The Virtual Fall event has been going on for a month, now, and I figured it’d be nice to see how everyone is doing! Feel free to share your experiences and what you’ve learned along the way.
Week 1 – August 31 through September 7
morintari hunted me down on Skype and asked “I was wondering if you plan to enter the competition?” To which I replied “Wasn’t planning on it. Also, what competition?” So he pointed me here, and hey! Homebrew event! I’m there!
A little bit of background… For the better part of the year, I’ve been working with dasi to bring a new homebrew development solution to the community. He’s put together a devkitV810 that can be used for both Virtual Boy and the PC-FX, and he had an API to go with it that he called libvue. I looked at libvue and, after I came to from the terrible shock I experienced, offered to redo it from scratch with some improvements. So I’ve been in charge of libvue since then.
I decided the Virtual Fall event was a perfect opportunity to get off our collective butts and finalize the darn things, so I went to him about it with a proposition to use the event to produce a demonstration program that could be released alongside the devkit at the end of the competition.
Week 2 – September 8 through September 14
Design was going great. I’d been thinking of a way to incorporate the various features of the Virtual Boy into a game without hamstringing it or making it look shoehorned in. The depth effects in particular are a nice touch, but too many of the commercial games went out of their way to make the depth a game mechanic and they’re worse off because of it. So I put together some project goals: 1) Make a game that’s accessible and casual-friendly, 2) Keep the controls simple and consistent so it’s easy to play, 3) Make it such that you can play it for five minutes at a time, and 4) It should feel good to play. Nothing angsty.
It started out as this character that went around collecting power-ups related to the Virtual Boy’s hardware features, but that got mutated into what I say is a pretty awesome concept about a rogue computer virus turned benevolent that went around the internet hunting “big game” malware (that actually look like giant worms and bugs) and hacking into shady networks for “treasure” (stolen information and money).
Everything was going great, but a problem occurred. I, uh… I don’t have any real training in art. To do art well, you need to be able to see in your head exactly what you want to see on paper. Now, I can do that with software development. But I can’t do that with art. I tried, but I simply cannot produce the graphical assets needed for this game at this time, so I had to ditch the idea for now. Maybe next year.
Week 3 – September 15 through September 21
In the interest of not doing my own artwork, I opted to remake an existing game, even though I didn’t really want to go that route. I racked my brains to come up with a game that is fairly simple from a technical standpoint, but can be used to showcase all of the Virtual Boy’s features. And I found such a game. Without spilling the beans, I will say that it’s a Game Boy Advance game, which I decided to convert to Virtual Boy, a system with inferior capabilities.
The first week I spent on the project involved plenty of reverse-engineering of the GBA game. That’s part of what I do, if anyone was wondering: I hack video games. The goal was to crack the level data, the graphics and the algorithm for a secret password that can only be entered with a secret sequence of button presses (that’s your hint for what game it is). By the end of the week, I had everything I needed and documented my findings by organizing all the many notes I’d taken.
Week 4 – September 22 through September 29
Implementing the game on Virtual Boy is going quite quickly, much to bigmak’s surprise. (-: If I had to estimate, I’d guess I’m 25%-30% the way there.
Most of what I’ve been doing so far is related to presentation, as the original game uses a fair number of graphical tricks that really aren’t an option on Virtual Boy. The project has been one new obstacle after another, and I got to think about ways to achieve the same or similar effects on Virtual Boy without pulling the framerate down below 50fps.
I’ve been successful so far, but there’s still more graphics that need to go on the screen. There’s already been a half a dozen times I wasn’t sure if the system had enough power, and I expect it’ll happen another half dozen times before it’s all said and done. (-:
Hopefully, if all goes well, I can produce a faithful remake of the game in its purest essence, except on Virtual Boy instead of Game Boy Advance.
I am really excited for the fact that you refer to your project as a “faithful remake”. The VB has some great demos and smaller homebrew projects, but not much beyond that. The system has a lot of untapped potential. There are so many great games that would work well on its hardware, using its 3D effects. The Vectrex has more completed homebrew than official releases. There is no reason the VB can’t be the same way. Keep up your efforts, and thank you for your progress report.
Wow, sounds like a great project! Super excited to see its completed form. 🙂
I actually really like the GBA game remake idea. Good luck, can’t wait to try it out when it’s ready!
Actually no clue what the project is…f-zero had problems with the frame rate or something. Thinking guy started on another project and it’s pretty big (?) and couldn’t get it done in time for the compo (?)..or maybe he emailed krisse and it didn’t get posted (krisse was on vacation at the end of the compo I think). Or maybe he just didn’t want to post a demo and wanted to finish it.