I'm no good at it, but I've always enjoyed making video games as hobby. When js13kgames rolled around, I decided to give it a try. I'd been kicking around a simple game idea in my head, and I figured this was the perfect time to implement it.
The game won 7th place! I was honored and surprised and confused.
There are some parts of the game that I thought notable:
Polar, not Cartesian
Most games I've seen take place on the Cartesian coordinate plane -- X, Y, and sometimes Z. Things move up and down, in and out, left and right. Origin, on the other hand, is polar -- everything is relative to the center. That means nearly everything in the game is a circle, or an arc, or something. I like the idea of changing that up, and I think that's just about the only thing that makes Origin interesting.
Polar coordinates let you build a game that's über-responsive: no matter what size the window is, Origin will be playable.
The concatenation server
I wanted to be able to have all my files concatenated and spat out, and I wanted a development version and a production version. So I hacked together a horrible Express web server that really could've been done much better with something like Grunt. I had a bugger of a time finding something that would properly do the minification, and I finally settled on html-minify, which worked quite nicely.
Eventually, I had it set up so that I could say
npm start and it'd run the server. I could visit localhost:8000 and it'd give me an uncompressed build, and I could visit localhost:8000/prod and it'd give me a compressed build. I kept an eye on the size of the production file, because I only had 13 kilobytes to build the game.
The sounds of screams
I put a ton of effort into one part of the project, and I never even used it: sounds.js.
I dug into the Web Audio API, a new spec for playing oscillators in the browser. The first sound-related commit was pretty calm:
add intro bloop sound
Soon after that:
rewrite Sound -- breaks unsupported browsers, better API
The next two commits:
- rewrite sound stuff AGAIN. i think we got it this time
- minor changes to...yeah, sound. i keep messing with this
REAL AUDIO FOR EXPLOSIONS
I found a real-life audio file in WAV format, and went through a hell of a time compressing it and getting it to play. For a full description of my toil, see my commit, but I think the last line of the commit sums it up nicely:
phew. i hate sound
While I (finally) got the damn browser to play sounds, the bleeps and bloops always sounded weird and out of place. If my game had been in an 8-bit style, it might've been appropriate, but they sounded too much like a NES to fit, so I disabled my hard work in the end.
I did some crappy object pooling for performance reasons. When bombs explode in the game, they generate 100 particles that fly all over the screen. Garbage collecting this stuff would be a nightmare, and writing an efficient object pool was not my idea of fun.
Instead of doing the "right" thing, I gave every in-game object a boolean value called
destroyed. The pool continues to expand and never stops, but it skips over objects that are
destroyed. Not the most efficient way in terms of performance, but it was certainly efficient in terms of my development time and happiness.
And it's done
I had a lovely time working on Origin. It wasn't a big enough commitment that I couldn't work on it, but it wasn't simple enough that I didn't learn anything. Maybe I'll use the nightmarish sound stuff in another project.
I hope you enjoy the game! Go play the others, too -- they're amazing.