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Postmortem: Mommy's Best Games' Weapon of Choice
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Postmortem: Mommy's Best Games' Weapon of Choice

January 8, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next
 

4. Roll your own.

At the beginning of development, I spent a few weeks researching various modeling software, before realizing they either did not meet my needs or the cash in my pocket.

To create Weapon of Choice, I wrote Mommy's Best Level Editor and Object Editor (for modeling and animation) in about four months, which provided powerful control and fast gameplay creation.

I don't commonly see games with objects that animate color and translucency, and I made sure to incorporate this into the Object Editor from the start. The first creature encountered when playing, the Air Bladder, swells up before shooting, which changes its namesake, vein-covered sack translucent and slightly yellow.

This animation control was used many other places, and starting immediately with such a strong case provided a good example to follow.


Figure 7. The Air Bladder 'shoot' animation shows the translucency in effect.

For me, the best use of technology is to incorporate the most unique aspects of the engine into the gameplay. Mommy's Best Object Editor allows for complex skeletal systems to be created and then rendered using sprites attached to the joints.

Limbs can use a verlet chain to control motion with a hand or foot driven by animation. Integrating the editor and game code allowed for subtle polish, such as accessing the joint chain for the legs of the operatives or aliens, and having their feet properly animate on uneven terrain.

This ability fed back into the level design; I felt challenged to create levels that looked opposite to often flat, tile-based design.


Figure 8. Screenshot of Xerxes fighting a Wrap Mouth. Xerxes' legs are reoriented in code after animation initially positions them.

5. Sometimes Quantity over Quality Works Too.

From the start, I had to decide if I should animate characters with a sprite for each frame of motion and only have a few, gorgeously animating objects, or should I have a ton of animation using a key-framed approach more akin to 3D games, which at times can bend limbs in a weird fashion.

While I love the look of the Metal Slug series, 16-bit Aladdin, Flashback, and other sprite-animated games, I decided a sprite system rigged to a key-framed skeleton would get me the most animation for my time.

This resulted in dozens of different trees, grasses, vines, leafy plants, spikes, tentacles, eyes, and appendages, all flowing, flapping, dangling, and swinging in perverse yet attractive fashion.


Figure 9. Wrap Mouth animation frames 18 through 24. Note the skewing of the limbs in some poses. While still noticeable, it's difficult to see during gameplay.

Here is a break-down of in-game art objects and their animations:

 

Environment

(rocks, trees, clouds, etc)

Enemies

(monsters, living bullets, etc)

Art objects

250

125

Animations

85

600

Environment animations were shared across many different objects, but for the monsters, which are the most important, I created many unique animations. I believe it would have taken me years to fully animate that many creatures in the classic sprite fashion.

For MBG's next project, I'd like to improve the ability to change sprites on a skeleton in order to combine animation methods, resulting in the best of both worlds.


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next

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Comments


Amir Sharar
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I really hope that this becomes a profitable venture for Nathan, this game was excellent in all manners and I'd like to see more. With all the lessons learned, and the custom editor created, perhaps it won't take as long for MBG to create other titles.



I have to stress how unique this title was in all aspects. I'm not talking about slight innovations, but rather, something completely different. I've never played a shootemup that had branching levels and stories (these aren't slight differences in the ending, they are completely different perspectives). Of course, the weapons are things never before seen in a game like this. The same can be said of the controls, in particular the ability to spiderwalk on any surface. The art (though I suppose my graphic designer friends would have issues with it) really look like they came out of a sketchbook, and isn't very typical of the art you'd see in 99% of games out there. The bosses are just twisted and epic. Despite being a short game (for $5 I'm not complaining at all!) there's so much here that's impressive, that I really, really hope MGB is financially rewarded and able to pump out more titles.

julian farquar
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My hat goes off to Fouts. I wish I had more hats to take off. We had to design our own level editor for Casebook, which was a rigmarole in itself. I also sympathise with any upper-indie game creator whose art design isn't glitzy and glamorous, yet competes against titles that most definitely are. As the writer on Casebook, I had to generate a plot to a miniscule budget, but my salvation was that the quality of plotting in the great weight of casual (and for that matter AAA games) is fairly weak. Nathan had no such headstart. Amazing.

David Hof
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Very interesting article about an impressive achievement. I also hope you make some money out of it, especially considering that with the volume of low quality games in XNA Community Games I fear it may be difficult for the diamonds to stand out from the duffers.

Andrius Kavaliunas
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Now that is a great article.

Looks like Insomniac is loosing the best programmers :-)

Shawn Yates
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Best of luck to Nathan, I'm curious to see what he comes up with next. Very impressive what he was able to do and I salute his efforts fully. I loved the art style.

Timothy Porter
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Nathan is a genius. Such a nice guy and a great person. I know that this game wont be the last for him or his company. Long live MBG!

Daniel Lawson
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David Hof... the diamonds stand out... like a giant light in the darkness. I think if they added in a common rating... like they do with users... then more games that are great will be shoved to the front of the pack.


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