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Radarkanoid: A Development Journey

Okay. Let's talk about Radarkanoid!



Bam! No intro! Getting right into it! Buckle in, because you're in for a long one! So, believe it or not, we're almost done with Radarkanoid. Up until recently, there was one big bug. Yup, just the one. Since Radarkanoid was intended to be a small, free game for you all to enjoy (and a bit of a passion project of mine personally, though I'll get into that in a bit), we figured that spending a couple weeks trying to fix said bug was just too long. This was especially true since it was being done to not only get Kristy into the swing of things (she is still a student after all) in a similar manner to what we did with Dante and FlyGuy (though that's a story for another time), but she had also just taken over on Collapsus and reach a fairly large bug in that as well. A break was needed. Of course, having a side project become as stressful as a main project just won't do. So, she took a break from Radarkanoid and jumped back into Collapsus. Well, since her schedule got a bit more hectic these past few days, she decided to pick Radarknoid back up rather than putting in half measures on Collapsus. This seemed to do the trick and it should be fully done here very soon!

Anyway, I wanted to take this time to get into the history and inspiration behind Radarkanoid. Oh yes, even Radarkanoid has "history" and "inspiration" like everything else around here. Remember me talking about "the Phonebook" here on the blog or in interviews? Well, if not, here's the skinny: throughout the 11 years Wraith has been operating, we've not worked on all that many games (mostly due to the fact that we became a full-time business only last year). Well, that's not entirely true I guess. See, in the first two or three years we worked on a metric boat-load of smaller prototypes (Collapsus and FlyGuy prototypes among them), that we released online for free, but they don't count because A) they were never meant to be "real" games B) they sucked and C) hey, we were still just high school students then (not that high schoolers can't make amazing games... we just couldn't).

Anyway.

 In this time, as lead designer, I've come up with countless ideas, big and small, and put them into a "book" (really just a text document) that the team lovingly refers to as "The Phonebook", due to how thick it would be if published (well, slight exaggeration... probably). So there are a lot (and I mean a lot) of games that I want to see done at some point. This isn't even including all of the projects that other team members want to do! We have enough projects to last us a lifetime... and growing!

As you can probably guess, Radarkanoid is one of these projects. No one ever said they had to be "big" games on the list, did they? In fact, on several occasions it has been suggested that we have some sort of imprint (for lack of a better word) within Wraith just to handle smaller, cheaper (or downright free) games. In 2007 we thought about calling it "Wraith Arcade" and in 2012 "Wraith Minis". Heck, we even announced Minis in 2012 as an actual thing that we never did anything with (oddly enough, including a revived FlyGuy that we actually released, and the concept for Radarkanoid and Cave Worm, all the way back then). That idea seems doomed, to be honest. The imprint, not the smaller games. Just putting a label on them kind of deprioritizes them or something. So why not just make them and not need to label it? Sounds good to us!

Knowing that Radarkanoid is an old idea finally taking form isn't unusual knowing us, so lets get into the nitty gritty of "why Radarkanoid?" As in: "what's so special about this particular game that made it a 'must do' at some point"? Well, to be honest, it was kind of the perfect storm of ideas for me. As you may know, the name is a portmanteau of "radial" and "Arkanoid". Radial because the paddle goes around in a circle and Arkanoid, Taito's popular 1986 spiritual successor to Atari's 1976 staple, Breakout. It's a "block breaker" game in a circle. Pretty self-explanatory, no? Well, it's not even that simple.

Arkanoid

The "radial" part also has its inspiration. That would be Andrzej Kapolka's classic, Radial Pong. What? You haven't heard of Radial Pong? Well, you must have not been frequenting the popular old school website Albino Blacksheep in 2002, then! Yup, I was inspired directly by an old web game that most people probably don't even remember. Yeah, I know I'm weird. It's a pretty cool little game, though. It's Pong (obviously), but in a circle (*gasp*). Yeah, I know, I know. But yeah, it was a pretty neat idea. Since Breakout started out as a way to capitalize on Pong, but in a single player format, it seemed only right to take Radial Pong and do the same. That's pretty much it for the gameplay, but why dos it look like a piece of old machinery, you may ask? Well, that's the next part of the story!

Radial Pong

Pong has an interesting history. Most people who are even casually interested in games know that it was the first big video game success. Many of you also know that Atari (and later Chuck E. Cheese's) founder, Nolan Bushnell created the game in 1972 after being inspired by playing 1962's Spacewar at college. He went on to clone Spacewar, with 1971's Computer Space but it had limited success. Pong would be its follow-up!

