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Saturday, 18 May 2019

8-Bit Bots #4

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In this weeks 8-Bit Bots, Zog and Zorch enjoy some TV but I don't think Hi-Brow approves.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Alien search and rescue!

Just a small update for UFO this week. Previously I'd added the ability to lift up tanks with your tractor beam and collect them to replenish your bombs. While I liked this idea, it did make the game a bit too easy because you didn't need to use the bombs to destroy the tanks anymore. So I came up with the idea of adding little aliens to the game that you can rescue to give you 10 extra bombs in return. However, now that the bombs are finite there is a chance that you'll run out and be unable to complete the level, so I've added a checker to the game that keeps track of how many bombs you have. If this tracker reaches zero your UFO will retreat and you'll lose a life. At the moment it's a bit severe, but I'm going to add a timer to it that will warn the player first and then give you a certain amount of time to pick up a new alien refugee to replenish your bombs before the UFO retreats.

The next thing to do is add in new enemies for the player to fight against. I've now colour coded the enemies to indicate their difficulty, with blue being easy, yellow being medium and red being hard. I'm still working out how to implement where and how the different enemies will enter the game, so that the game get progressively harder as you play, but I've got plenty of time to mess about with things and experiment with different spawn rates and behaviours. Since this is a Defender-like game, I've borrowed a couple of enemy ideas from the original game but put my own twist on them, and they'll be appearing on later levels.

So, that's it for this week. Thanks for reading.

My aim is to make video games and, as much as possible, let people download them for free. I do, however, still need to eat and pay bills, so if you'd like to support me you can do so by buying me a coffee at this will enable me to continue doing what I do and your support is really appreciated!

Saturday, 11 May 2019

8-Bit Bots #3

In this weeks 8-Bit Bots, Hi-Brow has a new toy to play with but I don't think Zorch fully understands what it is (to be honest I'm not sure I do either).

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Alien invasions and keeping games development fun!

Since Saturdays have been take over by 8-Bit Bots for the moment, I've decided to move the game development update posts to Wednesday.

The game is progressing quite nicely at the moment. It's still a long way from finished, and I've got the rest of the year to get it done (I'm looking at a December release), but I'm currently enjoying the process and my approach to working on it. 

Initially my approach to returning to games development was to treat it like business hours. I'd wake up early, go out to get some shopping for the day, help mum with her care needs, then from 10am until 6pm I'd be doing games development and only taking breaks to do carer stuff like giving mum her tablets, cooking meals, cleaning, and other household chores. This hasn't really been working for me, so I've decided to go back to a more laid back approach similar to the way I used to make games in the past, and that's to only work on the games when I feel like it.

Optimus Prime created in 3DSMax a long time ago.
Back when I was younger I enjoyed the process of making games more because I'd only do it when I wanted to do it, and would split my time up quite naturally between playing games, making games, visiting friends, watching movies, spending time with family, and other fun activities. Some days I wouldn't work on a game at all, other days I could spend a few hours working on a game quite happily. It's very similar to the way I used to work on my 3D models and animations when I used to mess around with software like 3DSMax. I'd start a new model and would spend an hour or two working on it, then go off and do something else, then maybe not work on the model again for a day or two. It's not the most efficient way to get things done, but it's a more natural way for me to work and it stops me from putting unnecessary pressure on myself. It also keeps games development fun, which is the most important thing for me.

So, I've been working on UFO a couple of hours a day in the afternoons and it's been an enjoyable process so far. I'm splitting the development time between UFO and working on the 8-Bit Bots comic and animations, and things are coming together quite nicely. The game now has a few new additions, like difficulty that increases each level, the start of an end-level screen, a front end and a game over event. I've also made the bombs finite, with the player starting off with 10, and you have to pick up little aliens from the ground to replenish them. If you don't keep your bombs topped up, your UFO will retreat, because it's no longer able to destroy the tanks and clear the level, and you'll lose a life. It's a bit sneaky, I know, but it stops the players from using their infinite bombs to kill all tanks and sheep, rather than saving the sheep as you're supposed to do, to complete the level.

