Around the beginning of the 2000s I encountered, by pure chance, a very rich and complete video game development system: the DIV Games Studio.
It contained, within a single program, an integrated environment with all the necessary tools for the creation and modification of graphic elements and sound editors, as well as offering a proprietary language full of very precious features especially those for life cycle management mechanisms of games’ objects.
So even before the advent of the most modern technologies (like Game Maker, Unity and many others) this represented a real godsend for the for Windows developers.
So I ventured into the realization of what was to become, and would have actually been, my first complete and commercial video game.
I started with an idea that had been going around in my head for some time. It was not an original idea, but I intended to clone one of the games with those I had most enjoyed during my childhood.
I could not start with too demanding projects also because I intended to quickly reach the goal of seeing something I had personally done online.
However I developed the idea of a video game that extended the possibilities of the original in order to offer a richer gaming experience, in addition to enhanced graphics.
I didn’t have an internet connection available, so I couldn’t find resources on the net. Then I acquired some images from the scientific encyclopedias that I had at home, through a modest scanner.
In this way I captured scans of the space shuttle as the main actor of the game, of stones from the photos taken by the Viking probes on Mars to represent the asteroids as well as some beautiful images of the moon and the earth.
Always keen on shoot’em ups, I wanted to make different weapons available to the player to complete his mission.
What came out it was certainly not one of the more successful and revolutionary titles in the world, but it made me proud for a long time. This was also because, with the means and experience I had available, I managed to create a complete product with a decent number of options for the player.
I have no documents that can demonstrate what I say so you have no option but to believe me; I have not sold any licenses for this game, but at the time it shocked me the fact I reached around 6,000 downloads.
The game is inspired by the famous arcade Asteroids; it inherits its main mechanisms, but adds some elements that many shoot’em up games share.
The aim is therefore to clean the screen from the floating asteroids by hitting them with the bullets of a spaceship controlled by the user.
The player is represented on the screen by a space shuttle that can move around the screen accelerating through its rocket, rotating on itself and shoot bullets to destroy asteroids.
I also added the possibility of launching powerful missiles capable of destroying everything that the shock wave of their explosion encounter.
As in the original game the player can make the spaceship perform hyperspace jumps. In this way the spaceship disappears from the point where it is, to reappear in another.
Unfortunately the point where it reappears is unpredictable, so the jump can be a salvation in certain situations, but its use can also represent a risk for the player.
The shuttle has a certain amount of vital energy, which decreases each time it is hit by an asteroid. When this is exhausted the shuttle explodes and a life is subtracted from those available to the player.
If all available lives are consumed the game ends and a dramatic sequence – where the land is destroyed – is shown to the player. However reaching pre-established scores, he has the opportunity of increasing the number of spaceships available.
Asteroids travel around the game screen as in the original game. They don’t collide with each other, but only with the user’s spaceship, its bullets and missile explosions.
Even asteroids possess a certain level of “resistance” to the blows suffered. When this ends they explode and divide into two or more smaller fragments.
There are three asteroids sizes and the smaller fragments, when destroyed, dissolve in space rather than fragmenting further.
To make the game more engaging I set things in a way that the asteroids not always behave like inanimate objects, but they can show several types of behavior that is differentiated based on the progress of the game levels.
In fact, they can continue on their way, adjust their travel direction when they disappear from one side of the screen to reappear from another, or act as if they were magnetically attracted by the spaceship. This last behavior is activated in the last phases of the game.
Bonus and powerups
Sporadically when an asteroid explodes it releases power-ups for the spaceship. There are three types of power-ups:
- energy recharge, which restores the energy levels lost during the game.
- reloading missiles, adds a stock of missiles to those available
- fire boost, increases the damage inflicted by bullets on asteroids and increases their coverage, allowing up to 5 bullets to be fired simultaneously.
The number of levels in the game is not infinite unlike in the original. They are divided into three phases, each of which consists of 10 levels with increasing difficulty.
What distinguishes the three phases of the game are the changing settings, an aspect that contributes to forming a minimal sort of story.
The first phase is set in the open space, the second in orbit of our moon while the last around the earth. At each level the setting gets closer and closer to the subject of it (moon or earth).
In addition, at the last level of each phase in order to proceed to the next, the player must deal with a gigantic-sized asteriod.
Once all the phases have been completed, the game ends and the user is congratulated for succeeding.
All program functions are accessible through the main menu screen which is displayed when the game starts.
Other than the commands to start a new game, to view the credits screen and exit the program, the user can access a sub-menu for setting some parameters. In particular, it is possible to select the difficulty level of the game, configure the keys for the ship’s controls and select tracks from an audio CD to be played as soundtracks during the game.