In 2006 I joined the ArtLife division team of the InfoByte company as a video games developer for the J2ME platform.
My first project for them was a first-person shooter game. It was my first experience with games of this genre, but I accepted with great enthusiasm and desire to create something great. It was also my first working experience, in a team, on a commercial video game.
So I took part in the game’s design phases and, of course, the whole code development part. As a basis I used a small framework – that I had created when working on some articles about J2ME programming – which greatly facilitated the development.
Given the extreme simplicity of the gameplay, I wanted to offer as much as possible a lively experience with animations and special effects.
The game was published in the WAP circuit of H3G Italy at the cost of 3 euros, and was fairly successful – for the volumes of that time – totalizing about a thousand sales.
The goal is to capture the boss of a big criminal gang before he escapes. To achieve this, the player must chase him through all the secret bases of the gang and survive by killing all its members.
The mechanics and the quantity of graphic elements were forced to be very few and simple in order to produce packages that did not exceed about a hundred KBytes.
Being a first person game, the player is represented by a machine gun that can be moved freely on the screen to intercept the enemies that appear in front.
Those mobile phones did not have a touch display and the interaction with the game could happen only through their numeric keypad.
For this purpose some keys were assigned to allow the player to move the machine gun. They were the key 2 to move upwards, 8 to move down, 4 to go left, 6 to go right and 5 to shoot at the enemies.
By pressing the key 1 a bomb explode and instantly kill all the enemies on the screen.
The number of bombs is limited and can be increased by capturing the appropriate bonuses that appear randomly on the playing field.
The machine gun can fire bursts of bullets while the player moves it, but although the latter were practically infinite, they are grouped in magazines of 30 shots. At the end of a magazine load, the player had to lift his finger from the fire button to allow recharging.
The game was structured in such a way that the player had at his disposal only one life that is associated with a level of health which diminish with every hit from the enemies. When the health value of zero is reached the game ends.
However, the health level can be restored by capturing the bonuses that appear randomly on the playing field.
Enemies suddenly enter the player’s visible area from various directions. They can slip from the sides or get out from behind the objects scattered around the game area (boxes, bins, work machines, and so on).
When they become visible, after a certain period of time (which decreases with advancing levels), they start shooting towards the player. This decreases his health level, consequently he must hurry to kill them.
For the reasons expressed at the beginning of this article the game is limited to one type of enemy, excluding the last level in which the helicopter of the boss appears, which must be destroyed in the same way.
The game includes two types of bonuses/upgrades: bombs and health.
The bomb bonus adds a grenade to the stock available to the player
while the health bonus increases his health level to allow him to restore any losses due to enemy shots.
The game unfolds through three phases, each of which differ through the setting in which it takes place. Each of the settings consists of a single large image framed in different points. In this way, each sector becomes the setting for one of the three levels by which a phase is constituted.
Each level is assigned a growing number of enemies to kill in order to proceed to the next.
Phase 1 – The hangar
Phase 2 – The dockyard
Phase 3 – The harbor
The setting is the image displayed as a background, but the screen is sprinkled with various kinds of “superimposed” objects that serve as a hiding place for the enemies.
I was very excited by the idea of simulating a typewriter effect that was very popular in the 80s (I remember the enthusiasm with which I was usual to see the introductory editorials of some Commodore Vic20 and Commodore 64 cassettes).
So when passing from one level to another and on some information screens, a console is displayed that is very similar to a green phosphor monitor for the earliest PCs. The texts appear progressively as if impressed on the screen by a virtual cursor.
The score is determined by the number of enemies killed during a game. Since the number of these is predetermined, the maximum score of a game is always the same.
For this reason we decided to introduce variables to generate indeterminacy in the scores of each play. At the end of each level, and before the start of the next one, a bonus score is calculated – to be added to the one obtained by the player up to that point – taking into consideration the residual health level, the number of bombs remaining and the grade precision in hitting enemies.