The next part of the process for UFO is to complete the end level screen and then start working on some new enemy types, including a homing missile and jet fighter, and work on level progression.

One final thing. I do intend to get back to live streaming the games development, but I'm not sure when this is going to be.

Thanks for reading!

My aim is to make video games and, as much as possible, let people download them for free. I do, however, still need to eat and pay bills, so if you'd like to support me you can do so by buying me a coffee at this will enable me to continue doing what I do and your support is really appreciated!

Saturday, 4 May 2019

8-Bit Bots #2

Click to see full size
8-Bit Bots has been given a bit of a makeover for it's 2nd episode. The basic idea behind the changes was to make the strip look a bit more finished, so I've added new backgrounds, a new logo and a title to each new strip.

The backgrounds are done in MagicaVoxel, which is a nice little piece of software for creating voxel art, I create them as 3d voxel images and render them out as 2d to create the backgrounds. The final change was to make the speech text bigger and add a black shadow around the edges to make it stand out from the background a bit better.

I have ideas for some new characters that I'll be adding to the strip over the coming weeks, and the strip length will change a little as some stories will require a bit more space to tell, so the standard length will remain at three panels, but some strips will be four, five or even six panels on occasion.

Finally, I'm still working on UFO, so I'm hoping to have some news of that soon.

Anyway, that's it for this week. I hope you enjoy 8-Bit Bots #2 "Intelligent Life".

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

8-Bit Bots Animated

Alongside the weekly 8-Bit Bots webcomic, I've decided to create an animated series that will go out on the last Monday of each month. The first few episodes of this will be somewhat experimental as I get to grips with creating them, but I'm hoping to expand upon them over time and hopefully learn new techniques to make them work and look better.

The first episode has two versions. I actually preferred the alternative version to the original, but I thought I'd upload both of them for comparison so people can make up their own minds. As I said above, it's early days and everything is done in a very simple manner for this first one.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

8-Bit Bots #1

Click to see full size.
8-Bit Bots is a new comic strip that I'm developing alongside my games. It features three robots called Hi-Brow, Zog and Zorch. Hi-Brow is a library computer bot, Zog is a messenger bot and Zorch is a maintenance bot. At the moment their story and backgrounds are a bit vague, but things will start to flesh out as the strip develops. It's a work in progress so things may be tweaked or changed here and there as things move on. Anyway, I hope you enjoy episode one.

Thanks for reading!

My aim is to make video games and, as much as possible, let people download them for free. I do, however, still need to eat and pay bills, so if you'd like to support me you can do so by buying me a coffee at this will enable me to continue doing what I do and your support is really appreciated!able me to continue doing what I do and your support is really appreciated!

Monday, 22 April 2019

Planning for the future starts now!

I started A Collection of Bits in 2016 after my previous go at making video games under the title of BritBitGames failed. I'd been a very tiny part of the bedroom programmer years back in the 1980's, but stepped away from making games in 1994, and I really had no intention of every coming back to it. That was until my mother fell ill in 2009 and I had to quit my regular job as an actor to care for her.

At first I was actually quite happy to be at home, it was like a sort of long holiday. However, boredom started to settle in pretty quickly, and since I was now having to stay at home 24/7 and be a live-in carer, my life was becoming a bit dull. I couldn't go out to the places I liked, I couldn't visit the people I wanted to see. Even though I did have some spare time, I couldn't go out and enjoy it because I needed to stay home in case something happened. My mother has severe mobility issues caused by arthritis, diabetes and her age, this means that she can't even do things like get to the bathroom unaided, and I have to stay in the house. Unless she's sleeping. If I did go out and she tried to get to the bathroom on her own, she could fall and seriously hurt herself. On top of this she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 and she's very weak from the treatment and her operation.

