Jeff Hangartner – Revealing the Path Less Travelled in Video Game Industry

Jeff HangartnerJeff Hangartner, the founder of the gaming start-up, Bulletproof Outlaws has been a professional developer of games over the last half a decade. Creator of Pixelation, the 1st Pixel Art Forum and also originator of the Pixel tutorials which have been published in the form of a book. Jeff has always been a pioneer of the gaming industry.

CG Today is proud to present Jeff’s exploration as he shares the whole process of creating a start-up right from day 1. With the belief that gaming development is coming back to its original “one programmer in the basement roots” idea, Bulletproof Outlaws is chronicling every step of its start-up process from strategies, to marketing, setting goals and outsourcing, successes and failures. The aim is to help other developers who have ideas but are intimidated by the whole start-up process and are not sure how to go about it.

You can visit his website Bulletproof Outlaws to know more about him or send an email to get connected.

I’m a huge fan of randomness in games. I’d love to play an RPG where the battle scenes choose randomly between 3 – 5 different songs (not just changing the song for boss battles, but for standard repetitive battles).  And I love when characters have a handful of random sound effects… It’s 2011, games are huge compared to the old days, there’s no excuse for having one “HYAHH!!!” shout for your main character for all his attacks. It takes like 2 seconds to record another sound clip.  Have your game randomly choose from a list of sounds.

There was a game back on the Playstation 1 called Kensei: Sacred Fist.  Check out the blocking system in it…all the player is doing is holding the block button down, the character is automatically dynamically reacting to the moves coming at them:

Gameplay-wise it doesn’t change anything, but man does that look more stylin’ than the standard one or two block animations most games have where they just throw their arms up in the same spot each time and whatever is coming at them flies through with no damage.

The only thing to be careful of is that people learn to associate specific animations/sounds with specific moves. If you press the Attack button and your guy shouts “HAHH!!!” and swings his sword in a horizontal arc 3 button presses in a row, but on the 4th button press he shouts “HO!!!” and swings his sword in a vertical arc, even if the arc’s damage points are the exact same spot, the player may have a mental hitch going “wait, what?  Was that a super attack?  Did I do a combo?  Does that attack do more damage?  How do I make that attack come out??”  This can be pretty confusing.

I think a good way around it is to give your variations a reason. In that horizontal/vertical slash example, the player could do the horizontal slashes when he’s at a far range from the enemy, and the vertical one when he’s in close range.  Or it could depend on what the enemy is doing, so if the enemy is blocking one way, or attacking in a certain direction, the player’s animation is the vertical one.  Ultimately the user will figure it out, but the less time they spend wondering about it, the more time they spend enjoying your visually awesome game.

I was hoping to have some variation in the animations for the ninja in my game, and originally they were going to just be totally random, but as I doodled out some rough stick men I realized I could base them on the distance the ninja has to travel and how close the ninja is to the throwing star when he dodges it:

Bulletproof Outlaws - Ninja Moves

I want the closest one to be triggered by moving out of the way at the last possible second.  I think these’ll look pretty cool and give the ninja a lot more personality.  He looks fairly generic in terms of his costume, but if his motions and voice add some personality, that’ll turn him from “a ninja” into “that ninja from that game”, which is good stuff haha  I figure along with the animations I’ll have random voice clips played.  I might have to choose between more character animations and more background images in terms of development time, but I think character animation takes the main priority.  The game is a simple concept, it needs a lot of polish to be worth a gamer’s $0.99.

In other news, my buddies over at Halfbot have been ripped off. Someone took their Flash game, The Blocks Cometh, and made it for iPhone and are selling it on the App Store.  They’re getting Apple involved to kick some ass, but man, what low-lifes.  It makes me consider that writing about my game as I make it might not be the best plan when there’s jerks like that out there, but I hate to think that people like that could stop the spread of helpful information and sharing our ideas with each other as game developers.

The App Store truly is the wild wild west right now!

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