Penguins? Penguins… Penguins!

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June’s theme was OH NO! and what game popped into my mind immediately? Oh No, More Lemmings, of course. I actually know about a tutorial, that goes through the process of creating a Lemmings game, but I wasn’t aiming for a total copy. I wanted the same base idea (a bunch of creatures aimlessly walk about), but utilize the puzzle somehow differently. And my idea was to have command icons, that the player can place on the level to guide the penguins (my creatures of choice) to the iglo (the exit).

For that I made 8 commands, and these are enough for the prototype. I had some other ideas, like a dynamite, to remove some platforms, or make the platforms a sort of command too, so the player could place some of those. But we had barely time to build as many levels as we did, so I didn’t push more features into the game. I made a How To Play menu, so the player can check the basic rules at any point.

Technically the game doesn’t have too much new stuff. AI for the penguins was pretty straight forward, with utilizing the state machine I could separate the different states. I made a test AI dump data container, so I could see what’s happening, and sometimes they go in some unnecessary states for a frame – depending on their X scale. The problem is that Game Maker changes under the game developers every month, and these changes sometimes cross the methods we used so far, so I will have to make a test project, just to figure out how exactly I can check for collisions with the changed functions. At one time, in my secret project I managed to push the lowest FPS number over 200 on the last (and most demanding) level, but after a new version came out, it dropped to 70. So yes, basically I do progress nicely with the project, but I still bump into some problems that need attention. 🙂

I made one totally new thing: a minimap. These kind of games need this feature, so I spent some nights to figure out how I could make a nice one. I checked some minimap tutorials, but they weren’t fitting for my project, so I came up with my own. Of course it’s a simple camera view, that counts how big it should be (so bigger maps are smaller on the minimap). Also I put in dots over the penguins’ position, as otherwise they would be some noisy animating pixels. I did that with the commands too, using a 4×4 pixel small icon to represent them. I also drew lines between switches and stuff they operate, to see the connections. The GUI is another thing as they are objects, so the player could click on them, but they are drawn on the GUI, so they won’t show on the minimap, as well as the cursor itself. The camera can be moved around even with the cursor, moving it to the boundaries of the screen, or clicking on the minimap, or dragging the cursor over the minimap (some bug makes it jump to another position when the cursor leaves the minimap, but I didn’t have the tenacity to figure out why). But as a quality of life improvement, I made it so WASD, or arrow keys also move the screen around and with this it’s so much easier to place commands.

I asked Allegra, my darling girlfriend to come up with, and create some maps as I like to include her in my projects. So, to make her life easier, I made a control object, and there, everything could be set for the level: number of different commands, level timer, level name, and the music that should be played. I used music by a musician called Rude 66 (I think this is his bandcamp page). I bought the music license in a Humble pack, to use them in my free game jam projects. These pieces of music fit the penguins game perfectly. 🙂

I put boxes to be picked up by the penguins in the game, they can add +1 to any specific command. This was one idea, to send one or two penguins on a side mission to pick up some much needed commands. I made the main screen so the commands can be seen in action right away. I also found a ridiculous napkin at my mother’s house with a penguin on it, so I used that as reference for the big penguins behind the title. The very first screen though is one that immediately could make the player go “Oh no…”, as some penguins fall to their demise. And the game itself, like the Lemmings games, is about guiding as many penguins to safety as the player could, but there could be necessary sacrifices, or involuntary losses. Any level can be reset at any point, but after all living penguins are out, the screen goes to the next level (after scores of course). At that point the game counts the remaining penguins, and compares it to the number of penguin o’ matics the level has, and if there’s not enough penguins… it’s game over man, game over!

It was a fun idea and game to make, but I have no intention to continue this, at least not in its current form. I will keep the minimap idea though, as it was really satisfying to see it work – well, not perfectly, but still. 🙂