To help me stay sane and not go stir crazy, I started messing around with Game Maker Studio after finding it on sale through Steam. It kind of felt like cheating at first, because I was used to typing in games on my trusty C64 and seeing them come together, but I was impressed with how quickly you could get good looking results with it. It was also ideal for the types of 2d arcade-style video games that I enjoyed making, so I thought I'd give it a go.

I started working on several games, which I go into in another post on here, and BritBitGames was doing reasonably well but not really gaining any traction. It was much easier back in the 1980's to get people to buy and play your games, but I wasn't prepared for just how difficult it is for a small games developer to get noticed in the fully connected, internet driven 21st Century. I'd watched "Indie Game The Movie" and thought that it'd be easy to make something, get it out and get sales. I'd done this sort of thing in the past so I have experience, right? Should be pretty simple for someone with experience, right? HA! Some times it feels like you're in a massive hall full of people all yelling "HEY! COME AND BUY MY GAME!" but some of them have megaphones and are a lot louder than you are.

So, I came up with a plan! What if I gave the games away for free and only asked for a small donation from people if they liked them? Maybe people would download them if they don't have to pay anything unless they want to. With this in mind I gave up trying to make it rich and instead put the games out for free with a suggested donation fee of $4.00. This started to work and people began to download my games. They're not exactly flying off the shelves, so the speak, but downloads are often enough that I feel that my stuff is of some interest to some people. However, not many people are willing to pay the donation fee, which is a shame. I've had some donations from some very generous people, some of which are even quite well known developers themselves, but I'm going to have to put my plans of running this as a full-time business on hold for just a bit longer.

Unfortunately, though, things are getting a little tight here and it's looking like I might have to try and find some other way to subsidise what I do. I'm not wanting to start charging for the games because this would likely result in people just not playing them at all again, and the thrill of people playing the games I create is why I do this, but I still need to eat and pay bills. So, I've signed up for a Ko-fi account where people can, if they choose to, support me by buying me a "coffee". It's $3 each cup and, even though it's only a small amount, if enough people are able to contribute it would help me keep things moving along. Later on down the line I might even be able to give out some backer only goodies as well!

Click this button to buy me a coffee!

So, now I've got the begging out of the way, here's my plan for the future:

Eventually my ultimate goal for A Collection of Bits is to make bigger games and release them through Steam. However, due to my ongoing role as a full-time carer, this isn't possible because I don't have the time to work on big projects. Also, on top of this, if I did release a game through Steam  now it'd probably just sit around not doing much because I don't really have the audience who would rush out and buy it and I can't pay for advertising. Not that I'm complaining, and not that I'm trying to become the next big indie game sensation, but it's a lot easier to get sales when you have fans, followers, people who like and have an interest in what you do. A publisher would help, but I don't think my current games are publisher worthy, and I don't currently have anything bigger to release.

So, the goals at the moment are two-fold. The first stage, which is the one we are in now, is to continue making small-ish budget games based on retro ideas with an emphasis on fun, release them as donationware through and promote the hell out of them through Twitter, other social media sites and my blog to try and bring them to the attention of people who might want to play them, and possibly donate, while trying to build up my online presence. Alongside this I'll be running the Ko-fi account as another line of income so that I can continue to do this. The second stage will come when I feel that A Collection of Bits might be well known enough for a stab at a bigger commercial game released through Steam. This would be the point where A Collection of Bits would take steps to becoming a proper studio, and I'd have special bonuses where backers will get complete access to the full game as thanks for their donations.

So that's the "plan" moving forward. I don't really want to be asking for the donations, but if I don't try to pull in a little bit of extra income things will fail at stage one a long time before stage two can ever become a reality. This does mean that I'm going to have to try and draw peoples attention to the fact that the donations page exists, but I'm going to try and do it as in-obtrusively as possible by adding a little footer to all of my future posts. Hopefully this won't annoy regular readers too much.

Thanks for reading!

My aim is to make video games and, as much as possible, let people download them for free. I do, however, still need to eat and pay bills, so if you'd like to support me you can do so by buying me a coffee at this will enable me to continue doing what I do and your support is really appreciated!

