Programmable Series – The Spirit Lives On

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Programmable Series is a new feature written by Mike Clark covering a wide variety of topics related to independent games development. Read it to learn about the development processes and concepts behind some of your favourite titles and how you can use them to develop games yourself!

Many people have a fondness for old video games. Sometimes it’s because we enjoy the simplicity of a game that we can quickly pick up and play. Other times the nostalgia of replaying an old game takes us back to days when we dedicated our time to conquering challenges or exploring new worlds. Today there are more retro game collectors than ever before, yet there are also more games available than ever before. That’s not to say that the current generation of games being released are bad nor that the all of older games are good.

The fact is simply that the video game market is drastically different than it was 20-30 years ago and yet there is still an appeal for the old games; games that are expected to be cast aside as time goes on. Some game companies today are pushing for the latest in technology with higher resolutions, virtual reality and more interactivity usually being key focus points. Other companies are playing it safe and relying on brand recognition to make money by re-releasing their old games in collections or high definition remakes. As a result of these changes we lose system features like backwards-compatibility because game companies aren’t making any money on those original games anymore. They’d rather release them again and again while expecting consumers to buy each new version of the same game. Its certainly a strange time to be a gamer, which may be exactly why so many people are looking to the past to find great games. The future has a degree of uncertainty so we end up relying on our old favourites to reclaim some consistency. We already have great games to revisit and we all have a favourite game, or even favourite franchise, that we go back to time and time again.

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So you may ask yourself, “why should we make anything new if things are uncertain and we already have so many great games?” Well, it is for these very reasons many independent developers create games and take inspiration from those classics. We wouldn’t have Braid if it wasn’t for the influence of Super Mario Bros. and we wouldn’t have Maldita Castilla if it wasn’t for games like Ghosts ‘n Goblins. We can take a classic design or a key element from those old favourites and put a fresh spin on them – all it takes is a new idea. Incorporating something original, like an engaging story or unique characters, you can look to those old games and most likely find one that utilises a style or game play mechanic that suits that idea. Suddenly, you’ve got the foundation to build a game upon.

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Let’s look at Mighty No. 9, for example. Mighty No. 9 is probably one of the best examples of taking a classic idea and putting a fresh spin on it. Being a game heavily inspired by Capcom’s Mega Man series, as well as being made by some of those responsible for the creation of the original Mega Man, is a clear indication that this approach to game design can be effective. This trend also makes it clear that there is an existing demand for these types of games; over 67,000 people contributed funds to Mighty No. 9‘s development following the launch of a Kickstarter campaign in 2013. This title is just one of many great examples of games that utilise this trend, which draws to attention that there is a market for games created using this formula – for the classic style shooters, fighters, adventure and platform games that have yet to be developed.

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If you have an idea, then its a great time to bring it to life! There are plenty of ways to get started in game development, including free versions of big name development software like Unity and Game Maker. These are great tools to get started with and offer great tutorials on how to use the software as well. If you’re not ready to get into development, you can always start with planning out your story or designing your characters – getting the idea for a game in a tangible format helps bring it to life and to make it real. If you’re not ready to do it alone, don’t forget that there are plenty of talented people out there looking to collaborate and work together on projects. So bring us your pixels, because we want to play your game.

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About Mike C Clark Jr (Chemical Taint)

*Indie game developer, specializing in classic and arcade style games. I design games primarily for personal computers and handheld/mobile devices. *Musician and part-time music producer. Focused primarily on rock, metal and industrial music.
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