Thursday, 17 January 2013

Classic Arcade (attempts) in Wario Ware DIY

I’m ever remise to have let you guys down again.  Uncle Jack’s funeral was lovely, btw.
So projects completed.

The first project I decided to undertake was Missile Command, abbreviated MissiCommand because of the short character strings for titles in Wario Ware DIY.  The choice turned out to be a very bad one, as all kinds of compromises suddenly became necessary; I couldn’t find any sort of stand in for tracers, and several efforts to give the user the ability to aim the interceptors failed.  I can’t find anyway for the player to input coordinates at all!  I knew that the scope of the project, the available sprites and resources, would sharply limit my options, but I plowed ahead and delivered the best version that I could.  I ended up creating three.

The first version has the missiles track in on one city from all directions with random starting places and random drop times.  It did a fair job of replicating the “attack from all sides” sense of the arcade game.  I got around aiming by giving the player as many interceptors as incoming missiles; the challenge to the player is to simply tap to fire all of the interceptors before any missile reaches the city.  This is easy enough at normal speed, and a dreaded challenge at high speed, so it kept the complexity down and kept the focus on the shallow Wario Ware experience.  It did not sufficiently replicate Missile Command, though, so I went back in to try again.

Version two was a linear increase in complexity.  It added four invading missiles and challenged the player to tap the interceptors spread around the screen.  It added nothing to the depth, and so I didn’t like it.

Version three added a second city and collected the four interceptors together, making the user interface streamlined.  No need to tap around looking for the interceptor bases with 6 seconds or less to react – they were all together.  With two cities, the tracking missiles concept had dried up; players only needed one city to survive, and had a decent chance to save both.  Missiles still dropped from random start locations at random times, but now they simply dropped (moved downwards). I tried once more to give the player the ability to input coordinates, even trying to create a cross-hair object to move around and have the interceptors track it.  I gave up when I realized that there simply was not the time to move it and aim anyway!  Interceptors tracked missiles, and that was the only way this was going to fly.  I’d fallen pretty far from the source inspiration, but it was time to move on.

The next project was Space Invaders, but initially the marching in space formation that is so iconic of the game escaped me.  I programmed a roaming action for the few space invaders that WWDIY’s object limits would give me, and programmed a tank with a reloading upwards mounted gun.  Perhaps the most damning result was the difficulty: this game approaches impossible for the six seconds Wario Ware allows.  The second was a bug that still now is unsolvable – it’s almost as if Wario Ware loses the switch information for the bullet – it randomly fails to reload, and when that happens, the game is over fast for the player.

Though inauthentic, the game captures much of the difficulty of space invaders, and punishes players who do not carefully watch the enemy for their next attack.  I found tapping the shields to move the tank cute, but oddly less intuitive than including those awful iOS buttons attached to the tank.

Wishing to try this again, I recreated most of the game for Centipedes.  The fast game gives the players three passes in front of their guns to kill the Centipedes.  I wasn’t satisfied with the random wandering of the Space Invaders, so I tried to use hidden objects to direct the centipede on its course.  This almost didn’t come together, as DIY only gives five possible scripts, all of which need to be used for collisions with the direction objects or the player and bullets. Then inspiration struck: why not use the timing function to move the directions to another spot?  I’d need scripts on the direction objects, but I had them to spare there.  This eleventh hour work-around saved the project, and gave a game that closely replicated Centipede.  Players still only had six seconds to act, but those six seconds could now be focused on aiming and timing a shot.  This is the best work yet, for what it means.

So there is my hard work.  I hope I didn’t get anyones’ hopes up for this.  These are, in the end, just my own unskilled and often flailing efforts to build a game to a certain design within the Wario Ware DIY rules.  Be sure to let me know in the comments if you can think of a good design challenge that helps learners like myself.  Until next time.

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