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Why I make retro-styled games

Recently I was having a little chat with some friends who are not games developers and they asked me why I make pixel art based retro-looking games. To get the answer to this, we have to look back at my childhood and the moment I first encountered gaming.

It was some time around 1980, shortly after my family had moved into a house on a newly built council estate, that my older brother took me to the barbers to get my hair cut. The barbers was a pokey little place called Kate and Sue's that was a doorway between two bigger shops that led down a narrow hallway into a small room where you would get your hair cut. In a little alcove off the hallway was a table-style Galaxian arcade machine and we'd play this for hours. We used to save up our pocket money to get a go on it.

Sadly, the arcade machine was removed from the shop and my brother, who is nine years older than me, started to discover other things to keep him entertained, but my parents had noticed that I was interested in games and they bought me a Sinclair ZX81 for Christmas in 1982. Now, I'll be honest and say that it really didn't impress me at first. It was monochrome, had no sound and the games took what seemed like forever to load. It was a world away from the vibrant colours and sounds of Galaxian, but my dad sat me down with it and showed me some stuff that he'd typed in from the manual to make an asterisk move around the screen. Suddenly something clicked and I realised that I had a way to make games, not just play them, if only I could learn this weird alien language they were written in.

However, I didn't jump into making games right away. I was enjoying what I played on the ZX81, which included Mazogs, 3D Monster Maze and a Space Invaders clone, but it wasn't until the summer holidays that I actually started to learn how to program. I was bored, because you can only play Mazogs, Space Invaders and get chased by a T-Rex so many times, and all of my friends had gone away on holiday, so I pulled out the ZX81 BASIC Programming book and started working through it. It was fairly heavy going at first, because I was ten years old and didn't really understand most of it, I even threw the book across the room a couple of times in frustration, but I kept at it and more and more of it was slowly sinking into my brain. The bits I was truly stuck on I'd ask my dad about and we'd sit down and try to figure it out together. Over the next six weeks I worked through some of the book and borrowed some books that had games listings in them from the local library, and as I was typing the games in I started to understand more and more of what the code was doing.

After about a year (I remember that I was just entering secondary school), I felt confident enough to have a go at my own game. So I coded a very simple Space Invaders clone of my own called INVADR. I was hooked! I'd made a game of my own, and I could play it. I could even make copies of it on my dads dual deck Hi-Fi and let my friends play it. It was great! But I had a rather unfortunate accident and killed my ZX81, by trying to be clever while balancing it on the seat of my chair, when I decided I wanted to move everything into the dining room from my bedroom, and it slipped off the seat and fell down the stairs.

So, I was computer-less, and my parents were less than pleased with me. However, this didn't stop my parents replacing my ZX81 with an Atari 2600 the following Christmas. Games-wise I actually preferred the Atari, and I still remember how amazing some of the games were on it, but I couldn't make stuff on it ( I wouldn't get back into making games and learning more about programming until I got a Commodore 64). This didn't matter too much, though, as many of the games were just amazingly fun to play. The Atari games always seemed to have an emphasis on being fun first and pretty later, and this is something I think tends to be overlooked by modern games. The gameplay was really solid and all the games had this "pick up and play" design where you didn't need complicated tutorials, realistic sound or 3d graphics, you knew instinctively what to do. The games were designed to be enjoyed as games, something fun to play, not something trying too hard to be like the next Hollywood blockbuster with awkwardly obtuse controls.

