I just wanted to share a little bit about the game I’m currently in the process of creating. It will be a Windows 8 game, called “Infiltration”. The game play, as well as the visual style, is very much a homage to the arcade classic Gravitar, but it is far from an exact copy. The concept is that you have to infiltrate this alien world, fly through various barriers and tunnels and capture one or more targets. I guess I’ll make up a story of what these targets represent – information, energy crystals, or whatever. Anyway, once you grab all the targets, while avoiding being shot, taking out the guns that are shooting you, and keeping track of your fuel, the exit will appear and you fly into it to complete the level. Here are a few screenshots of some of the levels:
The controls are basically what you would find in Gravitar or Asteroids: turn left/right, thrust, shoot, with some friction so if you are drifting left or right you will come to a stop fairly soon. The world of the game has basic one dimensional gravity, i.e. your ship is pulled down so you need to regularly use some upward thrust to keep from crashing. Thrusting of course uses fuel and when you run out of fuel, you’re gonna crash. Most of the levels have fuel pods you can pick up to replenish your reserves.
A Word about Gravitar
Gravitar is one of my favorite old school video games. This is not to say that it was my favorite back in the day. I remember it in the arcades, but I never played it that much. Why? Because it was freaking HARD! Now I play it on MAME, which doesn’t waste my hard-earned quarters (worth a lot more back in the early 80’s), but I’m still not even close to beating all the worlds in the first universe. If you want to see for yourself how tough it is, try the online version here: http://my.ign.com/atari/gravitar.
Beyond the visual style and basic game play (fly, shoot, fuel, get out), I did want to capture a bit of that difficulty in Infiltration. So most of the levels are pretty damn hard. I imagine some casual users might consider a few of them impossible. But 1. I will have completed every level personally, and 2. I still don’t think it’s as hard as Gravitar.
If you are interested in Gravitar, you need to check out Dan Coogan’s Gravitar site. Seriously, this is virtual shrine to the game. There you can find screenshots and walkthroughs of every level, interviews with the creators, scans of the original manuals, flyers, ads, etc. There is even 350+ scanned pages of the original Gravitar design binder – original sketches, plans, meeting minutes, office correspondence about the game, cabinet specs, etc. An amazing resource to see what went into making a game like that back in the day.
It became obvious to me very early on that if I was going to be designing a bunch of levels, doing it by plugging numerical coordinates into some kind of text document, loading the level, seeing what it looked like, tweaking the values and checking again, etc. was going to be very painful. So I set about making a graphical level editor for the game. This was also done as a Windows 8 app and became a major side project for a few weeks. I can now draw out a full level, place, move, and delete any game items, all with a full undo/redo stack, and load and save levels as JSON. It’s got a grid you can toggle on/off as well at toggle snap-to-grid, and inputting of level metadata. I’m pretty proud of it. Here’s what it looks like in action:
The next pain point was after creating a level, I had to add that level to the game project and compile the game. And then recompile the game every time I made a change. So I added a feature in the game itself to be able to load custom external (not compiled in) levels from the file system. At this point, I don’t even need to have Visual Studio open anymore. I create the levels in the editor and test them in the live game. Tweak the level, save, reload the level in the game.
This has worked out so well that I’ve decided to leave the external level feature in the game itself, and release the editor as a public app as well. So, when this is finally all completed, people will be able to create their own levels, play them, share them with friends, etc. Maybe I could even get some kind of best level contest going.
As of this writing, I have 23 levels done. I plan to have 30 in total. The first few are pretty easy tutorial-type levels. It gets tough pretty quickly after that though. I think I’m going to check out the try/buy functionality for this game, releasing a trial version with a selection of levels, and a full version with all levels plus the ability to load custom levels. The editor would be free, but only useful if you have the full version of the game. The trial may have ads as well. Not looking to get rich here, but I never signed my vow of poverty either.
I’ve been working on this since the beginning of October. So it’s been a couple of months and I’m itching to be done with it. I think there is little, if any, coding left to be done, just level creation, which I hope to wrap up by this weekend. Then I’ll probably need to tweak and rearrange the levels a bit to make them flow. Hopefully you’ll see this in the store by the middle of the month, if all goes right.