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Of Project Change and Pretty Pyrotechnics

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Since the work I'm doing near-daily at my job has reached a critical overlap with the work I was doing on Rawr I'm putting the project on indefinite hold. In its stead I will be starting work directly on a game (not a framework; I'll only be adding to the framework on an as-needed basis during game development) that I'm calling Asplode!. All work is shifting to that and, as if to add insult to old-and-busted Rawr's injury, I'm titling the framework/engine for my XNA projects (did I mention I'm using XNA?) Rawr. I could call it something silly like "Rawr 2.0" but that just seems unnecessary. Anyway, here's old-and-busted Rawr's last-known form:



More details on Asplode! as they come available.

I've written in the past about my interest in color as it applies to scene composition and the effects that a well-constructed scene can have on a viewer/gamer. The case study tonight is the absolutely fantastic Geometry Wars (more) and, more specifically, the Retro Evolved "SKU." It's a game that was intriguing to me based on screenshots a year or so ago and one that, when it came to Steam, I used my cafe account (given to me in the days of my gaming journalism) to nab it and play it a few times. It was a game that made a favorable impression, overall, but it wasn't until I was able to get the game and play it with a 360 controller and a large television that it truly took on a life of its own for me.

Geometry Wars is, really, an incredibly fast-moving game that puts a gamer's hand-eye coordination to a test best described as an audiovisual gauntlet of the gods. Its graphics are nothing to write home about and, despite what all of the frantic screenshots may paint the title as, are a perfect example of minimalism in a game where you have pyrotechnics and glowing lines flying about at a near-incomprehensible rate. The player's main ship is little more than a seven-eight polygon claw and the first enemies that a player will see in the game (generally; they're tepidly random) are a purple quad, a green quad (each with a slightly different design), a teal diamond, and a purple pinwheel. The reason I went through so much extra typing to point out the colors of these "enemies" is that once a player gets into the game and the action picks up to a near-impossibly frantic pace the only way to really succeed in navigating and shooting your way through the card is to "transcend" simply looking at the dozens upon dozens of enemy ships and sensing/knowing their presence and potential course.

What's so interesting about the game is the ease and fluidity which it allows the player to slip into a sort of mechanical trance -- don't get me wrong when I use the word "trance" either as I don't mean that playing Geometry Wars is any sort of relaxing, lethargic experience. Successfully playing the game means that the player needs to operate without any hesitation in movement or shooting in order to plow through a field of enemies without any direct contact with them in any form (instant death). In order to do this the colors of enemies become synonymous to their shape and functionality as the game progresses to the point where, as you're moving through a, maybe, 300 pixel-wide box of space that gives your ship little-to-no easy way of escape unharmed, you must be able to determine which enemies to blast and how to navigate your ship in order to end up in a relatively "open space" (and I'm being generous with the usage of 'open') so that you can reorient yourself and plot the next course of action. What this equates to in-game is the ability to sense which enemies around your ship can be easily killed without any repercussion -- as blasting some will actually cause the enemy to split into two and, potentially, be detrimental to the course you set out for yourself through the neon-colored maze of enemies -- based on the functionality you have come to associate with certain colors.

All of the game's activity is made even more chaotic by the ridiculous amount of particle-composed pyrotechnic displayed on-screen at just about any point in the game. The explosions are huge and stylish, the weapon effects create mini-explosions, the vortexes (vortices? ) are swirling displays of sexycolor, and the game's "grid" is a living, moving entity which reacts to everything that happens within the framed-in bounds of the Geometry Wars game world. The definitively-colored enemies which each make a certain set of distinct sounds, the pyrotechnic display, and the music (a singular techno-ish track that loops throughout play and is largely forgettable) all combine to form a very uniquely Geometry Wars experience that I, needlessly to say at this point in the entry, absolutely love.

I will try to emulate these things in a uniquely-me fashion in Asplode! to the extent of my abilities as the artist, designer, and programmer of the game.
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I like Space Giraffe as well, but it doesn't have the same polished intertwined gameplay/aesthetic as Geometry Wars. I also love Every Extend Extra Extreme as well, but the gameplay is much less prominent than the "experience."

Also, in Space Giraffe you are actually a giraffe (more or less). And you shoot your hooves.

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