You see, in my opinion (and I may be wrong about this, but hear me out), modern AAA games spend far too much time trying to wow us with their complex stories, their life-like graphics, their A-list Hollywood voice actors, their fully symphonic orchestral scores and arty camera angles. They're trying to compete with films, and they're edging more and more towards becoming interactive movies, rather than doing their own thing. I'm not saying games shouldn't try to look as amazing as possible, but they often do this at the expense of the fun. I find myself often feeling more wound up or stressed out playing a modern AAA game than I do playing Pac-Man, Space Invaders or Centipede. This is because modern games often artificially ramp up the tension by introducing plot elements that put pressure on the player, because the stakes are high and everything has to be adrenaline fueled like the epic ending of a Mission Impossible movie starring Tom Cruise, or whatever. The slightest mistake will often see you failing to complete your task and end up making you feel annoyed at how unfair it felt to die. Where as when you died in Pac-Man you felt it was your own fault because you'd foolishly blundered the wrong way and ran into a ghost!

Gameplay done right is challenging and fun without the need for making the player feel like you're deliberately trying to make things awkward for them. I've lost track of the times I've played a modern game, have really been enjoying it, and some dick of a developer has decided that the next boss is going to be such an annoying bastard that it becomes a frustrating slog and I end up not bothering to play the rest of the game in case it takes me out of my happy place again. And this is the problem. More and more developers seem to think that they have to make games frustrating in order for them to be challenging, where I think that a developer should be like a good GM in a Dungeons and Dragons session. A good GM is someone who tries to make the quest entertaining, challenging but fun and fair. Their job is to keep the party engaged and not do stupid stuff like creating traps that you have to roll a natural d20 to deactivate every time or have mosters that wear so much epic gear that every hit is like thrown marshmallows at them. They create a fair, balanced world, and they trust the party to play fairly within it. Many AAA games developers on the other hand are like a bad GM trying their hardest to kill every party member by putting really awkward situations in their way and sapping all of the fun out of it.

So, why do I make games in a retro-style? Because I've played games pretty much all of my life and I've never had as much fun playing games as I did when I played on the Galaxian arcade machine in the barbers, my ZX81, Atari 2600 or Commodore 64. There was something about those earlier games, something (at the risk of sounding corny) magical that made the games fun and challenging. I'll honestly say that my favourite games machine of all time was my Commodore 64, and I've never owned a machine since that has made me feel the way I felt when I played many of the games on it. Sure, I've owned massively more advanced machines, computers, consoles, etc, but for all their technical wizardry the feeling of fun I had just isn't there and I just feel frustrated most of the time. In my own games I'm trying to capture the feeling of playing something because it's fun to play and has the element of challenge alongside an air of enjoyment, instead of the feeling that what you're playing has been deliberately designed to frustrate the hell out of you.

Basically I'm making games for fun. The fun of making them, and the fun of playing them.

Thanks for reading!

Sorry about this begging bit at the bottom, but my aim is to make video games and, as much as possible, let people download them for free. I do, however, still need to eat and pay bills, so if you'd like to support me you can do so by buying me a coffee at this will enable me to continue doing what I do and your support is really appreciated!

Saturday, 30 March 2019

It's all go at the moment.

This week I've been able to really get to work on UFO, and as you can see from the image above it's starting to come together quite nicely. The game currently only has one looping level, but most of the gameplay elements are in place and running and I just need to add some sound effects at this stage and then crack on with fleshing out what is there into a proper game.

The player clears the wave by first collecting all the sheep, which also replenish the UFO's energy, and then finishing off the remaining Earth forces. The Earth units current consist of helicopters and tanks, but later levels will see the addition of jets, missiles, blimps and gunships all being sent against the alien invaders to stop them from stealing all the livestock. Later levels may also see the inclusion of humans to abduct, but I've not made up my mind on this one yet.

The other game I'm working on is the platform adventure Pumpkin Patch and the Sorcerer's Lair. As I've mostly been working on UFO this week, I've not done much with it aside from some simple animation tests of the main character (as you can see below it's coming along but still needs work), but full development will begin once UFO is closer to completion.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Pumpkin Patch and the making of a platform game

early version of the Pumpkin Patch logo
I started working on my new game this week. The game is a platform game based on Finders Keepers and Jet Set Willy, and I might borrow some ideas from the Dizzy series. 

