Chapter 2 - June 12th, 2013

Evolution of the concept

We have a genre and a game to base our idea on, now we need to evolve that into something of an original game.


It's hard nowadays to come up with a truly original new game idea. With literally millions of games created since the birth of videogames, chances are that your idea has already surfaced in a similar form before. So, when I say original, I use that loosely. I guess that what I mean is that it's not a direct rip-off of an existing game or where only the names and audio/visuals have been altered to make it look like an original game.


The arcade game Scramble will be the basis for my new game in as such it will be a horizontally scrolling shoot-em-up. The trick is to evolve the game, make same changes, alter the play mechanics, throw in some new ideas and hopefully by the end, we'll end up with a game which can be classified as original.


As you may have guessed by now, I have already evolved the idea and come up with the game title of PopStar Pilot as seen at the top of these pages.


Popstar? Hmm. Must be something to do with music?


No, the Popstar here has nothing to do with music.


Pop... Star


I wanted to change the destroy everything aspect of Scramble into something different. There have been enough games that feature frantic shooting and destruction and I wanted to look for a different motivation. Not that I hate these types of games but I wanted to explore a different avenue that has a greater emphasis on strategy and decisive shooting.


The challenge was how to incorporate this but still have frantic gameplay. I look at games like the hugely successful Mario Brothers by Nintendo. No guns in sight, just a peppy Italian plumber running across the screen, jumping on things to score.


(Hmmm, that doesn't sound right...)


This proves that a fun game can be had without the endless shooting and destruction and makes for a game that suits a wider audience beyond the die hard shoot-em-up fan. I wanted a game that would be appealing to both women and children. A classic example of this is Pac-Man from Namco that became a social phenomenon and an icon of the 1980's pop culture.



PACMAN (1980)


POOYAN (1982)


In keeping with the flying-over-ground-terrain-and-cavernous-environment as seen in Scramble, I decided that your targets be something less threatening... like balloons! This instantly brought up ideas from the arcade game Pooyan by Stern Electronics. Pooyan was one of my favourite games where you, a pig, fired arrows at balloons to prevent the wolves from using them to float to the tree top and push a boulder over you. It added the additional challenge that some balloons contained a second balloon inside them which continued to carry the wolves up but more slowly. Another feature is where you can hit multiple balloons with a single arrow if you target your arrows carefully.


These small touches add additional challenge as well as strategy.


So, now you can see where I'm heading with the title, PopStar. Your goal is to POP balloons. The STAR can be that you are the Star or hero.


I still need to work on the gameplay and develop a mission goal but this is a good start and a basis for the game which can continue to evolve and be shaped as I progress.


As a break, from this brainstorming, I started experimenting with different graphics for our PopStar Pilot character and in the end, settled for a small propeller plane.




This will include rotating (flashing) propellor blades and the characters eyes can move to look up or down to face targets ahead. This develops a sense of character to our object.



So far, we haven't touch any code and this is a very important aspect of game design. A good game takes planning. You can save a lot of time and frustration if you try to visualize the end product before you start coding.


In essence, the game is created twice, once in your head and secondly in the computer. You imagine the game running in your head, looking for gameplay issues, exploring different options and looking for technical problems.


In the next installment, we start delving into some test code to verify some of our ideas.



Copyright 2013 by Nickolas Marentes