Well, Pong actually predates all that with Ralph Baer's 1968 "Brown Box" prototype home video game console, which would later become the Magnavox Odyssey in 1975. Bushnell had seen one of its prototypes at a trade show and based Pong on one of its games. Needless to say, a lawsuit followed. Oddly enough, Baer's biggest success would be with the 1978 handheld game, Simon, which was a copy of Bushnell's Touch Me arcade game. So I guess it was a fair trade-off (maybe). 

So, why am I telling you all this? Pretty much just because I find it interesting. Well, actually, it was more for context's sake. See, Ralph Baer's "table tennis" game inside of the Brown Box was inspired by another, much older video game: 1958's Tennis for Two! 

Tennis for Two

All this, for Tennis for Two. It's certainly a weird game. It was made by physicist William Higinbotham using an oscilloscope. A freakin' oscilloscope. For those who don't know, an oscilloscope is a voltage tester kind of like a more complicated multimeter (also called a "DMM"). I'm simplifying, but yeah. Think about that a physicist makes a video game in 1958... 14 years before Pong. Freaking PONG!!! That was 58 years ago! That's hardcore! Sorry about that, I get excitable sometimes. Well, as you can see, it has a very distinct look to it. That's because of how it displays images. It's not really like pixels or polygons today. Seeing it in motion is really cool: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2E9iSQfGdg

As you can see, the look of not only Tennis for Two, but the hardware it's played on had a huge influence on how Radarkanoid looks. In addition to that, another inspiration was actual radar equipment.With the fact that an oscilloscope already looks a bit like a radar screen and that it is named "Radar"kanoid, I looked at a lot of radar images for reference, as well.

"Okay, okay", I can hear you say. That's the end of it, right? Well, no, sorry to say. There are a couple other places of inspiration on this one. As you can probably tell, Radarkanoid's gameplay graphics don't really line up with Arkanoid, Radial Pong, or Tennis for Two. Well that's because they're more closely inspired by the vector graphics for some old arcade games, and more specifically, 1982's home console oddity, the Vectrex!

Vectrex

The Vectrex is, in my opinion, one seriously strange and awesome piece of gaming hardware (of course, I think the same about the Virtual Boy, of which I own one, so I may just be strange myself).
It was a home console with a built-in vector monitor. Vector graphics are different from what you may be used to because they're generally only one color and are very crisp, glowing, geometric shapes. Oscilloscopes are actually vector monitors, but unfortunately Tennis for Two didn't look anything like (or anywhere near as good as, in my opinion) the good ol' Vectrex!

So that's it? Nope. But we are getting very close. I would be remiss if I didn't mention another piece of inspiration, the Fallout series' trusty Pip-Boy! More accurately, even though I did take some inspiration from the Pip-Boy directly (obviously) most of where they got their inspiration from is where I drew my inspiration from directly as well, rather than me just looking at a Pip-Boy and doing that. No, this was more indirect. Last year, leading up to Fallout 4's release the ShoddyCast had a contest to Fallout-ify their logo. This was my submission (I do still occasionally do freelance graphic design, after all):

Jay's ShoddyCast logo submission

Sadly, I didn't win... but I did have a blast making it! When it came time to work on Radarkanoid, instead of going with a pixelart aesthetic like I had originally planned on doing years ago, I actually thought about the historic context of my influences and used the same texturing techniques I did for this logo. I am a huge gaming history nerd, after all ("Nah, we never would have guessed"). Here's what it looks like now... we're pretty sure this is how it will look on final release here soon (or at least, very, very close):



What do you think? It was a real journey; quite a fun one, too! It really goes to show you what goes into even a really simple project! Heck, don't get me started on the pop art influences in Collapsus! Anyway, I've rambled for quite some time now and development does still need to get done. Later days!


Remodel Updates & Blogging About Blogging

Hey all! You probably know this if you follow our social media, but I've been sick the last few days with some sort of cold. I'm feeling much better now, but I still feel like crap. That's why I'm going to soft-ball it today with a nice and easy post. The topic of the day is more remodel stuff and the blog itself! Lets hit it!



Last week we had artist extraordinaire Lance T. Miller and The One True Eric (Eric Baxter) of Nerdyish Things (yes, our part-time blog writer, Eric) in to kick this mural's butt! It seems to be coming along really well, if I do say so myself! It's really cool to look at the wall and see all of the cool stuff from games you've worked on (or plan to work on for some of them) sprawled out in front of you. It's just so awesome! Like, in the literal sense: it just fills you with awe! Okay, well it does for me anyway. Take a look:










Pretty nice, huh? It's really coming along. Only a little more sketching to do (probably another day's work worth) and then we're outlining the sketch with Sharpie. After that's the paint! Really no clue how long it'll take in total, but it hopefully won't be too long now.

