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Astro Gunner: VSG - Dreamcast homebrew game - dev log
A periodically updated development log for Fuseki's next game
This is the first of a series of development logs of my next Dreamcast homebrew game, Astro Gunner: VSG. As those who read this can gather by the title of the game, it is an old-school style shooter (I prefer to call space shooting games "shooters" rather than shmups, as I grew up in the late 70s-early 80s arcade era and that's what we called them at that time). The idea behind the game is to take the ultra-simplistic gameplay of the Atari 2600 game Stargunner and "complicate" it a bit; that is, add some other elements to the game to make it more fun and challenging.

Telesys' Stargunner came out in 1983, just before the first big video game crash. In hindsight, it really was a mediocre Defender "clone", but my 13 year old self had a good time playing the game, and I still enjoy an occasional go at it in my mid-40s. It was, at the time, one of the games that influenced me in my own game programming endeavors, and I've always wanted to improve the design of the game itself based on ideas I had back then.

For an idea of how Stargunner plays, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URpbihLeOFQ.

What I plan on doing is keeping the essence of the gameplay intact, with the enemy at the top dropping projectiles, and ships appearing to do battle with the player. That's really all I'm keeping from the original game. What I'm adding is many different enemies, all with different entrance, movement, and firing patterns, weapons powerups, the ability to destroy the enemy at the top (which will be the goal of each wave), end-of-wave bonuses, and many other things. The graphical style will be 80s pixelated graphics, which are influenced by a number of things, such as the 80s era of arcade coin-op graphics, watching my son play Minecraft on the PS3 (*grin*), and the way the graphics are generated, which I will address below.

I originally attempted my own sprites, but my art skills are severely lacking (see my previous game, Primitive Nightmare). I tried out a few of the public domain sprite sheets, but I couldn't find anything I really liked or had sprites with the correct sizing I needed. I almost sent out word that I was looking for an artist to help, but I remember my previous experience with my last game (i.e. no one was interested), so I abandoned that idea very quickly. What I did instead was check out a few of the ship sprite generators that various people have coded up, and found one that was just about perfect for what I wanted to do, which is Boris van Schooten's Random Sprite Generator (http://tmtg.net/ludumdare/spritegen/. This lovely piece of Java code not only randomly generates pixel sprite ships, but animates them as well! Part of the name of the game (VSG- van Schooten Sprite Generator) comes from this program and I wanted to give Boris a little more than a credit within the game itself (and I couldn't use RSG, for obvious reasons to shmup fans).

Check out Boris' Tomatic Games site at http://tmtg.net for a list of games and other gamedev-related software. All good stuff!

That's the background. Now for the dev stuff...

The basic design has been mapped out, and some algorithms that I'll need to use have been written up in a preliminary fashion.

Code-wise, I've built the state code structure to "fire" all parts of the game itself; this was actually reused from my previous game, but modified and extended. The wave select code was also taken from Primitive Nightmare and glued in to be modified once the wave struct code is finished. The music code was taken from that game as well, but I have yet to choose the music (which will be in Tracker/s3m format). I've implemented the player ship and initial movement and firing code, and four of the ten different movement patterns of the enemies, with a fifth to be finished very soon. This fifth movement will require some math-y algorithmic work on my part, as it's the hardest one, but I've worked it out on paper and just need to code it out. Once the movement patterns are finished, I'll wire up the enemies' firing projectiles and patterns, then I'll move on to the top enemy movement and firing code, which will be more than just basic projectiles in later waves. The plan is to then work out the powerup code and bonus counter. After all of these items (or "hooks", as I like to call them) are implemented, i can then work out the wave struct code and glue it all together into what I hope will be a really fun game.

Stay tuned...
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