Destroy the Duck-Dragons

I’m pleased to release a new version of Heropath, the second version using Godot. This demo build version is 0.3.0.18 and represents the first actual vertical slice of the game I am building towards since I started development a year ago.

Version 0.0.0.2 was a simple puzzle game using keys and doors with game length less than a minute.

Version 0.0.0.8 was a simple arcade game avoiding the enemies with game length less than a couple of minutes.

Now in Version 0.3.0.18 we have a simple adventure arcade game moving around a larger map where you can kill the enemies with an item you pick up. Game length is about two to three minutes.

Each version builds on the other as everything is a cumulative effect. I am able to do this thanks to the tutorials I’ve found on YouTube. Below you see a screen shot of Heartbeast’s Demo 2D Action RPG game which is the code base for this version of Heropath. Heartbeast has developed an excellent YouTube tutorial titled Godot Action RPG series.

Heartbeast’s Action RPG

After building HeartBeast’s Action RPG game, I changed the characters and music and sound and began changing how the game functioned. This was new territory for me and really challenged me but I got to know the Godot engine much better and make it more of my own project. The character and item graphics come from an outstanding homage/update to Atari 2600 Adventure. The world graphics and effects come from Heartbeast’s Godot Action RPG. Sounds and music comes from freesound.org and soundimage.org.

Working with Godot remains enjoyable and I’m appreciating its many benefits with built-in collision detection, physics, animation, editor, tile-mapper, and more. I definitely see the immense value of using a game engine to develop Heropath. There is no way I would have released this demo as quickly as I did by using JavaScript.

So welcome to Heropath version 0.3.0.18 titled ‘Destroy the Duck Dragons’!


Well, what exactly is a Duck-Dragon? When Warren Robinette drew his original dragons for Adventure they did look like ducks. In a way it fits since birds are related to reptiles/dragons.

The dreaded Atari Adventure (duck) Dragon

You can play Heropath version 0.3.0.18 with a web browser, keyboard, and mouse here:

https://heropath.com/demo/alpha-v0.3.0.18/heropath.html

Instructions: You control Sir Bloc. Find the sword and use it to destroy the Duck-Dragons. Move with the WASD or arrow keys, bump into sword to it pick up, drop it using the space bar.

Version 0.3.0.18 currently has the following features:

– Load small world and environmental objects
– Load character
– Load monsters
– Load items (currently only a sword)
– Logic for character movement
– Logic for monster movement and chase behavior
– Logic for monster-player collision
– Logic for monster-sword collision (new code)
– Logic for item pick-up and drop (new code)
– Logic for intro, win, and lose states (new code)
– Updated graphics
– Updated music / sound
– Updated basic HUD
– Drawing expanded map (320 x 180 pixels to 600 x 600 pixels or 5x bigger) with cliffs, brush, dirt, and grass (existing assets in new map)
– Drawing and placement of Duck-Dragons (new assets)
– Drawing and placement of Sword and Player (new assets)
– Drawing and placement of Intro, Win, and Lose screens (new assets)

With this version I’ve moved along from a very simple puzzle game to a very simple arcade game to a very simple arcade-adventure game. This is fitting since the Atari Adventure game combined both arcade action along with item/map puzzle play, being the first ever action-adventure game.

Some ongoing Godot observations:

  • Adopting Godot was the right thing to do since I’ve steadily learned the tool and it has become easier to use.
  • Godot Forums is a big help!
  • I’m using Git for code rollback redundancy which has been critical when I break the code.
  • I have a bizarre bug with sound sometimes not playing which means I could not get the sword slice sound running when the Duck-Dragons are hit. I think it will be fixed in the next Godot version.

Next steps for future versions in order of priority:

  • Add Duck-Dragon sprites for attack and dying.
  • Add castle walls and doors to the maps that are not passable.
  • Add keys to map and allow them to be carried.
  • Add key function to open up doors.
  • Expand the setting further with new maps.
  • Add chalice to map and allow it to be carried.
  • Add shrine to the map and when the chalice is placed on it, it triggers the win condition.
  • Add randomizing elements to move the player, monsters, and items round. Currently the demo becomes quickly repetitive.
  • Add enhanced Duck-Dragon intelligence which flees, guards, and chases as Warren Robinette wrote in his book.
  • Remove Player HP so the game plays the same as Atari Adventure. I left them in place from Heartbeast’s demo as they are useful for testing.
  • Add a UI-HUD with a character traits panel.
  • Add more items like Atari Adventure’s Magnet and Bridge.
  • Add the Atari Adventure Bat.
  • Add encumbrance so when the character picks up an item the character’s movement slows down.
  • Add a ‘instill’ mechanic that will centre the plot and story.
  • Add The Dremiurge, The Devai, and The Heropath characters to the game to frame and narrate the plot and story.