I've never created a platform game before, so this is a bit of a learning process for me. This is why I decided to look at older games to see if I can get some inspiration and use them to figure out how a few things will work. Also, animation isn't my strongest skill, so working out the walking animations for the main character is going to be a challenge.

In the game you'll play the part of a sorcerers apprentice who gets himself into trouble by messing around with his masters spell book and turns himself into a pumpkin, so you have to search the castle looking for ingredients for a counter spell in order to turn yourself back. So far I'm aiming for eight to ten things to collect and you'll bring these back to a chamber where you'll cast the spell and finish the game. If I can get this to work, I might look at making a series of Pumpkin Patch games.

Below is a quick mock-up that I created in GML using some assets from a Dizzy game to show how the game might look when finished. This is obviously just a test and the graphics will look a bit different from this when it's completed.

Pumpkin Patch mock-up in GMS2

So, why did I never make a platform game before? Well, the simplest answer to that is I was never able to figure out how to do it properly, so this is likely to be a long project while I work out how to get stuff working properly. I did try to make a platform game back on the C64, but I wasn't able to really make it work. So, hopefully, this one will turn out okay.

If it doesn't I still have UFO to fall back on (yes, I am still working on this).

UFO logo

Saturday, 16 March 2019

It's been five years!

I started messing around with games development in 2014, having given up programming 20 years previously. I returned to games because in 2009 my mother became unwell and I was unable to work. Being stuck at home, I was stuck for something to do alongside my duties as a carer and stumbled across Game Maker Studio on Steam in late 2013.

Game Maker Studio... At first I sort of dismissed it as I thought it would be just another one of those "make you own games" things that promise a lot but deliver very little, a bit like the old Shoot 'Em Up Construction Kit or that one where you could make text adventures (the name of which I've forgotten). I kept looking at it, thinking "It looks interesting... Maybe it's worth a shot!" and eventually bought it when it appeared on sale for 50% off.

My initial impression of GMS was that it was okay, but not really something I'd use for any long space of time. But I quickly got to working with it, finding the GML language to be very easy to pick up, and started working on a game called Blokker.

Onward and upward news
I intended to release Blokker through IndieDB, but I never actually completed it. The game was going to be a Breakout clone and feature 40 levels of increasing difficulty. It was going well, but I got bored with it about three quarters of the way through development. I decided that I didn't really want to go back to making games and uninstalled Game Maker Studio.

Fast forward a few months and I was thinking of making games again. Being a full-time carer is fine, but it does mean very long stretches of time where I'm in the house for days, weeks or months on end without a break, only getting out to do shopping or pay bills, and this can lead to some frustration. So I was wondering whether it'd be worth trying to start a small games studio that I can run from home in my spare time when I'm not otherwise engaged. Something to do to stop me going stir crazy. And then perhaps turn it into a proper business later on.

BritBitGames Logo
BritBitGames (all one word with weird capitalisation) was what I came up with. I started working on Blokker again and designed a small website to go with it. However, I quickly realised that I still didn't care that much for Blokker and shifted focus to a thing called Project Prototype.

early BritBitGames website
Project Prototype was an idea I had where I would release demo versions of games I was working on and people could offer feedback and suggestions as to what they'd like to see added to the game before the release as a final product. The first, and only, game that came from this was UTS-187. It was released for free on Desura as a 4 level demo and was featured in their Freedom Friday promotion. It was downloaded over 1000 times and got some really good reviews from the people who played it, but the actual feedback I was looking and hoping for to drive development of the final game never came. Desura shut down due to funding issues (I think) and nothing else really came of Project Prototype. I thought that maybe the 1000's of people who downloaded UTS-187 would have led to more followers and people interested in my stuff, but it really didn't work out like that and I limped along from one aborted project after another feeling a bit frustrated with things. I foolishly thought that it'd be like the past where some small success led to an audience who were interested in your stuff and further success from there. The success of things like Super Meat Boy and other indie titles tend to give the impression that it's easy to get spotted and have a hit, but it doesn't really work that way.

