Space Pilot


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dancemonkeySpace PilotI think the very first game that I was ever addicted to had to have been Asteroids. I remember being very, very young and I just wouldn't allow myself to be torn away from this tiny little black and white TV that a friend was playing it on. I don't even think I played that time, I just watched, but I was hooked on video games for life.

Space Pilot, by Alex Kaplan, is the spiritual successor to Asteroids, featuring the same vector-style graphics, the same ship, the same control scheme, and even the same asteroids. It is also an entry into our 3rd game design competition held in June and July.

Use the [left] and [right] arrow keys to spin your ship and the up arrow key to thrust forward. The only way to slow down is to spin completely around and thrust against your forward momentum. Turning is similarly tricky, since the direction you travel and the direction you're facing are completely independent of one another.

This time rather than an endless barrage of asteroids bent on your destruction, you're tasked with navigating through asteroids and minefields, sometimes maneuvering through fenced areas and flipping switches to open passages in order to exit each screen. Each level is timed, and you have an unlimited number of replays to complete it; in some you simply have to survive until the time runs out, in others you must complete a few tasks along the way. Unlike the original Asteroids, the walls in this game are deadly to your ship, so don't fly out one end hoping to pop back in the other.

Analysis: Alex has created a wonderful addition to what we should go ahead and call the "Asteroids Canon". The additions to the original formula are sometimes inspired, and I'm looking right at you, mines, when I say that. "Safe Haven" in particular was one of my favorite levels. The graphics as well as spot-on perfect recreations of the original, and for that I am grateful. I was really tired of Asteroids itself decades ago, but picking this game up feels like I'm putting on a pair of old familiar boots and going for a stroll in a brand new town.

Alex missed the mark on a couple things though, probably due to time constraints preparing for the competition. The collision detection is off on the asteroids in particular: in some cases I was almost a full ship's-distance from an asteroid and was destroyed, in others I was almomst completely inside the asteroid before being destroyed. I also don't think that maze-like levels are well suited for the control scheme, and found them tedious rather than interesting. The replay theme implementation is also not particularly inspired, but it's there and it works.

I also just plain miss the music, although it probably would not have fit in well in this incarnation of the game, so I have to mark that down as a good choice on his part.

All in all it's a wonderful idea with a flawed implementation, but one that shows promise. Hopefully we'll see a lot more work from Alex in the near future.

Play Space Pilot

There is also an updated version of the game available to play over at Arcade Town.

32 Comments

Mandypoo July 21, 2007 2:25 AM

If at first you don't succeed, try again, and again. I've only gotten up to level 4 and it's driving me crazy in a good way. I can't wait to try again during the day when I'm not totally exhausted! Thanks Alex Kaplan!

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I enjoyed it, and got to the level where the buttons are timed. I'd try to beat it, but it's too late at night for me to have any of this 'patience' I hear about. Otherwise, I quite like it! I was trying to shoot them at first, and couldn't find my weapon; deaths ensued.

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This game is really a lot of fun. Particularly once the more complex elements come in.

I'm not 100% sure, but it seems like the collision detection with the asteroids is occasionally buggy. Either that or I'm imagining it due to frustration at my own inability to complete "Four Corners". ;-)

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Man, there's some good stuff in this competition.

This is a neat little obstacle course. Control is good, graphics have that nice Asteroids-esque glow. I would have enjoyed a little background BUM-bum-BUM-bum for serious nostalgic flavor, but the little thruster sound is a nice touch. Actually, sounds for things like switches would have been good too.

Each level is so different and interesting (and crazy challenging), I was captivated right up until level 15, where the game seems to just say "Now you die." Must be some trick to it I'm not seeing. But other than that murderous level and the lack of sounds, I like this game a lot.

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Very nice - a great new spin on an old favorite, with comfortable, familiar controls and predictable flight response from the ship. Haven't gone through many levels yet, but those I've done have been top-notch.

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Shadowtje Author Profile Page July 21, 2007 5:00 AM

Heh, i like this games, but then again, i like all of the games so far. The concept is great, and it's fun to play, although i am not really far yet. The controls are easy enough and the flight path of the space ship is a familiar one.

maybe a bit off-topic, but is there somewhere i can listen to the music of the JIG console. I find it relaxing in a weird kinda way.

