Rapid Prototying Session 5

The archived Session 5 board includes the announcement and all entries, minus attachments.


As the winner of the fourth session, maw chose the theme for the fifth session.

Start Date : October 6th, 2008
End Date : October 20th, 2008
Theme : Air and Land.

In most shooters the difference between Air based targets and those that are Land based is at most moving vs. stationary enemies. Try to expand this into something more. Examples might be Xevious, or Scramble (I'm sure there are newer ones, chime in if you have some). Are there things to try out regarding the player's ship? I'm wondering about Spy Hunter, or maybe even Moon Patrol? Or even some other, completely different take on the theme?


I won this time. Huzzah!

Dreadnought Crisis

My entry into the session was Dreadnought Crisis, inspired by 1983 Activision game The Dreadnaught Factor.


Stop the advance of the attacking Dreadnoughts!


Competition Build (2008-10-21)

The game requires the Visual C++ 2008 Redistributable Package, but is otherwise completely self-contained. Just unpack the archive into a folder of your choice and run DreadnoughtCrisis.exe.



Launch from planetary orbit to stop the advance of the attacking Dreadnoughts. Drop bombs to destroy targets on a Dreadnought's hull and fire lasers to shoot down drone fighters.





2008-10-07 03:28 PM

My current idea (subject to change, of course) is a combination of elements from The Dreadnaught Factor by Activision, Vanguard II by SNK, and possibly a bit of Halley's Comet by Taito.

The player's task is to stop the advance of a series of gigantic battleships by striking their weak points with their air-to-surface weapon while shooting down smaller enemies with air-to-air weapons.

2008-10-07 07:33 PM

...gigantic battleships...
You had me right there :)

If I go arena-shooter style, it'll play more like Vanguard II with better ship controls. If I go vertical-shooter style, it'll play more like The Dreadnaught Factor. I'll watch what styles other entries use, since I'd like to add some variety. So far it looks like people are going for vertical.

2008-10-08 12:54 AM

Vertical is a default setting for me. :D

Arena is my default because that's what my framework does. :D

(I want to try getting away from that for once, though.)

2008-10-11 7:52 PM

I worked on the player controller during the flight to Austin, and have a solid start on vertical-oriented gameplay. I put in support for horizontal-oriented and turn-and-thrust styles while I was at it, since it wasn't hard and could come in handy in the future.

I also started on the camera, with it moving proportionally as the player ship moves between the boundaries of the play area. I still need to make it configurable so it doesn't break all the existing levels, and turn off camera reticule tracking for non-reticule aiming.

While I haven't gotten any of the game content yet, I do have a lot more time now that I'm on sabbatical. ;D

2008-10-14 5:50 PM

I played The Dreadnaught Factor again, and the view follows the player ship. All I had to do was apply a fixed offset to place the player ship near the bottom of the screen and it worked great. I also added a gradient effect "planet" at the starting location because it would look cool. :D

planet gradient effect

2008-10-14 9:05 PM

I also got in the anti-ground weapon along with some test targets. Now comes the real work: creating all the level content.

2008-10-15 7:16 AM

I've came to notice something in my experience of making games, the things developers care about most are the things players care about the least. I find this to be in most cases, true.


I don't think it's quite that - I think it's probably more like the things that the designers/developers care about most are the things the player notices least. A couple of times I've been on both ends of the "Do you realise that this bit does that?" "No! Ah, that's kind of clever, really!" conversation. ;-)

For example - the casual player of Ikaruga probably doesn't notice that the level designers set up careful successive patterns of three of each colour throughout the stages. There's that one near the beginning where you're moving through the moving blocks, and to keep a chain going without skipping an awful lot of enemies you have to keep skipping in between the indestructable blocks and shooting the destructable ones between. Most people - if they don't look it up - will probably play the game dozens of times before they notice stuff like that, but I bet it was a much more interesting part of the game design than just deciding the black/white polarity thing in the first place.

*sigh* Indeed, making enemies and other destructible objects is horrifyingly boring, dull, and gratuitous work.

The big killer right now is that I don't have a visual editor tool, just straight XML. I do have a "tilemap" loader so I can type in a grid of characters to instantiate objects, but placing things still takes a lot of iteration.

I've came to notice something in my experience of making games, the things developers care about most are the things players care about the least. I find this to be in most cases, true.

That's even more true for systems engineers. Creating a game engine is relatively thankless work in that the only time people really notice is when something breaks or is hard to use. :D

Oh, and a quick little question:

Are you planning on doing this option-based like you did your last entry for your weapons?

I wasn't planning on it, but the main branch does support "pickup" functionality (minus "stacking") so it's at least possible. I'd have to think about how to integrate that sort of thing into the design if I were going to do that.

2008-10-19 10:24 PM

Something resembling progress:

dreadnought 'A' layout

It's trying to look something like this (hotlink to image on MobyGames removed, since they don't permit that; it only worked for me because it was in cache).

2008-10-20 3:16 PM

Things aren't looking too good, since I only have a few hours until the deadline and I don't have some of the crucial play mechanics working yet. Still, I'll keep plugging along until time runs out.

2008-10-20 4:20 PM

Obviously I can't speak for the2bears' Iron Fist of Session Arrangement Justice, but I doubt anyone would mind that much if it's finished Tuesday instead of Monday? Tuesday next week might be pushing it, but...

I'm intrigued by the screenshot, myself, I didn't play The Dreadnaught Factor, so I'll be going into it blind. And also I want you to finish so I get to play it at all. ;-)

(Note to self: When building my fleet of dreadnaughts to conquer the universe, don't paint targets over the vulnerable parts...)


I hear he's fairly lenient, especially when he scrambles on his own game... once again having allowed scope creep and "wouldn't that be cool" to enter into things.

