Sunday, November 27, 2011

Introduction and Beginning of the journey

Hello, my name is Matt Edzenga, and I’d like to welcome you to the blog about my game, BlastZone 2! This game has been a huge passion of mine for the last five and a half years and it has been an exciting journey the whole way.

However, before I get into this game, I’ll give some background on the first game, BlastZone. This was a game I wrote in highschool on my TI calculator using TI basic and ASCII characters. The basic premise of the game was to mimic some elements of a side scrolling shooter. The player ship could only move up and down and the main goal was to destroy all enemies before they pass by the player. There was no end to the game, so the player just went for the high score. There were three weapons at the player’s disposal; a thin laser, a wide beam, and the omega cannon which covered most of the screen, and all enemies were destroyed in one shot. The laser had infinite ammo while the other weapons had limited use. This game took me about two weeks to build, and at that point I had already maxed out what the tiny 8mhz calculator processor could do. I enjoyed working on the game, but I knew I couldn’t add anything else to it. I was content with my creation at the time, but over the next few years I would always have an itch at the back of my mind to recreate the game on better hardware that would allow me to grow it further.

BlastZone 1 TI-85 calculator game

That is how things would stay until the first fateful night I started working on BlastZone 2. I remember the first night very well.

It was Friday, February 10th, 2006 and I just got back to my dorm room after having dinner with my friends. Just on a whim, I opened up the NeHe OpenGL graphics programming tutorial and started experimenting. I wanted to program in C++ and OpenGL because that is what many big game developers use and it would give me much more power and control over the computer hardware. I knew this path would be very difficult, but I really wanted to learn it from the ground up. I also felt I would get much more gratification building everything from scratch instead of taking shortcuts. I quickly became engrossed in the programming as the technical side of computer graphics has always interested me. After a few hours I programmed enough to initialize the graphics hardware in my computer and start up a blank window that accepted OpenGL API calls. I immediately started working on an early prototype of BlastZone 2, which was only supposed to be a quick and dirty version that had three main features. The game had to allow the player to move up and down, fire lasers, and destroy enemies. The game would end when 3 enemies passed the player. The hours went by that night and before I knew it, my game was up and running exactly how it used to on my old calculator! At that point, I knew it was time to get to sleep as I saw the sun peeking through my window. I didn’t even realize nearly that much time had gone by. I had programmed for 12 hours straight and loved every second of it! That’s how I knew BlastZone 2 would be something big, but even then I really had no idea how big it would eventually become.

BlastZone 2 after the first night of work

The next day, I started working on proper plans for BlastZone 2. My plan at the time was to spend roughly 3 months to finish off the remaining features from the original calculator game, such as a few more weapons, and add several new features, such as better difficulty levels, and multiple waves that would gradually increase the difficulty as the player played. In addition to this, I wanted to create simple 3D models for the player ship and enemies, and a few cool particle effects and level transitions to polish it off. I felt these plans were all I really needed in the game to finally achieve what I had always wanted to do, and I’d get plenty of programming experience while I was at it.

Much to my surprise, I was able to finish everything I planned for and more within 2 months! At that point, I was so excited with everything I was learning and the results I was getting that I didn’t want to stop there! I immediately started designing a much more ambitious version of BlastZone 2 that would include multiple game modes, and tons more enemy and weapon types. I was having so much fun developing my game and I didn’t want it to end! I didn’t have a target date for completion anymore and the sky was the limit!

This was the start of the great journey of developing BlastZone 2, and back then I had no idea it would get as huge as it has. I was just concentrating on doing what I loved to do!

In my future blog entries, I will follow the timeline of development and cover several significant events that happened along the way. The development hasn’t been a smooth ride the whole time, but it’s been very eventful!