Pirate Kart Post-Mortem [Part 2 of 3]
It’s a little later than I’d hoped, but it’s here! I wrote a ton about Ghost Witch, so I’ll be doing seven in this installment and nine in the last one. As a reminder, you can download the Pirate Kart launcher here, and you can click on the thumbnails to go directly to the games’ pages at Glorious Trainwrecks.
10. Owl Forest
What is an “endurance” challenge in a video game? Often it’s something that you can’t endure anymore because you’ve somehow triggered the fail state–death, failing to x enough ys. But real endurance challenges mean you just can’t bear to go on anymore–physically, mentally, emotionally, whatever. This game was conceived as the same thing, but with the player’s ability to put up with something obnoxious. That thing soon revealed itself to be owls. If you play this game, it is imperative that you turn your volume up pretty loud.
Originally, I was going to voice all the owl hoots, but I ultimately realized I can’t make very good owl sounds. So I stole a bunch of sounds off The Owl Pages. There are over 12 owl sound effects in the game, and they come from owls all over the world!
Like a handful of other ideas for the Kart, I thought this would be a nice easy one to breeze through and move onto something else, but I got bogged down in the presentation and it took over 3 hours. Does the moon need to have parallax scrolling? No, but when I realized I could, I couldn’t resist blowing another 10 minutes on it. It’s my very first parallax!
I finally finished watching Mobile Suit Gundam (1979) in February with my roommates. I’m pretty much in love with it. I also really liked using this photographic GIF of the Sun I found in my Vector the Crocodile Pirate Kart game, Vector the Crocodile is Chased by the Sun back in September. So as soon as the phrase “fuck the Sun” crossed my mind (which it did for some reason that Sunday morning), I instantly knew what my next game was. A game where you get revenge on the motherfucking Sun by killing it and preserving Earth as a testament that the rest of the human race once lived. Sometimes you have to kill God. My thoughts are in this neighborhood none too infrequently.
And here’s the other place my thoughts go when “fuck the Sun” is in my head. This is essentially another exercise in using the video game form as narrative, this time for a little joke about playing a “character” with his or her own motivations that might be distinct from the player’s. The controls are broken. I think I know why now, but I wasn’t too stressed about fixing them in the moment, because once I’d had my joke, I was ready to move on. It might be slightly improved by making the player feel less like he or she is stranded on this course (though you still wouldn’t be able to fly back to Earth; you’d continue to move forward).
I had the good fortune of tuning in to the Pirate Kart’s GDC live feed and watching some beautiful guy freaking out and screaming, both about the Sun’s betrayal, and my choice of music.
If there were a Fuck the Sun III, I’m sure it’d be about a distant star hooking up with the Sun. Maybe a dating sim eroge?
I mentioned before that I’d intended to make a whole slew of “sequels” to Watch Ducks. It was always my intention to make versions that looked like they belonged to later generations of consoles (as the first one rocked kind of an Atari 2600 or Intellivision aesthetic). I thought I’d progress them through early NES style, with a Duck Hunt flavor, Super NES, and then eventually other maybe even 3D renderings, if I ever could accomplish that. But the title of Street Fighter II: HD Remix was really just too appealing, so I borrowed that. I almost had to scrap this one because I couldn’t find a decent picture of someone sitting at a bench to steal. But then I found this one and it clicked!
This game taught me a lot about sprite/object scaling in Game Maker, by the way, something I may very well find good use for in the future. Each of those ducks is one of the same two sprites, but they scale according to their y-coordinates. That may seem obvious to some, but it was pretty exciting to me!
Within about five minutes of finishing this game, a friend arrived for my Oscar party. My participation in the Pirate Kart weekend was over with thirteen total games, eleven of which were made over the weekend. I’d aimed for twenty games, but that was a bit over-ambitious. I could’ve easily pumped my numbers higher, but at this point, I’d realized I was really interested in taking each of these little quickie games and exploring some idea or other with them, and wanted to keep doing things that were interesting to myself, spinning out some games that I’d come to actually be quite fond of, rather than just pushing up the stats.
