I’m happy to announce my new mini-game this Christmas. Presenting Dungeon Dave and the Daughters in Distress.
Over the past year I’ve learned a lot about pixel art and game design. Dungeon Dave is the result. It tells the silly story of a stock adventurer who has been kidnapped and forced to crawl through deep, dark, and dank mazes. Seriously dank. Like, you’ll need a snorkel to get through. Full of fun jokes and bad puns, you can guide Dungeon Dave to discover who kidnapped him and why. No it isn’t the full 12 volume Christmas Adventure IV, but it is a lot of fun and you can play it online right now.
Please share with your retro game loving friends and have a Very Merry Christmas.
Yep. It’s that time again. Time to explain the lack of progress on Christmas Adventure four. At this point I’m not sure it’s going to happen, and yet I’m closer than ever to finishing it. How is this possible?
I’ve spent most of the last year doing startup stuff, being unemployed, doing contract work, and finally joining Mozilla devrel. So, you know, busy. Meaning I haven’t worked on the game proper.
The good news is that I’ve invested greatly in the tooling so that building out the game will be several times faster. To prove out the concepts I’ve created a new Christmas card game called Dungeon Dave. It’s full of the jokes and silly graphics you’ve come to expect from 9 Bit Games.
This new game is in final beta now and will be released shortly before Christmas. If you want to try it out now, please join the mailing list.
Well, yet another year has gone by without the release of Christmas Adventure, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. I completely rewrote the editor and engine from scratch in a way that should make it far more scalable and robust. I’ve also improved my pixel drawing skills. As sort of a preview of the real game, I created a mini-game as my Christmas card to you.
While I haven’t updated the blog much in 2015, I’ve not forgotten about Christmas Adventure. Life and a new day job have conspired to keep me away from the game, so sadly it will not be released this year. That doesn’t mean nothing’s going on, however.
I recently rewrote all of the visual tools as single proper editor with ReactJS components. The updated tool will make it much faster to work on the game. Take a look:
Going through the old code I see how bad my JS code was. Have I improved that much in the last year or was I drinking too much? Either way, I’ve now rewritten big chunks of the graphics engine to be faster and more reliable. You can play with a one room demo here.
I’ve also realized that a full 12 episode RPG is simply too big of a task for one person, at least as my first game. Instead I plan to release a few mini games before going back to the Xmas game proper. Also look for some new fun pixel art postcards coming soon.
For Valentine’s Day I thought it would be fun to craft a few pixelated cards to send to your loved ones. These are still a work in progress. I need to add borders, clean up rogue pixels, etc. Vote on your favorite below. I will polish up the best four.
At long last Christmas Adventure has a trailer! I added some music (Christmas carols, chiptune style), captured some footage, and pulled it together in iMovie. Making a trailer for an RPG is tricky because there isn’t a lot of on screen action. Hopefully this trailer captures the humorous feel of the game.
I’ve also fixed a *ton* of bugs and updated graphics, so beta 0.2 is ready. Please sign up to test it.
Since I managed to get a couple of hours of free time this weekend, I thought I’d tackle some of the larger game art.
First up is Big Bertha, one of the two new bosses. Bertha is a drilling robot who is controlled by an evil king. She doesn’t want to destroy the Earth, but he has the controls. This image hopefully captures that she’s not happy about what’s happening. You can see the smaller version of her for dialogs in the lower right.
Next up is the White Whale. Again, he’s cutesy in the dialog but should look a bit more fearsome. To fit into 64×64 pixels, but still feel big, I made him partially submerged. I’m not sure if I should keep the light blue water around him or just have the two ‘going in the water’ lines on the body parts. These two bosses are probably my post complex pieces yet.
Finally the title screen. This is just a test of the letter forms. Coloring, highlights and animation will come later. Imagine it covered in red and green, perhaps with some candy canes in the background and snow falling.
For some reason the letter A is hard. I’m happy with the E, F, and t of the smaller text, though. What’s up with that ‘k’ though?
Building an RPG from scratch is far more work than I thought it would be. If I had really known what it would take when I started.. well I probably wouldn’t have started it. But here we are.
Looking back it should have been obvious. Despite modern tools, there’s still a lot of art, dialog, and plotting to be done. The original Final Fantasy games, as simple as they were, still had large teams. Even the tiny (by today’s standards) first game had a team of 7 rockstar developers. Ah well. I’m here now. Onward!
I have finished almost all of the dialog and maps for Chapter 2 of Christmas Adventure. Chapter 1 is basically exploration and plot setting, with lots of jokes. Chapter 2 has real battles and leveling up, and of course a lot more jokes. Even the enemy names have turned into jokes. CA is turning out to be far sillier than I original imagined. Not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.
I’ve also gone back to add some missing artwork, like the engine room of the Bipolar Express:
On the technical side, I’ve fixed a ton of bugs and overhauled the movement and dialog systems. Dialog now has an image of who/what you are talking to. It also switches between speakers. This should help the player follow conversations and make the game more immersive overall.
As part of the movement overhaul the player image is directional and animated. I’ve tried to model it on the walk cycle from Final Fantasy IV. Here’s a test run. I think it turned out pretty well.
I’m planning another beta release at the end of the week. Please sign up the mailing list to get it.
I’ve spent most of my time on this blog teasing you with tools and graphics, but what is the end goal? What is the game itself and when will it be released? Which platform will we target? Vote to Decide! It’s your patriotic duty.
The final game will be called Christmas Adventure: The Eternal Fruitcake of Light. It is an comedic 8bit style RPG, patterned after the NES Final Fantasy games we all loved as a kid.
The plot revolves around Billy the Kid (no relation), an 8 yr old kid who is determined to save Christmas, despite the fact it does not need saving. Along the way he teams up with Holly Berry, Mecha-Claus, Pedro the Penguin, and many other amusing characters as they travel the world on the Bipolar Express.
I’ve always felt RPGs would benefit from an episodic structure, similar to the way novels were serialized in magazines. Each month there will be a fresh chapter with your favorite characters waiting for you to play with them. My initial thought is to give away the first three chapters so you get a feel for the game. If you like it you can buy additional chapters individually or as a bundle.
I have a story outline for 12 chapters total, one each month, leading up to the final battle on Christmas Eve.
Though I’m unsure of how to sell the game I’ve already ruled out ads and the various gamefication techniques that force you to spam your friends (ala Candy Crush). I really really hate games that use these techniques, and why make a game that I’d hate. That’s why episodic sales appeal to me.
My initial thought is a straight app for the iPad. It has the large screen and an app store already set up for in-app purchasing. However, it’s a big store with a lot of noise to get lost in.
I honestly don’t know what platform to target first. The current code is highly portable. All of my custom tools compile to JSON so I only need to port a small core engine to each platform. I am very willing to consider platforms in another order if there is interest. Please let me know with this poll:
Once the initial platform is selected I expect to have a final release with the first three chapters available for purchase in March. If you’d like to be a beta-tester, regardless of your platform, please join the mailing list. This list is used only for the game and will not be sold to anyone else.