ACNews #72
19 ноября 2018

Ideas for games - The first idea for creative crisis. The simplest and used by many.

<b>Ideas for games</b> - The first idea for creative crisis. The simplest and used by
                        Ideas for games
                         by Cyberdaemon

In December 2000 I bought an Amiga 600 and left ZX Spectrum. The
reason was - it was too tight. I wasn't interested in games any
more. Not all games, but ZX Spectrum games. Of course, there
were hits that I played with fun. But at nowadays' standards,
all of them were hardcore arcades, and I wanted more slow and
comfortable gameplay. I also wanted to save at any given moment,
as in most PC games. I mostly liked RPGs and graphic quests
(like those by Lucas Arts). There were not such ones for Speccy,
Amiga could bring that.
It was tight for me to code. Everything I could write was
already written. I remember I suffered from "programming just
for fun". I had no ideas at all. There was no possibility to
copy them from PC, because there was a race of gigahertz and 3D
gfx. Only today we have nostalgic indie games in old style, not
understood by schoolchildren. If I had today's ideas back then,
I rather would not switch platform and wrote a couple of games.

I hope this article to help someone who wants and can write
games for Spectrum, but had no ideas because of creative crisis.
Maybe the ideas I'll describe are not new, and some of you
already tried them. But not everyone...

The first idea for creative crisis. The simplest and used by
many. Just in case you don't know: open Google Play or App Store
and see the surprise, that most of the simplest games can be
ported to Speccy almost without change. Just with simpler gfx.
Don't look at MMO. Cut the Rope and Angry Birds won't do because
of physics. But the puzzles and arcades are for us. My favourite
is Roll the Ball. I like it so much that I wanted to make a
Speccy version myself. One more example - Knight Saves Queen.
Well, I pointed the direction, everyone can choose what he

Another idea is for people that are not afraid of big quests. 
Visual novels. Initially appeared in Japan, with a lot of young
fans there. Today they are also produced in other parts of the
world, even in Russia. There are many free ones in Steam. The
first game of this genre I played was Red Space, some 10 years
ago. What is a visual novel? It is a very simple text quest,
containing a story, accompanied with pictures, music, and
sometimes video. It looks very similar to interactive fiction,
but with less branches. If you are interested, try Wikipedia.
How to make such games for Speccy? Let's drop most of gfx and
all the video. They do little for the story. They are just
pictures in a book. The text is the main thing. I recommend
proportional fonts that were used in late 90's. Somewhere in ZX
Review there was a printing routine. The user will read a lot of
text, so take care of him. At least use 42 characters per line,
32 is too short, and 64 is bad for eyesight.

The third idea is for those who have strong heart and much time.
Let's simplify any games to match Speccy standards. Take for
example "The Final Station", a known indie title. It is easier
to adapt because of its pixel gfx. If you don't know it, try to
play, it can be completed in one day even with extra stuff. When
you play, note the finepoints - what can we make simpler or even

Here are my ideas about this game:
- remove the background completely - to save space and time;
- make gfx simpler - monochrome, highly detalized;
- remove the episodes in train, they hardly affect the plot - we
can insert text instead about things happened;
- make levels smaller (in towns and stations) - to fit memory;
- make NPC's static (except the enemies), only with chats -
because the chats are explaining the plot.

                             * * *

That's all. Thanks for reading. I will be pleased if someone 
will use my ideas. I will be pleased three times as much if 
someone will port The Final Station. I'll complete it one more 
time, this time on Speccy. 

P.S. Some 20 years ago, when Fallout came, I had a strong desire 
to make a linear text quest about it, with RPG elements. Just an 

P.S.S. My Amiga 600 is still alive. I even wanted to buy 
upgrades for it: at Ebay, there are adapters for modern mice, 
accelerators, new Kickstart ROMs, a disk drive with USB stick 
socket to write disk images. And many ide2sd adapters at 
Aliexpress... But for that price nostalgia is for rich people. 


