Without any practical knowledge on game design and development, except for what was garnered over the course of 15 to 20 or so years of playing games, I set out to build a game myself. I didn’t know a damn thing, except for what feels right and what doesn’t in a game.
It was November 2012, just graduated and unemployed, when I installed Unity3D, the well known video game development engine. Pleasantly surprised with the relative ease of moving around and messing about in the engine I started to learn how to code. By going through some tutorials and with the help of the Unity community I was able to get a fairly decent footing on how to work with the engine. I was still horrible at it though, but that wouldn’t stop me.
The game to be build would need to be fairly easy to make (due to my lack of skills), but should feel really tight to play and be a challenge to beat. The genre which came to mind was a 2D shoot ‘em up. It’s a genre I always had a fascination for, imagining really skilled people maneuvering through a veritable murderous maze of bullets in a scrolling environment.
The plan was to start with a limited scope, a simple idea. Just a single level, a couple of shooting abilities, points, while nurturing that feeling of “let’s go again!”, and that’s it. Not surprisingly, all the while still unemployed, that limited scope was gradually expanded until hardly anything of it remained. Additional movement controls were introduced, more weapons were added, challenges, difficulties, co-operative and dynamic gameplay, bonus levels, leaderboards, unlocks, and so on. “Luckily” I was still unemployed, giving me the time to do all this stuff. An open world, sandbox-like experience with procedural generation is even in development as an extra gameplay mode! Something which I personally didn’t thought of conceivable when I started out.
Here’s a Gameplay Features Trailer. Things have already changed around a bit since then, but still gives a good feeling of the game at it’s current state!
The graphics always remained to look prototype-ish though. That’s something I didn’t want to mess with, Mostly to prevent me from crapping all over it (I’m no graphical artist). Thankfully by keeping this abstract style consistent throughout it ended up working quite well, and even getting praised for it! I dubbed the project Zenzizenzic, it’s a mathematical term referring to squares and stuff, which fits the theme of the game. Although quite difficult to pronounce (as comedically illustrated here and here) the name does has a ring to it, saying “hey, this is a quick paced game and it’s probably just as difficult as pronouncing the name!”. It probably is.
bignic, known from the awesome game Zombies., was willing to lend his music to Zenzizenzic. The pieces started to come together and an actual game was starting to take shape. The soundtrack is actually already listenable and purchasable right here on SoundCloud. It’s definitely good stuff, and I consider myself lucky to have this great artist on board.
A couple of months later, I’m able to present you this as the demo of Zenzizenzic, my first venture in game development and design. Before the end of the year I hope to be able to finish Zenzizenzic up and offer you the full game, taking a year total to complete the game while learning to code, design and all that jazz. But for now I hope you’re able to enjoy this brief taste of many things to come!
~ Ruud Koorevaar, developer and designer of Zenzizenzic