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Mother Fucker Galaxy

It’s been a few days since I finished Mother Fucker Galaxy.  So now I feel the need to talk about it in detail.

Mother Fucker Galaxy is a weird artifact of my life.  It was meant to be a simple shoot-em-up.  Start with a simple game to exercise the skills needed to complete a game.  But (maybe necessarily) my current mental state got into it and it became a story about my PTSD which meant it couldn’t just be popped out, it had to be refined to reflect the sensations and misery of PTSD.

It has actually been four years since the first prototype of this game until completion.  This included three distinct versions with very little in common and 2.5 – 3 years of complete inactivity. Then a few months of working on it around 1-2 hours a week.

Mechanically it has been informed to a large degree by Tim Rogers.  Action Button Entertainment’s game ZiGGURAT inspired the charge/shoot mechanic.
And then I read ‘In Praise Of Sticky Friction’ which was enormously useful for making action-format games.

So the first friction I put in was ‘Electricity’ friction in the form of the charge-up.  This also served to give a visceral-hateful method of destroying things, which is important to the point of the game.  The addition of the Electric charge-up was the first thing that began to solidify it as an actual fun-to-play digital thing.

The next is ‘Crispy’ friction which manifests in the explosions from destroying ships.  The chaotic flashing explosion visual lends a little to this but it is mostly from the crunchy noise-explosion sound and the screen-shake.  Upon a normal-sized explosion the screen will shake for about 266 milliseconds. The viewport will move in a random direction by a predetermined amount each 33 milliseconds, and each 33 milliseconds that amount will reduce by one.  The same method is applied in larger explosions but the offset is larger and the time goes up proportionally.

The most surprising friction I applied was ‘Sticky’ friction. My understanding is that ‘Sticky’ friction is a single just-perceptible freeze of the action at the moment you do something which might be considered good or satisfying.  In MFG the temporal reward comes when more than one ship is destroyed by a single shot.  This reduces the framerate to 15fps for 4 frames, which means for about 266 milliseconds the action updates once every 66 milliseconds.  This feels really good.  I am amazed at how a small temporal reward can transform the way an action feels.

‘Meaty’ friction was the last lesson I took.  This is described by Rogers as ‘sudden, jerky flinches’.  I put this in when you are hitting something with the laser.  I reduce the framerate to 15fps for 266 milliseconds.  If you continue to land laser hits the reduction will continue giving a constant slowdown.  One ‘jerky flinch’ occurs every 66 milliseconds.  This has the excellent effect of making the laser feel more significant and physical, and making aiming and dodging easier as the game is half speed.

The last temporal touch was inspired by DoDonPachi when I noticed that when the screen is suddenly full of bullets the speed of the game drops sufficiently that one can visually figure out a path through the transforming patterns.  So I made the game slow down to 1/3 to 20fps if there are more than 4 bullets within 128 pixels distance from your ship.

Gabby Love provided a lot of help with colour choices and general visual editing.  It is important to have an outsider to look in now and then, especially one that has no particular affection for games in general.  This was my key to keeping from getting lost in Dumb Shit Catacombs.

The post-boss punching vignettes are very important to me.  They are an expression of the violence-obsession horror-beast that now lives in my belly.  I created them to exorcise the misery.  Protip: you don’t cure mental illness by making a game about it.

Primarily MFG was me completing a game for the first time.  There are many things I’d like to change. I regret that it is hostile to those who haven’t spent hours playing shoot-em-up games before.  I regret that it is a videogame first and personal story second.

I completed MFG at 3am on my birthday.  I released it by posting it on titter, facefuck, tigsource (#1 white young male judgemental “INDIE” pretentious internet shit party) and the gmc forums.  I was shocked to wake up and see this article.  At this point around 300 people have looked at my game and up to about 100 have downloaded and maybe played it.  I expected 5 people to play it in total.  I owe this to the article by Chris Priestman and tigsource visitors.

I hope sometime some people will see the end sequence of the game.  It is my absolute favourite part.  If no one does in a while I will just upload a video of it so it can be enjoyed by all.

Edit:

Further unexpected things:

Porpentine put me on freeindiegam.es.  I’m very excited about this because I’ve been following Porpentine for a little while now and I gushingly love her writing and her twines.

http://www.freeindiegam.es/2013/02/mother-fucker-galaxy-dangerneck/

A fellow I know only as MabiGames completed MFG and recorded a play through.  So here it is, from start to finish:

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  1. [...] energy field for a “visceral-hateful method of destroying things”. I quote from this excellent post-mortem, which talks about mental illness and the use of temporal friction in game [...]

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