tisdag 28 januari 2014

#Real Talk

Prometheus: The Fire Thief has been up for a number of days on Steam now and overall I'm very grateful and happy for the amount of yes-votes my game has gotten. I'm not going to go into details, but all in all, considering Prometheus is a niche retro game, the reception has confirmed my suspicion that there is a market for this kind of game out there, and that feels great.

It's also very nice to read the well-mannered encouraging comments on there, but of course this is the Internet and the game has gotten more than its fair share of criticism I think. I was ready for this, but so far I've only felt the need to delete two comments; one from a dude plugging his YouTube channel or whatever, not much to discuss there, and one very not constructive critical comment that was just mean and insulting. There are a few more comments I could get rid of on the constructive or not-basis, but I don't want to be a nazi on there and most of the people who post mean comments shoot themselves in the foot anyway, which I will go into in more detail on in this very blog post.

Now, I'm not stupid, so I realize most people that have visited Prometheus's Steam page will not go to this here blog and read this, but the alternative of gumming up the comments section with my answers is not workable. It's not my intention to single out people and get them back by citing their comments verbatim, or to rub their nose in it so to speak, but I really want to address some of the main themes of the criticism for my own sake, for people who are on my side and whoever else who might be interested in reading it.

1. Prometheus and The Battle of Olympus

This is one of the main points of criticism people seem to have at this point. That I've ripped off BoO by making a reskin off of it and putting it up on Steam. One dude even claimed that it was an NES-game running on an emulator, posted as a troll post which is both funny and nice to read. Amusing since there is a 90€ fee for entering a game on Steam, so that's a very expensive bit of trolling right there, nice since if someone thinks my game is running on an emulator I've really managed to "emulate" the retro game feel just like intended. Not that doing that is especially hard or anything.

In my mind BoO is somewhat obscure for an NES game, but I enjoy it and I want more people to know about it and play it, that's one of my main reasons for developing Prometheus in the first place. It's a homage or a spiritual sequel, call it whatever you want. The last thing I intend is to make money off of someone else's work. That whole idea in relation to my work on this game is just baffling to me, since I have 100 percent clarity on how my process has been and how I've approached all of this. For one, all of the graphics are original, I've not "lifted" anything, that seems like an absolutely ridiculous thing to do for a commercial game.

If you look at it from a certain point of view, BoO is a nothing more than a rip-off of Zelda II. The main points of the game, beating bosses, gaining new items, 2D-platforming, sword-swinging, talking to NPC's etc are extremely similiar. In that sense Nintendo should've sued the developers of BoO back in the day for invading their copyright, but they never did. Because doing that would be absolutely fucking retarded. From that point of view every sidescrolling platform game ever created is a clone of Super Mario Bros. and Nintendo should sue all companies who have ever created a sidescrolling platformer, but that is of course even more insane. You don't have to follow this line of thought very long before really absurd scenarios start to play out in your mind. I suppose that's a little too much to ask from the average 13-year old Steam user though.

Besides all of the above, Prometheus is also a rather different game from BoO on many levels, once you get past the most superficial layer. I realize this might be hard to see from watching the trailer, but I have to make the trailer fast-paced and selling in order to make people interested so I can't show a 15-minute video that shows how the game works. What's so great about this blog is that I can explain it here instead though :)

I'm a huge fan of Metroid. I've played and beaten all of the 2D Metroids and am in the process of playing through the 3D-ones, currently playing through Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. My approach to Prometheus was to fix many of BoO's innate problems. One of the main issues with BoO, enjoyable as it is, is that it's extremely cryptic and hard to understand what the hell you are supposed to do and where you are supposed to go, especially for a 7-year old who doesn't know a word of English (read: me at 7 years of age). This isn't very hard to fix. I've made the stages in Prometheus much more clear-cut and self-explanatory, like in a Metroidvania. There is a start and an end with a final boss that gives you an item once you beat it. The NPC's are all in the towns like in Zelda II, not spread across the levels in the most weird places. Once you enter the boss screen, you can't pussy out (like in BoO), etc. What I'm trying to say, is that at a surface level, Prometheus might look like a carbon copy of BoO, but it really isn't, it's a metroidvania about Greek mythology, and it should go without saying that you can't copyright making a game like that.

I'm from Sweden and I would take a wild swinging guess that a majority of the doomsday prophets/hobby lawyers on Steam are from the great nation across the pond. In my daily life I don't constantly worry that around every corner and no matter what I do, there is always a risk that I can get sued. In my lifetime I can't think of one case where I've heard of someone getting sued in Sweden. It must be very stressful to live your life feeling that you constantly have to worry about that.

2. The graphics

My limitations for the graphics in Prometheus have been, in order to make the game look like an NES-game, to use the european PAL 256x240 resolution and the correct 54-color palette. Then I've also tried to keep the sprites to three colors since that was the color limit for an NES-sprite (more colors were possible by using two sprites over each other like the Mega Man sprite, where his face and body in reality are two different sprites). One guy in the comments complained that the animations are stiff. Trust me, I could make the animations smooth as a baby butt, but that wouldn't be very faithful to an NES retro game. NES-sprites had three frames of animation max, often two (if they were animated at all). Also to reinforce the retro feel I've made the animations even stiffer by the way I've drawn them. Either you make a retro game or you don't, smooth animations I'm saving for my future projects. It's very frustrating to have to gimp yourself like this since most people are criticizing it out of ignorance, so I'm looking forward to showing what I really can do, trust me. Reinforcing the retro feel goes for other parts of the graphics as well. The foreground tiles I've made intentionally blocky and tily for that reason as well (and also since that's what they looked like in my dream that Prometheus is based on).

Of course, if you don't like my art style or my approach to pixel art, that's something else entirely and not something I can do much about. I'm only human and this is my second game of this scale that I've ever done. I can't do more than my best, but truth is if I had more time I could probably make the sprites a little bit nicer maybe, but I have to code the game as well. I'd like to think that I've improved in my ability though, if you compare this game to Mega Man 42 (like I've explained though the graphics in that game suffered because I didn't have nearly enough time to work on them).

3. The promo pic

I'm going for a retro, cartoon and box-art style with this one that many people seem unfamiliar with. I can't put too much time and effort on this picture, and it's certainly not within my budget to hire someone else to draw a picture. My forte is making graphics and programming, not drawing promotional pictures.

I hope this blog post clears up some confusion. Walls of text are never fun, but I felt I had to do it this time around.

In regards to Prometheus's current development, the two last stages are getting completed simultaneously, so things are coming together for the fine-tuning and beta testing to start in preparation for the release.

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