I anticipate to do this in small incremental builds by adding more items and objects and would estimate to have the next release by end of March 2023. Updates for Heropath can be found at the version history.

Definitely part of the reason why development has been so slow is because I’m also doing lots of conceptual work behind the scenes related both to game development and Heropath’s world and plot.

Finally, I’ve updated my personal blog that outlines more about my personal experiences with game development. It has been over a year since I’ve undertaken this project and I’m astounded at the amount of time/effort to develop 2-3 minutes of gameplay! I suspect that a year of part-time work I’d have been able to write a few songs, paint some pictures, write a story, etc. While they might not be particularly accomplished pieces they’d be much longer than 2-3 minutes of basic game play! Game development is simply one of the hardest creative undertakings, and while rewarding, it is evident I need to temper my expectations.

“One of the most difficult tasks people can perform, however much others may despise it, is the invention of good games.” – C.G. Jung

Inspired by Paradroid (1985)

1985.

The midway point of the now legendary 1980s is known for its infectious pop culture and the rise of Video Games. This rise was powered by the third generation of Video Games plus the prominence of personal computers which was led by the Commodore 64.

The Commodore 64 was the most popular personal computer because it was affordable, had advanced graphics and sound, which allowed it to play outstanding games. The irony is that people justified buying personal computers for productivity or educational purposes but mostly played games on them. The C64 was uniquely popular across both North America and Europe whereas the Apple II and Radio Shack computers were confined to North American while Sinclair computers stayed in Europe.

The C64 was released in 1982 and was produced up to 1994, selling approximately 17,000,000 units worldwide and is considered to be the most successful personal computer ever. [source] . Having such a huge install base meant that there was a vibrant software development community. Over 10,000 commercial titles were released for the C64 with games being the vast majority of those commercial titles. Paradroid was just one of those 10,000 titles.

Paradroid was released in 1985 and despite being released in the deep red sea of competitors it was quickly acknowledged to be a Video Game masterpiece. On the surface Paradroid looks like a standard top-down shooter where you shoot or get shot as you control a robot/droid and need to clear a series of levels. Yet developer Andrew Braybrook added some subversive elements that had not been done before.

Andrew Braybrook in the 1980s

Braybrook’s narrative design and coding implementation is what sets Paradroid apart from its contemporaries. Andrew tapped in to the 1980s zeitgeist using it as a backdrop that informed and then reinforced the gameplay. The robots in Paradroid communicate with each other, just as we expect them to do now, which would naturally lead to them then controlling one another. Narratively designing virus takeover and robots taking over humans coupled with intense challenge, made Paradroid a critical and consumer darling with a style of fun that stood out. In recognition for Paradroid, Braybrook was voted Best Programmer of the Year 1986 at the Golden Joystick Awards.[source]

Following his game development career, Braybook worked from 1998 to 2016 as a senior software developer for Eurobase International. Since then he has worked as a freelance writer, programmer, and game designer.[source]

Game Title (written, designed, contributed)Year
Virocop1995
Empire Soccer 941994
Uridium 21993
Fire & Ice1992
Realms1992
Paradroid 901990
Rainbow Islands1990
Simulcra1990
Intensity1988
Morpheus1987
Quazatron1986
Alleykat1986
Uridium1986
Paradroid1985
Gribbly’s Day Out1985
3D Lunattack1984
3D Seiddab Attack1984
3D Space Wars1984
Andrew Braybrook’s game development history

Subversive Fun

Paradroid tells the story of how a space fleet of Robo-Freighters turn against its human crew to the distress of an unnamed fleet command. You are assigned a mission from fleet command to take control of Droid 001, the Influence Device, and use it to infiltrate and destroy the other droids on that rogue space fleet.

Each droid you encounter gets represented as a circle around a three-digit number. The numbers roughly correspond to the droid’s power level with the player starting with “001”, essentially the weakest droid. But Droid 001 has a critical power that makes the player unique as the player can assimilate the other droids encountered by taking them over. When done, the previous controlled droid is destroyed effectively passing player control from droid to droid.

