In the Beginning
I’ve been a video game addict since the age of ten. Christmas of 1988 I received my very first video game system. The NES. Fast forward thirty years. I have my own kids, and now I’m playing games with them.
One day while making sushi I got an idea. What if we made a game? What if we made a game that involved sushi? I had recently read about how it was becoming easier, and easier for people to make their own “homebrew” games. I thought we could do this! I then brought the idea up to my son, and he was pumped.
The Creative Phase
Our first job was to sketch out some characters. I knew right away what our hero would look like. I have a background in art, and illustration so I sketched out a few versions until we got something we liked.
The next challenge was to set up how we were going to convert my hand art to video game graphics. I’m very partial to the old ways so I decided that we would go with an NES/SNES feel.
I picked a pixel editor called Aseprite. It is a very simple program to learn. It is kind of like a MS Paint on steroids. Lots of great features to make drawing and animating easy.
In the early 2000’s I was both a hired, and freelance graphic designer. I did a lot of illustrations with moderned programs. I never spent any time working with 8 bit or 16 bit graphics.
In fact in those days we had just come out of the era of the pixelated graphics. All we were trying to do was make graphics that looked better, and better. Now I think it’s a funny turn of events that I’m trying to learn an art that really has been gone for 30 years. Trying to decide where to place colored squares so that they represent an eyeball, or a pouch on a pair of pants is more challenging than I ever thought possible.
Programming the Game
Once we figured out a plot, and did a bunch of character design the next question to answer was how would we put this together? I did a bunch of research, and found a few options, but ultimately I decided that we would go with Game Maker Studio 2. The first Game Maker seem to have a very strong presence in the indie game community. When I purchased GMS2 it had just come out. Which meant that coming soon there would be a lot of helpful Youtube content coming.
Trial and Error
Making a game for a guy and his 10 year old is doable, but no matter what the commercials tell you kids let me be the first to say “IT IS NOT EASY!”
So many things come into play. At first you’re like “I play games. I know what is suppose to happen. You jump, you shoot, you die, you continue. How hard could it be?” Very. Very hard. First and foremost if you don’t have an understanding of how to code your journey has just become 10x longer. If you do understand coding then the next question would be do you understand collision? Bullet speed? How to program gravity, and how each individual character will respond to that gravity?
That is just the tip of the iceberg. Even from the graphics point of view. Sure you can draw all the sweet character mockups you want. Can you animate? Can you make an explosion look real? Oh yeah! Let’s not forget about the stage. Can you design a fun, but yet challenging stage?These are all things you have to consider when making a game.
To date of writing this I think we have spent about 6 months on the project. We worked pretty hard for some time putting the beginning together. With the help of Youtube, and various other outlets I was able to assemble a very rough draft. I had a moving character, bad guys, and most of a stage. However, I had hit a wall. The videos ran out. I couldn’t die. I couldn’t start over, or reset the game. I couldn’t get to the next stage? At this point I was lost.
I knew what I had to do. I had to reach out to an old friend.