We can also look at indie arcades. Many of them can be easily
adapted to Speccy. For example, VVVVVV, Super meat boy, or
You have to win the game. 
We can also try early Famicom games (more known as NES or
Dendy). Most of them can work at Speccy without loss. There is
also GameBoy, only slightly more powerful than ZX, so clever
ports can work as well. One example is recent Ninja Gaiden
Shadow Warriors by Jerri. But avoid simple ports. Why anyone 
would play a game on Speccy if the game already exists with
nicer effects on another, more fit platform?

Add something of your own, or just keep the mechanics of a donor
game, and make your own game with it, as Sanchez did in his
demake of Mighty Final Fight. He used the idea of Famicom game,
remastered it for ZX Spectrum realia, and produced a new game
even for those who have learned all the corners of the original.
So he did with his port of Castlevania 2. He took the graphics
and the idea of walking by a huge map for artifacts, but the
map, the quest, the plot are new.

Why there games are good to play? (Except their quality.)
Because they have modern gameplay, more or less!
What I mean by this? Classic Spectrum gameplay as I see it - is
little content (few locations or many similar ones), nightmare
difficulty (based on few lives, nearly infinite number of
enemies, and instant punishment for any mistake), and usually
unobvious logic.

Of course, there are exceptions. Spectrum has many games with
normal difficulty, enough content, and with logic that can be
understood. These games are remembered today. For example, Dizzy
series. However, most games fall under the criteria above. In
the 80's, when these games appeared, that was norm. But the
progress changed gameplay standards. The gamers became older,
and they have less time and more games to select from. So hardly
anyone will sit through evenings to complete some unbeatable
arcade if he has an option of other, more comfortable games. I
don't mean "press X to win". I mean games became fun, not a hard

If we look at the indie market, we can see many games stylized
like 8 bit era. If we drop the worst, we can see the what they
have in common:
- The difficulty can be changed. From the easiest (e.g. infinite
lives), to the hardest (e.g. with one life). To fit every type
of player.
- Many different situations.
- Some training if needed, plus hints during the game. So the
player is not forced to read the manual every time.
- The games are trying to please the player, not taunt him.

A good example of this approach is VVVVVV game. At first look it
is a simple C64-like arcade, with poor gfx, no scroll, and
simple mechanics (change gravity vector and avoid obstacles to
pass rooms one after another). There were many such games. But
not so fast. On the one hand, it is quite difficult. The player
will die frequently (as it was in the past), but he has infinite
lives and a lot of checkpoints before and after hard obstacles
(as in today's standards). So a medium player will complete the
game in under two hours, having 300-400 deaths and many
impressions. And a hardcore player will find many secrets in
places hard to get to. It has many situations: from picking a
moment to jump to a moving platform, to falling a dozen screens
through narrow tunnels, or even cycled locations. It has a huge
amount of screens that are fun to explore. So we have a
detonating mixture of classic gfx, simple mechanics, but with
gameplay hard and loyal to the player (everyone can pass every
obstacle, this is only matter of time). When the player has
nothing to lose except fast run through a couple of locations,
death doesn't irritate, even 10 or 20 deaths, but when he passed
the obstacle, he has much fun.

You must have difficulty only slightly increasing. The player
must taste the game and get excited, only then the game tests
the player. Only test, not taunt!

Let's sum up all these words. I want to say that we have a lot
of ideas for new games, we can take them from everywhere. Don't
copy. Take the ideas and combine them in your game. Only
remember that your player is not a schoolboy from the 80's, but
an adult man 30 to 40 years old who has not much time. The game
must be a game, not a trial.

If you hold these simple rules, you can make an interesting and
pleasant game even with Churrera engine or annoying AGD. Just
remember the game "Three Octopusses" by kas29.

Другие статьи номера:

Новости - В сентябре к нам на работу поступил Николай Гривин, которого я стал обучать программированию на ассемблере.

News - In September, Nikolay Grivin came to my job, and I started to teach him assembler.

Идеи для игр - Первая идея для людей в творческом кризисе.

Ideas for games - The first idea for creative crisis. The simplest and used by many.

Темы: Игры, Программное обеспечение, Пресса, Аппаратное обеспечение, Сеть, Демосцена, Люди, Программирование

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