I think this came to me after playing a round or two of Nintendo’s Yoshi for the NES on my 3DS, where Mario enemies fall into a well and the player has to stack them up to eliminate them Dr. Mario style. This idea became fused with the ridiculousness of the falling chicken in ChickenFall, and before long, I’d thought of chickens falling through a well, and then squawking when you poked them with giant, gloved cartoony machine hands.
It’s hard for me to tell how hard this one actually is, because at some point I either fixed the difficulty or just learned to play. Having put this together in just three hours, it’s really hard to know! There’s a silly rainbow-disco chicken feathers celebration reward at the end of the game that I personally enjoy looking at too much myself.
FUN FACT: Until the last second, this game was called ChickenPoke.
A hilarious “demake” of Watch Ducks, put together in under half an hour, almost all of which was sourcing the RGB values of brown-green-red CGA color. As a quickie and the last (or is it??) Watch Ducks sequel, it grew out of a hilarious idea I had about trying to create a version of some game renowned for its visual splendor, like Flower or Journey. This, however, was easier, and a quick, cheap laugh.
The Pirate Kart has passed, Journey has actually come out, I’ve played it, and CGA Journey actually kinda seems like it might work tremendously well, especially with a functioning (14.4 dial-up?) multiplayer (and with switching CGA modes at some key moments).
16. Ghost Witch
First off, I think this is one of the best things I’ve ever made.
The note that this game came from is still scrawled on the white board I keep next to my desk. In barely legible print-cursive hybrid smeared in blue marker before I went to bed the previous night, I wrote “SSP [single-screen platformer] where you make yourself a ghost.” This idea was terribly interesting to me for a couple of reasons.
First, I’ve kind of been obsessed with single-screen platformers lately. The major project I’m working on at present, Caverns of Khron (targeted for release in June or July–my biggest, fullest release to date! more details on that later) is a single-screen puzzle/action platformer very much inspired by Todd Replogle’s Monuments of Mars, something I rediscovered late last year. I’ve also been playing Fire ‘n’ Ice and Donkey Kong 1994 a lot and thinking about Jetpack. Previous results from my ponderance on single-screen platformers have been Holiday Penguin Mania X (mashed up with some basic Lemmings 2 ideas) and Bulb Boy (actually cannabalized and built off an early version of Caverns of Khron–a sequel to that one’s coming before too long!). Doing another SSP was, I felt, a chance to possibly make a really good game in this game-making frenzy.
Two-player games where players have different abilities is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, too (and resulted in a less successful Pirate Kart game a few days after this). This isn’t quite that, but it’s the player exploring the level in two different ways with two different sets of abilities. It took me a while to figure out which abilities the ghost would have and which the player would have. Initially, the ghost was going to spit ghost fire, but that didn’t seem to lend itself too well to puzzle-solving, making it more action-focused, which wasn’t my aim. One of the intended uses of the ghost fire was to destroy platforms, and that quickly became the central idea. The ghost witch’s body is fairly weak as far as platformer heroes, only really being able to jump. However, she can’t be harmed by the ghost enemies that litter the levels, which will only pursue and kill the ghost when it’s free. Neither form can damage enemies, and I really liked that that ended up happening. I wish I had figured out a way to put the body’s statue form (what the body turns into when the ghost is free from it) in more jeopardy so the player has to manage the time spent in ghost form more diligently.
I know it’s frustrating that two different buttons are required to transfer the ghost into and out of the witch’s body, but it’s a problem I couldn’t figure out how to fix quickly in the short time I was allowing myself to finish the game. I’m kind of impressed that I churned out eight reasonably solid (in my estimation) levels in under two hours, when I usually spend at least two or three hours designing the levels for Caverns of Khron.
This is an idea I hope to be returning to once a couple other projects are squared away. I think I’ll be able to devise some expansions of the core ideas by adding new types of environmental obstacles. So expect a fuller Ghost Witch game in the not-too-distant future.
That’s it for part 2! Part 3 will be about the last nine games I made. Following that, I’ll be writing up some of my favorite to-date discoveries in the Pirate Kart. As a reminder, you can download the Pirate Kart launcher (which then, itself, downloads the games) at www.piratekart.com.