Retro Video Game Night (Cambridge)

Written by Adrian Killens on .

Dean's Lunar Panda cabinet had another night out last Friday and made an appearance at the Retro Video Game Night at the Centre For Computing History in Cambridge. It was a great night that mainly consisted of eating, drinking and playing the video games of yesteryear. Hopefully there'll be another one early next year!


Photo courtesy of Ian Guebert at www.greatbitblog.com

 

Level Design

Written by Adrian Killens on .

I’ll be honest with you, the new Lunar Panda game is my first ever attempt at level design, the existing Python version didn’t really require a lot of effort in this area. We essentially 'borrowed' the main concept from Lunar Lander and each level is randomly generated. This was how a lot of games worked back in the day. Think Asteroids or Space Invaders. You have a simple idea for a game and you basically repeat that idea for each level with a possible increase in the speed of the enemy with each iteration.

However the new Panda game we’re working on now for XBox and PC does actually have levels designed by hand and even a plot that weaves its way through the game via the talking Panda screens. So I thought I’d talk a little bit about designing the new levels.

General Thought Process
Here at Gimpy Software we’ve played a lot of video games in our time, both old and new and so the first thing we did before starting work on the next Lunar Panda game was to think about similar games and how the mechanics worked in those. Two games that sprung to mind were Lemmings and Angry Birds. Both of which have simple gameplay that you’re introduced to via some very easy levels to begin with and then as the games progress you’re introduced to more obstacles and more taxing level designs. So with this in mind we knew we’d have to create some obstacles for Mr Panda to deal with and also give ourselves the ability to hand draw the landscapes rather than having them randomly generated.

Sketches
Early on we began to sketch out some level ideas on graph paper. Here’s one for the force field level that we implemented not too long ago.

What are we doing now?

Written by Dean Edis on .

The development side of Lunar Panda is slowly but surely coming to an end now, in preparation for the official release. We're tidying up a few loose ends, planning the 'Grand Finale' outro sequence, and putting some finishing touches to the level design. This is particularly challenging for our artist, Jose Cubero - Thanks Jose!

We're actually playing the game more than ever to try and find any last minute quirks, and will hopefully have a 'soft release' of the game to some friends and colleagues to gauge a more 'public' opinion and gather feedback.

We've also added a Store section to the site. A few people asked about the Lunar Panda T-Shirts that we had made for ourselves a little while ago, so if you want one you can now buy one. All profits will made go towards pizza and random software licenses!

Watch this space!

Arcade Antics

Written by Dean Edis on .

Around the beginning of the year, shortly after we decided to create Gimpy Software and start writing Lunar Panda on the Raspberry Pi, I was getting so nostalgic for the 'good ole' days' of gaming that I decided to build myself a MAME arcade machine. Being married with kids, I knew that a full-size arcade cabinet would both be frowned upon, and be too tall for my children to use easily, so I decided on finding out more about 'bartop' arcades.

There are a few good websites out there which I used for research, and the most useful was Project MAME. This site has free downloadable plans for cabinets of various different sizes and designs, as well as helpful instructions on how to build them. I decided the WeeCade was the one for me, so off I went to the local hardware store and bought up a few sheets of MDF.

The next couple of months had me sketching/planning/measuring/drawing/cutting/gluing/un-gluing/gluing again/sanding/assembling/more sanding/painting, and finally GAMING! Maximus Arcade provides the graphical front-end, and my hardware is an old Dell P4 3Ghz machine.

I've now got a decent collection of ROMs running on the machine (MAME, NES, Sega Genesis), and discovered my 5 year old son is turning into a surprisingly proficient 'power up' thief in most games. Lunar Panda plays perfectly with the 'retro' arcade controls!

Check out my pictures below. We even had Mike Montgomery from the Bitmap Brothers playing on it at one of our retro gaming events! Playing games like Xenon 2 was one of the reasons I got interested in programming as a kid!

If anyone has any feedback and/or questions on the build, just drop us an This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

  • Early days, cut the MDF and profiled the edges.
  • Glue and screw!
  • Kids look impressed even though they don't actually know what an arcade machine is....yet!
  • Making good use of an old 4:3 Dell monitor I found on eBay
  • Working out where the controls are going to go.
  • No it's not the new Raspberry Pi, this is in fact the USB I/O board.
  • Perspex fitted for the marquee, screen and control panel.
  • The control panel is starting to take shape.
  • Making good use of another old bit of Dell kit.
  • The finished machine!
  • On location, being checked out by Bitmap Brother's founder Mike Montgomery!