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Outpost Recon is a game currently under development for Android, iOS and potentially Steam in the future. On this site I’ll be documenting all the ups and downs of bringing the game to life and my closer examinations and thoughts on the various mechanics involved. As I progress I’ll also be expanding the site with new sections and features. I hope the game looks interesting and you enjoy sharing the journey!

Parallax Procrastination

With all of these new foreground terrain sections ready to go the scraggly background mountains were looking a bit too out of place for me to leave them alone. Getting a clean, believable background parallax effect was something very important to me. Classic games like Thunder Force 4, Sonic the Hedgehog, Ranger X, Shinobi III and Last Battle all had this amazing sense of depth with their parallax effect and it made everything feel so much more real. Some great recent examples that have inspired me are Vanillaware games such as Muramasa: The Demon Blade and Do My Best Game’s The Final Station.

There are a number of important ingredients to cooking up some good parallax:

  • A suitable amount of layers for your graphics style.
  • Textures that don’t feel like they repeat every millisecond.
  • Texture brightness and saturation variation between layers to give a feeling of distance
  • Getting the right speed for each layer in correlation to the player’s speed
  • Getting the right speed variation between each layer.
  • Spacing out the layers at the correct heights to create an illusion of depth.
  • Bonus points for additional background elements scattered across the layers.

All of these elements can be played with for eternity to get the right balance.

In a similar fashion to the foreground, I kept all of the background graphics in a flat white so they could be recolored in Unity to fit different level themes.

Taking these assets I then brought them in to the game and started looking at options for how to create the actual parallax effect. There were two main methods for achieving this that I was familiar with:

  • Scrolling Textures Using an orthographic camera, a sprite is setup to fill the screen horizontally with a scrolling texture on it. The texture wraps to achieve a fluid continuous background.
  • Z Axis Perspective Using a perspective camera, background elements are placed further back from the foreground along the Z axis to give them their depth. Backgrounds are made of multiple items that loop back around once they scroll past the screen.

I’d had experience with both methods from online courses and decided to go with the perspective camera as it was much more flexible for vertical movement and naturally responding to the player’s speed. This might be something I revisit in the future as aspects of the game change. Thankfully this is a fairly stand alone aspect of the game and could be changed later without impacting the level generation or other areas.

As I mentioned in another post, this flat colored style of background came very close to being the final style for the game along with a potentially fully silhouetted rover and enemies (although it would’ve been with a lot more polish than seen above). Taking inspiration from games like Patapon or Loco Roco with their striking, clean visuals.

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Early Terrain Pieces

It was going to be important to strike a balance when creating the terrain for Outpost Recon. I needed a selection of section types to create engaging levels, a number of variations on each section type so that they didn’t feel repetitive and finally they needed to be the right size for the player to handle. I also couldn’t let it get too out of control as this was still going to be a mobile game and keeping the size down as much as possible was a must.

My initial designs for terrain all proved to be far too short. Even the shortest flat sections, used to break up more dangerous sections, had to be increased by up to 4x in length. Longer sections also meant the level generation wouldn’t be working as hard and actual level code would be less dense.

The final section types ended up being hills down, hills up, jump, crater, cliff left, cliff right (allowing for variable gaps between), short flat and long flat. Each of these sections has multiple ‘hotspot’ coordinates that can be used to spawn collectibles, powerups and obstacles such as land mines.

The sprites for these elements are flat white so they can be recolored easily inside unity based on the level variables. A similar trick was used for the dust kicked up by the Recon Rover, so that whenever dust particles are produced it reads the current color value of the terrain it is on.

Many of the terrain pieces needed to be smoothed out as they caused issues if jumped from or landed on at specific angles. One infamously needed to be removed entirely as the rate for accident was insanely high. It also looked pretty bad and had already found an unfortunate nickname.

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Press F For the Big Donger. RIP in piece..

Graphic Procrastination

The system to generate levels was going to be one of the more complex items to tackle for me and a cornerstone for the game as whole. Which is exactly why I put it off for a while and decided to start creating some nicer graphic assets which would be closer to the final product. As I mentioned in a previous post this kind of asset creation should probably be left for later while you’re still trying to get core functions of you game working, but here we are!

For all of my pixel art sprite work I use Asesprite. This was my first time using the software and I continue to be impressed by just how many features and options it had.

Using the rescaled elements from the prototype as a reference I created this new design for the Recon Rover. This lowfi pixel art style was much closer to what I originally had in mind compared to the vector assets seen previously. I knew this wouldn’t be the final version of the design but I was pretty happy with the vehicle shape and general style.

This wasn’t nearly as time consuming as I needed for this degree of procrastination so I started working on some of the different weapon types I’d been planning.

Those with a keen eye will notice these are broken up in to some different color highlights.

  • Orange Beam Weapons
  • Purple Rapid Fire Cannons
  • Yellow Rail Guns
  • Red Charge Beams
  • Blue Wave Launchers
  • Green Missile Launchers

The final item on the end is a cargo unit which would replace your turret for special challenge maps.

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What is Outpost Recon?Outpost Recon is a side scrolling shooter / runner hybrid that pays homage to very early classics in the genre. In the game you travel across the map collecting intel, avoiding obstacles and blasting enemies. It will feature both a large collection of hand built levels and infinite sections to test your skills.

When will it be released?There is currently no set ETA as the game is under development as a hobby project and my workload changes week to week.