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Unexpected Long Weekend!

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Well this is unexpected. I must have been so wrapped up in what I was doing I did not realise until just a while ago that tomorrow is Canberra Day, and thus a public holiday in the ACT. It is a nice surprise to find out on a Sunday evening that you have an extra day of weekend! Of course as a grad student I do not necessarily get public holidays - or rather every day is holiday if I choose it to be - but it is nice to avoid looking like an idiot if I were to follow my original plan of heading to the bank tomorrow to cash some cheques.

I have been pretty full out with busy work this week; dealing with admin and insurance from the storm damage, training up to be a fire warden, acting as said warden in a fire drill, intro to business course, basic first aid training on top of my usual weekly routine. I am also attempting to transform myself into a morning person by waking up at 5 am every day this week and my drop in caffeine consumption due to working away from the office (I'm switching away from coffee, but I tend to drink more tea when at my research desk). As a consequence I should not have been surprised when my energy levels crapped out midway through today. It seems I shut my eyes for a second and then the day has just disappeared. I am doubly grateful that I have another day before the week proper starts again.



Week in Review

As far as game work is concerned, I did manage to get the early version of that business article done. However I have not managed to spend any significant amount of time on the design of my Diagonal library system. I need to move this into overdrive as I wanted to get the early prototype version ready by Easter. Given the shortness of that deadline I may need to cut a few corners and do some dirty hacks to get there.

Since Stompy is getting close to finishing Blockyman I am also upping the priority of getting that music finished. A good thing too - I have been working for a while on basic chords and tunes on my keyboard, but yestersday I attempted to churn one out using ModPlug Tracker and I am really rusty when it comes to the actual composition. I did manage to test out my MacBook Pro with my M-Audio FastTrack audio interface device; it works really well when plugged into my Casio keyboard. Well, apart from the crappy audio cables I own; those things are so frayed I have to spend ages twiddling with them to get them to work properly. Getting new cables is a must.

I will need to put some more thought into what I need to do this week; I try to get my planning done on Sunday mornings but I have just been useless at rational thought today. Getting the requirements and architecture for Diagonal done is a priority. I will try to get a solid hour done every day on music as I need the practice (plus it's fun). I also need to get the start of a business plan done, even if it just a plan of how to plan. Furthermore I need to properly try out Inkscape on my laptop; I have not been Inkscaping as much as I need to if I am to get any serious artwork done in the future.



Other Thoughts: Invalid Tangram

The find of today for me is Invalid Tangram, a freeware shmup game I found out about When skimming through the GameTunnel newsletter I get in my email. It is a great shmup combined with the falling coloured block gameplay of Tetris-esque puzzlers which works quite well. I recommend trying it.

Playing Invalid Tangram has given me four thinking points to consider today:

Shmup games are awesome
The simplest thought was how much I love these kinds of shmups, and how I really should get around to making one (well, technically another one; I have made a few woeful ones in the past, but nothing worth playing). I think a shmup would make a perfect test game for the rewrite of the library (possibly after Ice Slider), as it contains all the basic elements I need to implement. I will see if I can resurrect one of my old shmup ideas I have in my scrapbook of game ideas for use as a tech demo.

Chiptunes are more awesome
I really like the retro styling of the chiptunes used in Invalid Tangram; it says to me "This is a video game, pure and simple. Have fun!". It is also a timely reminder of why I want to stick with tracker music myself. I have poked around inside the MOD files provided with the game and I hope to experimence with the retro feel myself. Hopefully if I play around with some ideas I can learn from looking at these chiptunes I can emulate a similar style with my music.

Is there a market for retro styled games?
My next thought is on how much of a market there would be for retro styled games. I know there is a market for genuine retro; collectors who buy old games. But is there a market for games that try to recreate some of the oldschool charm but with the benefits of today's technology?

The retro style is one of the areas I have considered to work on as a game maker, as I feel it works well with the technical restrictions an indie has and differentiates the game from the mainstream. However I have not yet judged if there is a viable market for these kinds of games. I am wary of the extremely common trap where you feel that if you work on the specific game idea that you love that everyone else will feel the same way, whereas it may be that the only customer you will please is yourself. The other pitfall is that there are so many good free retro games out there that there may not be a commercial market out there - for example, there seem to be enough awesome free shmups being made that I could be satiated forever without spending a cent.

Entering arcade initials for highscores is annoying
My final pondering is how the arcade style of entering in three letters by selecting them with the keyboard is so irritating on the PC. This does go against my inital point about how I enjoy the retro feel, but I was always a bit ticked with having to select letters this way, especially if you have a keyboard. If I ever have a daughter I will name her Ada so she can rule the arcade without wasting undue time entering in letters from the deep end of the alphabet.
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I think there's some market out there for retro games, but it's definitely a niche. Some really amazing retro games have been pushed out in the last years, like Free Lunch Design's Alex the Allegator 4. It IS free, but it's gotten enough praise and acknowledgement in the free games world that it probably could have made some profit. I'd like to throw in my work as another example, but its response garners towards the message that retro games are NOT viable in the indie game world. [grin]

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Original post by HopeDagger
I think there's some market out there for retro games, but it's definitely a niche. Some really amazing retro games have been pushed out in the last years, like Free Lunch Design's Alex the Allegator 4. It IS free, but it's gotten enough praise and acknowledgement in the free games world that it probably could have made some profit. I'd like to throw in my work as another example, but its response garners towards the message that retro games are NOT viable in the indie game world. [grin]

Niche can be good for an indie; as long as the niche is big enough to support the developers they can target their marketing specifically to that niche.

I have just tried Alex the Alligator 4 (a nice polished piece of retro gaming, thanks for the link). I wonder if there's a difference between a pure retro style; attempting to closely emulate the graphics and style of the games of that era, and what I would like to term "neo-retro", which is heavily inspired by the style of retro but makes use of the better technology today (higher resolution, more effects, better AI - the sorts of things games could be if we were still distributing them on floppies rather than CD-ROMS [smile]).

I suppose I will have to do some extensive market research on what sorts of indie games do well - although first I have to find out how to conduct proper market research on no budget.

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