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Each new element adds to the mix and increases the desire to replay and complete the level.

One big deficiency is the inability to save progress. I got to 'Timing' and then had to reboot my PC. Now I'm not sure I want to replay all the early levels to get back to that point.

Also I agree with Psychotronic that more sound effects would add to the game, particularly the switches and the gas mines.

On the whole though, an enjoyable game.

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It's a good game and all, but I find a serious problem with the way it's played.

As with all games, if you know what's coming, you'll have an easier time beating with it. In all games, it should be possible (although it should be hard) to beat the game on the first try without knowing what's about to happen.

In this game, I feel that it's virtually impossible to do that. Your ship simply doesn't move fast enough. There's not physically enough time to move yourself out of the way of a mine, for example if you weren't already moving at a decent rate. The same with slowing down, just too unresponsive, I couldn't escape the mines if I wanted to, given the length of warning.

The graphics and everything are great (I really want to shoot dem asteroids) but I can't get into the game, because I know that usually, at least the number of tries in the bottom right corner will end in failure. That's not a good feeling to give the player.

I've fallen into this trap on my own several times, it comes from doing all the testing yourself. Because, if you do all the testing yourself, you get really good at the game, so even if the game isn't needlessly hard to you, it can be to a new player.

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I have to second the_corruptor here. While I think the game is well-produced (with the exception of a little dodginess in the collision detection), the basic gameplay is problematic. I realize that the theme of the competition is "replay," but I always thought that games which forced a player to die in order to acquire knowledge necessary to beat the game were fundamentally flawed.

There were elements I did like, of course, mainly the whole Asteroid theme. But I think not forcing the player to die in order to gain ground would make it a much better game. Making the game impossible to beat without prior knowledge, thus forcing the player to replay in order to progress? I can't think of a worse way to implement this theme.

This is, of course, just my opinion. I am glad to see that other people have enjoyed the game--it's obvious that a lot of work went into it. It just doesn't work for me.

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space cadet July 21, 2007 9:09 AM

I finally got to Level 15 after about 130 attempts on Level 14: Tight Corners. Then, the game froze at the beginning of my 4th attempt on Level 15, tragically ending my progress. I might start over some time later…

Levels 5-8: Mine levels (except for Level 7: Safe Haven, which should be easy enough)

Hide in the bottom left corner. You will have to get pretty tight in that corner. In Level 8: Armegeddon, don't forget the big explosion on the left side at the end.
(This exploits the intentional/unintentional design of not having a mine hit the bottom left corner.)

Level 12: Jail Cells

The order I got the five switches in was:
1. Bottom Left
2. Top Left
3. Top Right
4. Middle
5. Bottom Right
Escape!
Even if you get them fast, it will still be close, remember that the switches are still timed.

Level 13: Four Corners

To begin, tag the switch in the bottom left corner, and dodge the first asteroid (which will come down on the left). After dodging this asteroid, get as close as you can to the left border, and try to move up. This will not only allow you to dodge the current asteroid wave, but will also enable you to tag the top left switch before the "cascade" wave of asteroids comes. (I don't think the designer meant for us to dodge the first wave this way, but it was the only way I could beat it.)
Then, tag the top right switch before the last asteroid of the "cascade" wave appears on the right to hit you.
Finally, as the last asteroid chases you down the screen, switch the bottom right switch and escape!

Level 14: Tight Corners

Haul rear end, and miraculously make that ridiculous final turn. And then get the last switch while asteroids are right behind your tail.

Hopefully, this is understandable and will help.

P.S. I have a question. According to the contest, which carries more significance in deciding the winner, the implication of the "Replay" theme, or how fun the game is?

