There was a brief time in the 80s when 3 game consoles coexisted on the market, the Atari 2600, the Odyssey and the Intellivision II.The later, when I first met, impressed me with its polished fancier games. It was the first time I felt that digital graphics and sound could convey a real thing quite well and charmy instead of the usual imagination-required Atari 2600 blocks and beeps
[The mighty Intellivision II with its phone hand-twitching controls]
All together, the games were just way better than the competition.
The very first one I experienced was BurgerTime.
[Illustrated box, cart, manual and control covers]
Here is the action:
At a time where I was fed up with Pacman/Invader´s clones made with color squares and dots, this came as a fresh relieve.
Interesting enough, behind its themed coat, there may lay a modified Pacman engine.
[Cheap game area deconstruction]
So BurgerTime is a maze game where you have to collect the dots and, as you collect a line of it, it moves down a plane pushing
any existing lines down until they stack outside the maze. Pacman´s larger dots, which are fixed on level and can make one invincible and able to eat enemies, appears on BurgerTime´s maze randomly and when collected, adds to a stash of pepper that
can be used to stun enemies. I think I see some mutation on the gameplay mechanics
Visually, BurgerTime is viewed sideways while Pacman is top down. It has a less surreal theme, real food in general.
Some interesting aspects:
The controls are similar with the only difference being the extra pepper button.
Enemie´s artificial intelligence is unique per type, as with Pacman, but it can have more than one type on playfield.
While BurgerTime has 3 enemy types, one less compared to Pacman, it sports 6 mazes instead of 1.
On both, enemies move on a rail style, they mostly never turn back.
The goal is to score and stay alive over increasingly difficult levels.
For the fans of the Intellivision port, google for: BurgerTime! - New Levels Hack (Intellivision)
You could also adventure through this level editor here:http://knox.ac.free.fr/index.php/inty/btedit
After revisiting the main inspiration, let´s look at other ports, including the arcade original that I have never seen live.
[TRS-80 color, Atary 2600, Gameboy, Arcade, can you tell them apart? :D]
Time to put a layout together.
I thought to keep the aesthetics as simple as the intellivision port but use square pixels, a slightly higher and wide resolution at 214 x 120 and about 16 colors, mostly soft ones.
[8x8 tile blocks and a bunch of burger pieces]
No black background under Tron styled blue maze, a blue sky above castles over the water seems like a Royal fit.
[Archs don´t work, neither those android control schemes, nor the ugly colors]
There were some exercises on the castle´s forms.
It has to be simple enough not to bother the main action, which will be intense.
I also wanted to create objects without borders and preferably single colored, this could prove challenging when working with a
low color amount. They have to mix well when over stuff.
[A nice day to swim]
Here is pretty much the final layout, the lighter top part of the platforms looks like it is sun lit, it gives a nice visual touch and they work fine to convey ground like the original.The pieces are more or less standard, they now fit a 3 tiles size. The doors are for players and mob to spam, I want no one flying into the action :D The base platforms where burgers stack needs to be differentiated though.
With the layout and basic background set, let´s reach a final art level for the castle graphics.
[Fonts and pallete, ladders and actors]
Possible ladders instead of stairways didn´t quite work, the simple the better.
Like the background, the main actor should not draw too much attention.
It also helps if it fits within 1 tile size horizontally
Backgrounds, even the very simple ones, and complex texture walls, didn´t mix well with the main style.
A clear blue background is best and for the walls, maybe a sublte 1 or 2 color partial texture might work, something like wall cracks or bricks.
A bunch of experimental enemies were sketched, only a few graduates.
It is a hard challenge keeping to the proposed pattern of actors: egg, sausage and picles.
[Final game round]
Apart from the texture, chains were added hanging about.
At first it was only a visual bit, but later became an important part of the gameplay.
Game color pallet is also final (never!).
The game runs at 60 fps and animation smooth flow is a must.
Frames have to be added accordingly.
[The main player must have a special attention as one will be looking a lot at him. ]
His animation should really be fluid when responding to control.
This should trace a good idea on what to expect of the visuals.
About sound effects, 37 pieces are used throughout the game so far.
They were mostly done on retro sound generators and later flashed out on Audacity but some were created from scratch.
Generators have gone a long way since their first days
On the music front, chiptune is a must.
The intro tune is made by Yubatake, find more about his work here:
There are 5 in-game tunes made by Wyver9, find more about his work here:
I have to tip my hat towards both talented musicians.
Their work is just awesome and it fits the game like nothing else.
A note to mods, all game assets are exposed on the game´s media folder.
[It is relatively easy to mod them so anyone can have fun with it. ]
Visual and audio aside, let´s check the game´s structure.
A game session is composed of 9 stages randomly picked from a pool of 64 handmade castles, pictured above.
