March 01, 2007

Putting the money where the mouth is

I talk about games a lot. I talk about playing games; I talk about building games. However it's usually just talk. I recently got into using XNA to develop games that I can actually play on my Xbox 360. Microsoft wants the "homebrew" community to start using the system, so they created the XNA Creators Club (which costs money, BTW) to help foster development by amateurs. They've likened this to "YouTube for games". Whether their idea actually pans out remains to be seen, but the community is already forming. To give incentive, they've started a content, called dream.build.play. The final phase of this contest gives the winner the ability to put their game on Xbox LIve Arcade, which in turn affords them the opportunity to maybe break out as an independent developer.

I'm no stranger to development contests, and this one caught my attention. I've already drunk the Kool-Aid when it comes to Microsoft's console, and the chance at giving my studio life was something that I had to take a shot at. The first phase of their contest was a Warm-Up, letting people take the XNA example project "SpaceWar" and using it to base a game on. I assumed most would just tweak SpaceWar slightly or just change gameplay. I of course always bite off more than I can chew, and I decided I would totally change it: content, gameplay, everything. The result has been submitted: PEX. It's a mixture of Pong and Breakout, with two players and two pucks. In between them is a wall of hexagons, each one taking a few hits to destroy. What results is a chaotic game where you're trying to score on your opponent while defending against both their puck and the rebounds of your own. Here's some shots:

POST-MORTEM

What Went Right:

- I like the look I settled on. It came almost by accident as I had modeled the game board in 3ds max to get a feel of how it would look. I rendered it out using max's light tracer which adds global illumination, and this nice gray, shadowed look inspired me to make the whole game look similar. I think it's unique enough to garner attention

- XNA. It's very easy to use, and C# is really a decent language. You don't have to worry about the low level stuff and it's C-like structure is familiar to me.

What Went Wrong:

- Not enough time. I wanted to include powerups, which would have made the game more interesting. Also, the collision is spotty at best. I needed at least another day to tweak, if not completely rewrite it. I flirted briefly with bounding boxes and spheres, but my bad implementation was too cumbersome to get right in the amount of time I had.

Overall, this was a good experience, and I'm anxious to see if I win and then what the next challenge will be.

Posted by mix at 01:27 PM | Comments (0)