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Alex Kaplan July 21, 2007 9:54 AM

Wow, total mixed reactions, but I'd like to clear a few things up about the levels. First, the asteroid collision may be a little buggy because the asteroids are jagged and the detection is circular. I tried to make it fair so sometimes you can pass right through a protrusion but you may also find yourself exploding when you haven't quite touched it yet. Also, level 15 seems to be impossible... I hate to say it, but I ended up pressed for time (I thought the deadline was a few days later) and didn't have enough time to tweak when everything occurs to make it slightly more reasonable.

Psychotronic, although you didn't beat level 15, I consider you to have beaten the game. Few of my friends were able to reach level fifteen, and it is the last one.

The_Corruptor&Suho1004, I was horribly worried about the exact same thing when building the game. It would've been discouraging to play a game that you couldn't possibly have the skill to beat on your first try. However, I feel like this game isn't quite that way save a few levels. Obviously, levels like 'anticipation','safe haven', and possibly 'cascade' are near impossible on the first try, but all others, including the mined levels, are first-try possible.

The trick to mines(found out by one of my testers) seems to be to follow them. If you can dodge the first mine instinctively, then you simply have to wait whereever it exploded until the next one clears and you move there.

Thanks for all the feedback, and I hope you enjoyed the game!!

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Your mine spoiler, Alex, is how I managed to do instinctively. ^_^

Wow. Now I'm feeling rather smart today. ;)

cadet - the rubrics we use for scoring the competition entries give some weight to how well the theme was incorporated into the gameplay, as well as to how engaging and compelling the gameplay was. Overall, I believe there is more weight given to gameplay than to competition theme.

shadowtje - if I wasn't so terribly behind with the work left to do with rolling out the competition entries, you would already know that the person behind the music to the competition UI is Anthony "Antfactor", the same musician behind the music that was used for the 2nd competition. I hope to get proper credit into the UI for him soon. (Oh so much yet to do! )

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Alex Kaplan July 21, 2007 1:06 PM

Space Cadet, thanks for those spoilers, the mine one was a bit disappointing to me, as that was definitely unintentional, but I'm amazed you persisted after so many attempts on 14. Great Job, and I'm sorry your computer froze on 15. =\

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mojofltr July 21, 2007 2:37 PM

Great game! So far, this has my pick for #1 in this competition. :D
I got stuck on the timed buttons... stage 11, I think. Just as soon as I get the second button, the first depresses itself again. :( I'm simply just not fast enough.

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Aargh! I played level 15 twenty-seven times!

Out of curiosity, what was supposed to happen on that level?

One suggestion I have, if you want to reduce the trial-and-error frustration level of a game like this, is to have little flashing arrows that indicate in advance where an asteroid will be appearing. And maybe some sort of ghost circle that appears well in advance of the gas bombs. Anything to help the player feel like he was killed fairly.

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Carl Foust Author Profile Page July 21, 2007 10:24 PM

I dig this game. The asteroids look and feel was pulled off really well. My favorite level was "safe haven" because I knew what to do right away and won on my first try. :)

Having to replay some levels to learn to avoid the hazards didn't bother me, probably because the levels were so short and there was no real penalty for dying.

Collision detection is hard, especially in Flash. That's why my game had squarish enemies, so I could just use the bounding boxes. :)

Points off (in a non-existant point system)for not making sure we could beat level 15. I got to it but didn't even try after reading the comments.

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mojofltr July 21, 2007 10:43 PM

Okay, so I finally passed level 14. 15 is just silly... no really! There's no way! XD

I dodged the first few mines and got to the nearest switch, but as I turned my shuttle around to seek out the next... OMG MINES!!! :o

http://www.mediafire.com/imageview.php?quickkey=8bcddmt1f9m&thumb=4

To the author: I saw your message about running out of time. I want to let you know that I loved your game and probably have played it more than any other game on JIG. I really hope that you might finish developing the game!

---

That said, there are a couple of bugs that happen on occasion:

Sometimes a switch does not reset when "replay"ing a level.

Twice on "replay", my ship did not reappear, but the arrows appeared as though I had finished the level. Each time this happened, I had no choice but to reset the game.