UTS-187 banner
We get to late 2016 at this point, and I was feeling a bit pee'd off with the whole games development thing. Even though UTS-187 was a minor success in terms of downloads, I was still messing around with freebies and not really making any headway towards turning BritBitGames into a proper company. So, with Brexit on the horizon, and financial uncertainty in the air, I decided it was time to call it a day once and for all. Getting a foot on the indie games ladder was proving to be a lot harder than I'd originally thought it would be, especially since it seemed a lot easier to get people to play your games 20 years ago, and I was in a situation with being a carer where it would be very hard to actually make any money from games development because I couldn't really put in the required hours to make it work, and there are lots of stupidly complicated reasons why I couldn't really make a profit from it.

Early ACOB logo
Then came A Collection of Bits... It was originally going to be a blog with my opinions of games and games development. However, I'd recently started reading Retro Gamer magazine and I'd noticed that there was quite a following for old games and gaming hardware. This really clicked with me because I'd been happiest as a gamer and a programmer when I was messing around with my Atari 2600, Sinclair ZX81, Commodore 64 and Amiga. I thought it might be an idea to make games based on retro ideas with the emphasis being on the gameplay and the fun rather than on flashy visuals and what top notch celebrity we can get to play the angst-ridden antihero in our next Hollywood-like-open-world-MMO-FPS-shooter-rehashed-sequel-20XX-hype-em-up!

I started looking at old Atari VCS games, and games from developers who were around at the same time as I had my C64, and seeing how they were put together to extract the best gameplay from the limited hardware, and proceeded to plan out the next game I was going to make along these lines. Even though it was going to be developed on modern hardware, this game was going to be retro!

early Retr0ids banner
This game became Retr0ids. It's a 2d Asteroids meets Robotron shooter with a few nods to the style of Jeff Minter (including camels) designed to look like it's running on a BBC computer (sort of). It was released on on Jan 18, 2017 and was surprising popular with a small group of people. It's not going to set the world on fire, by this time I'd given up any grand ideas of becoming something big in the indie scene, but it had grabbed the attention of people who enjoyed if for what it was. It helped that I'd just finished doing some graphics for Clive Townsend's Saboteur re-release and I was able to use the ninja character in that game as a villain in my own. I was also regularly hanging out in Dino Dini's Twitch stream and he helped me out by playing the game on there in between working on Kick Off Revival, which really generated some interest.
I felt that I'd re-found my niche as a developer, and this led me on to creating Hyper-Galactic Spider from Mars, which pushed the retro game idea even further with a look inspired by the old Atari 2600 video games from the 80's. Sure, I still wasn't making any money and ACOB is just a very small fish an a gigantic ocean of games developers, but I was starting to enjoy it more and I think that's what really counts.

Hyper-Galactic Spiders from Mars
I admit, I would still like to make ACOB into a proper studio and become really established as a games developer with releases on Steam and other stores, maybe even physical releases, but my current situation as a carer makes that a very difficult prospect at the moment. It's not really the amount of time I spend caring that prevents me from making this grow, it's more the systems around being a carer and having to deal with certain people in authority that make the whole thing harder than it really should be, but maybe I'll go into detail on this at a later time. It's not that I want to become the next Notch and earn billions from my games, I'd be quite happy earning a modest income and enjoying the process of making what I enjoy. Enough to buy food, pay bills and carry on gaming, and I'd be happy.

new ACOB logo
In the mean time ACOB is continuing to move forward, slowly but with purpose. I've now released three full games and two demos over on, and I'm looking to start working on new projects soon. I'm still aiming towards the retro-inspired theme, though I may start looking towards a more 16-bit inspired style soon. I'm also intending to start up the daily development streams again, but in a more casual manner than the previous ones I did last year. I just have a few things to work through at the moment, the biggest one being my mothers ongoing battle with cancer, so things are going to be progressing slowly.

However, if I keep working at this, I may one day create that proper games studio that I'm aiming for!