That's pretty much all the news on the mural side of things. Now on to the blog news.

It's been about half a year since we started doing weekly blogs. It seems to have been a huge success! Before, blog posts were random and there was little incentive to even do them at all most of the time. This weekly format really makes us think about what we're posting and get something of value out of it. So, we're pretty sure we're going to continue this format for the foreseeable future. If it ain't broke and whatnot. Well, if we're just going to keep doing what we've been doing, what's this part about? Well I wanted to talk briefly about some things we want to be doing with the blog in the near future. A teaser, of sorts.

As you probably know, we've started up two ongoing series about the industry recently: "Where Do I Get Started" and "11 Things We've Learned from 11 Years in Game Development". We should have some new posts in both of those series here soon. The cool thing about those is that it (hopefully) won't just be me and/or Eric. We're trying to get not only the rest of the team doing little snippets on them, but also maybe some guest spots from other developers we know as well. Wouldn't that be cool?!

Other than that, we have a few other posts planned. We want to do a postmortem on both the mural & the studio remodel as a whole, a few more random development posts (for Collapsus, Physix, and Radarkanoid), a Radarkanoid launch post, a Radarkanoid postmortem, a couple posts about the status of the Collapsus weekly builds (when they're going on), at least one post leading up to the Collapsus Kickstarter, a Collapsus Kickstarter postmortem, a Collapsus Greenlight post, and maybe a few more Collapsus posts as well (like for the console releases, Arcade Edition, "weird ports", DLC, promotions, and the like). Then we shift into more Physix, JPH, and Cave Worm posts, but those are a while off.

Now, setting aside the 50 million development posts I just mentioned, you can also expect a post on the shirt making process, a post on the interviews we've been in recently, a post about making our old (crappy) game; FlyGuy, a post about our old (crappier) pre-FlyGuy games, a few posts about events we're either going to be at or breakdowns after we come back from them, a few posts about the game jam we're trying to organize, and hopefully a lot more (we are doing 52 blog posts a year, after all! That's a lot of air time to fill). There's even a few secret posts we have planned that we can't quite talk about, but we're sure you'll love!

There's just so many cool ideas we have ready to spring on you... so just stay tuned!








New Project + A Look Into How Wraith Works

This isn't much of an update post really, other than to say that yet another game that we've been working on for a while finally coming into the light (just not quite yet). It's called Jet Pack Hero! It seems kinda weird announcing yet another project without even finishing up a first, but rest assured, that will change soon. For those who don't know, Wraith is an eclectic hodgepodge of indie developers and all of us have day jobs (of sorts). We only have two programmers at the moment, one of which is in college. Add to that our primary game writer who a single father and a few volunteers doing other odds and ends and don't ever get paid other than the occasional pizza night and you can see where things get weird. Then there’s me...

I'm a full-time stay-at-home freelancer designer (both graphic and web) and I spend most of my free-time either sleeping or working on one aspect of Wraith or another. I'm the primary game/sound/level and web designer, only artist, secondary writer and I also handle everything on the business end as well. Wraith has been my passion ever since I started it in 2005 when I was still in school. Being a freelancer, my normal workload is erratic to say the least, but when I'm not pulling my hair out from long stints of tight deadlines, I'm left with empty voids in my schedule that if you could shout into them, I'm sure you'd hear a might impressive echo.

This being said, I can often make several “bundles” of assets for projects on our huge list “dream games” and still have nothing to do with my self allocated “Wraith Time” waiting for a convenient opening in a programmer's schedule but pick up assets from another game and work on them, while other times, I'm so swamped, I get programmers pounding at my door for assets for projects while trying to balance my less fun, primary job.

I guess you then may be wondering why I never get around to posting anything, that's where it gets project specific: Physix has been going on for years, but we had to switch to Unity because our old one was incapable or holding the awesomeness that is Physix, while at the same time, not having an on-staff modeler means that we frequently need to wait for freelancers. Right now everyone is not only learning Unity still, but we're patiently awaiting some brand new models from a German freelancer who appears to have no idea when his non-exclusive media will “hit the shelves”

As for Collapsus, the programmer working on that one just got out of collage for the summer and is frantically trying to push the game into Beta before he returns. Fly Guy's been pushed onto the back burner due to no one really seeing it on Kongregate and with no feedback, making an iOS version is out, but we'll more than likely just take our iOS assets and make a new web version and call that one case closed. Which leaves us with Jet Pack Hero and I'll save that for a later post :P

Updates, Crunch and Sleep

Well, okay. I guess this was inevitable, but I still felt weird about posting it. The old engine for Physix wasn't moving anywhere so we (after much discussion) have switched to Unity 3D. I guess the biggest thing that needs to be said is that we made this decision back in November. The major problem with doing a massive engine switch on this scale is that we basically needed to start from square one. If what you're thinking is “Yikes!” you're on the same page as us. Luckily for us, 100% of all our media is salvageable (and we already did) and we still have all of our level designs and neat little puzzle ideas stashed away. I guess it's just more of a “mechanical” square one, as we have to code all of our mechanics from scratch again. It's no big deal, and honestly the game will be better for it.