Besides, Ken's been the only person in every session so far. Have to cut him some slack in honour of his amazing dedication and the great games he's made :)

I'm in Central time zone for the next few weeks, so the usual cutoff time would be fairly close to midnight giving me a fair amount of time to get things pieced together. Still, I have only myself to blame for not getting it done. I don't have much excuse beyond burnout and the infinite time-sink that is the Internet... ;D

I do have the dreadnought slowly approaching, functional anti-air gun and cannon turrets, the dreadnought dying when all its energy vents are destroyed, and visually-distinct antimatter silos from which the planet-killing attack will eventually come. I also have destroyed targets emit particle smoke so you can tell they're dead. That's definitely something.

2008-10-20 10:30 PM

OK, it's definitely getting somewhere now. I still need to add the antimatter launch to end the game when the dreadnought arrives at the planet, but most of the other dreadnought parts work.

While I would like to add more dreadnought layouts and progressively increasing difficulty, I think it would be unfair to other entrants if I abused the extended time limit too much. The critical problem right now is the lack of air targets.

2008-10-21 3:21 AM

While I wasn't able to accomplish everything that I had originally planned, I think the final result turned out okay. I've updated the first post with screen shots and the download link.

2008-10-21 6:13 AM

Just tried it! Unfortunately I can't play it too much since I'm at work, but it looks like a lot of fun. Also, quite polished for a contest with such a short time span. Worked fine on Linux, under Wine (after installing the VC++ redistributable).

There's not much to it right now since I only have the one Dreadnought layout and no difficulty ramp, so you can experience all there is to it in a couple of minutes. :D

(It's also much closer to The Dreadnaught Factor than I had originally planned.)

2008-10-21 9:05 PM

Once again, I can't play your game, same problem with the window flashing in then out.

For some reason I can't do 'open with' on EXEs so I can't do the '/play' command on a command line like you told me. So... any ideas?

Select the text in the address bar in the Explorer window when you're looking at the game. For example, for me, I get:

C:\Users\Jake\Desktop\Session 5\Dreadnought Crisis

Then, go to the start menu and select 'Run', then type 'cmd' and hit OK.

At the command prompt, type:

cd "<insert path you copied before here>"

So for me, I type:

cd "C:\Users\Jake\Desktop\Session 5\Dreadnought Crisis"

(You can right-click in the command window to paste)

Then, once you've changed to the game directory as above, type:

DreadnoughtCrisis.exe /play

Didn't work out, after I did '/play' I got the same problem as before.

This seems to be a Vista problem, as I got the exact same failure you described. I'll have to dig into why this is happening. My first guess is that the application fails when trying to create its preferences file in the working folder, which Vista forbids for non-administrator users.

Oddly enough, it worked okay after I created a shortcut and added /fullscreen 0 to the target. Even the non-shortcut executable ran properly after that. I wonder if the Vista UAC thing had something to do with it.

2008-10-21 10:17 PM

Working here on Vista if that's any help...

I was able to run it on my mom's Vista laptop after the initial malfunction, and it was able to write its preferences file because I had saved the folder onto the desktop. It might trip up if I save it to Program Files, so I'll have to try that to see what happens.

2008-10-22 6:52 AM

Worked fine first time for me on Vista, as well. But yeah, I didn't save it to Program Files. Mostly 'cause I don't put /anything/ in Program Files, really, just things with proper uninstallers which I think I'm going to keep a while. ;-)

OK. This incident reminds me that I need to add more error logging. Not everyone can run the game in the debugger... :)

2008-10-23 11:32 AM

I'm running WIndows Vista Home Basic here and was unable to run the program.

I have attached the screenshot. Shame too since I really like your colorful graphics and it looks like you have some interesting styles going on there.

That's the error that pops up when you don't have the Visual C++ 2008 redistributable package installed (here)--I got the same error when I first ran the game on my mom's Vista laptop. The game requires the Visual C++ 2008 version of the C runtime library, and fails out instantly if it can't find it. I would link the C runtime library statically if it weren't for SDL linking to the C runtime dynamically--dynamic linking has been nothing but trouble. (If installing that doesn't fix it, then I'm not sure what's going on...)

The only reason I don't include the redistributable package with the game is the package's 1.7MB size. Maybe I could just pick out the appropriate C runtime dll and start including that with the game, but you only have to install the redistributable once and you're done. (It would be nice if Windows offered to automatically download and install it, but it doesn't.)

2008-10-24 3:10 PM

Ok I finally installed it. Game runs great now. I really like your style and this game is pretty fun. The bombing is a bit hard to controll but the design is solid.

If I ever switch over to something besides SDL like SFML or GLFW with OpenAL, I'll be able to statically link with the C standard library to avoid this issue. It'd produce a significantly larger executable, but alleviate the need to install that redistributable package.

Glad you like it. I'm surprised it turned out as well as it did considering how late I got going, but working from an existing game made it a lot easier. Attacking the "ground" targets is still harder than I thought it would be, even after increasing the collision tolerance to represent "splash damage" (i.e. "close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades"). If I start adding more "air" targets as distractions, I may need to make it easier to hit things but I'll deal with that when the time comes.

I do need to give out more extra lives if I start ramping the difficulty; The Dreadnaught Factor hands them out like candy, four per level--and you go through them just as quickly. One idea that came to mind was to use spare lives as "smart bombs" to inflict area damage or strike the exposed core once I go with pods/nodes.

2008-10-27 5:29 AM

Congrats man! You deserve it! :D

Thanks. :)

Sometimes I feel like I'm cheating by reusing previously-created code and data, but it's sort of like my own personal GameMaker. :D

I feel the same way :)

Likewise. ;-)