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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsBacktrace 2083 (Metroid-like SciFi in GameBoy look)
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Author Topic: Backtrace 2083 (Metroid-like SciFi in GameBoy look)  (Read 3973 times)
StateOff
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« on: August 09, 2015, 01:01:58 PM »

Backtrace 2083 is a cinematic action platformer that is completely done in GameBoy's 160x144 pixel with rich 4 colors.

Obvious influences: Super Metroid, Flashback, Another World, Axiom Verge (yay!)
I won't completely stick to hardware limitations of the GameBoy when it comes to the game. Quite the opposite, I want to create a rich rich visual experience with nice animations etc. but with the limited resolution and palette.



I have a twisted little story that I won't try to reveal too much. It starts in your little capsule apartment where after a black out you realize that you are covered with blood. Suddenly the police knocks on the door.





You may follow me on @stateoffgames as well.
Stay tuned and let me know what you think.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2015, 03:19:30 PM by StateOff » Logged

Voltz.Supreme
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« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2015, 09:24:52 PM »

Oh man, looks fantastic based on the pics! Imagery does have a really nice cinematic, 70s sci-fi vibe even with the low res and colours. Well done so far.
Hope your story is good!
Always keen to work on sci-fi adventure games so feel free to send me a PM if you want to talk music.
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jctwood
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« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2015, 08:10:43 AM »

This looks incredible! I am currently making a small game for the GBJam and trying hard to choose my palette. Think I will make the whole game then just use a shader to work out the palette at the end.
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lobstersteve
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« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2015, 09:31:37 AM »

The screenshots look fantastic Smiley
I hope you also have some gameplay ready also and this aren't just mockups or something^^
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StateOff
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« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2015, 04:55:27 PM »

Thanks for the positive feedback.

Leo J - as to music: It is a bit early yet but I'll keep your contacts.

JctWood: Yeah I saw some of the gbjam entries on twitter. What I learned doing it the manual way: Palette is king. The limitation really helps (yes!) to focus exactly where you want the audience to look at. It is all like hardcore painting: The color/Value impression is relative to its surrounding colors. Also whenever I was short on colors a gradient/dither helped. But I feel I need to read more about proper 2/4 bit gradients.
I chose kind of a "photo realistic" style (hard to find better words) over a comic style. Meaning I try to break areas of paint with light influenced, anti-aliased pixels. Sometimes even randomly distributed compared to "clean pixelart". It is supposed to feel like a scaled down version of a photo rather than an illustration (for the most part at least).
I still believe there is much to be learned over the course of a project but I for my part are pretty satisfied with my first naive attempts and am glad you guys like it, too.

lobstersteve: Currently I started with mockups. I make good progress on the script, being supervised by a very talented author/film maker. I try to get an professional artist/animator on board so I can focus more on prototyping gameplay because you are right on the money: The gameplay has to be tight.

As to progress:
I've made a few new characters, vehicles and dialog animations. To be posted soon.

Meanwhile I was asked if I meant to release this for the Gameboy. I never really thought of it but I took the time to research, read all the good GB hardware specs, Z80 assembler documentation etc.
Few things that keeps me from a plain YES:
- Limited memory = less content & visual quality
- 10 Sprites per line limit = limits gameplay quite a lot (compare Retro City Rampage's NES prototype for similar issues with flickering)
- Only 3 (yes black is transparent) colors for sprites = impossible to go on with the style
- Assembler = slower development
- Scene is not dead but not as active as 15 years ago = need for custom tools

So as much as I love the idea it seems that I will stick to modern hard/software but I'll keep my eyes open on the gameboy as I really would love to at least have a demo/promo type of game on the real hardware.
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wizardfu
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« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2015, 09:50:15 AM »

YEsssss!
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Jasmine
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« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2015, 09:58:29 AM »

Man, this is fantastic! Loving the look of this!
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StateOff
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« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2016, 11:16:40 PM »

It's been a while. Mostly the delay of updates had to do with the fact that I moved from Berlin to Toronto.
Now that I'm settled I pushed Backtrace for the past weeks.

GIF or it did not happen:



CODE
First of all ultimately I chose C++ with SDL2. Sorry FNA/MONOGAME and Unity Gentleman
After over-designing it went back and created a thin library called pixboy that I can shuffle general purpose stuff into.
I use Nathael's cool light libraries: ValTree and EntityFu.
On top of the ECS I have a small FSM for scene management and easier input/animation states.

Oh, I also have a behavior tree implementation that is not in use yet but I anticipate it to be fun for enemy and NPC AI.