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Asteroid Mining Company prototype demo released

Asteroid Mining Company is a 2d arcade shooter prototype demo based on Asteroids.

In the game you play an employee of the Asteroid Mining Company, and your job is to collect ore from asteroids that you blast with the drilling laser on your Mk IX mining drones. Unfortunately your presence in the asteroid field has attracted the attention of aliens.

The aim of the game is to clear each section of the asteroid field by blasting the rocks and collecting the ore. Each zone you clear moves you further into  denser areas of the asteroid field. Some of the asteroids release chemical elements that you can collect that have different effects on your ship, like adding a shield, boosting your engines and laser or replenishing your fuel.

This game is a prototype demo of an idea I had for a bigger project that I've been unable to complete due to other priorities, but I may go back to it and turn it into a bigger game eventually. If you liked it and would like to see it expanded upon, drop a comment below or contact me on Twitter @PeteUplink.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Sorry for the delay

A quick apology for not getting the Asteroid Mining Company prototype demo out when I said I would. As you know I'm currently helping my mother recover from a breast cancer operation and with one thing and another I've not had time to get the files sorted for sharing to I'm aiming to get it out on March 9th.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Asteroid Mining Company

I'm thinking of releasing a demo/prototype version of Asteroid Mining Company, which was a game that I was working on last year that I never completed. The game is a little bit like asteroids and you control a mining drone that has to collect ore from blasted asteroids while avoiding attack from alien intruders. The game was never fully completed, and I've since lost the source code (because I'm an idiot and forget to back stuff up sometimes) but it is somewhat playable in that it has one level that gets progressively harder each time you complete it. So I was thinking of releasing it in an "as is" state as a demo next weekend.

Asteroid Mining Company

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Some game news.

A short update to let everyone know what's going on here at ACOB. BlasterMax released last week and I added a small update to it to bring it to v1.1. This update fixes a couple of small bugs, the biggest one being the "press START" text wasn't showing on the title screen, so nothing major.

UFO gameplay
I've been planning some stuff to do with UFO, but I've not really sat down to work on it just yet. The game is pretty much still in the same state as it was when I stopped working on it in December. I do still fully intend to get back to it, but with things at home being the way they are at the moment it will probably be a couple of months before I'm properly back up and running.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

BlasterMax is released!

My latest game BlasterMax is available for download on The game is a 2d retro-styled arcade shooter loosely based on games like Galaxian and Galaga. Blastoids have destroyed your planet and you are the only survivor. Now you must destroy the alien menace and save the galaxy!

You can download the game for Windows from the widget below. I;m aiming to have an HTML5 version for non-Windows users to play in their browser, but the code needs some changes before I do that to fix a few small bugs that sneak in when I use the HTML5 exporter, so it'll be a little while off.

A quick update:

Things have been a bit quiet around here recently because I'm still busy caring for my mother who is recovering from a breast cancer operation. Further to this, she may need to go for chemo or radio therapy as a follow up to make sure that the cancer has been completely removed. This means that games development is on the back burner for the foreseeable future, so updates will be a bit slow. I'm still tinkering with "UFO" and I've started some early work on "Pumpkin Patch", but my time for gamedev is limited due to the current situation, and what free time I do have is being spent on winding down after a busy day. This is also the reason why I've not been doing any live streams.

Things should hopefully be back to normal soon. 

Saturday, 12 January 2019

A very short update!

Things have been a bit quiet on the blog these past two weeks, so I thought I'd better make a post and update everyone as to what's going on.

I've put games development on hold for a while because I'm currently caring for my mother who is recovering from a breast cancer operation. I'm hoping to get back to working on the games soon, but it may be a few weeks before I'm back.

BlasterMax is still sitting waiting for release, but I want to do a final bug test and quality check on it first. I'm still aiming to have it released very soon, but we're probably looking at February at the earliest.

The next game after BlasterMax will be UFO. After this I'm going to start working on a platform adventure game called Pumpkin Patch.

That's it for now. I'll post something else when I have a bit more progress to report.