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Features: Postmortems:
Black Shades Postmortem
by David Rosen
December 4, 2002

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uDevGame Finalist

Black Shades


Game screenAfter spending a while working on various projects (Phantom Strike, ATG, GLFighters 2) the uDevGame contest started up again. I decided to make a bodyguard game. Not just any bodyguard game, but a psychic bodyguard game. I figured it would be morally interesting for anyone who cares (i.e. nobody) because you are killing people in order to try and protect someone, and giving you psychic powers could make it slightly more fun and less frustrating. I was sick of the detailed but processor-intensive style of new games such as Medal Of Honor and Jedi Knight 2, so I made my virtual city more abstract. I used the "iron sights" crosshair-less aiming system because I did not like the floating crosshairs in most games and felt that actually aiming along the sights improved gameplay. I did use a sort of design document, but ended up not having enough time to implement many of the features I had planned.

Game screenTools

I programmed mostly in CodeWarrior; part of it in version 7, and part in the copy of version 8 I am testing in order to write a review for iDevGames. I used Meshwork to create the buildings, player models, and one of the handguns. David Drew used Cinema 4D to model all the other weapons. The main menu music was done with the help of John Graham, and the rest of the music I composed with SoundEffects, SoundApp and the Digidesign Pro Tools Trial, using sound loops created by Carlos Camacho.

What Went Right

Using Skeletal Animation

Basing my character models on skeletons made it possible to easily make characters react believably to impacts (from bullets to gun butts upside the head), and to blend animations together. My animation editor based entirely on inverse kinematics and constraints allowed me to make fluid and complicated animations within a couple of minutes (like the disarm animation).

Game screenActually finishing the game

While Black Shades is still rough around the edges, it somewhat resembles a finished game. Unlike my last entry, GLFighters, I now have a main menu, high scores, a config file, and some background music. This leads to a lot of bittersweet comments from friends along the lines of "Wow, it looks almost like a real game!"

Not making my own sounds

In GLFighters I made my own sounds with a built-in microphone, which did not result in high-quality sounds. In Black Shades, I found sounds from free sites all over the internet and modified them with SoundEffects to make them more interesting. I now use OpenAL for hardware acceleration and 3D sound.

The graphics style

Using models with no textures made for a unique look, and also cut down development time (for the models that I made) by at least 90%. It also allows Black Shades to run at an acceptable framerate on low-end macs. It would be very difficult to make a game with detailed graphics able to run such a huge city at playable speeds.

What Went Wrong

Game screenNot having in-game help or options

I clearly did not learn my lesson from last year's contest that most people do not bother reading a "ReadMe" file. Although Black Shades gameplay is much more self-explanatory, it would have helped to have a tutorial level or something that explained how to aim with the iron sights, disarm people, tackle people, etc.

Not supporting Mac OS X

It seems that by now almost all gamers are using Mac OS X so many are not able to try Black Shades at all. Others have to play under classic emulation, which has many problems and could lead to negative votes in the contest. I actually tried to Carbonize Black Shades, but it was much harder than it seemed due to differences in file loading, mouse control, timing, etc..

Not including variable difficulty levels

Some people are much better at this type of game than others, and the current setting is very difficult. The last level of the game is almost impossible, which most likely frustrated some otherwise skilled players who then gave it bad ratings. Halfway through the voting period I had to significantly reduce the difficulty of several levels.

Game screenConclusion

This contest was a good exercise in having a deadline and actually finishing a game; generally I work on a game for a long time and gradually lose steam until I am just not interested any more, and start a new one. The short deadline forces us to actually finish the game before we get too sick of it, which is helpful just for the experience and because now there are 40 more Mac-only games out there to play in my spare time. (Editor's Note: One entry, "The Belt" was cross-platform.) My next game will most likely be a fighting game with gameplay based loosely on Oni but in a very different setting.

Black Shades Demo
Size: 4.5 MB
Genre: 3D Action
Developer: David Rosen
Team size: 1
Released date: November 12, 2002
Project length: 3 months
Development hardware: G4 733MHz
Critical applications:
  • CodeWarrior
  • Cinema 4D
  • Sound Effects
  • Digidesign Pro Tools Trial
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