Taking over a droid is done via a mini-game involving basic circuit diagrams and logic gates. Both opposing droid has one side of the screen, with a series of logic gates and circuits connected together. The droid which is supplying the most power to the circuit when the short time runs out wins. Using the logic gates and timing when to apply power made this mini-game a test of skill due to its challenge and elegance. When the player loses the mini-game, they then lose the droid they were piloting and if you are doing so as the default Influence Device, then its game over.

The spaceship you are trying to liberate has twenty decks, each with many rooms connected by doors and elevators. Braybook incorporated a line of sight effect as you can only see enemy droids that are not obstructed by walls or doors. The computer terminals found in various rooms provided access to maps of the current deck, the ship, and droid information.

With 24 different kinds of droids the diversity was not in the droids graphical representation but in their traits. The droid classes ranged from Influencer (your default droid) to Disposal to Servant to Crew to Security and all of the way to 999 Command Cyborg. The game possessed lots of variety in the maps as it came with eight freighters for you to liberate, each with their own maps of multiple floors and rooms.

Andrew Braybrook kept a public dev diary of the game development in magazine Zzap! 64 which provided remarkable insight into his thinking and challenges. Zzap! 64 published the first entry in July of 1985 and contained a short intro by Braybrook, followed by his earliest diary entries for the game.

Braybrook said in a couple of Retro Gamer interviews that the droid-swapping idea came from an arcade game, Front Line, where the player could enter a tank and had to leave it when it got hit.[source] Also that the cover of the Black Sabbath album Technical Ecstasy influenced him, where two droids “interfacing” can be observed. The movie Aliens and its spaceship’s corridors provided the visual inspiration for Paradroid’s ships. Braybrook was as eclectic in his influences (video game, movie, music) as he was brilliant.


Video Games, Articles, and More

Paradroid (1985) is emulated to be web playable

Paradroid play thru so you can watch Paradroid in action

Quazatron (1986)

Ranarama (1987) is a fantasy themed Paradroid

Paradoid 90 (1990)

Project Paradroid (2004)

FreedroidClassic (2003)

Paradroid (Remake) (2006)

Freedroid (2018) for Android phones

FreeDroidRPG (2019) is Paradroid made into a RPG

PSG Paradroid (2019) is a dev diary of an upcoming game

Picodroid (2021)

Zzap! 64 Reprint of Andrew Braybrook’s 1985 diary

RetroGamer Dev Profile of Andrew Braybook

Paradroid – Cane and Rinse No.372 Podcast

Andrew Braybrook blog

Paradroid Droid 001 t-shirt
Paradroid Droid 001 decals
Paradroid Droid 001 decal on car

How Paradroid relates to Heropath

Compared to Adventure, Paradroid came out allot later (1985 vs 1979) and the game development industry had radically changed during that time with more raw power being available to developers that was cutting edge at the time, yet tiny compared to present day’s power.

But it was not computing power that helped make Paradroid a masterpiece of design and challenge that I couldn’t recognize at the time. I barely played it in the 1980s because I had a pirated copy *cough* and did not understand how to take over the enemies. It was very hard and discouraging so I moved onto other games that were more forgiving.

So how can I be inspired by a game I barely played? It is Paradroid’s core mechanic of the player taking over the game’s other agents that is *the* core mechanic and plot point of Heropath. The biggest difference is that you won’t take over enemies (at least initially) but go between characters when one of them gets killed, which portrays the player’s spirit of switching heroes.

I heard enough about Paradroid, read about it, played the updated games, watched videos and I understand its brilliance. In Heropath, the Instill mechanic is going to be the critical aspect of the game. I just need to design and program a mini-game that rewards the player’s skill and conveys the narrative design of Instilling (possession) just like Paradroid did. I have some intriguing ideas that I’ll talk about in the future.

Paradroid also had a free-roaming quality to it though could not be called open world because there was so much danger lurking about. Yet you could go to whatever level or room you wanted but if you went to a place that had more powerful enemy droids then you had a lesser chance of surviving. Paradroid and Adventure were very different games that came out at different times, yet shared a core Playground Motif which will influence my design. I intend Heropath to a mashup of these two brilliant games.


You can see the development baby-steps of what I intend to do with Heropath through its demos. They are not much t0 look at but I’m brand new to coding and I am being fully transparent about my baby-step progress.

If you’d like to remain informed about Heropath’s development, please consider signing up for my newsletter. I promise I’ll send you very few emails, and they will be only about new posts to this blog (one or two a month at most) which will include updates about the game or my thoughts on game development.

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