Player´s primary goal is to survive and advance stage by assembling a burger, at least bread+meat+bread, within a time limit and stand by it. Beat the 9 stages to win the game.
Secondary goal is to score. You increase it by drowning enemies and standing by taller burgers.
Your life is your score, the only way you can loose some is by drowning yourself, so keep dry.
You can slowly share score between players if you stand over each other. This can be used to help new users live longer in game and also used to steal score from veteran players. :p
The outcome winner is presented with a cheap philosophical 80´s game-ending sentence based on his score :D
With the goals set, an easy mastering control´s scale should give confidence to provoque a hunt for higher scores while pushing skills to the limits. That is the feeling I intend to cause, but how? Let´s dive into the gameplay.
Over the maze, we have chefs, enemies, doors, pepper signs, burger parts and chains.
Chains can only be climbed by chefs, it a somewhat safe area but one can´t use pepper while hanging on it.
Pepper signs will fully replenish one´s pepper stash, max 9. It stays off and then back on after a while.
Doors are the spawn point of all agents.
Burger parts retain their original aspects, each part can be stomped on 3 spots and will fall if you hit them all.
Falling parts can cause a domino effect if it hits another part.
Certainly the very first thing I´d want to address is the maze constrain on the player.
Since we are side viewing the scene, adding gravity and jumps feels logical and fun.
This adds 2 enemy escape routes to the original gameplay. You can pixel-perfect jump enemies or you can drop from the platform. Dropping was particularly troublesome as it makes the player drops automatically from a platform that connects to a stair. Removing the drop would go against the idea of player freedom so leaving it as is seems the best route. It is also quite easy to master its controls. I´m using standard 2 buttons scheme for jump and pepper.
With a freedom of movement set for the player, the next step was to multiplayer it.
Up to 3 can locally play. Player to player interaction had to be thought about.
I feel adding a pvp or coop hard coded or menu-set rule would clutch it, but giving players chance to resolve it in game is probably something that can add to the mechanics.
The game is, by nature, competitive, but at the end of a stage, it is instant game over for all if not even one player succeed in advancing level.
So pvp has to be dosed and balanced or everyone looses.
One can certainly play the game cooperatively to try to at least beat it as it is a tough game.
A player can attack another player and the enemies by jumping over their head Mariowise. The enemies though, need to be stunned by pepper. Both pepper and jump attack will bump the foe away, you score by throwing enemies overboard.
Pepper has no effect on the chefs.
A player can only loose score by either drowning or sharing, to be pushed around like a pinball does no damage.
Players will re spawn if doors are available above water and score is not zero.
If in multiplayer and out of score but one chef advances level, you get a bit of score back and return next round.
In sum, player core mechanics shifted a bit from Pacman towards Mario
[Enter the enemies]
They are 5 in type and can sport one of 2 speeds.
Enemies enter level through the castle doors and when drown, will soon re spawn back, similar to the players.
In general, enemies follow a rail behavior, that is, they move about the maze never turning back to where they are coming, unless reaching a dead end. Enemies are constantly tracking the closest chef around and their individual AI kicks in when they reach a crossroad with 3 or 4 possible exits.
Apart from this individual personality when moving about, the enemies also sport unique abilities. The Egg may drop down over your head should you pass beneath it, the Picle will double speed if hunting you on platforms, its hit will send you spinning a long shot away, the Popsicle will freeze burger parts, players walk by it slower, reach its center to unfreeze, the Sushi can change direction mid movement on a platform and is pepper resistant.
Each round, after a certain amount of time, will sound an alarm and the music will change.
From this point on, the castle will either, slowly or instantly, collapse.
The only condition to hold a slow collapsing event is to have at least one burger part over the first 2 thirds of the screen.
As soon as that condition is not met, next shake will be the last.
An instant collapse will also happen if the player assembles all burger parts available, but there is no bonus to it, you loose precious time you could have used to score on the enemies.
Don´t forget at least one player has to be standing on a valid burger platform for the game to advance, otherwise it is game over. :O
In accordance with the ancient game watches, and looking at the game´s last ability, I have made 2 game modes.
Game A sports a set of 9 random castles and the round´s waves are fixed in a fashion that introduces enemy types and slowly progress difficult level. It is a good challenge, specially by the later stages.
Game B sports the same set of 9 random castles but each round´s wave is also procedurally generated in a way that it always provides a tough bout. This is more suited for the veteran and is how the game is to be played in its full.
Wrapping it up... Influences from the classics are clearly there, but you also get a pinch of Spelunky where certain chain actions can lead to surprisingly funky outcome, you have the tension the castle showdown raises, the pleasure of a skillful pixel jump, the multiplayer joys of vengeance and loyalty,and all these elements mixed together, I behold, should summon a fun environment to act. :)
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