Thursday, 16 June 2011

Suspension: get your floor panels out

Two weeks after my last post, I'm back! And with something to show you! At first I thought 'I've got to blog, I may as well do a Wossup post', but I managed to finish this Suspension project quicker than expected and I have it here to show you.

In the words of You, Me and Everyone we Know (who sadly split up recently boo hoo): 'things are really weird right now'. I'm in a period of sort of strange between-exams-study-leave uneasiness. And I feel like crap. But I got this done.

Game making has been something I've been quite interested in over the years - though I don't have much to show for it other than a shitty game called 'The moving box' in which - you guessed it - you move a box round the screen. Circles come past and if one hits you you're pushed aside and you lose points. Or you're meant to, I could never get the points to work.

Anywho, the long and short of it is that I have a history of making little games and I used to be pretty competent at Flash, using it for the Brickspace header (remember that kerfuffle?), a mobile phone screensaver and various other things. I recently had an idea for a game based on an old Lego webstory I wrote the start of. There would be three parts and you'd click your way through and pick up items and use them, like a proper immersive puzzle game, but in Lego. Because I can't draw and don't want to bother with 3D software.

It was a mammoth idea - especially since the third part was going to be a city exploration stage, much like Half-Life 2. It was simply a pipe dream until last thursday (yes, exactly a week ago) I decided to give it a go - but only make a demo. For my demo I'd take the opening sequence of the game, where you wake up in a windowless cell, and scale it down a bit. Make it simple, so there are only two items you need. Click, click, click, click, done. Just to test the format. And now, a week later, it's done - Suspension: Demo. And I'm quite proud of it.

As you can see above, a fair amount of work went into it. I'm off on study leave and only had an exam on Friday so I had a lot of time to make it. I planned out the area with its viewpoints and what they link to (as you can see on the paper) first, then built and photographed the cell and extra pics at the weekend. Since then I've been hard at work coding and compiling and not compressing. Bloody Flash thinks I want 7kB/s mono audio for Bowie... I told it otherwise. Though it does mean the game takes a little while to load.

OK, to properly explain to you my inspiration and thoughts and intentions with this game, I'll take you through it. Please try it for yourself if you don't want me to spoil it.

You're meant to click on 'Play game' first, but after you finish the demo be sure to come back to the menu and have a gander at the 'extras' page. It's got a bunch of photos and graphics from the game for you to see clearer, including the 80s-styled fitness video advert on the TV (for which I created all the graphics, based on the 80s Miami Vice logo, took photos of the Patsy Upanova minifig and took photos of a video case to Photoshop the minifig onto). There are also unedited versions of the photos from the earthquakes leaflet. I've been busy.

Intro movie
Start the game and you'll be greeted with the sound of waves crashing onto a beach, and for a second a snapshot of a previous life, a memory - then the mechanical sounds and hums of the cell take over and your first view of your surroundings fades in. All the sounds were edited by yours truly, taken from the iLife sound library and the site SoundSnap. The first view you get of the cell is as is you're on the floor, so you can see the ceiling. This gives the player the full view of their surroundings - the ceiling isn't visible in other shots so this introductory view shows them the boundaries of their confinement. Which you'll need to know if you're going to escape.

Then the player is allowed to look around the cell freely. The main area has a bed, a chair, a TV in a corner and a little piece of paper folded and next to a plain wall. Click on this and you'll open up the leaflet to hold in your hand. You can click further to look at the middle pages and back page. The idea with this leaflet was to give some sort of backstory to the game, thus giving it mystery. What is this place I'm in? What does this leaflet mean? Was there an earthquake? Will this be important later in the game? etc.
I designed the leaflet to be 90s-styled - I wanted to keep with the 80s feel of the TV screen but I just couldn't find enough inspiration to accurately create an 80s leaflet - bear in mind I never lived in the 80s! So I decided to draw on one decade I can vaguely remember, the 90s. And what I can't remember I can piece together by watching reruns of Friends on E4.