Currently I am on SDL's simple 2D Accelerated Rendering on a 160x144 RenderTarget. In case I need shaders I might switch to sdl-gpu, which should not be a big deal as pixboy wraps all graphics calls. But considering the minimal output requirement of this game it might never happen.

Maps come from Tiled. I use tmxparser from github for this.

Btw: at work I learned about Rez https://github.com/nerdvegas/rez
Check it out, it is an amazing system to manage your builds and libraries without messing up the system. I'm on Fedora here and it works like charms. If anyone is interested I can pitch it here in future.


PIPELINE

aseprite for pixel and TexturePacker for atlases. I wrote python script that takes care of automatically exporting asesprite animations and wrapping them up with TexturePacker. As mentioned I use ValTree so I wrote an exporter.

As for collision boxes and the gun positions: I created two extra layers: _COLLISION and _GUN.

Part of my pipeline extracts the bounding box from the images and appends to the ValTree data from TexturePacker.
Similarly it creates a vector from green to blue from the _GUN layer. For this I used Python's PIL.

That is pretty neat as it makes the process of defining different guns for all 5 directions easy. I theory I might add additional vector or rectangle layers if I need more metadata in future.
On the left is my configuration called "sogmakefile", on the right is part of the output Valtree data:


The dojo -1 means that it uses the latest source version, e.g. dojo_v025.ase. I could define an explicit version in case I do not want to break stuff.

GRAPHICS

Biggest change from the mockups: I redid the character. He is smaller now and simpler.
The size was needed to allow for more action on the tiny 160x144 screen. The colors make him easier to read I hope. I needed to add an outline shadow on one side so he can work on all possible backgrounds:


Everything you see is still WIP graphics and animation. Hope you like it anyway.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2016, 11:27:39 PM by StateOff » Logged

DarthTrae
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« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2016, 12:07:10 AM »

This does look like a gameboy game. Congrats on achieving the look you were going for. Its always good when your work looks just like your vision.   Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2016, 07:07:28 PM »

Thanks @DarthTrae.

I've added the first enemy:


As I wanted to animated the walk cycles with real movement I added a _CROPBOX layer option to my pipeline.
This way by defining a box that follows the character the centered walk cycle is being created by cropping to this box before going to TexturePacker.



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StateOff
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« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2016, 08:28:34 PM »

I made a graph to visualize what the tools within the pipeline do.

(Click for a bigger view)


The input files is the _asefolder and the sogmakefile as explained before.
It generates intermediate meta and sprite folders.

Then it uses the cropbox meta to crop the sprite.

The cropped sprite goes to TexturePacker.

The the collision and gun meta data is being extracted and appended to the texture atlas data file.
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NicMagnier
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« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2016, 01:16:38 AM »

It looks really nice. I really get the flashback vibe which makes me all excited!

Do you want to keep the controls to be like the GB too?
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« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2016, 02:49:58 AM »

I kina wish I could play something like that on an original gameboy! O_o
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« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2016, 05:47:45 PM »

Thanks for the comments.

Yes I wish it was on gb, too.
I'd be happy to at least have a raspberry pi with gb screen, but I can not find displays similar to gb. Does any one know what they used?
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« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2016, 05:58:45 PM »

It looks really nice. I really get the flashback vibe which makes me all excited!

Do you want to keep the controls to be like the GB too?

Probably not. I rather do something similar to axiom verge. I decided early on that this shall not be a tech demo but rather the resolution and color shall be the only technical limitation. Everything else will be chosen for best gameplay.
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« Reply #15 on: May 25, 2016, 07:48:30 PM »

Updates from the last two weeks
- Sounds and music (not in the gif Blink)
- Basic collisions
- Multiple Enemies
- Enemy hits and destruction



- Pixel font rendering
- Debug mode with coordinates, stepping, rect rendering, mouse info



Various bugfixes.
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« Reply #16 on: May 28, 2016, 09:17:15 AM »

First concept for a jungle level.

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NineTattooedDragons
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« Reply #17 on: May 28, 2016, 09:59:49 AM »

Glad to see the Flashback influence. That's one my favorite games of all time.
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« Reply #18 on: May 29, 2016, 08:51:24 PM »

Thanks @NineTattooedDragons.

Tried mypaint for the first time. Will try to get more classic scifi influences in the game like Forbidden Planet etc.
I'm my own art department so please don't be too harsh on me. It still helps a lot to get a direction for the game. Will do more.

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« Reply #19 on: January 07, 2017, 08:10:52 PM »

Missed to update my latest development.

After a successful GB JAM my thirst for 4 colors was satisfied.

I started experimenting with color for Backtrace and came up with the following:





While my heart kind of bleeds leaving the original designs I am overwhelmed by the story-telling possibilities that the new look offers.
Hope you like it.
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