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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Captain Zero Development... Background

Captain Zero.


It started out as a quick project to test how to make objects bounce off each other in an Asteroids-like 2D "spaceship" environment.

Once I got something flying around, ideas started coming about what I could do with this type of game.

...That was 12 years ago.

My first experience with spaceship movement like this was the same as everyone else's:  Space War.

I think that might have been the first video game I ever played.  It was at a county fair in Oregon somewhere. Later, I loved games like Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Star Castle, Space Fury and other top-down spaceship games.

I did it in a BASIC language that had 3d Direct X based commands (like "make object sphere" and "texture object") called Dark Basic. It then grew to a full space shoot-em-up which ended up in the first edition of the Dark Basic newsletter as an example game.   It's still on their site.  I got lots of good feedback, and constructive criticism.

"I really liked Captain Zero. The graphics were really cool, and these ones are even better. I have some suggestions though:

*Make a difficulty setting. Captain Zero 1 was waaaaay too hard for me.
*I absolutely hated the fuel system. I could never last more than 2 battles because of it. I could never figure out what I was doing wrong.
*Add a tutorial level. It would make things a lot clearer."

"Wow, incredibly well polished and the game play looks awesome. Big respect! "

"Very cool stuff. I was working on something like this a while back, but I'll probably have to go back to the drawing board cos yours looks graphically so much better. "

"Absolutely, unquestionabley,undeniabley,Amazing. Release it and I will buy it.

"Much respect."

And if I may ask,what did you use to make the video with sound."

Great video. Can't wait until the next demo!"

It goes on like that.

When Dark Basic Professional came out, I started over, using their superior engine and more robust language.  (Oooh you can have data structures now!)  Which was a big deal to me back in 2004-2006.

"Looks pretty sweet dude. What are you planning to do the sequel?"

The best was from the TheGameCreators staff, who included my game in their newsletter:

"A lot of love went into this game..."  

But love can be painful, and soon the game got too big and buggy and after years of development, I abandoned it.

Since then I started a a few projects, but finally it was my youngest son who convinced me to "Finish Captain Zero..."  So That's what I'm going to do.  Of all the comments and encouragement I've gotten, those of my boys are the most important and have by far the most impact.  If I can make a game they like, then I've done what I set out to accomplish.

The biggest influence was a PC game called Star Control --which was basically a really souped up Space War with a lot of variety and fun elements --There were many kinds of ships with their own unique weapons --and a really cool looking "3D" star map to navigate between areas in space with different planets.
Star Control

The camera got closer when ships were fighting at close range and then "zoomed out" when they were far apart.  Different weapons meant different strategies, and the camera zoom effect made the battles seem much more cinematic than any game of its type.

NEXT:  OK Enough nostalgia crap.  As the late Steve Jobs once said,

"Great artists ship."

Here's the "Dark Basic" review of the original version:

There is just something very honest and pure about this game. Like it isn't trying to be something it's not and yet at the same time it offers some great gameplay and arcade action. The basic premise is this: shoot everything, move from one planet to the next and repeat :) The action takes place in a 360 degree playing field with you looking down on your ship. Asteroids and aliens bombard you from all angles and if you blow them away you get to pick up bonus weapons and power-ups to make life easier for the larger foe on the later levels. There are some very nice touches in this title - I especially like the winding trails of the homing missles, the devastation of the laser cannon and the enemy ships that split into swarms of smaller beasts requiring some frantic fire-button work to clear. There is careful balance between keeping away from them and maintaining fuel levels (perhaps in some cases it's too hard to do this as fuel runs dry very fast) but it's all part of this quality game.

Here's what's done and what needs to be done: (next post)

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