Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Black Shadow, ala Castlevania

Castlevania has long time been one of my favorite platform games, from its humble beginings on the first Nintendo, to its unfortunate climax at on Playstation. The Playstion version got it all right, the play, the look, and more story than ever before. Not that there was a very deep story, it was still an improvement over the past. Aside from the PS1 version, Castlevania 2 for original Nintendo, despite its translation issues, was another one that broke the mold for the game, being one of the first of the series to introduce RPG elements and back tracking through the world instead of following a set course.

So sometime a few years back I took it upon myself as a personal challange to attempt and create a castlevania style game entirely in Game Maker, including graphics, but not sounds or music as that is pretty much impossible. To keep it simple and progress quick, I kept color counts low, 2-3 shades of coloring on average, drawing characters as 'shadows' to make animation easy and fluid. Later I outlined the sprites, double drew and tossed in a alpha value to make them pop out more.

Originally I began designing the game in a larger than traditional view screen of 512x384, a resolution that was usable on the Super Nintendo, but rarely(Secret of Mana's stat screen), but I decided to reduce it to 320x240 after some suggestions on GMC. Reducing the size made the game more viewable and saved lesser computers the strain of processing the extra info.

My experiences in creating a side-scroller, however, was kind of limited. Early incarnations were a little touchy, espcially the jumping and its related animation frames. Those issues were later corrected with the help of another's side-scroller example and redoing the sprite.

After awhile I did drop out of the Game Maker only mode and retouched the tile art's color and contrast a little. I added an experience based life up system to give a quasi-rpg feel. Also a sludge tile was added, which made you sink to the bottom before you could jump out.

Enemies had some basic AI, archers would shoot when you're within the same vertical area, melee units would turn to you when you were close enough. The standing enemy would stay posed until you get closer and then he would go into a ready stance, bobbing about until you're in swinging distance. In the forest levels there was a crow that would hurt both the player and other enemies.

The game maps also had a lot of turn over. The first two stages, a cave that turned to ruins and a wilderness that lead to a town and then castle level, and in a few versions a third stage was started in the forest. The latest version only has the first stage and the beginnings of the next.

The story was simple and part of the creation process. You play a knight that has been banished to the world of shadows after confronting a terrible magician. Now doomed as a shadow, he finds himself facing foes that he long ago slew.

The first being refered to as the 'Crimson' Queen, likewise all her related units were red. The second was a duke, unnamed at the time, who's units were green, and had two companion dogs which one was fought alone and the other accompanied the duke. The dogs were completed but the duke still required a bunch of animations before completion.

Although this project is kind of dusty, I may yet one day resume it for the very reason I started it in the first place, I like making tile based maps.

The latest version here.