We started the conversion at the beginning of March, and if all things go well, we'll be making the IndieCade deadline of May 1st with sort of an “Alpha-demo” (or is that a “Demo-alpha”?). It's a long push, but both of our programmers are working diligently and even if we don't make this one, we should be poised to submit to the IGF deadline in October. Throughout this month, I will hopefully be posting things more frequently, showing off the new things being implemented so no one's in the dark. One of the amazing things about Unity is that it is simultaneously more robust and ultimately easier to get the desired effects we want than our old engine, meaning the content pipeline is much much faster.

As for our other projects, Collapsus and Fly Guy, Collapsus is nearly finished, but it's on hold while we work on Physix (we are just a few guys, after all) and Fly Guy is undergoing some serious design changes as our prototype that hit Kongregate wasn't exactly “explosive”. Though to be honest, we knew it wouldn't be. That's why we put the prototype out there: so we could make the real game better. The only problem is that we didn't get much feedback, though from what little Kongregate feedback we have, as well as a multitude of personal and professional feedback, the final mobile game will be spectacular.

We've also started working on a few other smaller projects, many of which will never see the light of day; but for those that do, we're going to try this new little idea. It's called “Wraith Minis”. Whenever we have a little tiny game that some of our team members made in their free time, or just all-around team efforts made just for the fun of it, we're going to release some. Most of them will be for free on iOS, Android and web (ad-driven, of course), and they should theoretically come out more often than our other “major” projects. Of course this doesn't mean that we're going to be whipping out little project after little project, as these are just things that we've done in our free time; and it wouldn't be fair to our team to make these on a regular basis, it wouldn't be fair to expect you to play an entire library of our pet projects and it wouldn't be fair to our big projects, which would be neglected and start to cry.
In all honesty, that's pretty much it. There's not as much comedy in this as I usually try to do, but we're technically in “crunch” and I haven't gotten much sleep. Hope you all like the changes.

FlyGuy (Lite) is out NOW... For FREE!

Hey! Hope you all had a wonderful whatever you celebrated. Here's just a quick update for all of you (and my first post here for those of you who are reading this on IndieDB). We're still hammering away on Physix and Collapsus, but managed to get the Lite version of FlyGuy on Kongregate. It was supposed to take about a week or two from start to publish, but one of our programmers and one of our artists moved which put a kink in the schedule, but they got finished soon enough to have a pre-Christmas release. As you may know, Unity is updating to export into flash and with it, so is the web version of FlyGuy. If we get enough people playing and rating, we're going to finish up our iOS/Android, “Full” version in CoronaSDK, which will be free to play and will contain a multitude of new modes, challenges and OpenFeint support. Just think of the Kongregate version as a prototype to test the waters. We should have new media posted (both on DB and our site) soon for not only this, but Physix and Collapsus as well. Just remember, if no one shows their interest, the big mobile release may never happen. Tell us what you think!

BOOM! Updates Ahoy!

Hi everybody! Just a few quick things to update since I haven’t posted anything in a while. Firstly, as you can tell, there's a new site theme we're trying out. I think it looks spiffy. So that you can tell us what you think about the remodel (or anything else for that matter), not only do we still have a Facebook and Twitter, but we now have a Google + as well! On top of that, we've acquired WRAITHGAMES.COM and WRAITHGAMES.NET so you can get to here from there as well as our .ORG

Thirdly, but surely not least of all, we're officially announcing 2 new games:

The first is Collapsus, an Android/iOS puzzle game that long-time followers may remember the taste of and the second is Fly Guy, a free-to-play web game. You can visit our gallery for some early screenshots uploaded with this post.

I know what you all might be thinking, and no, Physix WILL be keeping on-keeping on and on top of that we hope to have new screens, videos and a playable demo soon... we've just had more work on to do to make it awesome enough for the “final beta” mentioned a few months back and we'd rather post something huge rather than smaller things here and there.

Collapsus and Fly Guy are just some side projects that “turned real” faster than anticipated, that we hope will be out soon. As always, we're taking the “it's done when it's done” approach with Physix and these new games are the same way, but we think they’ll be out considerably faster than Physix.

Again, let us know what you think by visiting our social network pages and keep on PLAYING HARDER!

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