Chair and panel
Next, move round to the side of the room with the bed and click on the chair. You'll be brought to a close-up of it. Simply click on it and lo, it's knocked over. What good has that done other than make a satisfying clunk? (I also found sound effects to put in) Well, look at the foot of the chair and you'll see a loose floor panel. One click and you've picked it up! A tasteful Akzidenz Grotesk box appears to tell you just that! Now you have your first item, so the game is evolving. Curiosity helps the player learn that the item can be 'equipped' by clicking on its icon, and you can even see it in your cute minifig hand on the right.

That took me a bloody long time to code.

Shower door
So, after a bit of experimenting and exploring you should come across the sub-room of the cell - with a glass door to a shower and also a little toilet. The toilet doesn't do much (slash anything), but the shower door makes a sound when you click it! And a dialogue box pops up! It's jammed! Oh my! What could we use to open it? How about that floor panel we found? Equip it and click the shower door again and with a nice smashing sound (thanks coding!) the door breaks. In the corner of the shower we find another item, a hammer! Now you have two items and can swap between them freely. Or fairly freely, as sometimes both can be selected at the same time. I was going to rewrite that section of code but I gave up because hopefully players will be clever enough to realise they have to use their newly acquired item, the hammer.

The wall
And use it they must! What can we smash down with our hammer? Well, after a little bit more exploring of your cell, you should realise that the wall with uneven tiles - opposite where you started in the game - is important in some way. If not, hopefully you'll come across it by just clicking everything while you have the hammer equipped. So click and the wall will break a little, click again and it'll break more. There's something through there... what could it be? Click once more and you go through.

Yeah, I told you it was a short game. It's only a demo! So you've clicked through to this weird dark antechamber, and there's a skeleton there (yet more mystery!). The radio he is holding crackles into life and starts playing a David Bowie song. This song (Life on Mars) was one of the main inspirations for making the demo - in the full game it would be much more appropriate and a more joyous way to end - both the song and the credits seem ill fitting to a demo but I'm just trying to give you the feel of the full game. And besides, I love me some credits.
The doors open dramatically, light floods in and obscures the macabre skeleton and his radio, and then the credits roll. I give thanks to Lego and Flash (ha yeah right), say once again that the game is a demo then plug this blog.

Play the demo here.

And that's it! Seems like a short demo but I put a lot of work into it. There are something like 30 viewpoints, 3 full audio tracks (including ambience), 4 sound effects, various animations and more coding that you think. I have no idea how I'm going to make the whole thing - the file would be huge and the coding huger(er). I have no idea if I'm going to make the whole thing. Let's see what feedback this demo gets first.

Apart from that, life's been dull. Oh yeah; I've been planning to make two movies, do something about MUME, finish Cronas 13, take more photos to sort out this dilemma, write something important and (sometime) enjoy summer.



Stickman said...

Wow, that's absolutely amazing! Must have taken you ages. Really love the graphics, always love a game with good graphics. Awesome sound effects as well. Takes a while to load (presumably nowt you can do).

Re your summer. Lighten up! You don't have to be Rembrandt, Hitchcock AND Tolstoy before you're 17... two at most... ;)

Gaelen Mibeck said...

This is quite possibly the coolest thing I've seen you do thus far.

John said...

Thanks guys! Re: the loading time, I don't really know what to do... the pictures are as small as they can be, I think it's the shear number of them plus keeping Bowie and ambience in full quality :P

Matn said...

It's awesome. Really. I just love it. Love the idea of doing a ,first person, point and click game in LEGO. It looks great so far, I'm really looking forward to the city part because this little demo is already fantastic. I can't get enough dystopian stories to read/watch/play.

I like the simple style of it, the font, your inventory and the few directions you get. The images look great to and so does the music and sound effects. More please!

Matn said...

*too. Oh, and I bet this would be an instant hit on Newgrounds. It's really a new kind of game.

Good luck with the further development!