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Alex: I appreciate that you did take into account the frustration of games that force you to die to progress. You mentioned that only a few levels are like this (I'll confess: I didn't get very far). Perhaps something you might consider if you revisit the game is tweaking it so that those few levels become first-level possible. Just a thought. :)

Anyway, I want to say that I appreciate the hard work you invested in this game, and I think you've got a nifty foundation to build on.

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Anonymous July 22, 2007 4:44 PM

i think the replay theme is also sort of in the fact that its a remake of an old game. a "replay" if you will.

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Loved the game, up until level 15.

Either there's a trick (the levels name is, indeed Distractions), or it's a joke on the player. I mean, seriously.

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disorganizer July 24, 2007 5:20 AM

Probably there is a way to get through level 15... you can hide up in the farthest end of the upper right corner and sit out the big explosions.
This is what i did, but afterwards i found out that the buttons are timed...

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very fun game, i will say that if the "rewind" sequence would actually show what you did in reverse it would have been AWESOME!

as well as be able to maybe just rewind a few seconds kind of like prince of persia sands of time

bravo!

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another great submission. the challenge up to 15 felt just right and I could have played many more similar levels if there was a save feature added. One small bit that ended up being aggravating was waiting to restart. If that block countdown feature was added only to bolster the "replay" concept, I would strongly urge you to remove it, as there is nothing more frustrating than waiting to play again, on a level you have to try 100 times.

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Brothershamass July 28, 2007 3:34 AM

Great game!

At one point I thought level 14 was impossible.

I assume level 15 is impossible, which was a bit of a strange ending after all that effort.

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In level 15, there is a tiny spot in the top-right corner where you survive the enormous explosions. In playing level 15 100 times, I've done it right three times.

But I still can't beat the level because I can't trigger the switches fast enough. It is clearly not impossible, but it is way beyond what I am reasonably capable of.

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I agree with Ray - so much that I was surprised no one else had mentioned it. It also seemed that on levels with longer timers, the block countdown to replay took longer, which was especially annoying when you would die right before the end of the level (like on Armageddon).

Also, I had some problems with the game slowing down when a lot of entities were present (as in Safe Haven), making it harder to judge my own speed and ability to accelerate.

I like the look of the game - some music would be nice, but code optimization (to speed up the framerate) would be even nicer.

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Got up to level 15 also and am stuck.

Avoding the bombs at the start is quite easy once you know,its doing the buttons after. best I have managed is to get four buttons on,before one goes out again.

Here is how I do it -

Right from the off go to the button at the 12 o'Clock position and set the button off. A bomb will explode eitherside of you, but not on the button. Then shoot across the top to the button at the 11 o'clock position. Set that. After getting those to, the bombs should finish. Then carry on anti-clockwise until the button at the 3 o'clock position, and shoot through the gate.
I have almost managed to get to the last one before the 1st button goes off -just need to be quicker.

hope that helps

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Anonymous August 24, 2007 12:35 PM

Level 14 made this game unfun.

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My taste for narrow dodging didn't excessively hinder me through the first three levels. On Asteroid Field (4, I think) I got so sick of getting nailed by empty space that I quit.

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Like someone mentioned before, it is nearly impossible to beat most of the levels your first try because your ships is not fast enough to dodge anything. One of the level instantly fills a quarter of the screen with mines and then rotates which corner gets destroyed. The ONLY way to beat this is to play it several times until you learn where to sit. If I can't beat the game with my brains and/or skills why am I playing it?

I played 4-5 levels and then quit, frustrated.

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This is a great game in the asteroids genre and I'll certainly be playing it till I finish the damn thing! One minor niggle though - what's with the "average" number of attempts? If you're trying to make the player feel stupid and inadequate then you're doing a good job, because on most of the levels except the very easy ones I simply don't believe the "average" number of tries given.

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I beat level 15 after many attempts on a slow laptop (which ironically may have helped me understand my positioning and acceleration better), then playing it on a normal system it took me well over 50 attempts.

Imagine my frustration when I actually completed it, and forgot to wait for the arrows. That was a piss off, but anyway... level 15 is beatable, but you need to be spot on, aggressive between switches and always setting yourself up to exit quickly to get to the next switch.

I think it goes without saying you need to set yourself up to come to the exit switch last.

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