So I wanted to write a small but reasonably complete game to show an “unexpected” (not-keyboard-macros) use of MacroPad.

Lately I’ve been enjoying VR rhythm games like Beat Saber and Synth Riders, and my initial idea was to capture just a tiny slice of that, albeit in two dimensions. Go back a couple generations, and prior rhythm games like Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution were essentially that, and would suit MacroPad’s keys.

(screenshot: pydance)

But even this would be Too Much Project … building the “maps” to synchronize music and actions would be A Development Ordeal. I wanted something that could be written in a couple days, just a few bitmaps and a sensible amount of code. Not a serious game, just enough to show that these things can be done if you want.

Peeling back layers was like a reverse chronological walk through game history. Tetris might be doable but a bit more code than desired. Full-on game music would be complex. And so forth, until reaching the irreducible “catch things falling from above” play mechanic, with some “avoid these other things” to spice it up. It’s rudimentary, but maybe I could add appeal with some dragons. Everyone loves dragons!

The resulting flavor is reminiscent of some early “catch” games like Activision’s Kaboom for the Atari 2600 (catch bombs) or the arcade game that inspired it, Atari’s Avalanche (catch rocks). Amusingly, I learned afterward that the original concept for Avalanche had falling eggs, but play testers didn’t like that. Oops.

That got me thinking how early video games always had elaborate box art and a whole back story, even with simple games. Partly of course because the graphics were so crude…but also, video games were such a foreign concept, it was necessary to create some emotional “hook” to an otherwise abstract thing. Early players would be lost without it.

Nobody asks what the cubes are in Beat Saber or why it’s so vital to chop them up. The concept is entirely abstract, but needs no back story…it’s intuitive to play and the action is viscerally appealing, what more do you need? “This is a rhythm game. Have fun!”

Nearly half a century in, video games evolved a stable of tropes — the maze game, the shooting game, puzzle game, RPG and so forth — much as movies and media tap into established tropes to avoid lengthy exposition…it simplified the “Gameplay” page significantly. You don’t always notice it when looking at a single specimen, but walk backward through a game’s or film’s predecessors and you can see a progression as things congeal.

This guide was first published on Aug 04, 2021. It was last updated on 2021-08-04 11:50:59 -0400.

This page (Reflection) was last updated on Apr 22, 2022.

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