shipped in PGR2 I didn’t have time to balance the game across both sizes of television, so I had to revert the change and live with the fact Geometry Wars would be stretched on 16:9 TVs…

Now fast forward to 2005, Microsoft is launching the 360 and is pushing HD TVs in a big way, we were given the chance to have Geometry Wars as a launch title on XBLA and it was an opportunity we just couldn’t pass up!

But, we have to support HD… and HD is widescreen… So I had to come up with a way of balancing the game across both 4:3 and 16:9 and not give an advantage to either configuration; and I wasn’t willing to just put borders down the sides of the screen as that just looked lame…

The fact the game was also easier to play in the larger 16:9 arena was a good thing, and I wanted to keep that quality. So I experimented with a scrolling arena in 4:3, and kept a static full view of the arena for the 16:9 televisions. This worked well, it was a little difficult to tell the arena was scrolling, but it was only a horizontal scroll, so I threw a few stars in the background which helped inform the player that the arena was moving.

Unlike in 2003, pretty much everyone in the office now had a 16:9 television, some even had HD TVs! (Such extravagance!) So I wasn’t too concerned about the scrolling as I thought that anyone who was willing to buy a 360 at the time would probably also have a widescreen TV of some sort too, so while keeping the balance between 16:9 and 4:3 was important, I wasn’t too worried about the game being slightly more difficult to play with enemies spawning offscreen in 4:3.

Just one problem… The game looked better in 4:3. Because of the scrolling arena the game was zoomed in under 4:3, this made all the sprites on the screen larger, it was easier to see what was going on and made the game feel more personal. This was a problem because the game was supposed to look awesome on these new fangled HD TVs, but the old 4:3 TV I was testing on kicked it arse!

Okay, zoom in and scroll the arena in 16:9, sorted? Well, no… Now the screen had to scroll vertically too, and with stars alone this made it really hard to tell the player’s ship was moving.

So I decided I was going to make a big 3d vector solar system in the background with planets and moons all orbiting a sun, some kind of procedural shit, it was going to be awesome! As a temporary measure I drew a grid behind the arena to allow play testing to continue on the game while I was working on this crazy solar system idea.

I threw the grid in, started the game up, and it immediately felt better. You could tell the ship was moving around, it made it a lot easier to gauge how close to the arena walls you were, and thusly how likely you were to be surprised by an enemy. Then I shot a gravity well, and all the particles started to drift towards it… but the grid didn’t move… It just felt wrong!

But, making the grid move would be easy; a simple spring system wouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. Those ten minutes probably proved to be the most productive I spent on the game in terms of its visual identity. Once the moving grid was in and people started spotting it, I quickly had half the room standing behind me as I played it that first time. At that point it was obvious that the grid had to stay, and the solar system idea was well and truly scrapped!

Colours

To prove that my attention span is slightly worse than that of the average house cat’s; today while I was intending to write some kind of technical blog post, I was side tracked while watching some of the excellent classic game postmortems on GDC Vault.

(I’d highly recommend them, and if you’ve only time to watch one I’d go for either Ron Gilbert’s Maniac Mansion, or Will Wright’s Bungeling Bay.)

However something caught my eye during the Bejeweled postmortem, Jason Kapalka mentioned that a game called Colours had been their primary inspiration for Bejeweled, but lamented they couldn’t find a version of it on the Internet.

Now, I remember playing Colours myself 10+ years ago, and well, to cut a long story short, I ended up spending the couple of hours I’d set aside to write a blog post… rewriting Colours in javascript! :)

Click to play Colours.

It’s been a long time since I did any proper webdev, so this was something of a learning experience, but it was actually quite fun to write! It certainly wasn’t the painful experience I remember when trying to write games in javascript/html a decade ago.

That said, this is certainly not production quality code, so while I tested it in the latest version of Safari, Firefox and Chrome, I rather suspect it will fail in any browser outside of that range! (It also sort of works in IE, although the animations are choppy.)

Hogrocket

Hello all.

So today Ben Ward, Pete Collier and I would like to announce a new indie games company we’ve formed called Hogrocket.

If you’re unfamiliar with us we’re all ex-Bizarre Creations employees; between us we’ve had a hand in pretty much every game Bizarre has released over the last 10 years. In particular I’m the creator of the Geometry Wars series; and along with some help from the audio guys at Bizarre was the sole developer of the Xbox Live Arcade versions of the game.

Our first games will be targeting the iPhone/iPad, so you can expect a some technical blog posts from me about that in the future, but I’ve a few articles (rants?) about game design I’m intending to post too! ;)